The Spay/Neuter Initiative Program, or SNIP, will aim to educate and raise awareness of the need for pet owners to alter their pets. The effort will involve messages delivered through the mass media, social media, both organization’s websites (cosatx.us and conchovalleypaws.org), and SATV, the City’s government access channel on Suddenlink channel 17.
“Sadly, thousands of healthy animals are destroyed every year in our local shelter,” said Jenie Wilson, executive director of PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving). “It’s our hope this initiative will help our community understand the link between indiscriminate breeding and our pet overpopulation. It will also make our community aware of some of the available spay/neuter assistance programs so cost will not be a barrier.”
Of the 9,125 cats and dogs that entered the City’s animal shelter last year, 6,838 – or 76 percent – were euthanized.
“Essentially, we’re looking to change the local culture,” City Public Information Officer Anthony Wilson said. “San Angelo has proven we can do that. We’ve dramatically reduced water usage by raising awareness through a steady drumbeat of water conservation messages. Once pet owners fully understand the end consequences of failing to alter their pets – and the benefits of spay/neuter – we’re convinced we will dramatically reduce the number of unwanted animals that are put down each year.”
For pet owners who believe spay/neuter is too expensive, PAWS offers a low-cost spay/neuter voucher program. Vouchers for cats and dogs are sold the first Saturday of each month for $25 and $50, respectively.
PAWS will augment those sales in February by aiming to distribute 100 spay/neuter vouchers for dogs at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 at its adoption center inside Sunset Mall. The $10 vouchers will be handed out first-come, first-served. Specific veterinarians will honor those vouchers Feb. 24-27. Dogs must be owned, weigh less than 50 pounds and cannot be in heat.
PAWS also offers free spay/neuter vouchers for low-income families and for pit bulls, Chihuahuas and mixes of those breeds. Pit bulls and Chihuahuas are easily the two most prevalent breeds at the animal shelter.
“For any pet owner who thinks spay/neuter is too expensive, it’s important to remember it’s a one-time cost that pales in comparison to the total cost of caring for a pet – feeding, veterinary care, kenneling, grooming – over its lifespan,” Jenie Wilson said.
- Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life.
Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, which is fatal in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Neutering also eliminates the risk of testicular cancer in male dogs, which is common. It also decreases the risk of anal cancer.
- Your spayed female won't go into heat.
Female cats usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. While in heat, female cats will yowl and urinate more frequently.
- Your male dog won't want to roam from home.
An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate, including digging under the fence or jumping over it. While roaming, he’s at risk for getting into fights with other animals or getting struck by a vehicle. Approximately 85 percent of companion animals hit by cars are not fixed.
- Neutered pets will behave better.
Neutered cats and dogs focus their attention on their human families. Unneutered dogs and cats are known to mark their territory by spraying urine. Aggression issues also can be avoided by neutering early.
- Spaying and neutering fights pet overpopulation.
Every year, millions of cats and dogs are euthanized or endure suffering as strays, the result of high of unplanned litters that could have been prevented.
- Spay/neuter saves taxpayer dollars.
USA Today estimates U.S. taxpayers shell out $2 billion a year to impound, shelter, euthanize and dispose of homeless animals.
MYTH: Altering a pet is unnatural and/or a sin.
TRUTH: Sterilizing a pet is neither unnatural nor does it violate any religious tenet. No less of an authority than Bishop Michael Sis of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo preaches that point. “It is not a sin to sterilize a pet,” says Bishop Sis, whose father was a veterinarian. “Sterilizing cats and dogs is a good and loving decision. In the Book of Genesis, when God created human beings, he gave them dominion over all the animals. He made humans stewards of the natural world. The decision to spay or neuter a cat or dog is an act of careful stewardship of the animals that God has entrusted to us. It reduces the number of stray animals on the streets who end up getting euthanized in shelters.”
MYTH: Every animal should have one litter.
TRUTH: Pets that never sexually mature are healthier.
MYTH: I don’t allow my pet outside or around other pets, so he/she can’t get pregnant or impregnate another animal.
TRUTH: Unaltered pets can dig out or jump fences to satisfy their instinctual need to procreate. A male dog can smell a female in heat from three miles away, while a male cat can smell a female cat in heat a mile away.
MYTH: Neutering my dog or cat will make him feel like less of a male.
TRUTH: Pets do not have any concept of sexual identity or ego.
MYTH: My pet is a purebred and shouldn’t be spayed or neutered.
TRUTH: Twenty-five percent of all animals in shelter are purebred; allowing your pet – mixed breed or not – to breed contributes to the problem of companion animal overpopulation. About half of all animals entering shelters nationwide are euthanized for lack of space. The number in San Angelo is closer to 75 percent.
