You might think that spaying and neutering your pet is common sense now that we’ve entered 2010. After all, Bob Barker preached it at the end of every Price is Right for 35 years. Unfortunately though, spaying and neutering has yet to become conventional wisdom. According to a national survey published in the USA Today, nearly half of people who have acquired pets in the last year haven’t had them spayed or neutered.
Surprisingly, those under 35 are the least likely to sterilize their pets. PetSmart Charities conducted the survey, in an effort to understand what factors are contributing to pet overpopulation where an estimated 4-6 million shelter animals are euthanized every year in the United States alone. Obviously, ignorance is part of the problem as 62 percent of the 18 to 34 year olds surveyed thought less than one million shelter animals were euthanized each year and a staggering 28 percent thought 100,000 or less were euthanized. If you think getting your pet spayed or neutered isn’t a priority, there are millions of homeless shelter animals who would like to respectfully disagree with you.
Even pet owners who are thinking of spaying and neutering are confused about when to have the procedure done. Among survey respondents who had recently acquired a pet, 17 percent said they had no idea of the proper age to spay/neuter; 42 percent said 6 months; 14 percent said at least 9 months. Since pets can become pregnant when they’re just 6 months old, many vets recommend 4 or 5 months as the proper age. But according to the USA Today, through motivation by animal welfare advocates who want puppies and kittens sterilized before they go into adopters’ homes, a growing number of veterinarians are starting to believe 2 months is a good age to spay or neuter.
Every single puppy and kitten born contributes to the overpopulation problem. Even when pet owners have “found homes” for an entire litter, each of those animals deprives a dog or cat waiting patiently in a shelter from finding a loving home. Purebreds are no exception. Studies have shown that close to 25 percent of animals in shelters are purebred dogs and cats.
Consider these statistics: According to the Humane Society of the United States, a single unspayed female cat, her mate, and their offspring are capable of producing a total of 420,000 kittens in just seven years. In six years, one unspayed female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies. This results in the euthanasia of millions of homeless pets.
In Los Angeles alone, according to the L.A. Times, 54,129 dogs and cats were impounded in 2009. Almost a quarter of the dogs and more than half the cats taken to the city’s six shelters had to be put to sleep, for untreatable illness, intractable behavior, or lack of space. A staggering 4,930 were neonatal animals that could not be kept alive without bottle feeding or a nursing mother. Most of those were kittens.
I’ve heard people ask: “Won’t we run out of pets if all animals are spayed and neutered?” And here’s the answer: according to experts, each day in the U.S., 70,000 puppies and kittens are born—seven times the number of humans born. As long as these birth rates exist, there will never be enough homes for all the animals. Given the fact we can’t spay and neuter all animals, there’s no chance of running out of pets anytime soon.
Aside from spaying or neutering your pet to help with the overpopulation crisis, spaying and neutering has both medical and behavioral benefits for your dog and cat. Neutering male dogs and cats make them less likely to fight with other males or mark their territory and it virtually eliminates the risk of testicular tumors or prostate problems. Spaying female dogs and cats greatly reduces their chances of developing mammary, ovarian, or uterine cancers. Spayed and neutered pets are also less likely to try to get out of the yard to find mates. Each year, thousands of roaming animals in search of mates become lost or are hit by cars, resulting in needless suffering or death.
Spaying and neutering isn’t just for dogs and cats. Rabbits reproduce faster than dogs or cats and often end up in shelters where they must be euthanized. Spaying or neutering rabbits can reduce hormone-driven behavior such as lunging, mounting, and spraying. Spaying female rabbits can also prevent ovarian, mammary, and uterine cancers, which can be common in mature females.
As tremendous as the problem of pet overpopulation is, it can be solved if each of us takes just one small step, starting with not allowing our animals to breed. Please have your pet spayed or neutered.
C.A.R.E.4Paws’ announces Free “Spay Days”
C.A.R.E.4Paws is expanding its Spay & Neuter Program significantly, with the goal to alter up to 2,000 animals in 2010. With the support of Santa Barbara Humane Society and Santa Barbara County Animal Services, C.A.R.E.4Paws will organize, promote, and run free Spay Days (these are one-day clinics when they alter from 20 to 50 dogs and cats) and weekday appointments at various locations in the county throughout the year. We collaborate with vet clinics and veterinarians in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Buellton, Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Santa Maria to provide the staff for and/or host these free Spay Days along with the weekday appointments.
In only four months, C.A.R.E.4Paws has been able to facilitate the spaying/neutering of 150 dogs and cats. With the launch of our new Spay & Neuter Program this year, we’ll be able to accomplish a lot more.
• February 7 and March 7, at Santa Barbara County Animal Services in Santa Maria Center.
• February 21 and March 14, at Buellton Veterinary Clinic,
Contact C.A.R.E.4Paws today to book your appointment: 968-CARE (2273) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Montecito Pet Shop Fundraiser
In celebration of national spay day, there will be a silent auction, raffle, speakers, live music—Bruce Wood on guitar—hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and refreshments. Plus, most of all, pet adoption! Come and adopt a four-legged friend! Saturday, February 20, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, February 21, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 2020 Cliff Dr. For more information, call 965-6780 or visit Montecito Pet Shop.
Adoptable Pet of the Week