An animal welfare organization that received overwhelming support during this summer’s wildfires across the province is launching a program aimed at helping residents from affected communities spay and neuter their pets.
Four Paws Food Bank, which founder Bonnie McBride describes as a “fledgeling” organization prior to the forest fire crisis, recently announced it would be using leftover monetary donations received over the summer to offer a low-cost spay and neuter program.
The service will be available to residents in any of the several communities affected by this summer’s wildfires, including the South Cariboo, McBride says.
“We wanted to make sure that the donations stayed within the communities that were affected by the fires,” McBride explains. “So as a group we decided to create the spay and neuter legacy fund.”
McBride and a small group of volunteers found themselves in the thick of the action this summer, when they set up a pet refuge centre at the Emergency Social Services headquarters in Kamloops.
Over several weeks, the group – which has been in operation for a year – collected approximately $200,000 worth of pet supplies, on top of caring for more than 1,200 pets on-site whose owners were displaced by the fires.
“When the fires first occurred, I messaged our little volunteer group and asked if anyone wanted to come to ESS to see if we could help,” McBride says. “And we never left from there.”
As word of the need for pet supplies and care spread throughout the province, McBride says people from further away began offering financial help.
“We received a larger number of monetary donations than we ever could have used for wildfire victims,” she notes.
Throughout the wildfire crisis, McBride says she had many inquiries from owners about having their pets spayed or neutered; while the group wasn’t able to offer that help at the time, she says it was logical next step for assisting those in need.
Applications will be available in the coming weeks through the Four Paws Food Bank website (www.fourpawsfoodbank.com) and McBride says the group hopes to be able to cover the majority of veterinary costs, with only a small portion of the procedure to be paid by the pet owner.
While McBride says they are still ironing out the details, they’re working on putting agreements in place with various vet offices.
“Our mandate is about helping people take care of their pets and be better pet owners, so this is a natural extension of that,” she says. “We’re pleased to be able to do it and that the donations intended for these communities will go back to these communities.”