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Influence Positively Questionnaire - Carol Bryant

Why we need to advocate for spay/neuter programs

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Last Saturday, Emmett and I worked the humane association booth at our county fair. The goal for the event is answer questions about pets and animal welfare. The booth includes posters about animal abuse, dog fighting, bite prevention, adoption, and spaying and neutering - topics that I sort of, somehow take for granted.

For instance, in my mind, of course you get your pet spayed and neutered. Obviously, right? Our shelters are bursting at the seams; animals are put down for no reason other than lack of space; stray cats and dogs roam rural and urban streets. So, yes. Of course we spay and neuter our pets.

Right?

A woman approached the booth with three young daughters. “I have a question for you,” she said. “I think I need to get my cat spayed. I didn’t think she’d get pregnant. But last night she showed up with a kitten in her mouth.”

I talked to the woman for a few minutes. Turns out, she didn’t realize that her outdoor cat was pregnant until she gave birth to a litter of kittens - only two survived - and now the woman needed to know what to do with the kittens and if she still could get her cat spayed.

I wanted to lecture her (I mean, come on? She didn’t think her unspayed outdoor cat would get pregnant? She didn’t notice that her cat was pregnant? Seriously?). But then I looked at the girls surrounding their mother. They shuffled their feet, waiting for their mom so that they could get back to enjoying the fair. When I answer the woman’s question, I tried to address those girls instead.

“While your cat is nursing, bring them all inside. Once they’re weaned, if you can’t find a good home for the kittens, it’s better to take them to the shelter than to let them fend for themselves outside. As for your cat, any unspayed cat can get pregnant - especially outdoor cats who are free to roam.” I smiled at the little girls while I handed the woman a brochure for the low-cost spay and neuter clinic. After they left, I hoped that those girls will remember our conversation, at least a little. As for the woman and her cat, I’ll know if she brings her in - I volunteer at the clinic, and I’m great with faces!

But the whole conversation drove home a really important point: We can’t take anything, no matter how seemingly basic, for granted. Those of us who are involved in animal welfare, whether it’s as a volunteer, as a blogger, or as a responsible pet owner out for a walk, need to be mindful of the fact that some of the things we sort of overlook - well, of course we spay and neuter our pets - may not be second nature to someone else.

Pet overpopulation is the root of so many animal-welfare issues. According to the Humane Society, four million animals are euthanized in shelters each year – that’s about half of the total number of animals that enter shelters. So what can you, the pet-savvy reader of Grouchy Puppy, do?

Start by being a cheerleader for spaying and neutering. True, most people don’t like unsolicited advice, but whenever the opportunity arises, sing the praises of getting animals fixed!

Consider volunteering for a low-cost or free clinic. Your local shelter or vet’s office might offer a clinic or use a locator to find one nearby. And you don’t have to be a vet to help at a clinic! When I volunteer, my job is to fill out the person’s data on a slip of paper. Simple!

If you’d rather make a donation, there are nonprofits that sponsor the surgeries for low-income families, specific breeds, targeted demographics, etc. To find one that you would like to contribute to, Google a phrase that includes the type of program you’d like to support. For example, I Googled “free spay and neuter + pit bull + Indiana” and came up with Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana, Inc.

By spaying and neutering our pets - and helping others to do the same - we can make a huge impact in the overall well-being of our companion animals.

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