The number of homeless dogs and cats in the United States is unforgivably high. Blame for this problem should be appropriately placed on the millions of irresponsible pet owners in the country who refuse to take the time or make the effort to educate themselves of the advantages of having an animal sterilized. Neutering an animal is the process of removing its reproductive organs. Males are neutered by removing their testicles. Females are also neutered, although the process of removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes is more commonly called spaying. The benefits of having a pet neutered are innumerable. Sterile animals will not contribute to the overabundance of strays roaming America, are less likely to bite, and typically lead longer, healthier lives.
As a nation, we claim to love dogs and cats. Millions of households have companion animals and billions of dollars yearly are spent on pet supplies and food. But as a nation, we should be ashamed that another statistic runs into the millions each year: the number of dogs and cats given up to shelters or left to die in our streets. Stray and homeless animals get into trash containers, defecate in public areas and on private lawns, and frighten or anger people who have no understanding of their misery or needs. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that each year 12 million strays enter the five thousand animal shelters nationwide. Twenty million will be euthanized (Humane Society of the United States 1997). Many people want their purebred pets to produce one litter before being sterilized, primarily for profit. Yet most pets should never be bred. And according to the HSUS, one fourth of the strays are purebreds (HSUS 1997). Even if a breeder finds a home for each baby in the litter, there is no guarantee that the new owners will take responsible actions to insure their pets do not mate uncontrollably. A fertile female cat can produce three litters (averaging six kittens each) in one year. And theoretically, in seven years she and her offspring can generate 420,000 cats (Journal AVMA 18). This number is startling considering that, according to Dr. J. Michael Henry, a Georgia veterinarian, the average life span of an intact tomcat is only between one and two years. They have a propensity to roam and are inclined to fight, which makes them susceptible to diseases such as feline leukemia and feline aids (Henry 1999). Cars are also a perpetual threat to wandering animals.
There are behavioral advantages to having a pet sterilized as well. Many pet owners deal with animal aggression, especially in male dogs. Neutering a dog at an early age (preferably before two years) can help solve aggressive temperament problems. Unneutered canines tend to have dominance issues and are more likely to bite without warning and often for no reason. Of the twenty fatal dog attacks in the United States between the years 1992 and 1994, not one was caused by a spayed or neutered dog (Journal AVMA 21). Many owners believe that neutering will make their dog less protective. This is untrue. The dog may be more affectionate, but neutering does not affect a dog s natural instinct to protect home and family. Another behavioral benefit is that neutered cats and dogs typically end the habitual spraying and marking of territory, which can be a messy and bothersome trait.
Spaying and neutering can eliminate or reduce the incidence of a number of serious health problems that can be very difficult and expensive to treat. Spaying a cat or dog eradicates the possibility of uterine and ovarian cancer and greatly diminishes the risk of developing mammary tumors, particularly if she is spayed before her first estrus (commonly called heat ) cycle. Spaying a dog or cat also eliminates her heat cycle, during which the female will cry incessantly, show nervous behavior, and attract unwanted male animals. Neutered male dogs and cats avoid testicular cancer and have a notably decreased incidence of prostate disease. Having a pet sterilized extends its life expectancy and is beneficial to its overall health.
Some people believe that neutering is a dangerous, expensive surgical procedure. Actually, the surgery is not complicated at all, and most animal shelters offer certificates to receive the service at an extremely discounted price. And considering all of the risks involved with owning procreant animals, one really can t afford not to have the operation done. Few people realize the seriousness of the pet over-population predicament. Each day, hundreds of thousands of puppies and kittens are born who will never have loving homes to care for them. The only way to solve this tremendous problem is for every person to take one small step to prevent his animal from ever reproducing and neuter his dog or cat. Neutering pets will not only make America a better nation as a whole, but will also make millions of happy dogs and cats the proud owners of peoples hearts.
Granskog, Sharon K. Neutering Pets Produces Positive Behavioral and Health Benefits. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 214.1 (1999): 17-23
United States. The Humane Society of the United States. What s Your Excuse? 1997. Be a Responsible Pet Owner. 3 December 1999 .