It Must Be All Three:
HISTORY & FOCUS.
Our animal shelters are facing increasing intake numbers of dogs and cats.
The only humane and effective way to change this is through spay/neuter.
Spay/neuter procedures for cats and dogs didn’t become widely available nor accessible until the 1930s. Cats, in particular, were considered free-roaming and were only impounded by a shelter if they became a public nuisance.
The first low-cost spay/neuter clinic opened in 1969 in Los Angeles, CA. This started a discussion that would change sterilization from something pet owners did for their own convenience to an animal welfare issue.
The ASPCA required sterilization for all adopted animals, starting in 1972.. Shelter intake rates continued to drop and feral cat trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs began in the US in the 1990s. More owners are having their pets fixed but the cost is often prohibitive, especially to lower wage earners and senior citizens. The No Kill Movement has moved to the forefront.
We have moved from 12 to 20 million dogs and cats killed in US shelters in the 1970s (source: Humane Society of the United States) to under one million in 2019 (petpedia.com/2020). This marks the first year that US animal shelter euthanizations have fallen below the one million number mark!
This huge reduction in shelter animals euthanized annually in our shelters is mainly due to aggressive spay/neuter education and the opening of many low-cost spay/neuter clinics. When there are fewer dogs and cats entering a shelter, fewer will also be killed!
Our Shelters Are Showing Great Results. Why Change?
The overpopulation of dogs and cats is NOT just a shelter issue. So it will take all of us, as a community, to do this.
We hope all dogs and cats would find loving, safe and forever homes. But that is not reality. When their newness or cuteness wears off, when they are no longer wanted in someone's life, when an owner dies or is no longer able to care for them or when they do something their owner doesn't like, they often and suddenly find themselves homeless - at a shelter or on the streets. If they are not fixed, the problem multiplies quickly.
Pet owners, for the most part, want to do the right thing for their pets. Even knowing the health and other benefits of spay/neuter, the cost is often prohibitive.
Community cats - defined as free-roaming and unowned, abandoned or strays, are too often unfixed. This has led to the explosion in their numbers over the last several decades. It is estimated, by the Humane Society of the United States, that there are 30 - 40 million community cats in the US. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) has gained in popularity and use as the humane way to reduce these number. This involves the humane trapping of the cat, having it fixed and vaccinated and then returned to its home. Most times, a caretaker manages the colony of these cats including feeding, sheltering and caring for them. It needs to be pointed out here though - these cats do not live outside because they choose to - they are there because someone abandoned them and didn't fix them. Humans created this issue - it is on humans to fix it. Also trap and kill was a method employed to reduce the number of community cats over several decades. It has been a huge failure. If it was successful, the number of these cats would not be increasing annually.
Lastly, shelter animals need to be sterialized before adoption. This is the only way to ensure each dog and cat is not adding to the overpopulation numbers. And it makes them healthy and happy!
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