Thanks to spay and neuter programs and public education campaigns the hard work of animal rescue groups across the country is paying off by saving millions of lives. Experts reported that fewer animals will die this year because sterilization is becoming part of responsible pet ownership.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society International less than 4 million cats and dogs will be euthanized in the U.S. this year. The number sounds large, but it is down from the 12-20 million animals that lost their lives in the 1970s.
“The decline in the number of animals being euthanized each year comes as the pet population has boomed. In 1970, there were about 62 million pets, and today there are about 170 million,” Stephen Zawistowski science adviser for the ASPCA said an Associated Press interview.
Zawistowski said it took years of campaigning to change the thinking of pet owners about sterilization. And although animal rescue groups knew they could never “adopt their way out” of the pet overpopulation problem and find homes for every homeless animal, most owners did not think of sterilization as an automatic component of being a responsible guardian.
Even veterinarians weren’t all proficient in spay and neuter surgeries. Mr. Zawistowski described how his first dog came home with a foot long incision after she was spayed 50 years ago.
Thankfully things have changed. Better medical procedures have made the surgeries easier on the animals and leave only a small incision. And mandatory spay and neuter laws in many cities have led more low-cost clinics that are easily accessed by the public.
Nearly every public animal shelter, rescue group and welfare organization has joined the effort to sterilize the cats and dogs in their care.
In Las Vegas, NV where 50 percent of the dogs and 90 percent of the cats in the public shelters are euthanized, an aggressive spay and neuter program was recently started. Operation Clean Sweep is a collaboration between three rescue groups and animal control to sterilize every “free-roaming” and owned cat in targeted neighborhoods. Like many cities, the majority of pets relinquished to public shelters come from a few “at-risk” communities.
The program sponsored by Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society and the Community Cat Coalition of Clark County was funded through a grant from PetSmart Charities.
Betsy Banks Saul, co-founder of Petfinder.com told Forbes that even with a decrease in euthanasia, “4 million animals put to death is still 4 million too many.” Saul hopes for an affordable pill or implant to sterilize pets in the future.
Dr. Gary Michelson, a billionaire orthopedic spinal surgeon and founder of Found Animals, offered a $25 million prize in 2008 to the scientist that could create a chemical to sterilize male and female cats and dogs. His organization says they are pleased with the unique proposals coming in.
It looks very promising that one day pet overpopulation and the euthanasia of healthy animals will be a thing of the past. In the meantime, spread the word about how sterilization is saving millions of lives.
Photo from Heaven Can Wait Animal Society
Photo from hcwsvia hcws