When I first became truly invested in animal rights and began my stint as a former independent contractor for Peta working on concert tours, I learned many things that I never truly considered before. What I learned was not just about cruelty and how animals are often treated by corporations, but about what we are doing or perhaps not doing at home to protect the animals that we love. One of the most mind blowing things I learned about involved the spaying and neutering of pets, and just how big of an impact this simple act can play in your life and the life of your beloved companion animal. Every year thousands upon thousands of dogs and cats die in shelters due to overcrowding, no kill shelters resorting to euthanasia because they simply can not afford the funding to keep so many abandoned litters alive. The numbers are truly staggering when you look at them, and I have to admit that my mind was more than a little blown.
Think about this: if a female cat goes into heat (or estrus as it is sometimes called) twice a year and has a litter of four kittens, that is eight cats a year. If four of those eight kittens are female and they breed twice a year and also deliver four kittens each time, that is thirty-two more kittens a year. You can keep going, naturally, watching the numbers increase and that is simply from one non-spayed female cat. It is often hard to find a home for just one litter of kittens, imagine trying to find homes for up to thirty-two cats. Many of those animals will be sent to shelters where they run the risk of never being adopted and subsequently put down for simply being born unwanted. It's a sad fact, but it is one that is easily preventable.
The very simple act of spaying or neutering a dog or cat companion can save hundreds of potential animal lives. I had honestly never before given much thought to these sort of statistics and numbers until I began my job and saw first hand the impact such a simple procedure could make. My dog was neutered when he was a pup, and I am forever grateful now that my dad insisted on making sure this was done. The procedure itself was relatively inexpensive, recovery time was minimal, and we are all much happier for it. I don't have to worry about him being out in the world impregnating any unfortunate female animals, creating a litter that may end up most unwanted by the other animals owner.
Many people say they simply don't have the money for the surgery for their pet, but there are plenty of ways to get help that I also never knew about. Call around to different animal clinics to compare prices. Often times if you explain your situation, there are clinics who are willing to help you with financial problems. You can also call local humane societies, some of whom will pay for the spay or neuter out of their own funds, or who work with local veterinarians to offer deals. There are also traveling clinics who will spay and neuter for free, so it really is all about the research and effort you put in.
Regardless, this simple act is simply worth it. There will always be people who do not want to take a basic course of action to prevent animal deaths, but we can all do our part to reduce the fall out. A spayed or neutered dog or cat means there are that many fewer animals going into shelters to die every year. A single person can not change the world, no, but you can change the world for a handful of helpless animals.
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)