- Matthew Denholm, The Australian May 02, 2011
PHILANTHROPIST businesswoman Jan Cameron is funding a multi-million-dollar national network of not-for-profit veterinary centres — or “public hospitals for animals”– to slash the cost of de-sexing cats and dogs.
It is hoped this could end the cruelty of having at least one-third of all dogs and up to two-thirds of cats put down nationally because they are unwanted.
The wealthy founder of the Kathmandu outdoor goods chain said she planned to fund five fixed and two mobile clinics in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.
These community vet clinics, the first of which is running in Hobart, will offer cut-price de-sexing and other procedures for pets of people who would otherwise struggle to afford the cost.
The Hobart-based Ms Cameron is calling for public donations to expand the project, with the aim of “getting to zero” the number of unwanted cats and dogs being put down.
“This is a national issue that people despair about and throw their hands up at but there is a solution,” Ms Cameron said.
“The primary goal is to bring the population under control so these domestic pets do have homes ultimately and are not suffering out on the streets, and not causing any damage to native wildlife. The idea is to end this cycle of destruction of having to kill hundreds of thousands of animals every year that are not wanted.”
Modelled on the success of a clinic run by Animal Welfare League Queensland on the Gold Coast, which has slashed the number of unwanted cats and dogs being euthanased, Ms Cameron said the clinics would offer “radically lower” prices.
The de-sexing of a female cat will cost $94, rather than commercial rates of $150-$200, while de-sexing of a female dog will be $194, compared with commercial rates of $250-$400.
The clinics will offer flexible payment plans. “There can be garnisheeing of people’s pensions — $2 a week, something that doesn’t make a difference to their lives, but they end up with a de-sexed and micro-chipped cat,” Ms Cameron said.
As well as the Hobart clinic, opened months ago, there are plans for fixed clinics in Northern Rivers and western Sydney in NSW, and Maryborough and Brisbane in Queensland. Two mobile clinics are planned, in Western Australia and in western Queensland.
The estimated $3 million cost of the clinics would be met by Ms Cameron’s Elsie Cameron Foundation, and donations would help to expand the project.
Since opening in 2001, the AWL Gold Coast shelter has reduced the number of stray and surrendered animals needing to be put down to 9 per cent of dogs and 24 per cent of cats.
Ms Cameron said this compared with the national RSPCA average “kill rate” for unwanted dogs of 29 per cent and 59 per cent for cats, and the NSW council pound average of 39 per cent for dogs and 68 per cent for cats.
The Australian Veterinary Association has welcomed Ms Cameron’s commitment, but warned subsidised clinics needed to be well-managed to avoid “bad blood” with private vets, and tightly focused to avoid abuse.
“If people with a Mercedes come and get it done because it’s a cheaper option, then that money generated by fundraising or subsidisation is wasted,” said AVA past president Mark Lawrie.
The Getting to Zero clinic, operating in the Hobart suburb of Lenah Valley for several months, said this had not been a problem.
“It’s definitely people from lower socioeconomic areas who haven’t taken their pet to a vet before,” said vet Tering Davies.
“We’ve been booked out for two months de-sexing, de-sexing, de-sexing. We’ve done orthopedics, amputations, dental work, including pulling out rotten teeth that should have been done years ago,” Dr Davies said.
Vet Tering Davies and Cody the spaniel at the Hobart community veterinary hospital funded by Tasmanian philanthropist Jan Cameron. Picture: Peter Mathew Source: The Australian