Pet overpopulation is an ongoing crisis and is a serious issue in every community. Each year thousands of animals must be euthanized and put to sleep because decent homes are not found for them. Abandoned dogs and cats are free to roam the streets where they must struggle to survive on their own. The number is approximately; 8 million unwanted animals taken into shelters all across the country. Sadly, more than half of them eventually become euthanized. Shelter euthanasia is the number one cause of death of cats and dogs in the states. (PAWS Chicago). Further actions and more laws should be enforced in order to fix the overpopulation of domestic animals.
The causes of overpopulation are due to overbreeding, choosing not to adopt, people disposing of their pets, and irresponsible pet owners who choose not to neuter. In an article in the DVM Newsmagazine, Dr. Jeanette O’Quin, the president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians states that overpopulation threatens the lives of companions animals more than any infectious disease and results from a combination of too many pets for the number of suitable homes… (DVM Veterinary).
Statistics show that 60% of dogs and 70% of cats entering animal shelters never make it out alive (PAWS Chicago). A solution is possible and starts with each of us taking a step and getting our pets fixed. Over the years, public awareness has been increased about the need to spray and neuter, but many pet owners still choose not to do so. As people intentionally breed their pets either for fun or for profit gain, others do not spray or neuter out of ignorance and choosing to believe that their animals won’t breed accidentally. The urge to breed is very powerful. Pets can, and will overcome extreme obstacles to get to their potential mate. Males and females will run out the door, chew through their leashes or even jump through fences.
Spraying and neutering pets is a conscious choice and the right thing to do. Puppies and kittens can be safely be fixed when they reach eight weeks; this is well before they reach sexual maturity so there is no chance for an “accidental” litter. A majority of pet owners who breed their animals believe they aren’t contributing to the overpopulation if they can find homes for the litters; but this increases the chance of one ending up in a shelter. Many of those kittens and puppies will end up at an animal shelter at some point in their life. On average a fertile cat can produce three litters in one year and the number of kittens in a litter ranges from 4 to 6. In about seven years, one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats (LA Animal Shelter).
Besides spaying and neutering, there are other approaches and potential solutions. First and foremost, the law must require licenses for breeders. Any individual or organization that wants to breed animals should be required to purchase a license. The license is to be renewed annually and anyone found not licensed will be a fined over an obscene amount, perhaps $1,500 for each litter. Breeders should also have a limit on how many animals they are allowed to produce in a year. There will be some flexibility as litter size varies but the breeder must have a limit. Any one breeder who falls out of the conformity would have their license void and revoked.
The law must also have a limit on how animals are bought or sold. Selling animals should only be limited to state-controlled pet stores. People whom are caught selling dogs or cats on the street or over the web would be fined or be required to serve community service.
One organization called the Alliance of for Contraception in Cats and Dogs are actively researching other methods of contraception; such as nonsurgical sterilization. The search for a nonsurgical sterilant has never been greater as this organization received over $70 million in grants and funding (Veterinary Medicine). This method will help target difficult to reach communities and feral populations of cats and dogs.
There have been large advances in the area of nonsurgical sterilization of animals in the past decades. Many zoos use a number of contraceptive methods to control the number of unwanted offsprings. It is often accomplished through the use of a hormonal implant that allows reversible control of fertility in females. According to Dr. Patty Olson however, a board-certified veterinary theriogenologist, “…animals in zoos are under constant professional care and scrutiny, allowing for potential side effects to be evaluated on a regular basis. (Petfinder).” The search is still on going.
These plausible solutions will obviously require extensive time, money and strict enforcement. It would also require hiring people to support the cause, and the government would need to monitor pet stores and breeders. Given that we spend millions running shelters and euthanizing animals anyway, these possible solutions are definitely worth considering. In addition, more potential pet owners should consider adopting their pets from a legitimate animal shelter or through a rescue group. As a community we can help by educating our friends and family members about overpopulation, adopting, and the need to spay and neuter.