To Neuter or not to neuter? That is the question …
Contributed by A. Tosone
If you listen to the tiniest amount of animal welfare news then you’ve probably heard it more than 10,000 times. PLEASE SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS! We animal rescuers thump our chest and stand behind our battle cry. It is the mantra we live by. But why?
My recollection of a pivotal point in my younger years is crystal clear even today. At the time, I hadn’t been involved in animal rescue at all but an animal lover I was through and through. So there I stood visiting a municipal shelter to help a friend pick out the new addition to her family. I happened upon a mama Labrador Retriever and seven of her ever so adorable, roly-poly 7-week old puppies. I was immediately smitten, of course. (Who wouldn’t be??) My friend, however, was looking for an adult male dog. It was just her preference and we’re all entitled to them. So after a few moments of attention I moved on and caught up to her. We walked through the corridors of kennels until one set of hopeful eyes locked with my friend’s. Bruno hit the jackpot that day. Before we left I wanted to steal a few more minutes of puppy playtime so I went to the kennel where I had left the mama and pups while my friend filled out the necessary paperwork. But the mama and pups weren’t there. I asked a volunteer but she had only just arrived so I found an employee. He took the time to look them up in the computer, presumably because he thought I was going to take at least one of them home with me. I was grateful to him for interrupting his chores to do so but I was in no way prepared for the words that would fall on my ears. All 8 of them – mama and 7 perfectly innocent puppies – had just been euthanized in the nearly 45 minutes my friend and I had spent in the shelter. I just could not fathom it. Why?? The card on their kennel had said their owner dropped them off just the day before. The employee who looked them up for me shrugged his shoulders and simply said “space”. Perfectly good. Exceptionally innocent. Seemingly healthy. Highly adoptable. And every last one of them was gone. To this day, recounting this story leaves a pit in my stomach. I still smell their puppy breath and see mama giving me her paw and wagging her tail. Still.
Ever since that moment I have been a huge proponent of spaying and neutering. I mean, I was before but I really was now. If there are less pets entering the shelter, there are less dying for space. It is that simple. There is no way to get around that.
But if you are still not convinced, allow me to try to persuade you:
- Your pet will be healthier. Females spayed before their first heat cycle are at a far greater advantage of avoiding uterine infections like pyometra and diseases like breast cancer. Males neutered before 6 months of age are at significantly less risk for testicular and prostrate cancers.
- A neutered male dog is less likely to wander from home than his unneutered counterpart. Intact males will try everything possible to find a mate, including becoming an expert escape artist. Of course, a roaming dog is susceptible to being picked up by animal control and if your dog does not have identification on him, finding him may prove nearly impossible. Loose dogs are also in danger of being hit by cars, coming across unscrupulous people or getting in fights with other dogs.
- Unneutered animals can be messy. By spaying your female, you avoid the bleeding, vocalizations and anxious behaviors that often accompany the heat cycle. Also, neutered males are far less likely to mark their territory and spray.
- • Neutered animals tend to be better behaved and less aggressive. This is one of the reasons why dog parks and boarding & daycare facilities require animals to be spayed or neutered. It helps keep harmony, particularly between animals of the same gender.
- Over the lifetime of the animal, neutered animals are less expensive. The one time fee for a sterilization surgery is FAR less expensive than the cost of properly caring for a mother and a litter of babies. It’s also less expensive than the emergency visits to the vet when your dog has been in a fight or struck by a vehicle while wandering from home. Additionally, low-cost spay/neuter clinics make these surgeries very affordable and sometimes even offer the service for free.
In short, spaying and neutering pets saves lives – both of owned animals and of those who are still searching for their homes. The surgeries are straightforward, routine procedures with very low risk. Except for rare medical cases, the benefits of sterilization far outweigh the reasons not to sterilize.
Found Chicago, NFP is a 501(c)3 no-kill, all-breed rescue that serves to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home the most medically and behaviorally challenged dogs that would otherwise be euthanized. Found Chicago Boarding & Training Center is a subsidiary of Found Chicago, NFP that provides services to the public to give dog owners the knowledge they need to better handle their dogs and improve the quality of the dog-human relationship. All proceeds from services offered through Found Chicago Boarding and Training Center wholly benefit the dogs we rescue, rehabilitate and re-home.
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