Cats don’t truly have nine lives.
However, if left to their own mating devices, they and their direct offspring can produce a lively lineage that can number in the hundreds of thousands in less than a decade.
And while the numbers for dogs are fewer, they are no less staggering when one takes in the overall numbers.
The end result is a huge number of animals being surrendered to local shelters and ultimately being euthanized because there are no homes for them.
SpayAid P.E.I., which is an all-volunteer, charitable organization that helps low-income Prince Edward Islanders spay/neuter and vaccinate their dog, cat or rabbit, has been tackling this issue head-on since its formation five years ago.
Its new Sponsor a Spay program is designed to provide local animal lovers with the opportunity to reduce pet overpopulation by sponsoring the spaying or neutering of two or more animals per year via a small monthly donation to the organization.
“This is an easy way for any animal lover to make a huge difference,” says SpayAid P.E.I. member Jane Thomas.
Planning for the SpayAid P.E.I. organization began in late 2006.
The catalyst was one of its founding members, Dr. Els Cawthorn, who was the veterinary director at the P.E.I. Humane Society. She knew that without a low-cost spay/neuter program the humane society would not be able to reduce the number of animal surrenders or the euthanasia rate at the shelter.
The overpopulation of pets on the Island meant that there were always more animals surrendered than there were available homes to adopt them.
“That’s where the problem begins because if you can’t spay/neuter then you’re going to have that overflow of animals ending up at the shelter or with Cat Action Team; particularly cats, but dogs are also affected,” says Joy Tremblay, who is president of SpayAid P.E.I. and is a member of the Cat Action Team P.E.I., which works with the public in caring for stray, feral and barn cats across the Island.
In the beginning, funds for spays and neuters came from the grassroots basics, such as bake sales and raffles.
Participation from P.E.I. veterinary community was also essential.
“It’s a three-way cost-sharing program (between the client, the veterinarian and SpayAid),” Tremblay says.
“Why we’ve arranged it this way is we know that people want to be responsible, but they can’t afford the whole cost. So if everybody kicks in one-third of the cost then it becomes (more) affordable.”
Clients must show that they are in a low-income bracket.
As the demand for the program grew, SpayAid P.E.I. members needed an event with a bigger bang for the buck that would also raise awareness for the organization and its work.
And so began the Art for Animals fundraiser to which local artists generously donated works that were then auctioned to raise funds.
“It was a wonderful fundraiser, but it gets to a point where after you’ve done it four times and you attract the same number of animal lovers you find that they (at some point) have enough art on their walls,” Tremblay says with a smile.
“And so we decided we’d have to look for a more permanent, stable way to fund the program . . . .”
In its first year, SpayAid P.E.I., which started mid-way through 2008, did 68 spay/neuters.
At present SpayAid does about 30 spays or neuters each month. At a cost of about $80 per animal this translates into about $30,000 a year.
With the new Sponsor a Spay program that entire cost could be covered, for example, if 112 people signed up to donate $20 per month for a year, or if 240 people agreed to donate just $10 a month; or 480 at $5 a month.
“We just feel that the most special thing you can do on the Island (for animals and their adopted families) is to support low-cost spay/neuter. And if somebody wants to do that with their $5 or $10 a month, for example, they will actually be sponsoring a certain number of spay/neuters a year,” Thomas says.
“That has an incredible effect,” Tremblay adds.
“If you have one cat spayed and it doesn’t have seven kittens, then those kittens don’t have seven more kittens and on and on and on. Exponentially, your $5, even if you only do two cats a year you’re preventing (many more) from being euthanized.”
This, in turn, would help to reduce overcrowding situations at the human society and lessen the number of animals being abandoned “in the country” where they often die of starvation or become prey for other animals.
“And of course the other thing is that if there weren’t so many kittens easily available people would then go to the humane society to adopt,” Thomas says.
“We would also like to see the animal population get to a more reasonable level so that all animals are really treasured and maybe people even compete to give them homes. We’re an island so we should eventually be able to get to that point and pretty easily with this $5-, $10- or $20-a-month donation.”
Since the SpayAid P.E.I. low-cost spay/neuter program began, there has been a decrease of 25 per cent in the surrenders of cats to the P.E.I. Human Society.
“So if we’ve seen that over five years, if we can continue that what are you going to see over 10 years? Another third at least; maybe even greater,” Tremblay says.
“The more animals we can spay or neuter in homes, the fewer that are going to end up at the human society. I think if we keep doing this program we can end up euthanasia-free and have no more homeless pets . . . and that’s our goal.”
AT A GLANCE
SpayAid P.E.I.’s new Sponsor a Spay program provides any animal lover with the opportunity to reduce pet overpopulation by sponsoring the spaying or neutering of two or more animals per year. They do this through an automatic monthly donation from their chequing account at a level they feel they can afford.
Interested persons can go to the SpayAid website (www.spayaidpei.com) for more information or call Jane Thomas at 658-2907. A charitable receipt for the amount paid during the year will be provided to each person in December.
The first 100 people to sign up to participate in the Sponsor a Spay program will have their names placed in a draw for a variety of items. The first draw will take place on June 30 for two tickets to The Kitchen Witches, July 19-28, at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Subsequent draws will feature a beautiful fabric art piece by fabric artist Margaret England or two hand-thrown cat or frog coffee mugs by Island artisan Candy Gallant or a large supply of homemade dog biscuits.