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A happier, healthier pet

March 24, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

As a board member and active volunteer of the Randolph County Humane Society for the past year and a half, it has become clear to me that spaying and neutering our pets is the most effective way to save the lives and reduce the suffering of companion animals in our community and all over the world.

According to Theresa Bruner, vice president of the Federation of Humane Organizations (FOHO) and executive director of FOHO WV LA INC., 67 percent of West Virginia households own pets. A 2009 survey shows that 54 percent of all animals entering West Virginia shelters are euthanized because there are not enough homes for them. Some counties have rates as high as 70 percent. The Randolph County Humane Society is the lowest kill shelter in the state, with an euthanasia rate of less than 10 percent. We are fortunate that Kelly Scheidegger, RCHS shelter manager, has established long standing and trusting relationships with various rescue programs and sanctuaries in the eastern part of the country, which has allowed many of our animals to be transported to other states where communities have successful spay and neuter programs and loving families waiting to adopt them. These programs are quite competitive and it is due to Kelly's dedication to these programs and her ability to provide consistent and reliable services that we are able to enjoy a higher than normal adoption rate. This life-line has been critical to RCHS operations. My fellow board members and RCHS volunteers applaud Kelly's hard work and the great success of these programs.

Spaying and neutering our pets is the only solution to the problem of abandoned, homeless animals and the ugly reality of euthanasia. The Randolph County Humane Society advocates for the spaying and neutering of all pets and either has their animals altered before they leave the shelter or the adoptive families sign a written agreement to have the animals spayed or neutered within 30 days of adoption (Article 19-20B-2, WV Animal Welfare Law). We need a voucher program to provide spay/neuter assistance to low-income families, but RCHS cannot afford to fund such a program, out of pocket. We continue to seek funding through grant writing, donations, fundraisers and by supporting lobbying for spay/neuter legislation. Last month, the FOHO WV Legislative Action did manage to win a commitment from the Legislature of $50,000 to be distributed throughout the state. This is just a drop in the bucket of what is needed, but it is a start, and FOHO WVLA will keep trying. Please consider donating to the RCHS spay/neuter fund; earmark your check and send it to: RCHS, P.O. Box 785, Elkins, WV. If you have not yet spayed or neutered your pets, do the responsible thing and become part of the solution. Call your veterinarian today and make that appointment. Your four-footed companions will thank you by living safer, longer, healthier and happier lives.

Some statistics:

Nationwide, an estimated 67 million dogs and about 83 million cats are owned in the United States (Source: Pet Food Institute).

Approximately 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters every year. Only 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered.

Approximately 61 percent of all dogs and 75 percent of all cats entering shelters are euthanized (ASPCA 2010).

For every human born, 7 puppies and kittens are born.

One female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years. One female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years.

There are simply many more animals being born than there are good permanent homes.

Spayed or neutered animals are unable to reproduce and they benefit from the procedures in many additional ways. They typically live much longer, healthier and happier lives.

Myths about Spaying and Neutering:

Myth: It's better to have one litter before spaying a female pet.

Fact: Medical evidence indicates otherwise. Females spayed before their first heats are typically healthier. Younger animals better tolerate surgery, and many veterinarians now sterilize dogs and cats as young as 8 weeks of age. The sooner they are spayed, the sooner unwanted litters are prevented and the quicker the health benefits will begin.

Myth: I want my children to experience the miracle of birth.

Fact: The miracle of birth is overshadowed by the thousands of animals euthanized all across the country. Witnessing the birth of puppies or kittens could be a traumatic experience for a child. Better to teach your children that all life is precious by spaying and neutering your pets.

Myth: But my pet is purebred.

Fact: So is at least one out of every four pets brought to animal shelters around the country.

Myth: I don't want my male dog or cat to feel less of a male; my female's emotional state will be harmed if she doesn't experience her first heat cycle.

Fact: Pets do not have any concept of sexual identity or ego. Neutering or spaying will not change a pet's basic personality.

Myth: I want my dog to be protective. Neutering may negatively change my male's personality.

Fact: It is a dog's natural instinct to protect home and family. A dog's personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by sex hormones.

Myth: I can keep my male from roaming and my in-season female away from males without putting them through surgery.

Fact: Males and females alike become obsessed with mating when the female is in season and will persist in all sorts of ways to get together, even over and through fences. Intact male dogs and cats can travel miles if they sense a female in heat.

Myth: It's expensive to have my pet spayed or neutered.

Fact: The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is much less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year, and certainly less than the possible cost of medical bills due to the consequences of not spaying or neutering your pet.

Reproductive Statistics:

The first heat cycle in cats and dogs is at approximately 7 8 months of age

Female dogs come into heat 2-3 times a year

A female dog is in heat for approximately 3 weeks

Female cats come into heat at irregular intervals, usually more often during the spring and summer.

Female cats may not go out of heat until they are bred.

Benefits of spaying female dogs and cats:

Reduced chance of mammary cancer in female dogs. Spaying a female dog prior to the first heat cycle reduces the risk of mammary cancer by nearly 100 percent. Female dogs allowed to experience just two heat cycles before being spayed have a 25 percent greater chance of developing mammary cancer.

Eliminates the risk of uterine infections. Senior intact females are at great risk for developing fatal bacterial uterine infections that require emergency surgery for treatment.

Benefits of neutering male dogs and cats:

Reduces the risk of prostate disease. Neutering greatly decreases the chance of prostate enlargement which is often related to testosterone and is a common problem of older intact dogs.

Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.

Reduces the chance of hernia.

Decreases spraying.

Decreased hormone levels decrease unwanted and aggressive behavior. Neutering can help increase a pet's attention span and focus, making a pet more responsive to training. Neutered dogs often display more affection for their owners, as they are no longer interested in wandering in the search of and fighting for females in heat.



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