MYTH: I can’t afford to have my pet spayed or neutered.
TRUTH: Concho Valley PAWS and the City of San Angelo both have low-cost or free spay/neuter vouchers for low-income families. PAWS also once a month provides vouchers ($50 for dogs, $25 for cats) for pet owners regardless of income.
MYTH: My pet is too old or too young to be spayed or neutered.
TRUTH: Dogs and cats can become pregnant long before they are a year old. Senior pets also can get pregnant, and giving birth at an advanced age can be deadly.
MYTH: Spaying or neutering one dog or cat won’t make a dent in overpopulation.
TRUTH: A female cat and her offspring theoretically can biologically produce 420,000 cats in seven years. A female dog and its offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in six years.
MYTH: I always find loving homes for my pets’ litters, so I am not contributing to the problem.
TRUTH: For every home you find for your pet, one less animal will be adopted from a rescue or kill shelter.
MYTH: I want my children to witness the miracle of birth.
TRUTH: Allowing your pet to breed despite animal overpopulation and the suffering it causes teaches your child irresponsibility and a low value for life.
Spay/neuter key to preventing unwanted animals
San Angelo has a pet overpopulation problem.
More precisely, San Angelo has a cultural problem regarding pet ownership.
Since January 2014, 10,441 animals – almost all of which were dogs and cats – have entered the City’s Animal Shelter. Of those, 7,835 – a whopping 75 percent – were euthanized.
While some of those animals were put down because they were feral and/or diseased, it’s no exaggeration to say the vast majority of those deaths could have been avoided had pet owners spayed or neutered their dogs and cats to prevent unwanted litters.
While the Animal Shelter’s new leadership has made strides in reducing the facility’s kill rate, it’s akin to the Little Dutch Boy sticking his finger into the hole of the dyke. Our dyke continues to spring leaks … and we’re running out of fingers!
A few months ago, the City of San Angelo launched a campaign with Concho Valley PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) called SNIP – short for the Spay/Neuter Initiative Program. SNIP is meant to raise awareness of the benefits of sterilizing a pet and of the resources PAWS offers for owners who don’t believe they can afford the procedure.
Go to cosatx.us/SNIP and you’ll find such interesting tidbits as:
- Spaying prevents breast cancer, which is fatal in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, which is common in dogs.
- Neutered dogs won’t roam from home in search of a mate. About 85 percent of companion animals hit by cars are not fixed.
- Neutered pets behave better, focusing their attentions on their human families.
- A female cat and her offspring theoretically can produce 420,000 cats in seven years. A female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in six years.
- Sterilizing a pet is neither unnatural nor does it violate any religious tenet. No less of an authority than Bishop Michael Sis of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo preaches that point.
“It is not a sin to sterilize a pet,” says Bishop Sis, whose father was a veterinarian. “Sterilizing cats and dogs is a good and loving decision. In the Book of Genesis, when God created human beings, he gave them dominion over all the animals. He made humans stewards of the natural world. The decision to spay or neuter a cat or dog is an act of careful stewardship of the animals that God has entrusted to us. It reduces the number of stray animals on the streets who end up getting euthanized in shelters.”
- PAWS offers low- to no-cost spay/neuter vouchers for low-income families.
Cost is often raised as a chief barrier to altering a pet. But pet owners should weigh the one-time cost of the procedure against the total expense of feeding, veterinary care, medicating, grooming and kenneling over a pet’s lifespan.
If spay/neuter seems too expensive, perhaps the responsibility of pet ownership isn’t for you.
SNIP’s tagline notes that altering a pet is the “SNIP that saves. Money. Time. And lives.” San Angelo taxpayers invest nearly $1 million annually, including untold man-hours of their public servants, caring for unwanted pets and operating the shelter. Imagine the additional good that could be done in our community with those resources by dramatically reducing San Angelo’s pet overpopulation.
We understand SNIP’s message will take time to take hold. Changing attitudes and a local culture requires patience and an unrelenting drumbeat of a message.
In the meantime, there’s a growing interest to nudge pet owners to a greater sense of responsibility and accountability.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff at the Council’s July 7 meeting expressed an interest in exploring a city ordinance that would require that pets be spayed or neutered. There would be exceptions, of course, including for those who hold a city breeding license, which is required for anyone who sells puppies and kittens.
While we are still researching what such a regulation would entail and how it would work, mandatory spay/neuter ordinances are a tool other communities have used to combat pet overpopulation.
In short, San Angelo’s Animal Shelter and its rescue groups cannot address – nor fix – the community’s pet overpopulation. We need the public’s help; we need more responsible pet ownership.
It’s time San Angelo did right by its pets and the community by stemming the proliferation of unwanted animals.