Spaying and neutering dogs and cats play an important part in preventing pet overpopulation. Yet many low-income residents in Toronto cannot afford the procedure for their pets.
That’s why two Toronto veterinarians decided to help make spay and neuter services more affordable and accessible by offering a clinic on wheels.
Dr. Ester Attard, director of Toronto Animal Services, and shelter veterinarian Dr. Johanna Booth helped launch the Toronto Animal Services’ SNYP (Spay Neuter Your Pet) program in May 2016. It was Canada’s first mobile spay and neuter clinic.
The “snyptruck” is a custom-built truck with a stainless-steel operating table and cages for up to 70 animals. The truck drives through Toronto’s neighbourhood improvement areas, where residents are deemed by the city to have particularly acute socio-economic needs, to provide spay and neuter services at reduced cost.
“[SNYP] was Dr. Attard’s idea,” said Dr. Booth in an interview. “Mobile spay and neuter clinics were already very successful in the United States and that is where the idea came from.”
Residents book appointments online when the truck is operating in their area, and pay fees based on their income. People who make less than $50,000 a year qualify for subsidized or waived fees.
SNYP has spayed or neutered 4,200 animals since it started. But the spread of the recent Omicron variant forced the mobile program to suspend service.
“It’s still not clear when services start up again,” Booth said. Prior to the pandemic, the truck operated on 15 to 20 animals a day. Before the latest lockdown, 10 animals a day underwent procedures.
While spay and neuter services help reduce pet overpopulation, the procedures can pose risk to pets’ health.
“There’s always a risk of surgery,” Yvette Van Veen, founder of dog trainers Awesome Dogs, said in an interview.
Some dogs may develop some type of urinary incontinence after being spayed or neutered, Van Veen said. Large breeds such as rottweilers might have a higher risk of certain types of cancers, especially if they’re prone to bone cancer, she said.
Van Veen fully supports spaying and neutering to control the pet population. But people should be made aware of the risks, she said.
“It’s important to speak to your vet, get both sides of the risks and make an educated decision.”