Best in Spay-and-Neuter

By on February 25, 2015 with 6 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Consider two recent events focused on dogs: one, yesterday’s 21st annual World Spay Day, a joint program of The HSUS, HSI, and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), and two, last week’s 139th Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden.

The first is not so much a celebration of dogs, but a practical-minded effort to curb overpopulation in order to eliminate the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs in shelters throughout the nation. The HSUS has been working hard for the last 50 years to normalize the idea that pet owners should spay and neuter their pets to reduce the burden on shelters and to prevent the needless killing of dogs.

The second, the Westminster show, is a celebration of the extraordinary beauty and discipline of dogs, but one that sends a bad message about breeding.

A prancing Miss P, a beagle, won Best in Show – the second time for a beagle within the last decade. I have a beagle mix, so I look upon that breed with special affection. I do worry, however, about the broad-gauged effects of the show, which typically prompts a surge in interest in breeding of the winning breed. My Lily was rescued from a rural Virginia shelter, and in the process of finding her, I learned that Virginia and West Virginia are full of abandoned hounds and beagles – just as southern California shelters are full of abandoned Chihuahuas. Thousands of beagles and other hounds – purebreds and mixes – get euthanized because customers choose mills and backyard breeders in favor of shelters, rescues, or responsible breeders. I wish that Westminster would not only be a celebration of dogs, but also a platform to deliver messages about responsible breeding, sterilization, and adoption. The last thing we need is more poorly bred beagles from irresponsible breeders at a time when so many dogs – fine specimens of their breed – are in life-and-death situations.

On World Spay Day, thousands of veterinary and animal welfare professionals, business owners, and concerned individuals worldwide joined forces to host hundreds of events. This year, for example, the Sacramento SPCA celebrated completing a milestone 150,000 spay/neuters in seven years. And World Spay Day 2015 was celebrated in parts of the world, such as Iran, Malawi and Pakistan, where street dogs – whose numbers are increased by intact, free-roaming pets – are at a high risk of an inhumane death.

Nationwide, 87 percent of cats and dogs kept as pets are spayed or neutered.  However, in underserved U.S. communities where resources are severely limited or nonexistent, as many as 90 percent of cats and dogs are unaltered. Of the 30 to 40 million community cats in the United States, only about two percent are spayed or neutered. Outside the United States, there are approximately 300 million dogs living on the streets – many born as the result of unaltered, free-roaming pets. World Spay Day draws attention to these areas of greatest need and encourages people to get involved to help solve the problem.

With help from a grant from the Doris Day Animal Foundation, The HSUS’s Pets for Life teams in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles will have spayed or neutered 1,000 cats and dogs by the end of this month – 200 on World Spay Day alone. Through its unique approach, Pets for Life is raising the spay/neuter rate of pets in underserved communities to match the national average of 87 percent.

This year, officials in Alabama, Connecticut, and Georgia also passed World Spay Day resolutions. The Governor of Alabama made a strong statement, making clear his position on the importance of nonprofit spay-neuter services in light of unfounded attacks on those clinics by a faction of misguided veterinarians. This fight is playing out in several state legislatures this year and The HSUS is strongly urging policy makers and all stakeholders to work toward solutions that increase access to spay/neuter services. We believe the nonprofit animal welfare field and the veterinary community should be working together to provide communities with the services they need.

The HSVMA sponsored World Spay Day events involved veterinary students from Oklahoma State University, University of Wisconsin, UC Davis, and University of Illinois. These events provided sterilization surgeries for nearly 300 animals as well as hands-on training to dozens of veterinary students in a variety of tasks, ranging from surgical prep and anesthesia monitoring to assisting with surgery. And HSI continually provides spay/neuter services and rabies vaccinations for owned and street dogs in Bhutan, India, the Philippines, several islands in the Pacific, Bolivia, Chile, and Puerto Rico.

At a time of crisis, these are the special events for dogs that we should celebrate the most.

Mutts20150224Posted with special permission of King Features
Companion Animals

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  1. Amy Nees says:

    I don’t necessarily think it is a fair statement to say that the Westminster show “sends a bad message about breeding.” How many of those prize winning dogs do you think came from a puppy mill? I think it is even less fair for this statement to come from the HSUS, an organization which could improve its own platform on promoting responsible breeders. Too often I leave a HSUS sponsored event, article, or other promotion with a sense that I should feel shame for going the route of using a responsible breeder since this isn’t mentioned enough as part of the solution. If people seeking pets always had to go through a responsible breeder from this day forward, we could probably have the need for rescues and related activities dissolved by the year 2035 (covering the life span of all dogs now in need of homes). Responsible breeders typically require that dogs are returned to them in the event the owner cannot continue to care for the animal. Their process for prospectives owners serves to ensure a good fit, and provides education to the owner of what to expect. Too often I pick up dogs for Lab Rescue that have been surrendered because they were too big or required too much exercise. So while it is easy to pass judgement on others, this may really be a case of transference informing the HSUS to look in the mirror and start promoting responsible breeding more. Perhaps use it as the true solution instead of the cyclical spay and neuter bandaid.

    • Max says:

      Perfectly said Amy!

    • BB_88 says:

      I don’t think its necessarily fair to contort the words and meaning of the article to gain a bully pulpit against the HSUS. You make it quite clear you have issues with its policies with regard to educating about responsible breeding. To be frank, injecting your personal distaste over some poor experiences colors your comment as sour grapes.

      I’d like to point you back to a very important sentence I believe you may have missed: “I wish that Westminster would not only be a celebration of dogs, but also a platform to deliver messages about responsible breeding, sterilization, and adoption.”

      As far as the “spay and neuter bandaid” please refer to the paragraph with statistics on the shocking number of unaltered cats and dogs — globally. Its demonstrably not a bandaid.

      Nevertheless, I think its fair to say that you stand on the same side of an important (and underappreciated) issue as the article with differences on how best to address it. Thing is, a message about responsible breeding does not replace a need for spay and neutering, but rather it is additive. Advocating for one does not absolve nor trump the need for the other. Its going to take serious collaborative and positive effort to combat the status quo with regard to irresponsible animal breeding and the attendant need for rescue and late-life adoption. I strongly encourage and advocate to stop drawing lines in the sand and to stop staking out sides of the same argument, but rather to find ways to join messages. For, we need education about responsible breeding AND education about spay and neutering … AND information about what rescue and adoption are … AND advocacy to challenge laws … AND we need so much that it is fallacy to fall into petty differences over tactics.

  2. Jean-Roger Mercier says:

    I launched a petition on Care2: Ask the World Bank to include humane treatment of animals as part of its due diligence – before Fe. I’m hoping that if enough people sign my petition, we can make a difference. Right now I’ve got over 550 signatures and I received the support from important specialists like Dr Peter Singer — will you help me collect more by adding your name, and then use the links below to share it on social media?
    Here’s a link to the petition: The petition needs to reach the World Bank by March 1, 2015 (this coming Sunday) at the very latest. Time is of the essence.
    Click here to share on Facebook
    Click here to share on Twitter
    If there’s anyone you know who might be able to help me spread the word, please let me know. Thanks so much — I really appreciate your help!

  3. Anita Mas says:

    It sounds like spaying and neutering your pets is very important. If there are so many animals that don’t have a home because of overpopulation, it makes sense that it would save the lives of other dogs and cats if more of them were “fixed.” I’ll have to look into taking our dog in.

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