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This article was published 16/2/2016 (551 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Spaying, neutering, sterilizing, fixing, desexing, castrating... no matter what you call it, ensuring your animal companion can no longer reproduce is one of the most effective ways to prevent pet overpopulation, an avoidable tragedy that contributes to the euthanization of millions of healthy, adoptable dogs and cats every year in North America and beyond.
World Spay Day is Feb. 23. The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering pets, as well as the need for affordable services (especially in underserved communities). Right now, countless animals are sitting in shelters, waiting for a forever family. Unfortunately, not all of them will get one. This means healthy, loving pets will die for lack of a home. Making the decision to spay or neuter means fewer pets and a better chance for those already in the system to get adopted.
One reason people don’t spay or neuter their pets is the cost of the procedure. This is why some communities have implemented affordable sterilization programs to encourage owners to get their pets fixed. Unfortunately, these types of resources are still very rare in Canada. Often, regulations within veterinary professional orders set minimum prices for procedures, making it difficult to provide low-cost spay/neuter options through private clinics. It is important municipal authorities, veterinary associations and all stakeholders work together to find solutions to ensure affordable services exist, especially for lower-income pet owners. For example, the veterinarian association Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec recently allowed for the creation of specialized veterinarian clinics that offer, among other things, affordable spay/neuter options for those who need it. Making such programs easily available throughout Canada is the key to curbing pet overpopulation.
Spay/neuter is not only a solution to pet overpopulation in shelters, it is also an effective way to approach the overwhelming crisis of outdoor cats (i.e. feral, abandoned and stray). The most effective and humane solution for stray and feral cats is a trap-neuter-return-maintain program. This is when cats are humanely trapped and, if healthy, are then spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped (for identification) and returned to their community. These programs are proven to stabilize cat numbers that eventually dwindle to zero as the animals naturally die. Several municipalities in Canada have implemented such programs, and a variety of events surrounding World Spay Day focus specifically on outdoor cats.
Even in Canada, we have street-dog populations that need attention. First Nations reserves across Canada struggle with canine overpopulation and the lack of access to veterinary services. This leads not only to animal welfare issues, but also problems for the community such as bites or the spread of zoonotic diseases.
Mass sterilization is an efficient and humane method to address the canine overpopulation crisis, which these communities face but do not have the resources to tackle.
On this front, Humane Society International/Canada has previously partnered with Chiots Nordiques (Northern Puppies), a volunteer-based organization dedicated to the humane management of stray and roaming dogs by way of mass dog and cat sterilization clinics offered in remote communities across Quebec. Thanks to these clinics, thousands of dogs (and some cats, too) have been sterilized, reducing the pet population of these communities by preventing unwanted litters.
Although promoting pet sterilization is important all year long, World Spay Day is a great opportunity to educate, inform and spread the word about the importance of sterilization.
On Feb. 23, animal welfare organizations, veterinary clinics, municipalities and individuals worldwide will come together in an effort to promote the spaying and neutering of pets, feral and stray cats and street dogs. This year, let’s make a lasting impact by making it loud and clear: spaying and neutering our pets saves lives.
Ewa Demianowicz is a campaign manager for Humane Society International/Canada.