By Dr. Andrew Jones
Currently over 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters in Canada and the United States every year. Euthanasia rates are approximately 60 percent of dogs, and 70 percent of cats, meaning over 4 million potentially healthy adoptable animals are euthanized each year. We have a pet overpopulation problem that is not going away, and animal shelters ( and their staff), should not be the ones who have to bear the brunt of irresponsible pet owners.
According the the American Pet Products Association (AAPA), 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, while 78 percent of pet dogs and 88 percent of pet cats are spayed or neutered. In 7 years, one unspayed cat and her subsequent offspring can produce over 450,000 cats. That estimates come from an average litter of 3, twice a year. In 7 years, one dog and her offspring can produce over 4,000 dogs, with an average litter of 4, once a year.
The number of stray dogs and cats is staggering. According to the ASPCA, it is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million. From the organization 600million.org, there are an estimated 600 million stray dogs in the world; thus the organization’s name.
So what can be done?
Dogs and Cats need to be spayed and neutered. Only 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, while 78 percent of pet dogs and 88 percent of pet cats are spayed or neutered. The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year. Organizations such as SpayUSA , developed in 1993 have helped hundreds of thousands of people nationwide obtain low cost, quality spay/neuter services. SpayUSA provides referrals to over 1,500 low cost sterilization programs and clinics nationwide with 5,000 veterinarians in the network as of 2011.
Animal Sterilization. 600million.org is an organization that proposes an animal sterilization pill to cut down on animal population, and in turn, reduce animal abuse and killings. The Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs wants to humanely control pet populations worldwide introducing methods to non surgically sterilize dogs and cats. Scientists have yet to develop a universally safe and effective non surgical sterilant, but ongoing research is promising.
Don’t buy animals from pet stores or puppy mills. Puppy mills are still thriving, fulfilling the consumer demand for inexpensive, and always available types of purebred dogs. The majority of puppies in pet stores ultimately come from puppy mills, and so long as pet owners keep purchasing these dogs, puppy mills keep pumping out puppies. I would encourage stricter government legislation, along with serious fines to help put an end to these unethical operations.
Feral cats are a large part of the cat overpopulation problem. The most effective way to reduce feral cat numbers is through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs. These cats are trapped, brought to a participating veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, and then returned to the area they were trapped in. These organizations need ongoing support, so please support them as they are doing wonderful work in helping decrease the incidence of unnecessary cat euthanasia.
Adopt your pets from a legitimate shelter or non profit rescue group. There are millions of dogs and cats in shelters now waiting to find a home. By adopting from a shelter you will help with pet overpopulation, and also then financially support the shelter to continue their work of rescuing, spaying or neutering, and adopting more animals. If you are focused on a specific breed, still consider a shelter as 30% of dogs are purebred. As well there are hundreds of pure bred rescue groups that you can contact.
Pet overpopulation is a staggering problem, resulting in over 4 million potentially healthy adoptable animals being euthanized each year in just Canada and the United States. More dogs and cats need to be spayed or neutered; all animals adopted from animal shelter should be mandatory altered. An animal sterilization pill, if developed, will make a huge dent in the worldwide pet overpopulation problem. The ongoing efforts of Trap Neuter and Return programs need continued support. Lastly, we as potential pet owners need to be adopting pets from animal shelters and rescue groups, not pet stores.
Dr Andrew Jones, DVM
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