Pets end up in shelters for a variety of reasons: unwanted litters, behavioral problems, financial issues or owners moving and having children, to name just a few. Of the six to eight million pets brought to shelters annually, about half are adopted. And the other half? They are the ones that break your heart.
We all can begin by having our pets spayed or neutered -- the only 100 percent solution to preventing unwanted litters. A pet getting out just once can result in unwanted puppies or kittens, multiplying exponentially into still more unwanted animals. Even if you find good homes for your litter of six, that's six fewer potential homes for shelter pets. Prevention is the solution here. Mandatory spay-and-neuter laws are being debated now in local governments around the country.
Strays can cause public health problems by getting into garbage cans, biting unsuspecting victims and causing contamination with urination and defecation. We are spending much-needed tax money tackling these issues and taking care of strays. Feral cats can find their way into your neighborhood, but instead of ignoring the situation, you can help: Contact your local feral cat coalition to see what can be done.
People have many arguments for not sterilizing their pets. Some pet owners, for instance, want their children to witness the miracle of birth (even though the chances of actually being there to see it are slim). But isn't this a better opportunity to teach about personal responsibility and the consequences of actions?
Others worry about the cost of sterilizing their pets. Ask your vet or local humane society for help, because a variety of organizations offer financial assistance. And remember: Pets adopted from shelters may already be spayed or neutered -- and if not, most shelters will provide spay and neuter coupons for a local vet.
Spaying your female cat or dog helps prevent mammary cancer and urinary tract infections, especially if she is fixed before her first heat. Also, she will not attract all those unsavory males to your yard.
Neutered male dogs and cats enjoy health benefits as well -- among them, a decreased risk of testicular cancer if neutered before 6 months. Your pet will be less aggressive and less prone to wandering. Also, intact males tend to spray and mark urine in unwanted places, and their urine odor is much stronger. Neutered pets have fewer humping issues and get along better with other animals at the park and beach.
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