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Dog Walker

Our History

In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada a chain of events occurred that left professionals in the pet care industry and animal owners wondering what options existed for pets that had cancer. In March of 1997, local Edmonton media released information about a little dog named Atrayo who was receiving radiation therapy for his cancer at an Edmonton human cancer centre. The dog was being treated after hours by volunteer staff and the owner was paying for those services. The provincial government reacted to this media story by permanently closing the doors of all human facilities to pets. Without the completion of his radiation therapy, Atrayo went on to die a few months later. An outcry from pet owners around the country was heard by both veterinarian s and politicians and a serious analysis of the access of pets to cancer treatment programs was made.

A large percentage of cancers can be treated by veterinarians in general practice, but many aggressive cancers need to be managed at specialized oncology (cancer) centres. In 1997, no such facilities for pets existed in Western Canada. When the Alberta government stopped the after hour usage of human cancer centres for animals, pet owners had no choice but to send their pets to the United States for radiation therapy. Unfortunately, this proved to be difficult and cost prohibitive for most people and instead of receiving the extensive cancer treatment they required, many pets requiring therapy are euthanized prematurely. Chemotherapy and extensive surgical procedures are easily obtained in Alberta due to the advanced skill level of many generalized veterinary practitioners and the availability of specialized board certified veterinary surgeons. However, these procedures cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and
many pet owners cannot afford this. The expense and the access to cancer treatment frequently kept many animals from being successfully treated for their cancers.

Frustration that stemmed from this situation caused veterinarians, registered veterinary technologists, pet owners, and animal lovers to come together and form a group with the primary interest of developing a non-profit veterinary oncology facility in Alberta. This group became incorporated in 1998 under the Veterinary Cancer Institute (now known as ACTSS). Through many months of dedicated work and research, and the assistance of oncology specialists, a radiation machine was obtained, architectural designs were developed and staffing needs were identified for a radiation facility exclusively for pets. The VCI (ACTSS) was ready to start its major fundraising to build Western Canada’s only radiation facility for animals.
The Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, had been following the efforts of the VCI and applauded its progress. In late 1998, WCVM went through a major restructuring that allowed funding and staffing of its oncology program. Many veterinary colleges in the United States had board certified oncologists to teach cancer diagnostics and treatments to their veterinary students, but none of the four veterinary colleges in Canada had a cancer specialist. WCVM now had an opportunity to not only hire a veterinary oncologist but also to build a facility that could run a complete oncology program including MRI for diagnostics, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery for therapy and a critical care unit for recovery. Concerned about the competition of two oncology facilities developing side by side in a previously
untested market, WCVM approached the VCI regarding an amalgamation of their two programs.


After much consideration, the VCI agreed to support WCVM in its development of its oncology program. WCVM could offer education to hundreds of veterinary students in the field of oncology. WCVM graduates would be better trained in oncology and be able to offer Canadian pet owners with the most accurate diagnostics and the best treatment options available. This in turn would save even more pets with cancer. So the VCI transferred its cobalt radiation machine and other resources to WCVM for its new oncology centre. Dr. Jennifer Stelfox, Dr. Sheri Dalton and Ms. Marlene Kerr, all directors of VCI, were present on September 28, 2001 for the groundbreaking ceremony in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This “one of a kind” facility opened in the spring of 2002.
Once the development of the oncology centre was transferred to WCVM, the VCI chose to change its name to better reflect its current objective. In October of 2001, the VCI officially became the Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society (ACTSS).


ACTSS began concentrating on making cancer therapy more affordable for pet owners. ACTSS established a fund in honour of a wonderful dog called Lucky Moffat who developed a malignant cancer at a young age. Lucky’s owners, despite financial hardship, found the money to pay for radiation therapy and this gave Lucky years of extra life. Funds given to the Lucky Moffat Memorial Fund are used to subsidize treatment for Alberta pets whose owners would not have otherwise been able to pay for extensive cancer therapies.


Today, veterinary clinics in Alberta receive an attractive ACTSS acrylic brochure holder for the Lucky Moffat Memorial Fund pamphlets and donation cards. In addition, a “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” poster is also provided. Veterinarians are provided with the necessary forms to apply on their client’s behalf for subsidization. The pet’s medical information is evaluated by paid veterinary consultants for prognosis and treatment options. This information is then reviewed by the ACTSS “NEEDS Committee” along with the owner’s application and a personalized essay from the applicant explaining their unique bond with their pet. A decision is made as to the eligibility of the pet for subsidization and, if approved, the available funds for assistance of their cancer therapy. Travel expenses are not covered under any funding granted.


Naturally ACTSS can only subsidize cancer therapies based on the amount of funds that are donated to the Lucky Moffat Memorial Fund. People were encouraged to fill out donation cards either on-line, at Alberta veterinary clinic, and various pet stores such as Doghouse Pet Food Marts. Donations can also be made “in memory of” a beloved pet or loved one. Acknowledgment letters of their donation to the Lucky Moffat. Memorial Fund are sent in honour of those remembered, when requested.
As a registered charity (Charitable #888330 0626 RR000), tax receipts are available for qualifying
donations. We encourage everyone to donate to this wonderful cause! Please help us help pets receive lifesaving cancer therapies. Help us help Alberta pets LIVE with Cancer!

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