The Yukon government is offering a new subsidy to encourage rural residents to spay their female dogs.
Starting in August, the government will pay $250 toward as many as 115 spay surgeries on dogs from rural communities. The program is an attempt to limit the number of unwanted puppies in the territory.
The government has been working on new dog-control measures since a spay-and-neuter voucher pilot program ended on March 31. But the issue has taken on new significance since Yukon’s chief coroner revealed in May that a man was killed and partially eaten by feral dogs in Ross River last October.
Mary Vanderkop, Yukon’s chief veterinary officer, said the subsidy will only be available for female dogs, to get the most bang for the government’s buck.
“If we have any females that are unspayed in a community, it only takes one unneutered male to breed all of them,” she said.
Dog owners wishing to use the subsidy must bring their dogs to be spayed by a veterinarian of their choice. The $250 will be deducted from the total bill, and will be paid directly to the veterinarian out of the government fund.
Vanderkop said the majority of dog spays can be done for less than $500, meaning the subsidy would cover roughly half the cost.
However, the money will only be available to rural Yukoners outside the Y1A postal code.
“What we’re trying to do is offset the travel cost for these people,” Vanderkop said. “We felt $250 was a reasonable amount to offset the financial disadvantage to those members of the communities.”
This subsidy differs from the former pilot program, which distributed vouchers through the Humane Society Yukon to offset the cost of spay and neuter surgeries.
Vanderkop said that approach “resulted in a lot of vouchers that were given out that were never actually used.”
The Humane Society will not be involved in this new program. Dan Moore, the society’s executive director, said the voucher project “wasn’t really cost-effective” for the organization.
He said the new program seems like it will work well, but he’s concerned that there’s no longer an income threshold. The voucher project was specifically targeted to dog owners below a certain income level, but this program “could open the door to anybody having their pets spayed at reduced cost,” he said.
But Vanderkop said it wouldn’t be appropriate for the government to make restrictions based on income.
“We felt that really our responsibility and focus … was to address the concerns with the number of unwanted dogs in communities.”
Depending on the outcome the program and may be renewed.
The government is also launching a community dog care initiative, which will support communities that want to organize spay-and-neuter clinics, dog registries or voluntary surrender programs, Vanderkop said.
But in Ross River, it’s unclear how much progress has been made since chief coroner Kirsten Macdonald confirmed in May that 22-year-old Shane Glada was killed by dogs in the community last fall.
At the time, Ross River residents told stories of carrying hockey sticks and pepper spray to protect themselves from the feral dogs.
Chief Jack Caesar agreed in May to create a working group and come up with recommendations for dealing with the issue.
But Macdonald said she has yet to see any recommendations.
“I’ve sent an email, I’ve asked for the recommendations to be forwarded to me,” she said. “But I haven’t heard anything.”
Macdonald said she plans to complete her coroner’s report on Glada’s death in the coming weeks, with or without community input.
Caesar did not respond to a request for comment.
Vanderkop said the Yukon government has also given the Ross River Dena Council some money to help pay for a spay-and-neuter clinic in the community, but the clinic had not yet happened by the end of June.
She said an attempt to create a dog registry also met with “challenges,” partly because many people are away from home in the summer.
However, a government-led voluntary surrender program has had more success. Moore said 15 dogs have come to the Humane Society from Ross River since May. Thirteen of them have already found new homes, and he said there’s interest in the remaining two.
He said a couple of the dogs have had to be socialized, but they don’t have major problems.
“They’re just not familiar with people,” he said.
Vanderkop said other surrendered dogs from Ross River have been euthanized, though she wouldn’t say how many.
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org