Pet Overpopulation
In the United States, more than 70,000 puppies and kittens are born each day because of the uncontrolled breeding of pets. Add the offspring of stray and abandonded animals to that number, and the total becomes even more staggering. When these figures are compared to the 10,000 humans born daily in the U.S., it becomes obvious that there can never be enough homes for so many animals. In fact, it is estimated that only one out of every four animals in this country lives a healthy, safe, contented life. As for the estimated 12 million dogs and cats that end up in America's shelters, 65% to 85% are destroyed each year (and another estimated 10 to 15 million animals are starving on the streets).
Of the 50,000 dogs and cats that end up in animal shelters and pounds in Albuquerque and the surrounding areas, about 25,000 are euthanized every year. And these figures do not include the countless animals that wander homeless on the streets and countryside.

REMEMBER: This is not just a problem of statistics -- every single pet is an individual life.

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF PET OVERPOPULATION?

1. Too many pets for too few good homes.
2. The acceptance of cruelty to animals in our society.
3. The stress that caring shelter workers suffer as they are forced to kill healthy, adoptable animals.
4. And increase in so-called viciousness in dog breeds attributed to irresponsible breeding without regard for temperament.
5. An increase in taxes to generate funds needed to deal with the problems of pet overpopulation.
6. Because the state of New Mexico does not prohibit "pound seizure," shelters become cheap sources of animals for use in laboratory experiments (pound seizure does not apply to private animal shelters that do not receive government funding).

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP ALLEVIATE PET OVERPOPULATION?
Given the fact that in just a few years, because of short pregnancies and large litters, one female dog or cat and her offspring can be the source of literally thousands of offspring, supporting the spaying or neutering of even one pet can make an incredible difference. Communities that have implemented progressive spay and neuter programs can reduce the number of animals being impounded euthanized by 30 to 60 percent. For example: the number of animals handled by the Los Angeles shelter was about 145,000 before three spay/neuter clinics were opened in 1971; just ten years later, that number was reduced by 44%. In San Francisco, 20,846 dogs and cats were impounded in 1985, but that number dropped by 38% in 1995 after implementation of a progressive program to create a "no-kill city."

HOW CAN WE SOLVE THE PET OVERPOPULATION PROBLEM?
1. Enact legislation and ordinances to require that every pet adopted from animal shelters or rescue organizations be sterilized within a certain period of time. (New Mexico does have a law which requires dogs and cats adopted from animal shelters to be spayed or neutered; this includes stray animals being reclaimed by their owners, unless the onwers purchase a special breeder permit.)

2. Enact differential licensing laws that substantially increase fees for pets who have not been spayed or neutered and provide owners with an incentive to sterilize their animals.

3. Reduce spay/neuter fees and offer assistance to make spaying and neutering less of a financial burden to pet owners.

4. Increase education about the benefits of spaying/neutering.

5.Keep your pet from getting lost or stolen by following leash laws, keeping animals indoors when you're not around and fencing your yard.

6. Purchase a license and/or identification tag. If your pet does get lost, accurate identification can be its ticket home.

THE BENEFITS OF SPAYING AND NEUTERING
SPAYING AND NEUTERING IMPROVES THE HEALTH OF PETS.
Spaying and neutering can eliminate or reduce the incidence of a number of health problems that can be very difficult or expensive to treat, and your pet will lead a healthier, longer life. Spaying a female eliminates the possibility that she will develop uterine/ovarian infections or cancer and greatly reduces the chances of breast tumors and cancer, particulary when your pet is spayed before the first estrous cycle. Neutering a male reduces the incidence of prostate enlargement and prostate, testicular or anal cancer later in life. Neutered dogs and cats are no longer at risk for hormone-related fur loss or hernias.

SPAYING AND NEUTERING IMPROVES THE BEHAVIOR OF PETS.
Spayed dogs and cats will not have a "heat" cycle, which can make them cry and pace incessantly, develop false pregnancies, lose bladder control, have discharges and bleeding, show nervous behavior as well as irritability and aggression, and attract unwanted male animals. Neutered mals are less likely to roam, run away, get lost, or get into fights. Neutering also reduces sexual mounting behavior and territorial urine-marking.

