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« Great news as South Dakota & Utah added to states that prohibit laws targeting breeds | Main | Expert Opposition to Breed Discriminatory Laws »

March 17, 2014

Comments

EmilyS

maybe you or one of your readers can help me understand what seems like a logic fail, even in these anti-msn position statements.

As far as I can tell, the measure of "overpopulation" is the number of shelter intakes (or otherwise why do we care how many dogs/cats there are?). The studies indicating that s/n reduces shelter intake lump dogs and cats together in the statistics. Cats DO have an "overpopulation problem" (in the sense that there are many unowned cats breeding randomly and these animals flood shelters where they often end up dead).

The same is NOT true for dogs. While there certainly are stray dogs and random litters that become problems, that in no way rises to the level of that in cats. Dogs don't end up in shelters because of some notion of "overpopulation." Rather, specific people take their dogs to shelters (or don't reclaim lost pets) for specific reasons, primarily behavioral and financial. Those reasons are mostly addressed without reference to reproductive status. While I support s/n for most dogs (at an appropriate age), I fail to see how voluntary s/n reduces the number of dogs in shelters.

But I'd be glad to see something that really indicates it does

sarahjaneb

Emily, I have the same questions. I've actually heard people claim that if we had MSN, there would be no need at all for shelters, which I find ridiculous. With the exception of the huge influx of kittens in May every year, each month the largest single category of animals entering my local municipal shelter are adult dogs who come in as strays. I fail to see how spaying and neutering would keep these animals out of the shelter, and of course the same goes for adult animals surrendered for financial or behavioral reasons. There are also quite a few puppies coming in to the shelter, and I think more s/n might reduce the total number of animals in the shelter, but there would still be several hundred coming in each month.

Brent

Sarah -- obviously the notion that we won't need shelters with MSN is a false one. There are communities that have had MSN for years, and still have very active shelters.

Emily, I think it's a fair question, and if I were to answer, I'd say that it's going to be a complex answer.

Obviously, as you note, spay/neuter is important for cats and that we do have significant overpopulation issues with cats.

Dogs are a bit more challenging.

Obviously, spay/neuter has become a very common practice over the past 2 decades. During this same time period, there has been a significant decrease in the number of dogs coming into shelters. There is definitely a causal relationship.

The entirety hasn't been just on spay/neuter though. As dog ownership practices have improved, and dogs have become more likely to be indoor dogs than roaming neighborhoods at large -- this, combined with being neutered, helps control the number of dogs born.

In addition, I'm not sure if shelter populations alone tell the whole story. Currently, the place a person is most likely to get a new dog is from a friend or family member. Not a breeder, not a shelter, not as a stray, but from a friend or family member.

As we work with people in low-income communities, I'm amazed at the number of people who come into pet ownership because a friend died, was taken to jail, had an unexpected litter, etc that were rehomed through informal networks. While for many reasons I'm very supportive of this, it also doesn't change the reality that many of these people would not have chose pet ownership had they not decided to help.

I would theorize that this "pet ownership by circumstance" also leads many of these pets to be higher risk at eventually ending up at a shelter than others. While not always the case certainly, it seems that many of these dogs go places where they have fewer resources for training & vet care, and tighter options when it comes to finding housing with a pet (because of financial limitations) and also slightly more likely to move in the first place.

So while I don't know that it's a direct link, I think it does influence.

All of this aside, I think that in writing a position paper like this, if you're a large national organization, I think acknowledging the challenges of large numbers of pets entering the shelter is for these shelters is a better way to get them to listen than by saying "there is no problem". The latter just puts up road blocks and you'll never hear the rest of what you have to say over their objections....

Michelle Rivera

When the term “voluntarily” is used - some might picture flocks of pet owners calling up and getting their pets fixed. We ( Spay and Neuter KC) refer to “voluntarily” as those .. but ALSO those while we are out canvassing problem areas and asking them if we can fix their pet they say “SURE – sign me up!”

You can’t force people to get their pets fixed who have no money – UNLESS there are subsidized programs in place that will do it for free.. free spay neuter and transport. There are not enough resources in place to provide free and very low cost services to all the low income pet owners in every area. (we are certainly trying) This takes substantial grant/donor funding to do all these surgeries for that low.

