The MEOW Foundation Veterinary Practice – A Dream in the Making

Taking the next step in our journey to Make Each One Wanted

You may have seen MEOW Foundation featured on Global News recently in a story about the City of Calgary relaunching its no-cost spay and neuter program. With the cost of living increasing and many pet owners struggling to find timely vet care, this is great news for Calgary cats and their people!

Many people are surprised to learn that MEOW Foundation offers our own Spay Neuter Assistance (SNAP) Program. It’s been a core offering since our founding in 2000 and while it’s always been in high demand, we’ve seen an unprecedented volume of applications to the program in the last two years.

It’s not just Spay Neuter Assistance that’s unusually busy. We’ve seen increased demand across all our programs. Whether it’s to bring in a stray cat, assistance with feral cats through our Trap Neuter Return (TNR) Program, cat food assistance or a variety of other questions, the calls for help have been constant and show no signs of letting up.

Limited resources, limited space

Like all rescues, MEOW Foundation is limited in how many cats we can help; we simply don’t have the resources to help with every request. Resources means staff, space, funds and access to timely vet care. And over the last two years, access to timely vet care has become more and more scarce.

With the huge influx of new pets during the COVID-19 pandemic and many veterinarians leaving the profession, there has been a sharp increase in wait times for both routine appointments and more complex surgeries. Our partner vet clinics work so hard to fit us in as quickly as they can, but they have businesses to run and many other clients who need them.

Timely vet checkups and surgeries are vital to minimizing the amount of time cats spend at our Adoption Centre or in foster home before they move on to their forever family. Increased wait times have resulted in cats having to stay with us for weeks or months longer than they would otherwise. For example, young and healthy cats who only need a spay or neuter before going up for adoption could be made available as quickly as 1-2 weeks after intake. However, long waits for appointments have meant that most cats are with us upwards of a month before we can make them available for adoption.

And that’s just for cats with straightforward medical needs! When you take into account that many of our cats have lived on the street for years and need appointments for bloodwork, dental surgery, sterilization and more, that adds up to a lot of time that cats are spending with us instead of in a permanent home.

Our own vet clinic – a critical need

MEOW has been exploring and working toward our own veterinary practice since well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Having our own clinic would help us move cats through our Rescue and Adoption, Spay Neuter Assistance and Trap Neuter Return programs more efficiently, as well as reduce our vet care costs (our vet bills totaled almost $350,000 in our 2021 fiscal year!).

Without access to timely veterinary care, we inevitably end up with a backlog of cats. In fact, we have been at full capacity multiple times in the last year and have had to implement wait lists to manage intake. With ever-increasing pressure on the veterinary industry, having our own clinic is more important than ever. Having our own space where we can make our own decisions about scheduling and priorities will make a huge difference in how we can deliver our programs, get more cats into homes more quickly and expand our life-saving work.

What’s next?

Building a veterinary clinic from the ground up is a huge effort, starting with logistics and the regulatory process of getting a practice approved.

The very first step is to find what the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) calls a “responsible veterinarian,” someone who will guide the planning and operations of the clinic. With so many veterinarians in the province being overwhelmed, this has been hard to come by! The job description is posted on our website for anyone who may be interested in this part-time opportunity.

Once we have secured a responsible veterinarian, we can create a proposal for approval by the ABVMA. Only once our proposal is approved can we get to the hard work of finding a space, renovating it to meet our needs and – very importantly – fundraising! We know it’s a long road ahead, but this is a vital next step in our journey of Making Each One Wanted.