Published: Mar 04, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Mar 03, 2012 04:27 PM
Keep pets sterilized
The folks who run the Orange County Animal Shelter love animals, but the fewer dogs and cats they see, the happier they are.And these days, thanks in part to the county's ambitious campaign to increase the rate of spaying and neutering, that's what's happening.The number of animals coming into the shelter every year has been falling in recent years.Last year the shelter took in 3,396 animals. That's more than 200 fewer than the year before that, and almost 1,000 fewer than annual average from 2005 to 2009.The number of animals euthanized has fallen too, by more than 500 from the 2005-09 annual average.That's a terrific - and, according to state public health veterinarian Dr. Lee Hunter, unusual - trend, especially in difficult economic times, when low-income families sometimes find the going so tough they can't afford to keep caring for their pets.The county's aggressive sterilization program - actually programs; the animal services department attacks pet overpopulation on several fronts - is geared toward that demographic.One of the approaches involves participation in what's called "The $20 Fix," which offers social services clients and other low-income pet owners spay or neuter services for just $20 (as opposed to the $100 or more the procedure generally costs).The $20 Fix has made a real difference. But for some families, even $20 stretches the thin budget. So Orange County, alone among the five participating counties, takes it a step further. Here, for qualifying pet owners, the county picks up even the $20 tab.That has allowed the spay/neuter program to expand still further.The pet sterilization efforts are part of a five-year strategic plan the Orange County Animal Services Department has established. Hunter said that kind of long-range planning and the county's energetic approach to reducing the number of unwanted animals are models for what other communities ought to be doing.Animal Services Director Bob Marotto hopes to continue to increase the number of spays and neuters, and to continue the corresponding decrease in intakes and euthanasias.Helping people of limited means afford the procedures is only a part of the solution. Another key component is education - making unmistakably clear to people how important it is to sterilize their pets, and defusing myths about spaying and neutering.In other cases, people just don't understand the magnitude of pet overpopulation or the consequences of failing to spay or neuter.Every day some 10,000 people are born in the United States - and so are 70,000 puppies and kittens. Millions of those animals wind up uncared for and bound for the lethal injection of euthanasia - the leading cause of death for dogs and cats in the U.S. Aside from that suffering, wild dogs and feral cats are health hazards and are devastating to populations of songbirds and other wildlife.And if you're tempted to think that one or two un-sterilized pets couldn't be that much of a problem, consider this, from the Humane Society: In six years, one female dog and her offspring can produce as many as 67,000 puppies. And cats? In seven years, a single female can turn into an astounding 420,000 cats.
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