Animal shelters take in an estimated 6 to 8 million cats and dogs every year in
the United States, but only about half make it out alive. Nearly 3 million animals are euthanized per year due to pet over-population. Healthy, adoptable animals are destroyed because animal shelters become overcrowded
and pet owners allow their animals to reproduce with little or no chance of finding homes for the offspring.
How do we solve the problem?
Research tells us that most people don’t understand the scope of pet
homelessness, and Garland County Humane Society President Ivy Wood said that one of the biggest contributing factors to pet overpopulation is a lack of
education about spaying and neutering their pets.
“So many people think that you spay and neuter just to keep them from over- populating, and they need to understand that it also affects the health of the animal,” she said. “Males that are not neutered are very likely to get testicular cancer, and female dogs and cats are very likely to get mammary tumors or ovarian cancer if they’re not spayed. People need to know that it also can make their pet calmer, gentler, not want to wander and run off.”
Wood said that cats can have three litters per year, with four to six kittens per
litter, and dogs can have two litters per year.
“I think that something people don’t understand here is that there are actually people that will come and get these breed puppies and use them as bait dogs for fighting rings. I know there’s people that, if they knew that, would not want
to give their puppies away, but they think, ‘Well, we don’t have the money to get the spay or neuter,’ and if they would just call us we can help arrange for the cost and sometimes even a full payment in certain cases,” she added.
Pet overpopulation in the United States is worse in some states than in others, Wood said, because some states have stricter laws about spaying or neutering pets. “Arkansas is not like that and they need some better laws,” she said.
Most people aren’t aware of the low-cost spay/neuter services or that pets can be fixed as early as four months of age.
“Shelter puppies often get spayed and neutered just a little bit early due to the fact that people want to bond with the dog, and it’s not legal for us to adopt them out without them being spayed or neutered,” Wood said.
For an $80 adoption fee at the GCHS, Wood said they ensure your new furry friend is sent home with a full medical record, has been spayed or neutered, checked for heart worms, has had all of its shots and has been given a complete
“With our adoption fee, that doesn’t even come close to covering the cost of the medical that we’ve done on that animal,” she said.
Due to the lack of laws in this area, Arkansas has a problem with puppy mills and breeders that do not take good care of their dogs. Because of this, shelter
dogs tend to be healthier.
“Even though you’re getting papers and everything (from a breeder), you don’t really always know what you’re getting if it’s not a breeder that will let you look their whole facility over. Some of the dogs are being bred in really poor conditions,” Wood said. “The only way that those puppy mills are going to go away is if people will quit buying from those breeders.”
When you adopt a pet, you’re helping to make room for more pets at shelters and rescue groups, giving other homeless pets a better chance of finding a home.
GCHS partners with a shelter in California, whose strong spay and neuter laws mean that they don’t have as many accidental puppies.
“We have sent dozens of puppies to California in the last few months,” Wood said. “They’re wanting puppies, so we send puppies to them and we send pictures and then the puppies get a transport out and by the time they arrive, the pictures have been on the website and people have already started posting applications and lining up to adopt them.
“It gets them out of Arkansas. Especially hounds and breeds that are so
mistreated in Arkansas. They don’t hunt them in that area; they use them as dogs to hike with and for companions.”