The Nova Scotia SPCA announced on Thursday the opening of the province’s first full service, not-for-profit veterinary facility. Photo: NS SPCA

The Nova Scotia SPCA today announced the opening of the province’s first full service, not-for-profit veterinary facility and staff are already inundated with inquiries from potential clients.

The facility is being described as the first social enterprise hospital in Atlantic Canada.

“To my knowledge, we haven’t had something like this before in Nova Scotia,” SPCA Veterinary Hospital vet Dr. Kellie Haggett said in an interview Thursday afternoon.

“This will be the first to be able to offer these kinds of services to both low income clients as well as clients that don’t qualify for a low income status.”

Nova Scotia SPCA Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Dr. Kellie Haggett in a still from a promotional video. Photo: NS SPCA

Although the Nova Scotia SPCA made the announcement Thursday, Haggett said they already had a “soft opening” to test the waters. While the newly renovated animal hospital on Scarfe Court in Dartmouth is accepting new patients, they won’t be open for regular preventative care like vaccinations until the new year. They will, however, be seeing emergencies and animals in dire need on a case-by-case basis.

As a shelter veterinarian, Haggett said she sees many animals relinquished to the SPCA due to financial reasons. As an example she pointed to dogs that develop significant skin issues or other ailments that result in unexpectedly hefty vet bills. Despite loving their pets, she said some owners give them up because the care required is far beyond their ability to pay.

“We’re going to be able to keep those pets in the homes of those people now because they want to help, they just don’t have the means,” Haggett said.

“By us being able to provide them the means, we’re going to decrease animal relinquishment across the province hopefully, as well as continue to keep those human-animal bonds together.”

Haggett said they’re able to fund the newly renovated animal hospital through grant funding of $215,000 from PetSmart Charities of Canada. A press release notes that funding helped the Nova Scotia SPCA invest in “state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, technology and equipment” that will make services affordable for Nova Scotians.

Haggett said they’ve hired several veterinarians, technicians and managers to help run the fully staffed hospital. The PetSmart charity provides community support so the SPCA’s veterinary services are offered to lower income families at what Haggett described as an “OK price.”

Clients who are able to pay will do so based on the Nova Scotia fee guide for veterinary medicine.

“Because we’re a non-profit, we can use the profit that we would make off of those surgeries to put it back into the low income model,” Haggett explained.

“We also know that there are people who could potentially pay at a normal veterinary clinic but due to the model that we have, they may want to be more on that philanthropic side.”

Although based in Dartmouth, the hospital is open to clients from across Nova Scotia. Haggett said the new hospital has already been well-received in the community. They already know many struggling pet owners eager to be able to take advantage of the program.

A separate $10,000 gift from Queenidog was also used to create a fund to help pet owners in financial crisis with their veterinary needs. Dubbed the ‘Sunshine Fund,’ it’ll subsidize the cost of emergency medical care at the SPCA Veterinary Hospital for pet owners experiencing financial hardship.

“We’re really, really excited. I should tell people that we’ve already really been inundated with calls and emails…so if we are a little bit slower to get back to you, we’re not ignoring you,” Haggett said.

“It’s just going to take us a while to answer all the phone calls that we’re going to initially get off the hop from this.”

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor who enjoys covering health, science, research, and education.

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