These days, there is much discussion on the topic of overpopulation when it comes to humans, to the point where unchecked population growth can be a legitimate cause for alarm, for a number of reasons.
This problem of “too many” is an even more prevalent issue among some animal populations, specifically dogs and cats, where their numbers grow faster, and we, as humans, have arguably less control over it.
Cats and dogs, in this day and age, are tied in inextricably to the human population, which is to say that we have domesticated these animals in many societies around the world, and are generally responsible for their welfare.
On a positive note, many people care about their pets a great deal, and want what’s best for them.
Meanwhile, other folks, for a number of reasons, are less kind, whether intentionally or not, to their feline and canine companions.
This unkindness can take many forms, but it’s not for us here to point the finger at anyone specific, but we do know that animal abuse does occur in various ways.
In any case, not all abuse, so to speak, is obvious, or even intentional.
But we must say, that one way that we can be indirectly cruel to our pets is by letting them breed freely to the point where their offspring cannot be properly taken care of.
This is where the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs becomes a point of interest, as it is arguably the best way for us humans to live in harmony with our cat and dog friends.
Bob Barker, former host of the game show The Price is Right, said, for years and years, to “have your pet spayed or neutered” at the end of every episode.
While this seemed like perhaps a quirky tag line to many people who watched the show at the time, the underlying message is very important, especially if you care about animals.
As we here at Cute Cat Cleo are interested in helping pets, we were able to speak with an organization called STAF (Save The Animals Foundation, Inc.) based in New Jersey about their special Spay / Neuter Certificate Program, which offers a way for people who are on a budget and may wish to spay or neuter their pet, but think that they can’t afford it, to potentially do so.
We also discuss the ethics and other details around why people might want to consider spaying and neutering their cats and dogs in a timely manner, as it can lead to an overall better life for those animals, and lead to less unwanted and unnecessary pregnancies, effectively preventing an issue before it can happen.
Please enjoy our chat with STAF NJ!
Q: You have a low-cost spay/neuter program. Can you elaborate on this?
STAF works with a number of veterinarians in the South Jersey area who cooperate with our low-cost spay/neuter programs and accept our certificates as payment for the surgery ONLY.
The participating doctors are listed on our website. Clients contact STAF for Certificate pricing.
Most of these doctors will require additional payment from the client to cover the costs of an office visit and inoculations.
We feel that it is essential for the health of each animal to have a complete physical examination and treatment for any medical conditions.
The spay/neuter certificate does not cover any of these additional charges, and the client will need to arrange payment with the doctor’s office.
STAF certificates may not be used in conjunction with declawing or cosmetic surgery (including ear cropping and tail docking).
The client must notify the veterinarian’s office that they are using a certificate from STAF to pay for the surgery.
To purchase a certificate or for answers to any other questions, clients call Diana at 856-582-3661, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a message on STAF’s answering machine at 856-218-7006.
Q: Would you say that not having the funds is a primary reason many people don’t spay or neuter? Are there other reasons also? If so, please do elaborate.
There are many reasons that people don’t spay or neuter their dogs and cats.
Cost is often a factor. A visit to a veterinarian, including an exam, vaccines, and treatment to prevent parasites, can easily cost $100 or more.
The cost of spay or neuter surgery can be several hundred, depending on the sex, size, age and health of the animal.
But there are many other reasons that might be a factor.
Some men identify strongly with their pets, especially dogs, and feel personally threatened by the idea of neutering.
Many people believe that their dog or cat won’t ever get pregnant because they live inside and only go out on a leash or in a carrier, so they feel that spay/neuter is unnecessary.
Some believe that animals who are related, whether puppies or kittens and their parents, or siblings from the same litter, can’t get pregnant.
There are people who believe that a dog or cat must be at least 6 months old (or a year old or sexually mature) before being spayed or neutered.
Some want their pet to have “just one litter” before surgery.
Often people have many other things on their mind, and simply forget or put off making the appointment to have their dog or cat “fixed.”
Q: How did you come up with this certificate based system that you offer currently?
STAF feels that the most important way to stop the killing of unwanted animals is to go to the source, unwanted pregnancy.
