A Long-Term “Solution”: The Many Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Pets

You have heard the calls. You scrolled through the images in your social media feeds. You’ve heard the sad music on the commercials. You’ve seen the local media coverage.

“We used to take 7-10 [animals] on a typical day… a few weeks ago, we welcomed 34 in one day. – Dr. Karen Sheppard

Litters like this out of 16 are left at the shelter each week, exceeding adoptions.

Animal shelters and rescue organizations across the United States have been operating in crisis mode for months due to an increase in the population of homeless pets, and Huntsville Animal Services is no exception. The good news is that there is a simple path to a solution: neutering and neutering your pets.

Small hits, big impacts

Huntsville Animal Services has seen a significant increase in their number of daily intakes.

“We used to take 7-10 [animals] a typical day,” said Dr. Karen Sheppard, director of the shelter. “Lately, it’s been common for us to take 25 or more in a single day. A few weeks ago, we welcomed 34 in one day.

While the need for adopters and foster homes is always there, another need exists that has a direct impact on the number of homeless animals in the city.

“We really need people to spay their pets,” Sheppard said.

A mother tabby cat nurses her two kittens and another orphan kitten.

A mother tabby cat nurses her two kittens and another orphan kitten at the shelter.

Neutering (for females) and castration (for males) is the surgical sterilization of an animal (commonly referred to as “repairing” a pet), and there are several benefits to doing so:

  • Sterilization prevents uterine infections and decreases the risk of breast tumors which can be cancerous.
  • Castration prevents testicular cancer and certain prostate problems.
  • Spaying decreases behaviors such as meowing in heat, urinating in inappropriate places, and wandering away from home.
  • Early neutering can also decrease aggression in males.

“A lot of people think neutering causes personality changes in pets, but that’s just not true,” Sheppard said. “They might have better manners, but they’re not going to completely change their personality. Playful puppies won’t suddenly turn into depressed dogs and curious cats won’t turn into wayward wrecks just because they’re spayed or neutered.

Low-cost options

A fawn mother dog stands while she nurses several puppies.

The shelter is a stressful place to feed and care for puppies.

If the health benefits for your pet or the reduction in the number of homeless animals in shelters aren’t enough to overcome the thought of paying for minor elective surgery, consider the basics. The cost of neutering your pet is far less than the cost (in time and money) of maintaining a litter. Plus, consider that every litter dropped off at Huntsville Animal Services becomes a matter of time and money for the shelter and, ultimately, taxpayers.

If the cost of repairing your pet is prohibitive, there are several ways to get spayed inexpensively, based on income. Huntsville pet owners who receive state or federally subsidized assistance or have an adjusted gross annual income of $35,000 or less are eligible for the Fixin’ Alabama Spay/Neuter program.

Owners of eligible pets can visit Huntsville Animal Services at 4950 Triana Blvd. SW, show proof of eligibility (eg Medicaid, disability, EBT, WIC, tax documents) and get a voucher. They can then contact one of the participating veterinary offices and schedule the sterilization and hand in the voucher. This also entitles the pet owner to a free lifetime license for the newly neutered pet.

Spay/Neuter Action Project (SNAP) also assists with low-cost neutering and neutering for low-income pet owners in Madison County.

Anyone interested in adopting a neutered or spayed animal should visit Huntsville Animal Services. All animals in their care are secured before adoptions are finalized. It’s one less worry for new owners and a lifetime of benefits for pets, while ultimately reducing the number of homeless pets in our community.

Visit the Huntsville Animal Services website to learn more and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Jennifer R. Strohm