Archive for August, 2008

Spaying and Neutering

Whew! At last we are back on track after a very busy summer. Andy is still in lazy summer mode and this is a sensitive subject for him anyway. So It’s Barb blogging.

Today’s topic is spaying and neutering your pet – and why you should. Everyone loves baby animals. They’re so darn cute!

Awwww!

Awwww!

 But when you realize how many thousands of cats and dogs are destroyed every year, in shelters and pounds just in North America, you can see the case for spaying and neutering your pet. As well there are many compelling health reasons affecting your pet, that make neutering preferable. The only possible case for not doing so, is in the instance of reputable breeders of purebred animals. And this in no way condones so called ‘puppy mills’ or other similar breeders. That is a whole subject in itself!

I know that many well meaning parents feel that allowing a pet to have a litter, is a good learning experience for their children and that having baby animals can teach them responsibility and empathy. This may well be true but those babies will quickly grow up and if you haven’t found homes for them – good homes, they will likely end up at a shelter and perhaps the only future for them then, is euthanasia. A better way to teach children those qualities, is to volunteer with them at a local animal shelter. Many shelters have excellent programs and volunteer opportunities. And they are very grateful for the help.

Another compelling reason to spay or neuter your pet is to preserve its health. There are many serious health conditions that can arise in intact animals. There can be problems with urinary tracts, uterine problems and injuries resulting from fights amongst potential suitors.

When I ran an animal shelter, one of the more common reasons for surrender was behaviour problems resulting with an un-neutered pet. As they reach sexual maturity, animals become aggressive and territorial and will act accordingly with marking and fighting. A spayed or neutered animal is more relaxed and even tempered.

One time, we received a small dog, a little mop-like thing, cute as a button and very rare at our shelter. We mostly got Shepherd/Lab/Husky crosses – ‘Yukon’ dogs. As this little girl was mature she was scheduled right away for spaying the following Tuesday. A young family came in on Friday morning to look at her and one of the attendants took them back to meet her. They fell in love. A short while later the young wife came running back to the office to tell me they definitely wanted to adopt her, but she wanted to know about the spay/neuter policy and if it was mandatory. I explained it was, and why, and she seemed to understand but she said her husband was not going to like that at all.

Then he came out and said all the same things – wanted the dog, didn’t want to have her spayed. I was curious and asked why. He said he didn’t believe in it and had never had his pets fixed. He had a registered Boxer (I think?) at home already and wouldn’t think of neutering him. I said that was fine, the dog was registered and he might want to breed Boxers, but the little lady in OUR shelter was neither registered nor purebred and she would be spayed according to our policy. And she would be spayed before leaving our shelter to go to her new home.

At this, the young man became quite agitated. We argued back and forth a bit with me explaining all the very good reasons for altering the animals we received, the main one being that every animal there had been surrendered, stray or abandoned, and he, red faced and bouncing, arguing that it was un-natural. And besides, he assured me, he would not allow the two to breed.

In the course of this argument, I learned that he worked, sometimes very long hours, and she was a stay-at-home Mom. I was thinking….hmmmm…hubby wants two un-altered dogs in the same house, he’s not there most of the time, and it would obviously be the poor young Mom having to keep the dogs apart. That sure did not work for me.

He was livid by then, and, bouncing up and down, he spat the worst thing he could think of at me. ‘Well! Have you been neutered?!’ 

His wife slapped her hand over her mouth and spun around so her back was to me when I answered in all honesty…’Yes I have as a matter of fact.’

I imagine she didn’t want him to know she nearly burst out laughing.

Another incident happened late one evening just as we were closing. Three native gentlemen, from a community about 100 miles away dropped by and were perusing the sign on the building that outlined the adoption fees. One of them had thought he could just drop by and pick up a dog. I explained the adoption procedure, which included a 24 hour wait period after applying and assured him that he could take the application home with him, fill it out and fax it to me, and the 24 hour wait period would be included then, when next he came into the city. Also, I told him I would put on reserve, whatever dog he had chosen.

He mulled that over for a bit and then asked why there were all different rates on the board for adoption. I explained that we had different rates based on the care of animals, dogs being more costly to feed and care for, and the neutering costs. If animals came in already neutered, the cost of adoption was lower as we didn’t need to factor in that operation. Since neutering was mandatory, we factored in the cost of that to the adoption fees. So a dog to adopt, already fixed, was $60. Cats were $45. If we’d had them neutered, the cost which included the operation, was dogs, $160, and cats $120.

The three of them, standing outside the building bathed in the light shining down on the sign of adoption rates, and I in the doorway, and one of them asked, “So you’re saying that neutering is mandatory?”

“Yep” I replied. And I kid you not – all three of them shimmied in distaste and said “ewwww”. 

Since a great many of our worst cases came to us from their community, I could only file that away in my brain and assure them that “It’s the animals we neuter, not their owners!”

Bottom line – some of the nicest animals I have ever met, were surrendered to my shelter because of behaviour problems associated with not neutering them before they reached sexual maturity – around 6 months of age. Once they were neutered, they turned into the most wonderful pets.