Every day, 70,000 puppies and kittens are born in the United States due to uncontrolled breeding practices. Add to that offspring from stray and abandoned animals and the number climbs. Comparing this figure to the 10,000 people born in the US every day, the math doesn’t shake out — there simply aren’t enough homes for all the new arrivals.
For every single “owned” pet in this country there are four more who are homeless and hungry, facing a life without love or the safety of home.
And while there is a great and growing safety net for companion animals in this country, the reality is that shelters are overwhelmed. The sheer number of animals needing care greatly exceeds the resources required to support them all — including shelter space, vet care, food, even just the loving attention that’s equally vital.
We all share the heartbreaking sadness for the dogs and cats that end up in America’s shelters.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6-8 million dogs and cats enter shelters annually, and four million are euthanized (about one every eight seconds). The majority of these animals would have made wonderful pets.
“Euthanasia is the #1 killer of dogs and cats, more so than all diseases.” says Kathie Nelson, executive director of Oregon Spay/Neuter Fund (OS/NF), an organization whose mission is to reduce and end pet overpopulation by working with the veterinary community to provide discounted spay/neuter services.
And while a crisis like pet overpopulation and all that goes with it can seem insurmountable when taken in all at once, like so many things in life, there are basic steps anyone can take that truly have the power to bring a solution. Spaying and/or neutering your pet is the one proven way to reduce the staggering pet overpopulation epidemic.
Begun in the early 1980s, OS/NF is a small, all-volunteer run nonprofit. Volunteers handle everything from fundraising endeavors to outreach, and transportation to manning the phones (the group receives 5,000-6,000 calls a year). The grassroots group works tirelessly to end the needless deaths of companion animals by eliminating the barriers and causes (cost, education and transport) that prevent many people from taking this one small but immeasurably important step.
“Unfortunately, some things are put on the back burner when finances are tight,” says Nelson. Few can count themselves lucky for not feeling a pinch in the wallet these days. Many people put off ‘important-but-not-so-urgent’ things like servicing the car, getting a dental checkup . . . or having the family pet spayed or neutered. This is a false cost-cutting measure: the cost of fixing an overheated radiator, getting a filling or dealing with an unwanted litter of puppies or kittens costs MUCH more than preventative measures do. Still, when money’s tight, we take the gamble anyway.
While we can do things to minimize the risk of our gamble — like checking the car’s fluids, or being extra diligent about flossing — it’s much harder to stop a couple of unfixed animals from doing what comes naturally.
OS/NF is working to eliminate the gamble by providing coupons for low-cost spay/neuter. Eight local veterinarians and two shelters redeem the coupons for sterilization procedures at drastically-reduced prices. Featured this month are two clinics, Tigard Animal Hospital and Village at Main Veterinary Hospital, offering further discounts for dog spay/neuter. Additional fliers for all participating locations can be downloaded online or mailed upon request. This month, and hopefully in months to come, 20,000 coupons have been inserted in every copy of Spot. Inserting the coupons was made possible through generous support from All for Paws, Meat for Cats and Dogs, The Muttley Crew, Pets on Broadway and Salty’s Dog & Cat Shop.
“When we all pull together we can get tons done,” says Spot Publisher and Editor, Jennifer McCammon. “In this case, Spot has coordinated the pieces to get the coupons out, and provided information in the magazine. The coupon sponsors have done their part by contributing funds to get the coupons inserted. What readers can do is use or pass along the coupons, and patronize and/or tell others about the good companies contributing to this effort.”
Nelson points out, “There are no income limitations or residency requirements,” describing the campaign. “The OS/NF program is open to anyone.” For the financially-strapped OSNF will often subsidize part or all of the cost of surgery, as well as pre-treatment expenses like flea control and rabies vaccinations. OS/NF will even help resolve other issues, like the lack of a pet carrier or transportation to the vet’s office.
The program is a win-win for the animals and for participating veterinarians, since pets need care throughout their lives. “It’s a wonderful way to meet new clients,” says Dr. Ken Genova of Tigard Animal Hospital, where 10-30 spay/neuter surgeries are performed daily. “And it’s a way to give back to the community.”
Participating veterinarians can do two — or 200 — surgeries a month. “Every single procedure is important,” says Nelson. Just one unaltered female cat and her offspring can produce an estimated 420,000 cats in only seven years. In six years, one female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies. Passing by one animal without seeing to it that she or he is spayed or neutered is turning our backs on thousands of future unwanted animals and more than likely condemning them to hideous fates. Nelson adds that she’s confident the pet overpopulation problem can be solved with community involvement and by being pro-active.
OS/NF also refers many to other income-based programs. One, Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland’s Spay & Save, is a four-county effort, exclusively for cats. Its goal: to alter 10,000 cats per year for the next five years above the current baseline in an effort to end feline euthanasia. Qualified low-income individuals have additional locations to choose from and those receiving certain types of public assistance pay just $10, and may have the entire cost of a cat’s spay or neuter surgery subsidized. On the reverse of the OS/NF coupon is an S&S flyer; additional copies can be downloaded at www.asapmetro.org. Spot’s readers can help area kitties by posting the flyer in prominent locations.
“From the macro- to the micro-scale, spayed and neutered pets live longer, healthier and happier lives.” Nelson says.
Spaying female cats and dogs greatly reduces urinary tract infections and the risk of ovarian, breast and uterine cancers. Plus, it eradicates the messy (and in some cases crazy-making) experience of a pet “in heat.” Neutering reduces territorial spraying & marking, the risk of hernias, and prostrate and testicular cancers. Dogs and cats neutered early are less likely to have an urge to escape and roam. Studies also show that neutering greatly decreases aggression in males and results in a more sociable animal.
“If you’re on a budget, the best thing you can do is spay or neuter your pet,” says Nelson. “You will save on future veterinarian costs in the future.”
Spaying or neutering is a one-time cost (which can be next to nothing thanks to OS/NF) with a lifetime of benefits for you, your pet and perhaps animals who might never have known the meaning of comfort, love and a real home.
The OS/NF exists through tax-deductible donations and fundraising efforts. The progress they’re making would not be possible without the compassion, commitment and efforts of the veterinarians.
For more information or help, go to www.oregonspayneuter.org or call 503-286-2411.
Every STRAY animal costs taxpayers about $100 each to catch, feed, and destroy.
One female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in 7 years. One female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in 6 years.
– Animal World Network
Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of BowWows & Meows Pet Services of SW WA. She and her brood, Jake and Jessie, both yellow Labs, and parrots Pedro (Yellow-Nape Amazon) and Lorali (African Grey) reside in Vancouver. Vonnie also is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.