- Global Canine Communication




Animal Shelter statistics can be inflated to promote mandatory spay & neuter laws for a non-existent "overpopulation" problem. The real solution to the problem is educating owners.




by Donna P. Noland


In USA Today, there was an article entitled "Sterilizing pets isn't a priority for new owners".  As I was reading, I couldn't help but be conflicted.


On the one hand, I understand the need for voluntary spay/neuter programs, especially in certain areas of the country.  As Ms. Peters stated "Southerners and the under-35 set are the least likely to sterilize their pets."  As much as I hate to admit it -- dyed-in-the-wool Southerner that I am -- this is true.  Responsibility for one's animals here hasn't always been a high priority, plus we have a higher percentage of farm dogs and cats, and of course, hog dogs, coon dogs, and some world-famous Foxhound packs.  However, in urban areas of the south, that is changing as more and more pet owners are buying a ticket on the Spay Train for their dogs and cats.


Most of the animal shelter population is mongrels - unless the shelter buys cute purebreds to sellTo spay or neuter shows a certain level of caring and commitment to responsible pet ownership as people become more educated about exactly what having animals in their lives entails.  All I can say to that is "HURRAY!"  More responsibility is directly related to less restrictive animal ordinances and laws for everyone.  More responsibility is also directly related to lower shelter figures.


But embedded in this article are some things that make the fillings in my teeth sing!  For example, there is a pie chart showing that 68% of owners acquire animals from family members, adoption organizations & shelters and pickup of strays.


Only 12% are acquired from purebred breeders.  TWELVE PERCENT.  Yet, purebred dog breeders are always the ones catching hell for swelling the numbers of the homeless, abandoned, or callously bred animals entering the shelter system.  I'm sorry but something just doesn't add up here.


Purebred breeders are used as a scapegoat to push mandatory spay/neuter laws on to an animal-loving population (that is already well on its way to "doing the right thing" without the big stick) when proportionately they contribute hardly a thimbleful to the gallon bucket called "overpopulation".


The second thing that makes my eyebrows get that quizzical look is this statement:  "PetSmart Charities commissioned the survey by Ipsos Marketing, released today, in an effort to understand factors contributing to continued pet overpopulation, which results in an estimated 4 million to 6 million shelter animals being euthanized each year."


Ms. Peters needs to get her facts straight.  According to the latest statistics, there are 74.8 million dogs owned in the United States (the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.  In 2009, shelter statistics were widely quoted as 6 to 8 million dogs and cats entering the shelter system, with 3-4 million being euthanized and the same number being adopted.  Roughly, half and half although in some areas there are many more cats than dogs entering the shelter system.


This is still way too high a figure but remember that these are national figures.  Of the estimated total number of dogs owned and with the shelter figures added together, the total would be about 78.8 so only .05 percent are in animal shelters at any point in time.  Not only that, but experts tell us that shelter numbers have been dropping for the last several years.  All of this just doesn't add up to a true "overpopulation crisis" to me although I can understand that when you're the one doing the hands-on rescuing (as I did at one time), it can seem like billions.


Other tidbits of information in the article, such as "17% said they have no idea of the proper age to spay/neuter" and "42% of people who recently got a pet did no prior research, formal or informal" tell me that the crux of the matter is still education or rather, the lack thereof.


Teaching people how to responsibly acquire and own their animals is the answer to today's shelter problem.  I say if we're going to throw money and resources at a problem, let's throw it where it will have the most long-lasting and positive impact for both animals and people.


PETA and other groups are out there in our school systems with personal visits and teaching materials to shape children into their way of vegan thinking.  Why aren’t more local shelters and breed rescues out there educating people along with all-breed dog clubs?  Don't we all want the same thing:  animals safe and loved in a caring home?  Why doesn’t each community appropriate funds to educate owners instead of so much funding for Animal Control enforcement?  There are groups with good ideas to turn to for help.


For example, The American College of Theriogenologists makes these suggestions:

  1. support programs to expand the public awareness of pet overpopulation, acceptable breeding standards, and responsibilities of pet ownership.  Provide the public a means to access assistance with concerns of pet health, ownership, behavior and management issues.

  2. provide low cost spay/neuter facilities for economically disadvantaged person and communities.

Other ideas include publicly supported dog training classes and low cost community educational clinics on proper pet care.  The USA Today article made me stop and think and what it really revealed is not just flawed statistics, but that there is a big need for public education.



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