Should you spay/neuter?

looking into the debate on pet sterilization

Kaitlyn Heisick

Former animal control officer Amy Peck and a few kitty rescues.
Former animal control officer Amy Peck and a few kitty rescues.

At some point, every pet owner will have to face a serious question: cat person or dog person? But once you’ve made your choice, there’s another essential decision: to spay or not to spay? Information on neutering animals – cats, dogs, rabbits, what-have-you – is everywhere. Even Bob Barker closed every episode of The Price is Right reminding us to spay and neuter our pets. Well we’ve made it easier for you by gathering the information to help you make the best decision for your fuzzy bundle of joy.

 Spaying and neutering, also called fixing, are procedures to sterilize your animal. Spaying removes the ovaries and uterus of a female, and neutering removes the testicles of a male, preventing them from having little puppies, kitties, bunnies, what-have-you.

So why neuter? Pet owners who live in the city, or areas heavily populated with pets, will likely want to fix their furry friend. Not only will this keep Rover from constantly trying to find the mother of his future puppies, but it will also decrease other frustrating behaviors, like spraying and aggressiveness. The ASPCA also notes a decreased risk of breast cancer and uterine infections in female pets.

Unwanted or accidental litters can also fill up shelters and animal hospitals. Even owners who breed responsibly often cannot find enough homes for a full litter. According to the American Humane Association, nearly 3.7 million animals are euthanized per year due to overcrowding from abandoned pets. 

Pets who don’t make it into shelters are often left on the street. Amy Peck, a former animal control officer for Eau Claire, saw pet overpopulation firsthand. She says pet owners, especially college students, would often abandon their unfixed pet during a move, making more generations of strays. And it’s a cyclical, domino-effect kind of thing.

But not all people decide to fix their pet. Owners choose not to neuter for cost reasons or to keep their animal “natural.” It’s kind of becoming a movement even, and not just among hippies. As sustainability buzzwords become more caché, more people are considering going all natural in their lifestyle – pets included. Paula Luer, certified veterinary technician at Westgate Animal Hospital, says owners may want their children to see birth or experience babies. Others believe they can keep their animals under control.

“Some say, ‘Oh I can keep her away from the males,’ ” Luer says. “That’s not always the case.”

The choice is up to each individual owner, but the decision isn’t just about the health of your pet. It can affect neighborhood pets and their owners, too. The cost of fixing your dog is probably much less than the cost of finding homes for puppies or installing electric fencing. But it’s entirely your decision. Whether you want to be an all-natural Captain Planet or please Bob Barker. The choice is yours.

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