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Pet Sterilization Is Saving Millions Of Lives

Pet Sterilization Is Saving Millions Of Lives

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 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

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4:08PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

Wow! shocked 12-20 million dogs and cats were euthenized in the 70"s. Cant even think how many lost their lives before that. Poor souls, but even 4 million is still alot. I try to educate people the impotance of fixing their dogs and cats. But some people are just to close minded to get it. Feell that educating the pubic can save many dogs and cats lives.

6:26AM PDT on Oct 31, 2011

Linda S. Very well said and what a wonderful person to do that! If I ever come into a large sum of money shelters would be my first stops for big donations.

6:17AM PDT on Oct 31, 2011

Linda S. What a wonderful person to do that! If I ever come into a large sum of money that would definitely be something I would do myself. I despise anyone who could ever run a puppy mill. In fact I currently have 2 Yorkshire Terriers that were no longer wanted by one that I have adopted. When they arrived at my house their state was unimaginable. It brings me to tears to think of those conditions and what they have been through. They are such loving girls and I feel so lucky to have them in my life.

6:18AM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

I agree that spay/neuter is needed, but of course, if we could shut down puppy mills, we could cut down the number of dogs going into shelters and increase the number being adopted. It is irresponsible for puppy mills to continue breeding so many dogs (especially with the horrible conditions the animals face in most of them) and just as irresponsible for people to buy puppies from stores, since they mostly come from the puppy mills.

However, while I fully approve of spay/neuter programs, I don't feel that MANDATORY spay/neuter really works. You need to provide information to the public, and then offer low-cost (or even better, free) spay/neuter. Areas where mandatory spay/neuter has been enacted have often felt the backlash as more animals are simply dumped at shelters by owners who don't want to be forced to do something, or people are just willing to work their way around the law. Offering free spay/neuter - and perhaps even an incentive to the owner - has worked wonders in some areas. A rescue friend of mine from northern Michigan told me about a donation they were given that was specifically earmarked for spay/neuter of cats. The surgery was covered at no cost to the owner and for each animal brought in, the owner was given $10 bonus. It was a complete success, and had people catching stray cats just to get their $10. They exhausted the donation and managed to reach cat owners that would normally have been missed by other programs.

8:02PM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

Good development!

10:48AM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

It's sad to see how many mother cats are dumped at the street whit kittens or just pregnant.. I have one of those kittens from a cat that was dumped... she's now almost 4 months

10:20AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Everyone should spay or neuter their animals. To not do so it animal cruelty.

11:59PM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

You bet your ass every city should have mandatory spay/neuter laws!!! :(
Shared on Facebook.

8:49AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

I agree 4 million animals being put down is still 4 million too many

12:03PM PDT on Jul 24, 2011

What we need are state laws regulating and heavily taxing owners of intact animals. We also need politicians willing to step up and raise fines for allowing animals to roam. Only a fool would vote no on this proposal. Feral cats do not control rodent issues in urban settings - studies have proven that. Feral cats and dogs spread disease that cause blindness and death - only need to look at Pakistan and India for extreme examples. No law says you have to have a pet

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