Friday, September 2, 2011

No More Homeless Pets and Calgary is Leading the Way, Part 3 of 4

Smiling faces: from left to right, Doris Porter AHT (Animal Health Technician) , Patty Parent AHT, Dr. Marta Alguacil DMV and Wendy Weed AHT posing with Bugsy, the first animal to be spayed at the Animal Services Centre Clinic opened in July 2009.

The statistics from Calgary are impressive. In 2008, 85% of dogs impounded were returned to their owners with 27% of the 4,830 dogs going directly home via the specially designed, climate controlled vans. Of the dogs that ended up at the shelter, 9% found adoptive homes. Only 6% were euthanized and, in this case, the word is used correctly. Euthanasia is defined as ‘a good death.’No healthy, adoptable animals are killed at this Animal Control. Animals too sick or injured to be provided with a decent chance at a good life are euthanized after a team decides that this is the only humane option. The team consists of a licensed veterinarian, a vet tech, and a senior administrator. This is the only acceptable way that any animal should face death in an Animal Control facility, but this is not what typically happens. This is where transparency fails the animals. We should be able to get the information about how many animals are killed, how they are killed and who makes this decision at our Animal Controls.

As in every city, Calgary’s homeless cats and their offspring provided a challenge to those trying to save lives and reduce the number of kittens born. Several different programs were implemented in the last few years to cope with this issue. At first, a city subsidized program, supported by the veterinarians in their clinics, was launched. Then came the Veterinarian Aid Society, a vet operated spay/neuter and special assistance program. Next, SNIP/SNAP programs were introduced, subsidized by Animal Services but run through rescue teams and the Humane Society. Thousands of animals were spay/neutered, but the numbers still were not enough to get the desired results. With all partners, including the veterinarians collaborating, the idea of a spay/neuter clinic owned and operated under Animal Services was born.

In July 2009, the new Animal Services Centre Clinic opened its doors. This facility has two veterinarians who perform any medical needed interventions, assisted by qualified vet technicians. The goal of the clinic is to help reduce the number of stray and unwanted cats and dogs in Calgary. Spay and neuter surgeries are now more accessible because Animal Services provides free surgery for those on low income. As well, all animals arriving at the shelter are examined by one of these professionals and minor surgeries such as dental care are performed, as needed, to improve chances of finding new homes quickly. This clinic is funded by the cat licensing program.

When you enter this shelter, you are struck by two things – no smell, and no distressing animal sounds. People working here are trained in ‘T Touch,’ a hands on way to calm the cats and dogs. Even though the average stay of a dog is three days, they are walked by staff and volunteers. The cats are played with and socialized. All resident animals are monitored for signs of stress, and interventions are put into place when required. The dogs wag their tails, and the cats come to the front of their cages to be petted. None of this happens by accident.

Since opening in July last year, the clinic is now providing spaying and neutering surgeries for the feline companions of low income residents. The goal is to do 7,000-10,000 a year. Many other procedures have been completed including 29 dental surgeries, 1 entropion surgery, 2 lump removals, 2 biopsies, 4 wound repairs, and 1 pin removal from the leg of a cat. This pin had been improperly implanted, was too long, and was protruding through the skin of the cat. As well, one animal had a full set of x-rays done while under sedation.

The MEOW Foundation, supported by Animal Services, takes care of the Trap/Neuter/Return programs. All of these cats are microchipped, and Animal Services keeps the data on file. If a cat arrives at the shelter, a MEOW volunteer is contacted and the cat is returned to its community under the care and supervision of the community caregiver.

Sounding good so far? Just the beginning!

To be concluded in Part 4.


Calgary’s Bill Bruce brings his shelter expertise to
the Intercontinental Toronto-Yorkville Hotel at
220 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1T8 CANADA
on Friday, SEPTEMBER 30, 2011, at 7:00 PM.

NB: We have upgraded to a larger room for the
Bill Bruce event, so a new series of tickets is now
available for sale. Please call to reserve your space.

Tickets are $11.30 (tax included)
Advance Ticket Sales Only—Call 416-726-5762
or visit for more information.

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