Animal shelters are established to care for homeless animals, but dogs and cats reproduce so much faster than people, and their numbers can only be controlled by preventing them from breeding.
Our goal is to assist people who care about their animals, and to work with veterinarians to provide affordable health care.
Q: You say your certificates don’t cover certain procedures. Basically, it’s just for spaying / neutering?
STAF’s certificates primarily cover spay/neuter. We also have a medical assistance program, the Don Williams Animal Healing Fund.
Veterinarians who participate in STAF’s spay/neuter program may also refer clients to STAF for medical assistance, and STAF may provide up to $50 toward needed medical care.
While this may be a small amount compared to the total cost of the treatment needed, it may make the difference that allows the animal to be treated.
Q: How many animals apply typically to your program, and would you say that number is what you are aiming for, or would you want there to be more or less applicants?
During a year, STAF may assist anywhere from 200 to 900 animals. We don’t have any limits based on income or residence.
We offer our certificates to anyone who goes to any of our participating veterinarians.
Q: For those who don’t know, can you speak to the value of spaying and neutering your pets and why it is a necessity in this day and age?
In the past, shelter animals were more likely to leave the shelter in a bag than on a leash or in a carrier. Shelters across the country were killing approximately 18 million animals each year.
According to recent reports, the number of animals killed has plummeted, falling more than 75% since 2009. This is reportedly due to society’s changing attitudes and acceptance of spay/neuter.
Male dogs, unlike females, are always ready to mate. Their strong sense of smell lets them know when a female is in heat, anywhere in the neighborhood. If they are not allowed to follow their urge, they spend their time in a constant state of frustration.
As male dogs mature, their hormones become active and they start exhibiting associated behaviors.
They lift their legs to urinate, marking territory to attract females and challenge other males. They may begin “mounting” other animals, people’s legs, or pillows.
Once these behaviors become habitual, eliminating the hormones by neutering may not stop the behaviors, so we recommend getting them fixed before they develop these behaviors.
Male dogs, just like people, can develop prostate problems or even testicular cancer as they age. By the time the problem occurs, the dog is older and surgery and anesthesia are more dangerous.
Male cats develop seriously unpleasant behaviors once they reach sexual maturity. Their urine becomes extremely pungent, and they use it to mark territory by spraying.
They look for every opportunity to get out of the house to find a female in heat. Female cats become extremely hormonal as they mature.
They become very vocal, and try to get out of the house to find a mate.
Intact female dogs and cats may develop mammary tumors, but if they are spayed before their first heat, the odds of breast cancer drop to almost zero.
Intact female dogs and cats may develop pyometra, an accumulation of pus within the uterus, which can develop because of the hormonal, anatomical, and physiological changes that occur after a cat or dog has gone through a heat cycle but does not become pregnant.
Bacteria then take advantage of the situation, resulting in a potentially fatal infection.
Q: How is spaying and / or neutering linked to other health complications a pet might acquire? What types of complications might these be?
Female dogs can become sexually mature by the time they are 6 months old.
Dogs usually come into “heat” twice a year, and can become pregnant when they are still puppies themselves. Their bodies are not mature enough to handle the stress of pregnancy.
Cats can come into heat between 4 and 6 months of age and have their first litter 63 days later.
If they aren’t impregnated, they can continuously come into heat every few weeks, which can be very stressful on their body.
Immature dogs and cats may not be able to nurture their babies, or may not have enough milk to sustain them.
Both dogs and cats can have “false pregnancy,” causing nesting behavior and their breasts to fill with milk.
Both dogs and cats can also develop pyometra, a very serious infection of the uterus, which can cause extreme pain and even death.
Giving birth and nursing a litter can result in eclampsia, a severe calcium depletion, that can be fatal to the mother.
Dogs and cats can have complications during the birthing process. Babies can be tangled in the umbilical cord; breach births can occur; birth defects may be present.
Some dog breeds are unable to deliver without surgical intervention (bulldogs almost always require Caesarean surgery).
Q: Can any age animal be spayed or neutered?
In the past, common practice was to wait until the animal was 6 months old. But due to severe overcrowding at shelters across the country, veterinarians began performing pediatric spay/neuter.