If you force poor people into that situation of getting their pet fixed and they cannot afford- they will use the path of least resistance - Give up the pet – they can’t afford it. However if the give up the pet or the pet is taken by animal control - that pet will be replaced in a few months and the problem is not solved. Removing a pet from a home that is already caring for the pet will never get us to the end result. The owner learns nothing and the pet is replaced over and over again.

Example: A nearby city was handing out $500 tickets to every pet owner who did not spay or neuter. However pet owners (low-income, poor) could go to the clinic they were suggesting but that clinic was charging almost $150-$200 to get the pet fixed, vaccinated etc. The spay neuter clinic thought they had a good deal going. Pets were being dumped, relinquished /given up because the pet owners couldn’t afford even the $150 option – or they didn’t pay the $500, have a warrant and still have an unaltered pet.

Nearly 85% of the pet owners we serve have taken their pets in off the street or from a friend. They truly want to do the right thing- but just lack the financial resources. However they are providing care and love for pets that would otherwise end up in a shelter.

Education is key – but we have to go to them. According to some researchers, a very small percentage of pet owners (lower income – and the one’s we have to seek out) contribute to overall majority of the problem.

The solution is go find them, fix their pets, provide the resources and ask them to keep those pets for the remainder of their life. Pet is fixed, improved quality of life and owner has been schooled in responsible pet ownership.

If we can get 99% voluntary compliance on every pet owner we come across – the voluntary spay neuter approach is the way to go. It does come with a huge price tag of which is never ending work of raising funds to support our efforts.

Spay Neuter Kansas City

EmilyS

"Obviously, spay/neuter has become a very common practice over the past 2 decades. During this same time period, there has been a significant decrease in the number of dogs coming into shelters. There is definitely a causal relationship."

But this is my problem: are there studies demonstrating a CAUSAL relationship? Correlation is not causation, as the statisticians say...

And, following on Michelle's post: is there any evidence that the people who get their pets from the streets or from a friend (and can't afford a s/n) will inevitably allow these dogs to breed.. and if so, will THOSE dogs end up in a shelter or be given to other friends and have homes?

Brent

True Emily. Correlation is not Causation.

But given that spay/neuter has a nearly 100% success rate in preventing breeding, the idea that the increase in spay/neuter correlating with the decrease in shelter populations seems more than circumstantial.

There is obviously no evidence that an unalter pet will "inevitably" end up being bred.

Are you really trying to argue that spay/neuter has no impact on the number of animals born Emily? Or that the number born has no impact on the number that end up in shelters?

Michelle Rivera

Emily - there is no evidence that we can really collect on this – but would say yes it’s highly likely – at least most being accidental litters.

1. Many are outdoor dogs, and if left sexually intact, will roam or other sexually intact dogs jump the fence for a back yard visit. While some pet owners we come across tend to "give away" the litter, the problem (unaltered pets being handed out) then extends to all the litters that are being given away unaltered and a percentage probably do end up in our shelters at some point. (Wasn’t what they expected, too much work, can’t have in their apartment - all well intended people but made a decision because they were cute little puppies/kittens) (Luckily - we don't see the number of unwanted litters nearly as much as we did 6-7 years ago – they are still out there but not nearly as bad)

I would say nearly 75% of the stray pets we come across have a care taker - We might knock on several doors for several streets (where ever the dog might lead us to) but we eventually find someone who knows where that dog was at and the person caring for or has befriended that dog . They typically say "Yeah I took him in 3 weeks ago/6 months ago et c. and he/she always gets out" We suggest spaying/neutering and we thank them for taking him in - asking him to be a permanent home for him etc.. Yeah - "Positive outcome"

Now animal control doesn't obviously start knocking on doors when they pick up a stray - if they can catch the dog it goes on down to the shelter. The owner (caretaker) who just befriended that dog isn’t going to go look for that dog - They were just trying to do the right thing by taking it in, but haven’t truly invested in ownership of that dog and are certainly not going to pay $250 to get it out. They will just wait for the next dog to come along, throw it some food and take it in.

