Owners of sexually intact dogs that are licensed within the City of Red Deer are being invited to have them fixed for free.
Since 2005, the city has allocated $2 from every dog licence sold to provide a limited number of spays and neuters at no charge to the owners.
The number of surgeries that will be covered is determined by how much money is available in the fund, said program administrator Erica Coomber, shelter administrator for Alberta Animal Services, the city’s animal control contractor.
The program is geared mainly to low-income families who cannot afford the cost of a spay or neuter, but also has scope to cover aggressive dogs, dogs recommended for a spay or neuter by a trainer and females that have produced multiple litters.
Applications are reviewed in March by a panel of people from the city, its animal control contractor and the Red Deer and District SPCA, says Coomber.
Successful applicants receive a letter of approval, which they can then take to the veterinarian of their choice. Coomber then uses money from the fund to pay the vets for the surgeries and post-surgery pain medications.
Low-income families will make up most of the approvals, with a lesser percentage available to dog owners who fit in the other three categories, she said. While each veterinary clinic has its own fee schedules, the cost of neutering a male dog ranges from $180 to $300 while spaying a female can run from $200 to $500, said Coomber.
That makes cost a significant factor for people who would like to have their dogs altered but are having trouble making ends meet.
The program is limited to one dog per household per year.
Approvals were granted for 98 surgeries in 2010 because there was a good reserve in the fund, said Coomber. Another 48 approvals were issued in 2011, but some of those were not done.
While 6,858 dogs have been licensed this year, a large number of owners have taken the risk of not putting tags on their dogs’ collars, said Coomber. Buying the licence is considerably less expensive than having an untagged dog caught at large, she said.
The fines are $250 for a first offence of failing to licence a dog and another $250 for a first offence of letting a dog run at large. One of the greatest benefits to the licence is that animal control can contact the owners right away and return the dog, often with a warning rather than a ticket, said Coomber.
Tara Heppell, executive director of the Red Deer and District SPCA, said her organization supports any program that will help reduce the number of animals left free to breed and the unwanted puppies that are born as a result.
Applications are now available from City Hall cashiers, the SPCA at 4505 77th St. and Alberta Animal Services (Riverside Kennels) at 4640 61st St. Downloadable forms can be downloaded from the city’s inspections and licensing page, www.reddeer.ca/inspections.
Applications must be submitted to one of the above locations by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 16, but cannot be submitted online. Successful applications will receive word by March 19 and the procedure must be performed before May 25.