Spay Day Usa -- Feb. 22

FOCUS ON PETS

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We claim to love cats and dogs. We spend billions each year on pet food and supplies. Why then are millions of animals turned into shelters each year because they are not wanted? Most every pet that dies as a result of pet overpopulation, whether humanely in a shelter or by injury, disease or neglect, is one that would have made a wonderful companion if given the chance. "Tremendous as the problem of pet overpopulation is, it can be solved if each of us takes just one small step, starting with not allowing our animals to breed." (Humane Society of the United States, HSUS)

All companion animals should be sterilized. Cats can have three litters a year averaging four to six per litter. A dog can have two litters a year with six to 10 puppies per litter. In six years, one female dog and her offspring can give birth to 67,000 puppies. In seven years, one cat and her young can produce 420,000 kittens. In communities where planned and implemented sterilization programs are in place, the number of companion animals being euthanized has declined by 30 to 60 percent. There are more than enough dogs and cats available right now for every person who wants a pet as part of their family. Until all of them find loving homes, does it make any sense to produce more puppies and kittens?

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The tragedy continues. This one female and her 12 puppies greatly impact the population of the Payson Humane Society, causing needless euthanizing. However, all these puppies and mom will be spayed and neutered, helping to reduce future overpopulation, and preparing them for loving homes.

The HSUS makes these estimates: 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year; 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized by shelters each year; 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are adopted from shelters each year; 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred.

Communities spend millions of dollars gathering, housing, neutering and euthanizing unwanted pets. Irresponsible breeding is an expensive and heartless problem and we all pay. Just imagine the ways that money could be put to better use. any allow their pets to produce litter after litter, assuming that the humane society can place this endless supply of puppies and kittens. This influx overflows the shelters. The babies will force wonderfully adoptable adults to be euthanized to make room for them. It is a tragedy and it is preventable with responsible pet ownership.

Besides the needless pet overpopulation, there are many great reasons for spaying and neutering your pets.

Spayed and neutered pets live longer, healthier lives. Sterilized pets are less likely to roam and get hit by a car. They are less likely to have health problems that are difficult and expensive to treat. Spaying eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the incidence of breast cancer, particularly when the pet is spayed before her first heat cycle. Neutering eliminates testicular cancer and decreases the incidence of prostate disease.

Unsterilized animals often exhibit behavior and temperament problems. They are more likely to bite people and get into fights.

Neutering cats makes them less likely to spray and mark territory.et rabbits also should be spayed or neutered which reduces their hormone-driven behavior such as lunging, mounting, spraying and boxing. Rabbits reproduce faster than dogs or cats and are the third most surrendered animal to shelters. Cancer, which is prevalent in dogs, can be eliminated with spaying.

There are a number of myths associated with spaying and neutering. Pets do not get fat and lazy because of sterilization, but because they get too much food and not enough exercise. Medically, it is healthier to spay before the first heat cycle. Spaying or neutering does not affect a dog's natural instinct to protect home and family. A dog's personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by sex hormones.

Many think that a neutered male will be less of a male. According to the HSUS, pets do not have any concept of sexual identity or ego. Neutering will not change a pet's basic personality. He will not suffer any emotional reaction or identity crisis when neutered.

Some feel that their dog is so wonderful, they want to produce a puppy just like her. The facts prove that the chances of a female producing a puppy just like herself are rare. Professional breeders who follow generations of bloodlines cannot guarantee the traits of a litter.

Cost should never be a factor in the decision to spay or neuter. The one time cost is small compared to the increased health risks of un-neutered pets. If you know of someone who would spay or neuter if the financial help were available, contact me and the money will be found. The Payson Humane Society is now offering a $20 rebate to help cover the cost of neutering. Call (928) 474-5590 for information.

Veterinarians vary greatly in their charges. Call and compare prices.

Spay Day USA is designed to increase awareness of the tragedy of pet overpopulation and educate people about the importance of the routine surgeries of spaying and neutering. Those who have un-neutered pets should make an appointment immediately to have them neutered or spayed. Others might consider helping a neighbor, friend or stranger by offering to pay part or all of the cost. If we each do just a little bit, we can solve this tragedy of pet overpopulation.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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