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Shelter Medicine: The Kindest Cut of All

Spaying and neutering young kittens and puppies

  • Veterinarians receive instruction on pediatric spay/neuter at a training lab. The National Spay/Neuter Training Center at the Humane Alliance in Asheville, N.C., offers year-round continuing education for veterinarians in pediatric spay/neuter. Brenda Griffin

Ask yourself: Which animals are most often adopted from your shelter? Then ask another question: Which animals are most likely to leave before they are spayed or neutered? For many shelters, unfortunately, the answer to both of these questions is the same: kittens and puppies.

According to a 2009 survey by PetSmart Charities, approximately one in three pet owners do not have their pets spayed or neutered in a timely fashion following adoption. Of those surveyed, 13 percent of dog owners and 19 percent of cat owners had allowed their pet to have a litter—usually unintentionally. Furthermore, the survey revealed that substantial confusion exists among pet owners regarding the appropriate age for spay/neuter.

When animal adoption organizations require neutering but fail to perform the surgery prior to placement, they inevitably end up adding to the number of litters born in their community. Even if a shelter has a 90 percent compliance rate for post-adoption spay/neuter, if one of their adopted dogs has a litter of 10 puppies, they’re right back where they started.

For these reasons, shelters should always strive for neuter-before-adoption for all cats and dogs, including those often-overlooked kittens and puppies as young as 6 weeks of age. When shelters meet the goal of 100 percent neuter-before-adoption, they can take pride in knowing they are setting an example of responsible pet ownership and are ensuring that their agency’s adopted pets will not reproduce!

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