Thinking Outside of the Box (Shelter)

Spay/neuter is the single most important step in eliminating the pet overpopulation that results in overcrowded shelters and places homeless dogs and cats on the streets.  Euthanasia due to being unwanted is the leading cause of death of companion animals in the US and the overall numbers drive euthanasias. Yet, spay/neuter is underutilized; it is not available in many areas where it is needed the most.

In the 1800s animal sheltering started to take shape.   At the time, surgical sterilization of pets was not an option; merely opening the discussion of humane options for unwanted companion animals was a major step forward.

By the 1940s surgical sterilization of pets existed, though largely as a novelty item. By the 1960’s many families had pets altered, and by the 1980’s a limited number of veterinarians were striving to reduce the size of their incision and the time it took to complete the surgery, paving the way for high volume spay neuter clinics.

However, changing the primary response to pet overpopulation from sheltering to prevention is going slowly.  At best, sheltering and affordable spay/neuter programs exist side-by-side; downsizing the need for sheltering through a serious spay/neuter strategy is not happening in many parts of the US. We rely on a strategy that was initiated over a century ago, while the modern, effective medical solution remains an afterthought.  What’s wrong with the picture?

What if we had greeted the 1952 breakthrough of an effective polio vaccine by proclaiming that the official position would still be to care for the sick in hospital wards, while the vaccine would be made available through groups of volunteers who would be funded by bake sales and kindly charities?  We continue to do just that in the case of unwanted dogs and cats! Taxpayers build shelters, the inhabitants die by the millions…then maybe someone opens a spay/neuter program.

Spay FIRST! believes that we need to turn the thinking upside down!

  • Over 28 percent of US households earn under $25,000 per year, yet at least 70% of homes in the US have one or more pets.
  • Depending on the region, five to 25% of homeless individuals or families are caregivers to companion animals.
  • In most states over half of the population has access to animal shelters at which to release unwanted pets, yet fewer than ten states have statewide access to affordable spay/neuter services in order to prevent unwanted pets.
  • By “statewide access” we mean being able to get a dog or cat altered within one month, within a 50 mile drive from home and at a price that is at or under one full days’ pay ($58.80 or less for minimum wage earners).

Spay FIRST! believes that creating local spay/neuter programs in conjunction with other public health strategies is vital.  Together we can change the strategy from collection to prevention.