Remy (from ASH animal rescue), Claire Byrne (the Newstalk 106 presenter) and myself work in different walks of life. There is one belief that unites us: that Ireland’s stray dog problem is dealt with in an unacceptable manner – by mass euthanasia in dog pounds. This week, we’re working together to promote Spay Week Ireland 2009, the annual neutering awareness week. We’re trying to persuade all pet owners to have their pets spayed and neutered, to reduce the excess numbers of dogs and cats that are born in Ireland.
Over ten thousand healthy dogs are killed every year in local authority dog pounds. Many of these dogs could make good pets if they could find the right homes, but the problem is that the number of homes is limited. The surplus dogs can’t live out their lives in dog pounds, at the tax payer’s expense, so the easy option is taken: they are euthanased.
The most frustrating aspect of this sad story is that the problem could easily be solved. If all dog owners made it their personal responsibility to spay and neuter their pets, within a twelve month period the number of unwanted dogs would plummet, and the stray dog problem would be over.
Unfortunately, many people refuse to have their pets neutered. Remy, through his work at ASH Animal Rescue, regularly collects unwanted puppies from people who cannot keep them. These people allow their pet dogs to produce litters of ten or more puppies, then they phone Remy and ask him to find homes for them. Remy obliges, and the owners promise that it won’t happen again. Of course they’ll get their pet spayed. Then a year later, they call Remy again, with another litter of unwanted pups. This happens year after year. It’s as if they just aren’t listening.
When questioned, people have different excuses for not having their pets spayed or neutered:
“Neutering will change my pet for the worse”. This is nonsense. Neutered males and spayed females are exactly the same animals, with precisely the same characters that they had before the operation.
“Neutering will make my pet fat”. This is also rubbish. Like humans, animals only get fat if they have too much food, and not enough exercise. Any pet will remain fit and trim if care is given to these aspects of pet care.
“It is good for her to have one litter”. This is totally false. There is absolutely no benefit whatsoever to a bitch from having a litter. She is the same animal after having pups as beforehand.
“Neutering costs too much”. Whilst it’s true that it can be expensive to have a bitch spayed, this should be put into a budget when you take on a dog, along with feeding costs and other vets’ bills. If anyone has genuine difficulties with affording the operation, there are many different charities that are able to contribute to the costs. Ask your local vet if you want to find out the different options in your own area.
The positive aspects of spay/neutering are conveniently forgotten by people who refuse to have the operation done on their pets. Health benefits include reducing cancer, and directly prolonging pet’s lives. Did you know that, on average, a bitch lives for two years longer if she is neutered when young? There are some behaviour benefits too – male dogs and cats are much less aggressive to other animals once they’ve been neutered.
Spaying and neutering should be the natural choice for all Irish pet owners: have you had yours done yet?
? Over ten thousand dogs are killed in Irish dogs pounds every year
? This problem would be solved if owners had their pets spayed early in life
? To learn more about Spayweek, visit www.spayweekireland.ie.