Six years after Greater Sudbury passed on a low-cost spay-neuter clinic proposed by the OSPCA, a private group from Southern Ontario says it will begin offering the service at a Lively location next month.
Laurie Watson Ristmae, of East Village Animal Hospital, said the group will operate out of the Pet Save location in Lively for five days next month, with plans to make regular return visits.
“We aren't actually developing a complete animal hospital,” Ristmae said. “We bring all of the equipment and set up in the building. We're now licensed to do that, and we thought that Sudbury certainly was an area that we wanted to be able to help.”
They operate as a non-profit in Kitchener and London, she said, offering services to low-income people who bring in proof of income or stubs showing they are on social assistance.
While the service currently costs between $300-$800 in Sudbury, EVA will offer $100 procedures for female cats and dogs, and $75 for males.
“We aren't open to the general public,” Ristmae said. “If you are in a low enough income bracket or on some type of social assistance, then you're welcome to access our medical program and our surgical program.”
If you're a one income-earner household, people making $40,131 or less are eligible for the service, rising to $49,956 for two-income households and $61,413 for three.
“With the support that we've received from our animal welfare partners and from PetSmart Charities Canada, we're able to offer it to people for those prices, which is pretty amazing,” she said.
A combination of donations, volume and the dedication of staff makes the program possible, Ristmae added.
“We have an incredibly experienced and compassionate team who often work for a little less than they might elsewhere and who are really are dedicated to giving back in the veterinary industry.”
EVA has been coming North for years, she said, to work with First Nations communities, so they know the area. Many Northerners would drive seven hours to visit the clinic, Ristmae said, including one man that staff loved who died in a car accident on his way back home.
“That really made an impact on everybody in the clinic — he was just a treat,” she said. “He was in the London (location) and when we heard what happened, we just said, you know what we're going North. We need to bring our services to the North.”
Without any advertising, she said they are already fully booked for the Lively trip next month, and a waiting list for future appointments is already growing.
“We would like to to come up periodically and make this a consistent resource,” she said. “I would absolutely love to be able to collaborate with any of the local veterinarians who are interested. I would urge them to please contact us because we would love to hear from them.”
Local veterinarians opposed the OSPCA clinic in 2013.
The OSPCA offered to run and operate a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in April 2013, modelled on one that operated in Barrie. In exchange for the use of a surplus building and a break on rent, the OSPCA said it would pay all other costs for the clinic.
But a last-minute appeal from the Sudbury Veterinary Association led the city's finance committee to delay a decision. Veterinarian Darren Stinson questioned the care animals receive at low-cost clinics, and said they were unfair competition. The OSPCA withdrew the offer that August.
Ristmae said they have reached out to local veterinarians hoping to find a partner, without success. They likely are concerned the clinic will hurt their business.
“I think that a quite natural response,” she said. “All I can do at this point is say, we are here to address a need. We really are committed to giving a voice and providing services to the marginalized in our communities.”
They have built partnerships in other communities, Ristmae said, that have resulted in even more business for vets, since a whole new demographic of people who would never have visited an animal hospital were introduced to the process through the clinic.
And since most of their clients are having their pets treated professionally for the first time, established veterinarians have nothing to fear.
“I think that (their clients) are a lot more likely to seek out those (veterinarian) services for years to come because there's been that introduction to it,” she said.
“They know you don't have to be afraid, that you are not going to be judged.
“So it's actually been quite beautiful and we have such a wonderful working relationship with them now. That's what I'm hoping for (in Greater Sudbury).”