By Lyn Lewis
Wayside Animal Clinic
Tuesday, February 22 is Spay Day USA, which is a program put on by the Humane Society of the United States. This program is done with the cooperation of local veterinary offices and animal shelters. The program encourages spaying and neutering through discounts and other incentives. This is a wonderful opportunity for the citizens of North Georgia to make a difference in the lives of our four legged friends.
Pet overpopulation is a big problem all over the country but in North Georgia I would say it is even worse. Every day we get 2-3 new pets in our office that were former strays. People keep telling me, who have moved into our area, about how they have never seen so many strays running around. Nowhere is a better example of this than our local animal shelters. I cannot imagine how hard their job is when people call in need of help and animal control’s hands are tied because of lack of space. Nationally, 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. Other groups such as Gateway Pet Rescue, Second Chance, Pickens Animal Rescue, and Homeward Bound also are doing everything within their power to both shelter and adopt out strays.
It is amazing how quickly pets can multiply. Female dogs can have 2 litters a year and on average have 6-10 puppies per litter. Female cats on the other hand can have 3 litters a year and usually produce 4-6 kittens at a time. Being conservative, if I have a female animal and she produces 4 females only once a year and each female has 4 females each year for 7 years we would have over 250,000 female animals. This would not take into account the total males produced. So, after just 7 years one animal was responsible for producing over 500,000 total offspring! Unfortunately, this is a conservative number since I only counted one breeding a year.
Enough with statistics, I think I have made the point. Now, what can we, as a community, do to be part of the solution? First off, we need to be responsible for the pets we consider ours. Please spay and neuter your pets before the age of 8 months. Most females go into heat at around 9 months to 1 year old. If you have a pure bred animal or an interesting mix that you really want to breed, that is okay too. Have the responsibility to have found homes for the puppies you want to produce. Now I am sorry guys, but we are one of the worst offenders. We have all heard the term, “It takes two to tango” and that is very true; male animals are just as guilty. When I talk about spaying and neutering in the rooms with clients men hardly every want to neuter their male animals. They use the excuse that they are less manly, they will get fat and lazy. Truth is, if they are neutered before puberty they will never know the difference. Over 90% of the dogfights, hit by cars, and gunshot wounds I see in our office are un-neutered males. Also, male dogs have higher incidents of prostate issues than human males do. The only way to effectively control populations is to reduce the intact roaming males as well.
So in closing, let’s all be responsible, use your local veterinarians to help reduce pet overpopulation. For people who are dealing with money issues there are many wonderful programs. At www.humanesociety.org/spayday is a list of animal hospitals providing special offers for Spay Day USA on February 22. There is also a statewide program through veterinary offices called the Dog and Cat Sterilization Program that can provide up to a $60 discount on spays and neuters. Please spend time and go to the Spay Day website, it has wonderful information and contests to promote this important day.