The University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) will have new cutting-edge surgical facilities for companion animals, thanks to a $2.5-million leadership gift from La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso.

The gift was made through the Friends Together for Longer fundraising campaign of OVC’s Pet Trust, and will support the $9-million project to create new surgery and anesthesia facilities.

Emmanuelle Gattuso and Allan Slaight with their dog Stewart
Emmanuelle Gattuso and Allan Slaight with their dog, Stewart (Photo by Christina Gapic)

This donation will be recognized with the naming of the James Slaight Advanced Surgical Complex within the new facilities. The complex will consist of multiple operating suites equipped to offer numerous routine and advanced surgical procedures.

“This incredible gift will allow OVC to continue to be at the forefront of veterinary medicine here in Canada and around the world,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino.

“With these sophisticated new facilities, OVC will provide the most advanced care possible, benefiting pets and their owners. Our students — the veterinarians of the future – will also have access to the latest technology and techniques.”

The new surgical area will be named for James, a pet poodle of Emmanuelle Gattuso and Allan Slaight, that died in 2013 at age 12.

Gattuso said her affection for James and her other dog, Stewart – named for Allan’s favourite magician, Canada’s Stewart James – was her motivation for the gift. Both dogs have undergone surgery at various times.

“Our pets give us so much; they’re our family members, and they bring out the best in us,” said Gattuso. Her philanthropic foundation, La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, supports numerous arts, cultural and health organizations, and is known as a catalyst for progress and innovation.

“It is the passion that the OVC veterinary team has for their work and their drive to advance veterinary care that has inspired me to give.”

With advanced diagnostic and surgical procedures not readily available in general practice, OVC treats more than 2,000 dogs, cats and other pets each year. About 90 per cent have serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, liver failure or orthopedic issues, and about half require surgery.

“We honour the bond between pets and their owners through the specialized and compassionate care that we provide,” said Jeff Wichtel, OVC dean.

“The highly skilled care that is our hallmark will now be complemented with new state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.”

To learn more about Emmanuelle Gattuso’s gift, please visit