Spay or Neuter Your Pet

by Katherine Noyes and Elizabeth Creehan
The Challenge

Spaying or neutering your pet prevents the suffering and tragic death of thousands of animals.

Half of the pets taken to American animal shelters get euthanized, or killed. In fact, three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the U.S.--that's roughly 10,000 per day--simply because there aren't enough homes to adopt them.

Spaying (the procedure for female animals) and neutering (the procedure for male animals) are two of the most common surgical procedures performed on cats and dogs. The term "neutering" is often used to refer to both procedures. Spaying or neutering your pet is simple, avoids the cost and hassle of dealing with litters, decreases aggressiveness (e.g. biting), and can increase your pet's lifespan, by:

  • eliminating the risk of uterine infections (in females)
  • reducing the incidence of mammary cancer (in females)
  • eliminating the risk of testicular cancer (in males)
  • decreasing the incidence of prostate disease (in males)

Many healthy kittens and puppies are euthanized before reaching six months old. Yet some pet owners continue to allow their animals to breed. In fact, 22 percent of owned dogs and 12 percent of owned cats are still not spayed or neutered.

The consequences of strays can be staggering: One unspayed cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in seven years and one unspayed dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years. There simply are not enough homes to adopt them all.

The most heart-wrenching result of our failure to spay and neuter is the fate of all the resulting unwanted animals. Only one in 10 animals born in the United States gets a good home that lasts a lifetime. Of the remaining unwanted pets, those that get euthanized in a shelter are often the lucky ones; others get abandoned or otherwise killed or disposed of. Stray cats and dogs on the streets usually live miserable and short lives, ending only when they die from cold, starvation, disease, or worse.

But it's not just the animals who suffer due to our failure to spay and neuter. Capturing, impounding and eventual euthanasia costs taxpayers and private agencies some $2 billion each year in the United States alone.

In addition to the tax burden of pet overpopulation, a host of societal problems also result. As a potential source of rabies and other diseases, some abandoned pets become public health hazards. Stray animals scare children, bite passersby, cause accidents, and soil streets and parks.

Our society seems to have adopted a distressing view of animals as disposable "goods" that can be dealt with only via the inherently disrespectful solution of euthanization. The failure to spay and neuter is costing us all.

The good news is that communities with active spay/neuter programs and legislation are seeing very encouraging results, including dramatic declines in the number of animals that are euthanized each year. Not only that, but spaying and neutering pets lets them live longer, healthier lives, and also often makes them more affectionate and easier to care for.

How to Make a Difference I Did This!
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  • Work to spay or neuter other animals in your neighborhood. Extend your compassion beyond the scope of your own household and commit to ensuring the spaying and neutering of other unaltered animals in your neighborhood. Talk to owners of unaltered pets to educate them about why it's so important to spay and neuter. Make it your mission to ensure that the stray cat who frequents your back yard doesn't bring more strays into the world to endure the same hard life. If possible, team up with neighbors and make it a joint effort.
  • Don't forget feral cats. For information about trapping and spaying or neutering feral cats in your area, visit Alley Cat Allies, Spay USA or the Feral Cat Coalition.
  • Spread the word. Spay/neuter educational leaflets are available at most shelters, or from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The Dog Hause, meanwhile, offers a variety of fun t-shirts, hats, magnets, stickers and more promoting the cause. You can also share this important message via your favorite social networks and help to promote it in your community, such as by embedding this spay/neuter locator widget from the HSUS and PetSmart Charities on your website or blog. Finally, the video below is a good example of the many videos out there you can share to help spread the word about the importance of spaying and neutering.
  • Share "infotainment" videos:  Post entertaining videos at Facebook that give your friends a laugh, while they learn about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets.  Here's a fun spaying/neutering video to share:

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