Pet Overpopulation Article

Op-Ed piece for the Albuquerque Journal, 4/23/96.



Susan E. Katz

Advocate for Pets

April is National Prevent a Litter Month.  We are killing more than 10 million animals a year in this country, including purebreds, due to over-breeding and people not spaying and neutering their pets.  There simply are not enough homes for all the litters.  At least 1/4 of the animals brought to animal shelters around the country are purebreds.

Pet overpopulation affects everyone.  Taxes are used to manage and process these animals.  There is an easy solution – prevention.

Sadly, our “throwaway” culture has imprinted itself onto living beings.  Thousands of animals are turned in by their owners to be euthanized.  People don’t realize the tremendous responsibility, commitment, and cost involved in owning pets.  Adult animals are turned in simply because they grew up and are too big to handle.  People give puppies as gifts, which might be cute on Christmas Day, but not so cute months later.  The same happens with rabbits for Easter.

People who allow their pets to breed don’t know what to do with the puppies or kittens.  Baskets of unwanted litters are brought to the shelter.  Shelters have no choice but to destroy them; they simply do not have enough room.  Don’t blame shelters; it’s the people with the litters who are responsible for this horrendous situation.  These animals don’t get a nice burial in a pet cemetery.  Due to the high volume, they are dumped in landfills.

If unwanted animals are not dumped at shelters, they are carelessly abandoned in fields or on city streets where they suffer from starvation, lack of shelter and veterinary care, or abuse by cruel people.  It’s against the law to let your pets roam free.  There’s a misapprehension that cats survive well outside.  Many are hit by cars or stolen for laboratory research.  They develop terminal illnesses such as feline leukemia, which is highly communicable.

Wild cats and dogs breed rapidly.  Do not feed stray or feral animals; you’re not helping them.  If you want to help, have them humanely trapped.  Otherwise, they continue living miserable lives and their offspring will continue that painful cycle.

There are numerous myths surrounding spaying and neutering, and much anthropomorphizing.  It is not true that females need to go through one heat and have one litter before being spayed.  Having a litter does not fulfill a sense of motherhood or responsibility.  Males do not have to have sex before they are neutered, and will not miss it afterward.  Animals do not have sex for pleasure; it’s usually painful (hence the screaming when cats mate).  Neutering does not diminish the desire or ability to act as a watch dog.  Animals do not gain weight and get lazy when sterilized.  Males do not become feminine.

In addition to preventing litters, there are health and behavioral benefits.  Neutering males prevents testicular cancer, and helps prevent prostate cancer.  Spaying females prevents ovarian and uterine cancer, and helps prevent breast cancer.  Males wander less because they no longer desire females.  Neutering also helps curb aggression, and cats will be less likely to spray (mark territory).

Here are a few common reasons people think it’s okay to let their pets breed, and the truth as to why they shouldn’t. 

“I find homes for all the puppies.” Or, “I can get money for them.”  For every home you’ve found or for every puppy you’ve sold, if that animal had not been born, the people acquiring it from you would have adopted from a shelter or humane organization. The worst repercussion to just blindly giving away litters, is that unless the next owner sterilizes their new pet, the whole cycle starts again.  People realize that they can’t even give the litters away, let alone sell them.  More for the landfill.

“I want a dog that looks like Duke.”  Breeding is a genetic crapshoot.  If you go to the shelter, you’ll probably find many dogs similar to Duke.

“I want a purebred.”  Because of inbreeding, purebreds are usually more aggressive and nervous.  They also have severe genetic health problems.  Often, “purebred” means altering a dog’s appearance.  They undergo painful and cruel surgical procedures, which are strictly to satisfy human ego and financial gain.  You will find plenty of purebreds at shelters and humane organizations.  Again, if purebreds weren’t being sold, we would have more adoptions and fewer deaths.  If inbreeding isn’t good for humans, why would it be good for animals?

Without the pet overpopulation epidemic, shelters would not have to kill so many animals.  The equation is that simple.  For every litter born, an equal number of animals will die.  However, there is due process before animals are killed.  Going to the shelter does not mean instant death.

Licensing ensures that animals have rabies vaccinations (State law).  If the pet is impounded and wearing its license, the owner will be contacted.  Shelters and veterinarians also scan for microchips.  If the animal has any identification, it’s held for a period of time, in which attempts are made to contact the owner.  With no identification, it’s held for a number of days, then put up for adoption.  The shelter does its best to keep adoptable animals for as long as possible.  When it needs to make room for more incoming animals, it must euthanize the ones who were not adopted.

In conclusion, our animals deserve respect, care, and love.  They don’t ask for much and what they give to us is immeasurable and precious.  Be kind to them.  If you can’t, then please do not have pets.  DON’T LITTER; SPAY AND NEUTER!

Susan E. Katz hosts and produces “PET SPEAK” on Albuquerque’s Community TV Channel 27.