If there were something E.L. James never conceived her erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey would inspire, it may likely be a feline spaying and neutering marathon.
"We tried for a ‘Fifty Shades of Spay’ Day," says Dr. Erika Anseeuw, director of animal health at the Winnipeg Humane Society, of the WHS’s Spay and Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) as the spring breeding season begins.
"Some people didn’t show, so we only did 46," Anseeuw continues. That was in one morning, too.
The industrious pace set at the WHS’s clinic has opened up reserved slots over the next two months for pet owners and those bringing in strays to utilize SNAP, in an effort to control cat overpopulation in Winnipeg.
Offered for persons of low income or receiving financial assistance – such as Employment Insurance (EI) and other such government subsidies – the program’s goal is to maximize spaying/neutering by making it affordable. (University students are also among the target demographic.)
"We’re diverting our resources to people unable to go elsewhere," Anseeuw says.
Surgery under SNAP costs around $30, for qualified applicants.
While SNAP is also offered for rabbits and dogs, the real problem is with cats, Anseeuw says. With so many strays and feral cat colonies, explains WHS communications co-ordinator Hannah Pratt, Winnipeg in fact has a "crisis" with cat overpopulation.
Because spring is high breeding season for cats – which Anseeuw says are "prolific breeders" – it’s a critical period.
Cats can have multiple litters – three in a single breeding season, Anseeuw explains.
This has resulted in large numbers of animals being put down: In 2012, 8,435 animals were surrendered to the WHS, 5,805 of them cats, with 2,083 of those eventually euthanized.
On the other hand, the WHS did about 6,000 spay/neuter surgeries in 2012 – and so far, Pratt says, they’ve kept pace in 2013.
WHS runs other similar initiatives, such as the Rent-a-Trap Program, which involves the rental of a humane trap to bring in feral/unsocialized cats for spaying/neutering (as well as receive vaccinations and a tattoo ID.)
The WHS also helps control the stray dog problem in remote northern communities with spay/neuter clinics.
Low-income individuals and families without cars can take advantage of SNAP with the assistance of the volunteer-run Spay and Neuter Inner-City Pet Program (SNIP), which provides transport to the WHS clinic.
Single father and student Damien Leggett first utilized SNIP in 2011, when he had nine cats as a result of taking in strays, the population of which is high in his Furby St. neighbourhood.
"There’s no stigmatization or judgment," Leggett says. "They’re super nice."
In addition to denting overpopulation, SNAP has also created more adoptable animals – all those up for adoption at the WHS are spayed/neutered.
Interested applicants must provide proof of household income or social assistance, as well as vaccination records for pets; if necessary a subsidy vaccination will be administered.
Applicants may inquire further at 888-SNAP.