SPAYING AND NEUTERING HELPS THE COMMUNITY.
Communities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax funds to control and eliminate unwanted pets and stray animals. Significant resources are spent to pick up, feed and care for stray animals, reunite lost animals with their owners, to adopt pets out, or to euthanize them.

MYTHS & FACTS ABOUT SPAYING AND NEUTERING

MYTH:

It's too expensive to have my pet spayed or neutered.
FACT:
The cost of spaying or neutering depends on the sex, size, and age of the animal, and a number of other variables. But whatever the actual prize, the surgery is a one-time cost and relatively small when compared to all the benefits. It is also a bargain compared to the increased food and medical costs of having a litter and ensuring the health of the mother and litter as well as the costs of finding homes for the litter. And it can be a lot less expensive than the cost of injuries that come from frequent fights or car accidents endured by non-neutered animals that are more likely to roam or run away. Most importantly, it's a very small prize to pay for the health of your pet and the prevention of more unwanted animals. There are also a number of financial assistance programs available.

MYTH:
My pet shouldn't be spayed or neutered because she/he is a purebred.
FACT:
So are approximately 32% of all animals brought to shelters in America. There are just too many dogs and cats -- mixed breed and purebred. Even if you spay or neuter your purebred animal, there will be no shortage of purebreds.

MYTH:
Spay and neuter surgery hurts animals and is cruel.
FACT:
Spaying or neutering is a routine surgical procedure by your vet. Often times pets can go home the same day as the operation, or the next day. Basically, female dogs and cats are "spayed" by removing their reproductive organs (uterus and ovaries), and male dogs and cats are "neutered" by removing both testicles. In both cases, the operation is performed while the animal is under anesthesia, so they feel no pain. Afterwards, most seem to experience some discomfort, but all signs of discomfort disappear within a few days, or even a few hours. Serious harm as a result of spay/neuter surgery is extremely rare. The techniques used in modern veterinary medicine are as sophisticated as those employed for human surgery, and a good veterinarian provides close post-operative observation and care. Your veterinarian can fully explain spay and neuter procedures. The real cruelty comes from the needless euthanasia of healthy dogs and cats as well as the cruel fate suffered by unwanted animals dumped in rural areas or on the roadside to encounter wild animals, cruel humans, dangerous cars, disease, starvation or the elements. Instead of having a good chance of survival, they're only being sentenced to a slow, agonizing death -- and being given the chance to breed and create more unwanted litters.

MYTH:
As long as I find good homes for all the offspring, I'm not contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.
FACT:
Each time you place one of your pet's puppies or kittens in a loving home, there is one fewer potential home for another animal that is already homeless and waiting on "death row" at the local shelter. And, in fact, you have no guarantees that the animals you place will stay in those homes for the rest of their lives; they may end up unwanted in the future. A recent study found that 63% of dogs surrendered to shelters by their owners have been owned for less than two years. In addition, you have no control over the number of litters that the new owners allow your pet's offspring to have. If you have a friend who wants a puppy or kitten, urge your friend to adopt one from a local shelter or rescue organization. This will save one more dog or cat from a tragic fate.

MYTH:
If I can't find homes for all the animals in the litter, I'll just take them to the animal shelter, and they can find homes for them.
FACT:
Such organizations do the best they can, but the number of unwanted animals is vastly greater than the number of good homes available. In the Albuquerque area, an estimated 50% of all animals brought to shelters are euthanized -- that's about 25,000 dogs and cats every year!

MYTH:
It's better to let my pet have "just one litter" before spaying.
FACT:
Medical evidence indicates just the opposite, that females spayed before their first heat are typically healthier. And "just one litter" does contribute to pet overpopulation. In less than a year, all of the little ones in your pet's litter could be having litters of their own. Every day, thousands of healthy puppies and kittens are euthanized -- and each of those came from "just one litter!"

