How Organizations Around The US Are Combating Pet Overpopulation
on April 1, 2017
Posted in Cat
Animal shelters do not have the capabilities to fight pet overpopulation on their own. Approximately 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats enter shelters in the US a year but just 10% of companion animals taken to shelters are spayed or neutered. The lack of space in shelters results in about 1.5 shelter animals being euthanized a year (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats), many of which are completely healthy.
As for pet owners, 35% willingly refuse to spay or neuter their pets for reasons including lack of resources, fear of hurting their pets and flagrant ignorance. There has been a sharp increase in animal adoption and stray animals being returned to their owners as of late but neither number is rising at anywhere near the same rate as the amount of dogs and cats without homes.
This is why several organizations across the country are currently offering affordable spaying and neutering services for dogs and cats.
In St. Charles, Missouri, residents are struggling with a growing population of cats, both feral and domesticated. Removing or euthanizing these cats has been found to only trim the population temporarily, due to the rapid birth rate and ongoing influx of feral cats coming to the area to breed. Cats reach sexual maturity at just 6 months of age and can produce up to three litters a year, with each litter containing four to six kittens.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a series of studies has proven that spaying and neutering are much more effective methods of controlling cat populations. Local residents who wish to do their part in curbing pet overpopulation can bring pets or feral cats that live nearby to the St. Charles County Pet Adoption Center. On two days every month, the center holds Operation Sterile Feral, which has spayed or neutered thousands of animals over the past fourteen years. For just $20, homeowners can have feral cats spayed or neutered as well as vaccinated for rabies and treated for parasites. Pet owners can have their cat neutered or spayed for $30 compared to $55 for their dog.
“While spaying and neutering are major surgeries, the commonly performed procedures have a low incidence of complications and animals usually heal within a few days, Katie Willis, director of St. Charles County’s Division of Humane Services, told the Post-Dispatch. “Studies also show that this alteration has a positive impact on the animal’s behavior, health and quality of life.”
Pet owners in at least three Virginia counties can take advantage of the Neuter Scooter, which visits their animal shelters a few times periodically throughout the season. Arranged by Saint Seton’s Orphaned Animals, dogs and cats are loaded into a climate-controlled van and transported to a veterinary hospital in Fredericksburg, VA. In addition to spaying and neutering, pets are given long-lasting pain medication and a cone collar. The van returns to the pick-up spot about ten hours later to give the treated pets back to their owners.
Perhaps the most innovative strategy for reducing pet overpopulation is exemplified by Wings of Rescue, a volunteer organization that transports pets from cramped shelters to more spacious centers located in areas with high-adoption rates. The flights last about three hours and go everywhere from California to Tennessee to New York. On March 28, a Wings of Rescue flight touched down in Seattle with 120 adoptable cats and dogs. “The area has excellent spay neuter programs in place,” Wings of Rescue founder Cindy Smith told King5 News. Throughout the past eight years, Wings of Rescue has transported around 25,000 pets to safety.
The success of the organization, which operates exclusively on donations, hints that a major step in preventing pet overpopulation could be to simply ensure that pets in need of spaying or neutering are given the best chance of being adopted by the right people. But in order for such an initiative to take place, people must come to learn just how big of an impact they can have on future generations of pets by adopt a homeless pet rather than buying one from a traditional source.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan