Sudbury veterinarians are warning city council against allowing cats to be spayed and neutered at low cost clinics to combat the rising feline population.

Instead, they say, cat owners are really to blame for the rising feline population.

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Chelmsford Animal Hospital veterinarian Darren Stinson says a low-cost spay-neuter clinic won't solve the problem of cat overpopulation. (Erik White/CBC)

The Ontario SPCA wants Greater Sudbury to set up a low cost spay and neuter clinic, but local veterinarians like Darren Stinson say that won't solve the problem.

"Cat overpopulation is ultimately a pet ownership issue, not a cost of veterinary service issue," he told Sudbury city council during a meeting on Tuesday. He noted that a low cost clinic would mean the average vet would lose about $100,000 a year and would lead to layoffs.

Instead, the Sudbury Veterinary Association proposes there be a standard subsidized rate for the surgery.

That rate should only be offered to cat owners who can't afford to pay on their own, Stinson said.

Incentive for pet owners?

City councillor Frances Caldarelli agreed.

"Those people who can afford to manage the cost themselves, they should be doing it," she said.

"We should not be paying it for them."

But Coun. Dave Kilgour said there still has to be some sort of incentive for pet owners — possibly the threat of a fine from a bylaw officer.

"Cats are not going to come to a clinic and have … this job done to them," he said.

However, something needs to be done about the number of stray cats in Sudbury, Stinson added.

"They decimate the small rodent population," he said. "They can decimate the rabbit population and they can also decimate the songbird population. When you start to remove large pieces of the ecosystem, then there's an imbalance."

Sudbury city staff will now study how to better control stray cats in the city and report back in the future. Staff members are also working on a report on low cost spaying and neutering for domesticated cats, which is expected to come before council next month.