MYTH:
But my dog (or cat) is so special, I want a pup (or kitten) just like her.
FACT:
Your dog or cat may be a great pet, but that doesn't mean you'll get a carbon copy. Even professional breeders who are experienced in following generations of bloodlines and animal genetics can't guarantee that they will get just what they want out of a particular litter. Your chances are even slimmer. In fact, you could get an entire litter of puppies or kittens with all of your pet's (and it's mate's) worst characteristics.

MYTH:
My children should witness the miracle of birth.
FACT:
Even if your children are able to actually see your pet give birth -- which is unlikely, since it usually occurs at night and in seclusion -- the lesson you will really be teaching is that animals can be created and discarded as it suits us. Instead, you should explain to your children that the real miracle is life, and preventing births of some pets can save the lives of others. There are a number of books and videos available that document the birthing process, if you're really interested in showing your children where puppies and kittens come from.

MYTH:
My pet will become fat and lazy once spayed or neutered.
FACT:
Pets become fat and lazy as a result of overeating and lack of exercise, not from spaying of neutering. Some veterinarians do believe that spaying or neutering gives pets a greater tendency to gain weight, but wether or not this is so, you can control your pet's weight by feeding it only as much as it needs to maintain a good normal weight for it's size and by ensuring that it gets adequate exercise.

MYTH:
Spaying or neutering will change the personality of my pet.
FACT:
Since neutering or spaying is usually done just as the animal matures, behavioral changes at this time are the natural result of the aging process. But the basic personality of your pet will not change, because personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by its sex hormones. However, your pet will probably be more affectionate and calm, and males will be less likely to bite or be aggressive toward othe male dogs. Spaying and neutering does not affect a dog's natural instincts to protect it's home and family.

MYTH:
I don't want my male dog or cat to feel less like a male.
FACT:
Pets don't have any concept of sexual identity or ego. Neutering a male dog or cat will not change its basic personality. It doesn't suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis when neutered.

MYTH:
Spaying or neutering will change the gender of my pet (from a she or he to an "it")
FACT:
Spaying or neutering only prevents your pet from being able to reproduce; the procedure does not change (or eliminate) the gender of your pet.

MYTH:
It is wrong to deprive an animal of the natural right to mate and reproduce.
FACT:
The spayed or neutered animal does not experience the urge to mate and is therefore not being physically or psychologically deprived of anything. An animal spayed before her first heat never knows and never misses the experience of breeding or giving birth. She will also avoid the sensation of sexual frustration and the discomfort and risks of pregnancy and labor.

MYTH:
I don't have to worry about spaying or neutering until my pet is no longer a "puppy" or "kitten," say, after a year of age.
FACT:
The standard used to spay or neuter is after about 6 to 9 month of age. However, some individual animals can reach sexual maturity more quickly, and the standard has changed to between 3 and 6 month of age, in order to avoid unexpected, unwanted pregnancies. Some organizations and vets also support early-age sterilization, as early as 6 to 8 weeks of age. Your veterinarian can discuss with you the best age at which to spay or neuter your pet. Even older adult dogs and cats, however, will benefit from being spayed or neutered.

MYTH:
Mandatory spaying and neutering regulations will have no impact on pet overpopulation and will actually lower the adoption rate.
FACT:
This is a short-sighted attitude because in the long run, as the pet overpopulation problem decreases, fewer animals will be in need of homes, thus reducing both animal suffering and shelter overload. However, spay/neuter laws and ordinances will not solve the problem by themselves, because not everyone gets their pets at a shelter. Communities also need to provide low cost spay/neuter programs that are available for animals obtained from other sources. Differential licensing and public education are also key components to controlling the pet population.

With permission from The Southwestern Wildlands Sanctuary.
Sources: The Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and The Fund for Animals.

 

 

Copyright © Perfect Harmony Animal Rescue & Sanctuary 1995 - 2013

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