The Nova Scotia SPCA hopes its latest development will do more than just scratch the surface of a major problem in the Halifax region.

The animal shelter is opening a surgical unit aimed at spaying and neutering the animals. The surgical ward will also offer a discount rate for pets of low-income families.

Right now, the SPCA spays and neuters nearly 60 cats and dogs a week at a nearby veterinary clinic. They’re hoping to double that number when the surgical unit opens.

"It's a component in our society here locally and in our community we have not had available to the public," said Sandra Flemming of the SPCA. "I think that's why you see is in such a crisis, especially in terms of cats."

A necessity

Spay Day HRM, a charity that spays and neuters cats, estimates there could be as many as 100,000 feral cats in the city.

Pierre Filiatreault also tries to curb the cat population. He runs Pierre’s Alley Cat Society, a trap, neuter and release program with the felines who live at HMC Halifax Dockyard.

"If we had to go to a regular vet, the amount of money we would have to pay is almost double," he said. "That’s a lot of time and fundraising."

The SPCA hopes the surgical unit will reduce the number of unwanted animals. In turn, Flemming said that could cut back on neglect, abuse and cruelty.

It took the organization three years to fundraise and build the operating room. It’s expected to open around the end of April.

The Nova Scotia SPCA will be the only shelter in Atlantic Canada to have a surgical unit.

Low incomes families interested in getting their pets spayed or neutered can contact the organization to see if they qualify.