Manitoba

Humane Society launches $200K pilot program to help spay and neuter cats

The Winnipeg Humane Society announced a one-year pilot project on Wednesday that will aim to increase the number of cats being spayed and neutered in the city.

Bulk of funding comes from cat-licensing program; pilot project will also aim to curb feral cat population

The Winnipeg Humane Society is launching a year-long pilot program that aims to see more cats spayed and neutered. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

The Winnipeg Humane Society announced a $201,000 one-year pilot project on Wednesday that aims to increase the number of cats being spayed and neutered in the city, as well as curb the feral cat population.

"Any barrier that may exist to spay or neuter, be it cost, be it transportation, be it lack of information, we are removing all of those barriers," said Winnipeg Humane Society CEO Javier Schwersensky.

The WHS performed over 6,000 spay and neuter surgeries last year, and will hire another veterinarian to increase their capacity. The program will see another 800 cats get fixed this year.

The money comes from the city's Fixit grant program. Half of the money generated from cat licensing, which became mandatory in 2015, has been set aside in the grant program to help community organizations develop low-cost, high-volume spay and neuter programs for cats.

WHS has so far been the only applicant for the money, and received over $200,000 in 2016. A large portion of that money went into developing the new pilot program. The Winnipeg Foundation also contributed $25,000 to the program.

The program focuses on helping cat owners overcome barriers to getting their pets fixed, as well as reducing the feral cat population by trapping, neutering and releasing them. (CBC News)
Schwersensky says the Humane Society reached out to people in the community to find out what the barriers were to spaying and neutering their pets.

They found that the cost of surgery and a lack of understanding about available programs were issues, as was transportation to the Humane Society's shelter on Hurst Way.

"If you don't have a car you need probably three buses to get there, with a carrier, with a cat," said Schwersensky.

"We can offer surgery for free, but a taxi back and forth is $35," he said.

To address the issues of transportation and education, WHS has teamed up with Jessica Thompson. She will be working from her Main Street pet supply store, Paws For Thought, which will serve as a satellite outreach centre for WHS.

Javier Schwersensky (right) says the WHS will work with community members Claudia Allen (left) and Jessica Thompson (middle). (Holly Caruk/CBC)
Cat owners will be able to visit the store and ask questions about spay and neuter options that are available, and arrange transportation to WHS for their pets if needed.

Thompson will also do outreach work at schools and community centres to increase awareness about the programs available.

She has been running the C.A.R.E. (Cat Advocacy Rescue and Education) outreach program out of her living room, and working to help spay and neuter owned cats and rescued strays in the North End, since 2011.

"I am beyond thrilled at this development and this partnership. This is what we've needed in order to create more volume and double the amount of cats that are being spayed or neutered," said Thompson.

Program includes feral populations

The pilot project will also take aim at the city's feral cat population.

"The feral cat population in Winnipeg is ridiculous. We have an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 feral cats on our streets," said Claudia Allen, director of the Winnipeg Lost Cat Alert Facebook page.

Claudia Allen runs the Winnipeg Lost Cat Alert Facebook page. She will be helping to train volunteers to work as feral cat colony managers. (Holly Caruk/CBC)
Under the Humane Society's pilot program, Allen will create a network of feral colony managers to help target stray populations near rail yards and other industrial areas of the city. The cats will be trapped, fixed, then returned to their area.

Current city bylaws about harbouring stray cats prevent that from happening in residential areas of the city, but Allen hopes if this new program is successful, that may change.

"We're hoping that this is the tip of the iceberg and that we're going to be able to actually extend this over other areas of Winnipeg in the future," said Allen.

Allen originally questioned the cat-licensing program back in 2015 and hoped to see a program that covered all city cats, including feral cats. But she says she's very happy to see cat-licensing dollars being used for the new pilot project.

"People can now see where their cat-licensing money is going and be very, very happy," she said.

Humane Society pilot program to help spay and neuter cats

5 years ago
Duration 0:40
The Winnipeg Humane Society announced a $201,000 one-year pilot project on Wednesday that aims to increase the number of cats being spayed and neutered in the city, as well as curb the feral cat population.

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