‘Ottawa’ Vets for Pets Program ‘a Relief,’ Cat Owner Says
Irene Gyurcsak sat at a table with her daughter on Saturday as a veterinarian and two vet students did a physical checkup on their cat, Gizzie.
A clinic run by the Community Veterinary Outreach program provides medical care once every two months to the pets of low-income and homeless people.
On top of the regular checkup, two-year-old Gizzie received a vaccine, an implanted radio-frequency identification chip, an appointment to get spayed and a few bags of cat food. The things covered in the appointment would normally set a pet owner back about $600.
“Financially, it helps me out a lot because other than that I don’t think I would be able to have animals if it wasn’t for this non-profit organization,” Gyurcsak said. “It’s more than $65 for a visit — just to say hi to a vet, plus all the other shots.”
Her seven-year-old daughter, Makayla, sat watching closely as Michelle Lem, a vet and the organization’s founder, tucked a stethoscope under Gizzie’s chest to check on her heartbeat.
“Most of the animals we see at this clinic are very healthy. I think one of the misconceptions is that the animals are not as well taken care of,” Lem said.
“For most of our clients, the pets are more important to them because they don’t have other family, so they’ll put the animal’s needs over their own.”
Steven Merrick had his two cats — Lacey and Sam — in with him for their shots and checkups.
“It’s definitely a relief that there are people out there caring for other people’s animals,” said the 30-year-old.
Merrick said he was able to afford to get Lacey spayed 12 years ago while he was still working. However, as a result of mental-health problems, he’s been unable to work for about a decade and now depends on Ontario Disability Support Program payments.
“I just can’t afford all the stuff that (the pets) need to have done,” he said.
The clinic is staffed almost completely by volunteers who work during the week as vets, students or vet technicians, Lem said.
“The vets are usually working five days a week, and the reason they come in is because these clients are so grateful for what we do,” she said. “It’s very different in private practice. Here, all our clients recognize that we are volunteers and are so grateful.”
Saturday’s clinic was housed at the Ottawa Salus Corporation on Scott Street and a total of 25 clients brought in 29 cats for treatment.
Anyone interested in using Community Veterinary Outreach’s services or making a donation can visit vetoutreach.org.