By Erin Shackelford
For many creatures, spring signals breeding season. While this is certainly true for wildlife, it can also be true for unsterilized dogs and cats. If you’ve ever heard of “kitten season,” which typically begins in the spring and runs through the summer, you probably know what I mean. During this time, animal shelters across the United States can be overwhelmed with an influx of puppies and kittens.
To ward off unwanted litters, February was designated Spay and Neuter Awareness Month. It’s a month to spread the good word about the benefits of spay and neuter for not only our pets’ health, but also our community’s wellbeing.
According to Shelter Animals Count, a national database that tracks U.S. shelter intake data, in 2020, more than 3 million dogs and cats entered animal shelters nationally. While many animals entering shelters find homes, many do not. Sadly, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that approximately 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized every year.
Thanks to our community’s support, the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria does not have to euthanize for space. Every year, our placement and live release rate is well over 96%.
As a country, we have made great strides in reducing the number of both animals entering the shelter and being euthanized; however, there’s still work to be done. Spaying and neutering our companion animals is one critical component in continuing to improve these numbers and reduce stray and homeless animal populations.
Furry friend benefits
There are also many health and behavior benefits to sterilizing your pets. Here are just a few benefits of spaying or neutering your pet:
• It can increase the chance your pet will live a longer, healthier life.
• It reduces or eliminates the risk of certain cancers. In females, it prevents uterine infections and breast cancer. In males, it prevents testicular cancer.
• It decreases your pet’s propensity to roam in search of a mate. Did you know that 85% of dogs struck by cars are unaltered males?
• It can improve an animal’s demeanor, temperament and behavior.
I think spay and neuter is the bee’s knees, but I understand that some people may not yet realize how beneficial the procedure can truly be. Here are some truths to common myths:
Spaying or neutering will not make your animal gain weight. A lack of exercise and overfeeding are what cause your animal to pack on the pounds.
The procedure will not change your pet’s personality, except maybe improve on some unwanted behaviors, like mounting, marking or roaming.
The procedure is much more cost effective in the long run. Caring for a litter of puppies or kittens or the cost of treatment due to an injury sustained while trying to escape a yard or roaming a neighborhood can easily cost a pretty penny.
Animals do not need to have “just one litter.” Dogs do not have an innate desire to be parents and will not be unfulfilled if they don’t experience birth.
This procedure can be cost-prohibitive for some families, but thanks to partnerships with local veterinarians, qualifying Alexandrians can receive low-cost spay and neuter vouchers through the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. For more information on program qualifications and to apply, contact the AWLA at 703-746-4774, option 2 or by emailing info@Alexandria Animals.org.
The writer is the marketing and communications specialist with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria