We’ve all heard the advice to spay and neuter our pets. Yet about 25% haven’t been. Why? There are really only four main reasons. The first is a desire to breed. Another is a concern about the health of a pet. A third is expense. The fourth is the belief that the issue doesn’t apply to the single-pet owner.
Those who plan to breed their pets should know that 2.4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year as a result of overpopulation. In other words, every puppy or kitten you bring into the world is a death sentence for another.
Those who think they can keep their intact pet from mating should know that, in 1996, 5.46 million kittens (82% of the total number of kittens were born that year) and 2.6 million puppies (43% of the total number of puppies born that year) were the result of unplanned litters. That’s over eight million kittens and puppies that were born because their owners thought they were in control.
Those who cannot afford sterilization should know there is local financial support. Everyone owes it to their pets to carefully consider the spay-neuter challenge.
Excuse #1a: I want to breed my pet (I want a purebred)
Dogs have an average litter size of 7.57 and cats have an average litter size of 5.73. Breeding your own pet because you want one or two more for yourself is like making a batch of cookies every time you want to eat one or two, then having to find other people who are also in the mood for cookies. Why not just find someone who will sell you one or two cookies?
There are other sources for pets, even purebreds. About 25% of pets in shelters are purebred. There are also many breed-specific rescue organizations; in Nebraska and the surrounding areas, there are about thirty breed-specific dog groups. And of course there are professional breeders.
Excuse #1b: I want to breed my pet (I want another pet like the one I have)
It is not possible to create a pet identical to your own. Are you identical to either of your parents? Even professional breeders cannot guarantee what characteristics will be inherited by a litter.
Excuse #1c: I want to breed my pet (I want my children to experience the” miracle of birth”)
Frequently, animals go off by themselves to give birth or do so during the night, so it is unlikely that your child will see the birthing process. While seeing the birth of baby animals may teach children a love for living things, this lesson can be taught in ways that do are not at the expense of your pet and its offspring.
After your pet gives birth and the lesson is over, you will have about half a dozen new kittens or puppies. Now what? Will you run ads in the newspaper or online? Will you try to convince all of your friends that they need a pet? At best, finding homes for all the babies will take a lot of work. And consider that each home you find will mean one less for the dogs and cats desperately waiting in shelters. The “miracle of birth” is quickly overshadowed by the millions of companion animals that are euthanized each year.
But at least your dog’s or cat’s babies will have good homes, right? Except that once they are out of your house, you no longer have any control over their fates. Did you know that among household-dwelling pets, 17% of dogs and 14% of cats were obtained from friends; but among pets relinquished to shelters, 31% of dogs and 32% of cats were obtained from friends? Pets obtained from friends are relinquished to shelters with far greater frequency than pets obtained from almost all other sources. When you allow your pet to breed, you are choosing to add to the population of unwanted pets.
If you still would like your children to witness a birth in your own home, you can volunteer as a foster family with a rescue group that targets abandoned pregnant animals. Did you know that limited space at shelters often means that pregnant dogs and cats are among the first euthanized? By providing foster care for a pregnant animal, you will be helping the organization, the animals, and giving your kids the opportunity to witness the miracle of birth – and you won’t even be responsible for finding homes for the babies.
Excuse #2a: I don’t want be cruel to my pet (doing so puts my pet’s health at risk)
By not spaying your female pet, you are actually shortening her life. Uterine infections and breast cancer are more common in intact pets and are frequently fatal. Isn’t this the opposite of your stated goal?
Intact females will react to hormonal changes during heat cycles, which will turn them into nervous, whiny, yowling pets that attract unwanted male attention. You’ll also have to deal with the messiness of diapers.
As for males, those left intact will do just about anything to find a mate. Their sexual urges might lead them to mark territory and mount furniture. They’ll also feel a strong need to roam, which may lead them to dig their way under fences. Once on the loose, they risk injury in traffic and fights with other males. Neutering also greatly reduces risk of prostate cancer.
Intact pets of either sex will be more likely to exert dominance over other pets or become aggressive and bite or scratch. Both of these can lead to contagious diseases, even in humans. They also will remain more desirous of marking territory and being general nuisances.
Did you notice all of the behavior issues that will crop up with intact pets? It should therefore come as more surprise that intact pets are more likely than altered pets to be relinquished to shelters.
Granted, placing a pet under anesthesia is a concern. Although there is always a slight risk involved, anesthetics currently used by veterinarians are considered safe. Moreover, veterinarians will monitor heart and respiratory rates during surgery to ensure that their anesthetized patients are doing well. Spay and neuter surgeries are among the most routinely performed surgeries for cats and dogs. Most pets go home the same day, return to normal activities within 24 to 72 hours, and have a full recovery in a week.
Excuse #2b: I don’t want be cruel to my pet (my male dog’s manhood will be destroyed)
Your pet’s basic personality is formed more by genetics and home life than by sex hormones. Sterilization does not change basic personality, cause sluggishness, or weaken the natural instinct to protect the pack. If anything, neutering your male will make him less interested in roaming to look for a mate, thus focusing his energy on pleasing you. Combined with the right training, sterilization might help you have a better behaved pet.
Excuse #2c: I don’t want be cruel to my pet (pets should have one litter first for health reasons)
There is no medical evidence of health benefits to dogs or cats that have produced one litter prior to sterilization. In fact, spaying female dogs and cats before their first heat is easier on them than waiting until later in their life. Smaller pets have less body fat, meaning less tissue trauma and less bleeding. Smaller pets need less anesthesia, meaning they will wake faster and generally able to go home the same day.
Excuse #2d: I don’t want be cruel to my pet (my pet is too young)
The American Veterinary Medical Association has endorsed the practice of Early Age Neutering – that is, sterilizing at the age of two months or the weight of two pounds. Animals recover more quickly from surgery when they are young.
There can be extenuating circumstances, and so your veterinarian should advise you on the most appropriate age to spay or neuter your pet based on its breed, age, and physical condition. However, Dr. Philip A. Bushby, a professor of Humane Ethics and Animal Welfare at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, believes: “We should still be promoting early-age spay-neuter because of the population dynamics involved.”
Excuse #3: I can’t afford it
Lincoln Animal Ambassadors offers a low-cost spay-neuter voucher program in cooperation with nine Lincoln vet clinics. People pay what they can afford toward the procedure and LAA pays the rest. Since 2010, LAA has altered more than 1,600 pets, averaging about 300 pets per year. Are you part of the spay-neuter solution?
Excuse #4: I don’t need to because I have an indoor pet with no mating prospects
Accidents can happen and any pet can escape its house or yard. In the few minutes that your pet is running lose, it could mate with other wandering intact pets.
In 1996, about 300,000 kittens and about 400,000 puppies were relinquished to shelters each year. They were not taken in by a family and then relinquished–they went straight from their mother to the shelter because homes could not be found for them. Of the 18,000 dogs and cats that enter Nebraska shelters each year, about 5,000 are euthanized. When you don’t have your pet spayed or neutered, whatever your reasons, you are contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.
Dr. Jed Rogers, senior vice president of Animal Health Services for the ASPCA, says: “The increase in spay-neuter over the past 50 years has been driven by veterinarians and shelters. We’ve done that, and I’m proud of us for doing that.” We can all help stop needless deaths. Accept the challenge: Spay and neuter your pets today. No excuses!