House Pets, Shelter Animals Helped Through Spaying/Neutering Programs
Jun 01, 2017 02:25PM ● Published by Shari Berg
Spring is kitten and puppy season, and it can be hard to resist those tiny balls of fur. Spring is also the time of year when most animal shelters and rescue programs are flooded with homeless litters of both kittens and puppies. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6 to 8 million homeless animals enter shelters each year, with fewer than half of them being adopted.
Cats reach reproduction age as early as five months and are in heat multiple times during a calendar year. A cat’s pregnancy lasts between 64 and 67 days, with the possibility of becoming pregnant again just one week after giving birth.
Dogs can come into heat once every six months, with a canine pregnancy lasting between 58 and 65 days. Unlike cats, it is very unlikely for dogs to become pregnant again while nursing puppies, but they can go into heat again within three to four months of giving birth.
Spaying or neutering your pet is crucial to helping to control the current state of animal overpopulation in the U.S.
Carole Whaley, director of clinic services for Animal Friends of Pittsburgh, said the spaying and neutering message has been well received by owners who do not have to worry about accessibility in terms of finances or transportation. “These income-able individuals spay/neuter at a high rate,” she said. “However, the need in underserved communities is just now being addressed. The need in these communities is great and is the focus of our programs.”
To help raise awareness of the importance of spaying or neutering, Animal Friends has established the Animal Friends for Life program. Each week, individuals from the program work in underserved communities with pet owners and community cat caregivers, building relationships and offering spay/neuter and wellness programs, Whaley said.
In addition to preventing animal overpopulation, spaying and neutering also has health benefits for pets. Spaying helps to prevent uterine infections and breast cancer in 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Whaley added that it can also decrease aggression in some animals, the urge to “run away” and marking territory.
“One of the common misconceptions about spaying and neutering pets is that it will make them obese,” said Whaley. “Spaying or neutering your pet doesn’t make them obese. Lack of physical activity and/or poor diet leads to obesity.”
Pets must be at least two months of age, in good health and weigh more than two pounds in order to be considered viable candidates for spaying or neutering. Both Animal Friends and Humane Animal Rescue (formerly the Western PA Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League) aid pet owners who are financially unable to spay or neuter their pets.
Whaley said the mission of Animal Friends is to reduce the number of unwanted animals through aggressive spay/neuter programs and to offer affordable wellness services to pet owners in need. Animal Friends provides low-cost, high-quality services at its facility through participating veterinarians in southwestern PA, through its Mobile Resource Center, which serves 10 surrounding counties, and through its community outreach program, Animal Friends for Life, which targets pet owners on the North Side of Pittsburgh.
Jamie Wilson, director of medical business for Humane Animal Rescue, said that the organization provides reduced-cost spay and neuter programs for cats and dogs, reduced-cost spay and neuter programs for feral cats and reduced-cost services for its partner organizations. The organization also has Spay Day for felines every Sunday, which includes spay/neutering, rabies vaccination, FVRCP vaccine, nail trim and a microchip for $65. The organization also partners with the City of Pittsburgh’s spay/neuter program.
The community benefits on multiple levels when pet owners spay or neuter their pets, said Whaley. “The reduction in unwanted and abandoned pets allows communities to concentrate finances on other matters of importance. There will be fewer stray animals causing a nuisance, and animal resource centers can provide increased quality of care if population rates are kept under control.”