Curbing pet overpopulation

(Edmonton) A group of students in the University of Alberta’s Animal Health program  is hoping its final class project will help reduce Edmonton’s overflowing population of homeless animals.

Jennifer Enzie and Kimberly Cox were part of a student team that wrapped up a 36-page report for the Edmonton Humane Society on preventing unwanted litters of kittens and puppies. It was a capstone course project for their degree program in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science. Researching the related issues and possible solutions was intensive work, but deeply rewarding for the group, not only as animal lovers, but as undergraduates.

“This project made me feel important and useful as a student,” says Enzie, who is currently applying to veterinary school. “I loved that it was something tangible that can benefit the community.”

Armed with their BSc degrees in animal health and the hard-earned knowledge that came from the capstone project, the students feel more confident as they embark on further studies and then onto careers as professionals in the field of animal health.

“It was interesting for us to see all sides of an issue—such as low-cost spay and neuter clinics—and knowing there are different perspectives strengthens my realization that as a professional, I will have to communicate with various groups in different ways,” says Cox, who plans to become an animal health technician.

As a prospective veterinarian, Enzie found the research project valuable in showing her how to communicate with future clients and staff and be an advocate for companion animals at the same time.

“I will do my own part in educating people on the importance of responsible pet ownership.”

To compile their report, which was also sent to the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, the students explored four models for spay-neuter programs. They interviewed local vets, studied low-income residential areas of the city, determined what programs already exist and gauged spay-neuter fees.

Their final report recommends a two-step approach to ending pet overpopulation, including an intensive education and public awareness campaign, and a mobile spay-neuter clinic targeting low-income communities.

They hope their hard work and brainpower will ultimately contribute to reducing the number and the suffering of unwanted animals.

“If our recommendations do help, I can be proud that I played a part in making an education campaign come about,” Enzie says.

“I will always remember the knowledge I gained from this project,” says Cox, adding that the support of her teachers will also shape her future. “It’s a little community in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. All of our professors are very supportive of us. It built my confidence and capability in tackling issues.”

“I would not hesitate at all to contact any one of my professors if I needed advice in the future,” Enzie adds. “That’s a pretty special resource to have.”