For kittens and puppies, the currently acceptable practice is to spay or neuter between 8 weeks to 5 months.
One of the benefits of spaying before the first heat is that the risk of mammary cancer is reduced to almost zero.
For large breeds of dogs, some veterinarians prefer to wait until the animal is 6 months to a year old to allow bone plates to fully develop.
At any age, surgery should only be performed after an examination to ensure the animal is healthy enough for the procedure.
Senior dogs and cats, and animals with underlying conditions, may require special health care. That is always a decision that must be made by the veterinarian.
Q: What is your opinion on the idea that someone might suggest that spaying / neutering is a cruel idea?
Of course spaying/neutering is cruel. If you’ve ever seen a mother dog or cat nursing and nurturing her litter, you know the beauty of the bond between parent and child.
If you’ve ever seen a male dog or cat intent on finding and mating with the opposite sex, you know the intensity of their pursuit.
Do dogs and cats feel love like we humans do? Absolutely.
Are their sexual drives based on love and emotion? No. Their behavior is completely hormonal, and once they are “fixed,” their desire for sex is eliminated.
But they remain completely capable of loving their human and animal companions.
Spay/neuter is surgery, and it is invasive. For a female, it involves a complete ovariohysterectomy, the removal of the uterus and ovaries. For a male, it involves the removal the testicles.
These operations involve anesthesia, an incision, control of bleeding, sutures (or surgical glue), prevention of infection, and pain relief.
If there are complications, the procedure may be even more invasive. The veterinarians who perform these surgeries are trained, licensed doctors.
They use sterile techniques and do their best to ensure the comfort and safety of the animals in their care.
By keeping companion animals as pets, we humans have a duty to protect them from harm.
We control what they eat, where they sleep, and whether or not there will be others of their own species in their lives.
We require that they do their toilet business in the proper place and that they refrain from destroying our property. We also have the power to “get rid” of them when we choose.
The very people who suggest that spaying /neutering is cruel would most likely not be prepared to keep the offspring produced by uncontrolled mating.
They would not tolerate a spraying male cat or a dog who lifts his leg on the furniture. And they would be horrified by the thought that an animal shelter would kill their dogs and cats.
But the reality is that dogs can reproduce 12 times as fast as humans, and cats can reproduce 40 times as fast.
If our species is going to continue to own and control the lives of other species, we need to do everything in our power to prevent them from producing unwanted babies who will end up dying in shelters. Spay/Neuter is the best way to accomplish this.
Q: What are some fundamental resources you’d recommend that people read up on regarding spaying / neutering of pets, and pet health in general?
There are so many resources available that it would be impossible to list them all. A computer search using various keywords will turn up information about every aspect of spay/neuter.
Q: Is there a need to spay or neuter the dog population more so than the cat population, or is the need equal?
Since cats can reproduce more often than dogs, there are more unwanted cats than dogs killed each year.
People seem to think that cats can survive on their own, and the stray (feral) cat population is much greater than the stray dog numbers.
Both species have been domesticated for thousands of years, and each individual animal, dog or cat, deserves the best possible care we can provide.
Q: Are there any disadvantages to spaying or neutering animals that you know of?
There are always risks with any surgery. Anesthesia is probably the greatest peril, and unfortunately, some animals do not survive.
In general, most veterinarians agree that surgery is safer on young animals than elderly dogs and cats.
Dogs or cats who are being used for breeding obviously aren’t “fixed,” and organizations that put on dog and cat shows usually require the animals to be intact.
There has been some research that shows that certain dog breeds, especially large breeds, may develop health problems if they are “fixed” before their bodies are sexually mature.
*Here is a video showing how cat anesthesia is done at Allentown Cat Clinic. Worth a watch!
Q: What is your opinion on Bob Barker and his work towards controlling the pet population?
Bob Barker has helped acquaint the public with the need for spay/neuter, starting with the way he always ended his show, The Price Is Right, with “And remember folks, always spay or neuter your pets.”
His DJ&T Foundation continues to provide grants for controlling the pet population.
He brought spay/neuter to the attention of mainstream America, and helped prevent the killing of many thousands of dogs and cats.
Thanks everyone for reading our chat with STAF NJ! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, we’d love to hear from you!