Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters every year. This happens because there are many more of them than families who will open their hearts and homes to a pet. Breeding companion animals, intentionally or unintentionally, contributes to this enormous pet overpopulation, and if it continues unchecked, millions more will die.
Many of these unwanted animals are the result of unintentional breeding by wellmeaning pet owners who don’t understand the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. There is no legitimate reason for keeping a pet intact — even if the owner intends to keep the pet indoors. It only takes a second for an animal to escape the owner’s view, possibly creating a litter of babies who will eventually be euthanized. Ensuring that your pet does not contribute to the overpopulation crisis is the best way to help decrease the number of euthanized pets nationwide.
Spaying and neutering has many other benefits. One is better health, including a lowered risk of cancer. Spayed females have a very low risk of breast cancer, and absolutely no risk of ovarian and uterine cancer. Neutered males have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Spaying and neutering also lengthens pets’ lifespan, by 1-3 years for dogs and 3-5 years for cats.
Studies also show that altered pets tend to be less aggressive — especially the males. When male dogs reach adolescence, the testosterone increase in their bodies spikes higher than an adult male human’s! This leads to such unwanted hormone-related behaviors as staking out territory by urinating, aggression toward other males, and roaming in search of a mate. In addition to creating litters of unwanted puppies, dogs who roam free are more susceptible to contracting and spreading contagious diseases.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, some pet owners still believe they are doing what’s best for their animals by keeping them intact. Some believe the myth that spaying and neutering makes pets lazy and fat. In fact, the biggest contributors to pet obesity are overeating and lack of exercise. Some believe that spaying and neutering causes negative personality changes. Actually, intact animals devote much of their time and attention to mating and breeding, while spayed and neutered pets retain the same energy level but direct it toward other things, like family and playtime.
Every pet deserves a loving home. Some are lucky enough to find one, while others are fortunate to live in a shelter rather than on the streets. Unfortunately, most shelters rarely keep dogs and cats for long, but euthanize them to create room for the ever-growing pet population.
Please do whatever is within your means to prevent shelter animals from being euthanized —donate money, supplies, and time. At the very least, spay or neuter your own pet to make living in a shelter a possibility for unwanted companion animals.
Brought to you by Angie Stewart of The National Humane Education Society