....pet overpopulation. The numbers are staggering. The statistics are heart wrenching. It sickens me everytime I think about the number of animals that die every year due to overpopulation. On average, 11,000 dogs and cats are euthanized daily in the United States as a result. Multiply that number by 365 days and you get a whopping 4,015,0000. Wow.
It might surprise some, but euthanasia due to overpopulation is the number one cause of death of healthy dogs and cats. It is not feline leukemia, cancer or heartworm disease as one might think. The great news is that this problem could be cured and has improved tremendously over the last 40 years. As many as 20 million animals were euthanized yearly before 1970. It obviously is not an overnight fix but it can be resolved if communities as a whole continue to make the effort.
Being a surgeon at heart, the title of this blog is a favorite of mine. Every surgeon would like to believe this to be the case but of course, it is not true for all situations. But in the case of pet overpopulation, it rings true. Surgical alteration of dogs and cats is quite simple. It involves removal of the reproductive organs which are the testicles on a male and the ovaries and uterus on a female. The procedure is not technically difficult and the animals recover amazingly fast and return to normal within a few days. In addition to the prevention of breeding, spay/neuter prevents conditions such as pyometra (a life threatening uterine infection), ovarian cancer, and behavior issues such as roaming which can lead to a multitude of life threatening situations.
Pet overpopulation also has detrimental effects on the community as well. Hoarding situations often are the result of an individual who tries to feed and help the strays at an extreme level, leading to horrific living conditions for both human and animal. Stray animals are at risk of developing and spreading disease that can be threatening to human health such as intestinal parasites and rabies. People that work in shelters, often suffer from "compassion fatigue" caused by the frequent exposure to euthanasia of healthy, happy animals.
Fortunately there are Herculean efforts taking place to make a dent in that enormous number of 4 million killed. Today, nearly every community has a low-cost, sometimes no cost, spay/neuter program making the procedure affordable for most people. Some county and state governments around the country have mandated that all animals within their communities be altered including adopted animals from humane organizations. A billionaire orthopedic surgeon and founder of Found Animals has offered a $25 million prize to the individual that develops an affordable chemical sterilant able to be used in both male and female cats and dogs. These efforts alone will not fix the problem. Education of the pet owning public is first and foremost. This responsibility lies with everyone working or involved in the animal care world to increase the awareness around this ongoing problem we face.
Please be a responsible pet owner and have your pet spayed or neutered and educate others about the benefits. You will be saving lives!
For more information on spay/neuter:
OSU Vet Med-spay/neuter
Amercian Humane Association-spay/neuter