Why Spaying and Neutering is Important
by Delisa Renideo

(Second article)

In my last article, I told you the sad news that in 2002, 1161 dogs and cats were euthanized at the Mat-Su Borough Animal Care and Regulation Center. This is not just a local problem. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that about 5,000,000 dogs and cats are euthanized each year at shelters across the U.S. For the most part, these are perfectly healthy, adoptable, lovable, beautiful animals. So why are they being killed?
The answer is simple. Overpopulation.
Consider these mind-boggling numbers: One female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies over a period of 6 years. And even more amazing is the productivity of cats. In 7 years, one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens! There is obviously no way to keep providing homes for animals that are allowed to reproduce indiscriminately. The result of this overpopulation is homeless animals, overflowing shelters, and euthanasia.
The obvious solution to this problem is to prevent our companion animals from reproducing. Being a responsible pet owner starts with spaying and neutering. Spaying is a surgical procedure performed on female dogs and cats to remove their uterus and ovaries. Neutering is a surgical procedure performed on males which removes the testicles. Both of these surgeries are performed under anesthesia, and the animals recover very quickly.

Sometimes people think they should let their animals have one litter before spaying them. This is a big mistake! Remember those hypothetical 420,000 kittens? Even if you are able to find homes for all the kittens your cat births, there is a strong likelihood that at least one of them will end up out there in the world becoming a kitten factory. And even if you find homes for your kittens or puppies, these are homes which could have been available for some of the animals that end up at the shelter. So once again, the result is likely to be animals killed simply to control the population.
It is important to spay or neuter your animals, both male and female, before they reach sexual maturity. This helps to prevent the marking behaviors, as mentioned above. Some vets recommend waiting until your dog or cat is about 6 months old, but before the first heat cycle. But there is a growing trend toward much earlier sterilization. Some vets and spay/neuter clinics are performing these surgeries as young as 6 - 8 weeks. Check with your vet to see what they recommend, but DO spay or neuter your animal companions! It is never too late to spay and neuter.
In an upcoming column, I will provide information about resources available locally to help with the cost of spaying and neutering.

If you are considering adopting an animal, check out the wonderful animals available at http://adoptafriend.net/lostandfound.html. For lost and found, call 841-0502. If you provide resources to help animals, please contact us from the website so we can include you on the website or provide a link to your website. And we are looking for volunteers to help at the shelter. If you love animals and want to be part of the solution to our community problems, please call me at 373-1526. Together, we can make a difference!

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