Spaying, neutering important steps for responsible owners

Posted: Monday, April 22, 2002

About 40 years ago, a woman by the name of Ethel Christensen found a box of discarded puppies on her way to work and decided to take them to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. But there wasn't one.

There are those people in this world who are complainers and those who see something wrong and set about to do something to fix it. Fortunately, Christensen was the latter, and every animal in Alaska has benefited from her efforts since that day.

Still at the helm, unpaid for 40 years, and working constantly, she has seen the Alaska SPCA grow from a spay clinic in a school bus to a successful nonprofit organization that now includes a full time spay-neuter clinic, a holistic pet food store with a reference library, the only pet cemetery in the state, a no-kill animal shelter and, most recently, the mobile spay-neuter veterinary clinic and education awareness center. And she's done it all supported entirely through private donations and the proceeds of a thrift shop.

When I first went to work for the Alaska SPCA almost 25 years ago, we were killing approximately 1,200 animals a month at the animal control shelter. The figures are closer to 300 a month now.

Soldotna Animal Control reports its numbers are down from last year and credits the SPCA clinic for much of that decline. Spaying and neutering works, plain and simple.

More than 72,000 animals have been sterilized at the Anchorage clinic and 4,000 more in the mobile clinic.

The mobile clinic is completely self-contained and able to travel to anywhere in the state when requested, providing low-cost surgeries and vaccinations to communities where such services are not available. It is starting its third year in Sterling this summer.

The statistics are staggering: 80 percent of animals in shelters put to death, countless others dying of abuse, starvation and neglect; 10 million a year euthanized in this country alone, and still people allow their pets to produce more and more, as if the country somehow is in danger of running out.

The excuses are endless. Some fear their pet will get fat. Let's face it, pets become fat for the same reasons their owners get fat -- we eat too much and don't exercise.

Some think all females should have one litter.

Some think animals need sex. Dogs and cats have no psychological sex drive and don't feel the need to reproduce.

Some parents want their kids to experience the "miracle of birth." In the process, they are teaching that animals can be created and discarded by us.

Others fear that surgery will prevent their animals from becoming protective. Spaying or neutering has no effect on anything but sexual behavior. If your dog was protective before surgery, count on it to continue after.

Still others want a pet "just like the parent." Professional breeders following years of bloodlines can't guarantee they will get just what they want out of a particular litter.

There also are those who refuse to sterilize their purebreds. Fully one-fourth of animals in shelters are purebreds. They are as unwanted as the rest. A mutt loves you just as much, and you never have to worry that someone else has a dog or cat that looks like yours.

Having AKC papers is no indication as to dog quality. There are a lot of dogs running around with AKC registrations that are not show ring or breeding quality.

The most often-heard rationalization is "We found good homes for all the puppies." Terrific! Now how can you be sure your puppies won't grow up and create more?

Even if you do find homes, those are homes that will no longer be available for any of the million or so already born. I suggest to people that they take a trip to local animal shelters a year after that litter is gone. See that scared little body and those big brown eyes behind that chain-link fence? Are you sure you couldn't possibly have anything to do with that animal being there?

The excuse that spaying and neutering is too expensive is no longer valid since the mobile clinic is available on the Kenai Peninsula. With coupons, the surgery prices this summer are lower than ever. Female dogs cost $50, male dogs and female cats are $36 and male cats are $10.

Coupons can be obtained by anyone by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Friends of Pets, Box 240981, Anchorage, AK 99524. They are accepted at the mobile unit as cash.

The Alaska SPCA (and the person writing this) are not associated with any local SPCA, nor do we have any affiliation with them. My focus is providing low-cost sterilization services on the peninsula.

Surgeries for the Sterling clinics and can be scheduled by calling 262-1624. The first clinic of the summer begins May 6.

The Alaska SPCA thanks the hundreds of responsible pet owners who have used the clinics in Sterling, Nikiski, Anchor Point, Ninilchik, Homer and other places on the Kenai.

We encourage all pet owners to do their part to curb what already is an out-of-control animal overpopulation problem in this area. There is a better way: prevention not destruction.

Nancy Wall is a Alaska SPCA volunteer who lives in Sterling.

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