A new program designed to promote responsible pet ownership has launched in the Latrobe Valley.
Vulnerable members of the community – those on the age or disability pension – will be eligible to have their cats desexed for free.
Forever Friends Animal Rescue Latrobe founder and committee member Melanie Palmer said she hoped the initiative would help address the high cat euthanasia rates in the region.
“We have found that our vulnerable community members, those with disability or on the pension – especially during the pandemic – are struggling financially,” Ms Palmer said.
“We wanted to do something to help community members but also decrease the number of unwanted litters, as well as cats and kittens that are ending up in the pound and facing euthanasia.
“It’s also hopefully going to really benefit the animal welfare industry.”
The Traralgon Veterinary Centre has jumped on board the program and will neuter cats free of charge for successful applicants.
Ms Palmer estimated each cat would usually cost between $250 and $300 to desex, and said she hoped the program would reach those most in need.
“We decided to apply for an agriculture grant for a substantial amount of money to bring this program to Latrobe residents,” she said.
“Then we approached the Traralgon Vet Centre to see whether they’d be interested in the program and they jumped at the chance. We’re aiming to help desex over 100 cats.”
Twelve cats have already been approved for desexing under the program, which was launched last week.
“We’ve had such a huge response so far,” Ms Palmer said.
“For people to be eligible they need to have their cat microchipped, or they can have their cat microchipped for a discounted fee. Applicants pay $45 for the microchip and then get the desexing free, so it also helps encourage responsible pet ownership in two ways.”
Latrobe City councillor Kellie O’Callaghan, who is also chair of the Latrobe City Animal Welfare Reference Group, said the program would help address the financial challenges faced by some pet owners.
“Mel (Palmer) is acutely aware of the need to support community in relation to responsible pet ownership and this includes ensuring cats are desexed,” Cr O’Callaghan said.
“This project will ensure that more people are supported and assisted to desex their cat. Mel and the Forever Friends volunteers do wonderful work in our community and I congratulate them on working with the Traralgon Veterinary Centre to provide this service and support.”
For more information about the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.