Last week, in anticipation of Clear The Shelters, I began a series on the various and sundry reasons I’ve heard as to why pet owners resist the idea of spaying or neutering their pets. I also took great pains to explain that there are certain folks who are not the intended targets of my “why do you have an intact pet?” themed rants. As I’ve stated before, if your veterinarian feels your pet is not a candidate for surgery, or should not be spayed or neutered until it is more mature, you are off the hook. If you are a licensed, responsible breeder of health-tested, purpose-bred dogs, my gripe is not with you either.
And as I’ve said earlier, if you simply cannot afford to spay or neuter your pet, I am not calling you out either. On the contrary, I’ve put together a list of organizations that will spay or neuter your pet at a steeply discounted price, or perhaps even for free.
The reasons that make me fear for the sustainability of our shelter’s vaunted no-kill status are the ones I hear from pet owners on a regular basis. Most don’t come from a place of ignorance, or even stubbornness. Ironically, they come from a place of love, and of genuine concern. However in our zeal to treat pets as members of the family, we tend to forget that in many ways, they do not think like we do. This is manifested especially clearly in some of the reasons we give for not wanting to spay or neuter our pets. Let’s take a look at some of more of the reasons for spay/neuter resistance.
I could never deprive her of the experience of motherhood
For many humans parenthood is part of a life plan that begins percolating in childhood. It is widely assumed we will grow up to raise children, regardless of whether or not we ultimately choose that path. Because it is a societal expectation, we think about it. A lot. If and when it happens, the rearing of our children occupies a large percentage of our time, energy, identity, and resources. This is not the case with our pets.
Dogs and cats live in the here and now. The don’t ponder possibilities, think of what could be, or wonder what the future might hold. Parenthood, as we know it, is not seen by our pets as milestone or a goal. For them, it is simply a biological urge that results in the production of offspring. Eight weeks after the offspring arrive, they are shipped off to new homes and gone from their mother’s lives forever. And you know what? Everybody just carries on living their lives.
Having babies is not a magical or life-changing experience for cats and dogs. They do not look into the eyes of that special someone and wonder what their future children will look like. They don’t worry about who will care for them when they’re old, or fantasize about hordes of happy grandbabies. They live in the moment. They live without care. And let’s face it - isn’t that one of the reasons why we love them? We kind of want to be them! Your pet isn’t “missing out” on parenthood. She doesn’t know how to miss out. Perhaps that is the true definition of joy.
I just want him to sow his wild oats once
Just like our pets don’t think about the future, likewise they don’t think about the past. They live in a world devoid of a space-time continuum, and the oat-sowing experience will be promptly forgotten. But the consequence of that singular act is a litter of puppies or kittens that are likely to end up in a shelter. It’s hard for us humans to wrap our heads around this one, but honestly, our pets don’t care if they “die as a virgin.” As long as there are car rides and belly rubs and squirrels, he’s going to be a happy camper. To quote a pithy Facebook meme, the only balls he cares about are the ones he fetches. Seriously. Just neuter him.
I want my children to witness the miracle of birth
In the day and age of the internet there is no reason to use this as an excuse to breed an animal. YouTube is a treasure trove of birthing videos involving cats, dogs, livestock - even humans! And if the miracle of human birth is the lesson you’re after, a digital education should leave very few questions unanswered. Videos of women giving birth in hospitals, at home, in birthing pools and in nature are just a few easy clicks away. And unlike the real deal, you as a parent can pre-screen them all.
While the process of birth is natural - and yes, very cool - anyone who’s ever been in or near a birthing situation can tell you things sometimes go wrong. And when the unexpected happens, it often happens dramatically and quickly. Pets can die while giving birth. They may need an emergency c-section you cannot afford. She may bleed to death while you race to the vet’s office. The babies could be stillborn. Or the birth could go smoothly, only to have your pet refuse to care for her own babies. It is utterly heartbreaking to watch these things happen. Ask yourself if you really want your children to witness them as well.
I’ll make good money selling her puppies
How can I put this delicately?
Um. no. You won’t.
I have clients who literally laugh in the faces of people who say this in our lobby. They too, thought the same thing. They lost money, spayed the dog, and vowed never to breed a dog again. Remember the emergency c-section I mentioned? They’re complicated procedures which are not cheap. Your dog may need one of those. In order to be sold legally, each puppy must be vaccinated, dewormed and microchipped. And there is always the chance that one or more puppy will require extensive veterinary care.
Sure there are puppies and kittens being advertised online for thousands of dollars apiece. But those kinds of prices are fetched for animals with impeccable and well-documented bloodlines. They are bred by professionals who know what they’re doing. They often test their breeding stock for genetic markers that indicate a tendency towards breed-specific, inherited diseases. They are happy to provide you with references from people who have bought from them in the past, and by the way, they will likely want to “interview” you as well. They charge what their puppies and kittens are worth, and the money you pay a good breeder represents money you will probably not pay a vet. Even so, many of these diligent professionals barely break even. They do it for the love of the breed. The money is negligible at best. Please do not be fooled into thinking that breeding a cute pet with another cute pet is a viable source of income. Potential buyers will not want to pay for a pet without a documented history. You’re likely to end up giving them away, or surrendering them to a shelter in order to cut your losses.
I’m not from here. And where I come from, we don’t do that to animals.
I’m not from here either, so I can relate to this one. I love this country deeply. I chose to come here, but like many immigrants there are things about it I suspect I will never understand. However, what I do understand is that while I am not expected to lose my identity or surrender my culture, I am expected to assimilate.
Where I come from, we don’t “do that to animals” either. But part of being a responsible citizen of the country that welcomed me is being a responsible pet owner as well. That means all of us doing our part to keep unwanted pets from flooding our shelters and roaming our streets. It means stepping out of our comfort zones and looking beyond our cultures to do what is right for our animals. It means spaying and neutering the animals in our care. Period. It’s our adopted country’s societal expectation, and it’s in the best interest of our pets.
This country was kind enough to provide us with a home. Sadly, the same cannot be said for all of its animals. The no-kill status of the animal shelter in our adopted community will only be sustainable if we as individuals take responsibility for making it so.
And that responsibility begins at home.
Do you have a question for Dr. Kupkee?
Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic
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