In March of 1997, local Edmonton media released information about a little dog named Atrayo who was receiving radiation therapy for his cancer after hours at a human cancer centre. The provincial government reacted by permanently closing the doors of all human treatment facilities to pets. Without the completion of his radiation therapy, Atrayo died a few months later. Veterinarians and politicians heard an outcry from pet owners around the country. As a result, serious analysis of the access of pets to cancer treatment programs was made.
Veterinarians in general practice can treat a large percentage of cancers, but many aggressive cancers need to be managed at specialized oncology centres. In 1997, no such facilities for pets existed in Western Canada. The cost of these procedures even when managed locally cost hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars that many pet owners cannot afford. The expense and the access to therapy kept many animals from being treated for their cancers.
Veterinarians, animal health technologists, pet owners and animal lovers came together and formed a group with the primary interest of developing a non-profit veterinary oncology facility in Alberta. This group became incorporated and was called the Veterinary Cancer Institute (VCI). Through dedicated work, research and with the assistance of cancer specialists, VCI teamed up with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to build Western Canada’s first oncology centre. The Western College of Veterinary Medicine hired a veterinary oncologist and built a facility that could run a complete oncology program, which would include radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, MRI and a critical care unit. The VCI donated a radiation machine to the facility.
On September 28, 2001, ACTSS directors Dr. Jennifer Stelfox, Dr. Sheri Dalton and Ms. Marlene Kerr broke ground for the new centre at the WCVM in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. This one-of-a-kind facility opened in the spring of 2002.
In October of 2001, the VCI officially became the Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society (ACTSS) to better reflect its current objectives. ACTSS concentrates on making cancer therapy affordable for pet owners through a memorial fund that was established in honour of a wonderful dog named Lucky Moffat, who developed a malignant cancer at a young age, as well as through a variety of fundraising activities.
The Lucky Moffat Memorial Fund is used to subsidize Alberta pets whose owners are unable to pay for extensive cancer treatment. All Alberta Veterinary Clinics offer information that explains how to apply for subsidization, including forms for pet owners to complete. Current forms are available on this website by clicking on Apply for Subsidy