BUT if we can get to them while they have the dog, have them invest a little time into the dog (bringing in for spay neuter, maybe paying a little towards the surgery if they have it) it certainly increases pet retention (we don’t track but we are coming across more and more pet owners who have spay/neutered with us and STILL have their pets) and certainly decreases the likelihood of the dog continuing to wander around (and eliminates reproducing)

EmilyS

I'm asking the question Brent.. I don't know the answer.

If the reason for owners to give up dogs is primarily behavior and finances, then does the number of dogs in the population matter?

If s/n reduces the number of dogs in the population, DOES shelter intake go down?

Brent

I don't know of any real "study" that has been done, but logic works for it -- and certainly a lot of strong correlations that as S/N has increased over the past 20 years, shelter intake has decreased. The same is definitely true in KC, where the growth of our low cost spay/neuter service provider (Michelle R above) has mirrored a decrease in shelter intake.

Again, nothing "scientific", but a lot of correlations there with something that seems very much related.

doghero

hey guys check this out tell me what you think.
http://kimt.com/2014/03/16/black-lab-attacks-3-and-injures-pit-bull/

Jenn

I teach Humane Education throughout Los Angeles, mainly in the low income areas and I have to agree with what Michelle says. We used to get stories at almost every school that Mom is just throwing the puppies in the trash. There's a perception among the rescue community here that MSN needs to be enforced in these neighborhoods because these people are breeding for money. We find that most of them aren't. We have a lot of accidental litters. Many want to get their pet fixed, but they don't have the money or the transportation. Transportation is a big obstacle - they don't own a car and you can't take a dog/cat on the bus. If we follow-up a school visit with a mobile spay/neuter clinic through one of the local organizations, we have great success. While we have MSN in these areas, it isn't enforced. The area is too large, the number of AC officers too small, and those in the neighborhoods each day realize that forcing someone to fix their pet isn't the solution. MSN is not increasing shelter numbers in our areas, but that's likely because it isn't being enforced. Like Michelle said, most of these people want to do the right thing once they are educated. It truly is an education issue. Passing a law doesn't help. We need to be out there in these neighborhoods helping. Unfortunately, we still have far too many groups who believe that you shouldn't even have a pet if you can't afford the spay/neuter so we're working against this mentality as well. It's frustrating.

Susie

My feelings are this: If you can't afford to spay/neuter your pet then you just plain don't need the pet. Obviously you won't be able to care for the pet if it gets sick and needs further medical care. Thus the reasons many of our shelter animals are there. A pet is a long term commitment. Obviously there are issues that are beyond our control and the pet may become a financial burden and end up in a shelter. However, having MSN can only be a good thing. Too many people wanting to "have a litter or two", or the best yet, "Tommy would like to see puppies/kittens born". Ugh!!!

Brent

Susie, this mentality is exactly what is broken with animal welfare. We need to quit basing our opinions on our "feelings" and base them on facts, real data, and case studies. Not how we feel. This is what is broken about your comment:

-- Supporting MSN because it "can only be a good thing" in spite of the clear evidence that that is not true and the lack of any credible groups that still support the idea.

-- Thinking that the joy of pet ownership is something only rich people should be entitled to

-- Not understanding that a large percentage of poor people have come about their pet because they are trying to do the right thing by keeping a pet out of a shelter

-- Thinking poor people shouldn't own pets and denying them pets, but instead, letting them get killed due to overcrowding in the shelter based on the notion of "what if" something bad were to happen.

-- Not understanding that spay/neuter is not something required for pet ownership, but something the animal welfare community prefers. So forcing someone to take on a $350 surgery for OUR benefit is not necessarily THEIR responsibility.

Broken, broken, broken.

EmilyS

and also, adding to Brent's response to Susie:
-- thinking that it is impossible to responsibly keep an intact animal and not contribute to the population of unwanted dogs...

Brent

Yes. That too. Dogs don't spontaneously combust into litters of puppies.

VeterinariesCho

Somehow spay/neuter needs to happen, either at a local level or through non-profit agencies. Take the cost that shelters and create a preventative measure that can be spread through various local channels. Somehow not one government agency has been able to take the lead and create a proposal to find a better solution than what exists now. http://www.veternarieschoice.com

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