A Rhodesian Ridgeback in Germany recently gave birth to 17 puppies. Sadly, this wasn’t her first litter. The owner exclaimed: “The birth of the puppies was very special. All puppies were born naturally, no cesarean was necessary.” It took the poor dog 26 hours to give birth to all of the puppies. Thankfully, the owners finally decided to have the mother dog spayed. Of course it’s too late for the litter of 17, who apparently will all be given away. What the owners of the Rhodesian Ridgeback probably don’t realize is that each puppy they find a home for prevents a shelter animal from finding a home of its own.

You might think that spaying and neutering your pet is common sense these days; but sadly, it has yet to become conventional wisdom. According to a national survey published in USA Today, nearly half of people who have acquired unsterilized 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 18-34 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 4-6 million homeless shelter animals who would like to respectfully disagree with you.

Even those 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 experts 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 two months is a good age to spay or neuter.

Every single puppy and kitten born contributes to this tragedy. Even when pet owners have “found homes” for an entire litter, just like those Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies, 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.

If these facts and figures are difficult too comprehend, I have a personal anecdote to help illustrate the severity of the problem. I once helped rescue more than 300 cats from an 800-square-foot home in Detroit. The owner had one unspayed female cat and had taken in a non-neutered male cat he found wandering around his home. A few years later, his house was completely overrun by hundreds of inbred cats. Most of these cats were wild and suffering from illnesses and had to be humanely euthanized. This situation was filmed and televised on Animal Planet in an episode of Animal Cops Detroit entitled “House of Cats”. This situation may seem extreme, but had the pet owner spayed and neutered his two cats, this horrible situation would never have taken place.

I’ve heard people ask: “Won’t we run out of pets if all animals are spayed and neutered?” And here’s the answer: Each day in the U.S., 70,000 puppies and kittens are born – seven times the number of humans born annually. 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 every single animal, 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 makes 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.


Half-price Shelter Cats

From February 1-14, County Animal Services will be offering a 50-percent discount on cats who have been at Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) for more than 6 months.

Included in the adoption fee at ASAP is:

* Spay or neuter surgery

* Flea treatment

* Vaccinations

* Microchipping

* Health evaluation, including testing for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). Cats thought to be 10 years or older receive a full blood panel evaluation, thus assuring that the cat is indeed healthy and adoptable.

* Medical and drug coverage through ASAP’s vet for two weeks beyond adoption, if necessary

* Temperament evaluation

* Cat Carrier (you can save the County money by bringing your own)

ASAP is located at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road. Adoption hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, visit: www.asapcats.org

2011 Spay Day Pet Photo Contest

To support Spay Day, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International host the Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest, presented by Zazzle. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate our pets, raise funds for spaying and neutering, and win great prizes.

For more information, visit http://photocontest.humanesociety.org/contest.html?contestId=3&utm_source=hsuswindowshade&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=spayday


Adoptable Pet of the Week

Stanley is a six-year-old male (neutered) Domestic Shorthair who weighs 18 pounds! He is the kind of gentle, rock-solid guy anyone would love to be around. He is handsome too, with a thick, shiny black coat and beautiful greenish eyes. At six years of age, he still has plenty of time left to make his special person(s) happy. If you would enjoy a relationship with an affectionate lap cat, who even loves belly rubs, Stanley could be your forever Valentine.

For more information please visit the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Road, or call 805-964-4777 for more information. Shelter hours are Monday – Saturday 10 a.m.-4:30PM. You can also visit www.sbhumanesociety.org for more information.

Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions, animaladoptionsolutions.com


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