While tending the Gazette-Mail Pets Web site, I was astounded by the response to a recent poll: "Do you believe we should have mandatory spay/neuter laws in West Virginia?"
The question seemed a no-brainer. People who visited a pet-oriented Web site would surely understand the need to fix their pets. But nearly 3,000 responders voted No.
Over the past several years, I've become more aware of the plight of animals in our area. The stories I hear about unethical breeders and negligent owners have brought me to tears many times. I'm stunned by the number of animals put down each year when homes can't be found.
I've read about states enacting mandatory spay/neuter laws and thought, That's what we need! How could anyone oppose such a logical solution?
But some people claim altering their animal changes their pet's look (for instance, male Rottweilers neutered before six months tend not to have the big head male Rotts are known for). Others who have paid a hefty price for a full breed plan to sell the offspring to help recoup the cost. But whatever the reason - regardless of whether or not it's self-serving - the problem of mass euthanizations is undeniable, and solutions have to be found.
Puppy mills, backyard breeders and legitimate breeders continue pumping out puppies and kittens by the thousands while an even greater number of pups and kittens (many of them thoroughbreds) are being euthanized in our shelters. At the same time, owners are allowing intact animals to roam and indiscriminately breed, thus producing even more unwanted puppies and kittens.
According to an article by the Best Friends Animal Society, "Eighty percent of the pet overpopulation problem is caused by 3 percent of pet owners, many of whom are low income." Even if that statistic is off, it still highlights a good place to start. A big way to control the pet overpopulation crisis is to make spaying and neutering accessible and affordable.
Overpopulation and euthanasia should not be a concern limited to pet owners and animal lovers, but also to those who earn their living treating animals. Many veterinarians volunteer or cooperate with animal shelters to offer reduced-cost spaying and neutering. Perhaps some of them could take it one step further by offering a nonprofit spay and neuter program, enabling all pet owners to affordably alter their pets, not just those willing to ask for financial assistance.
There are always going to be animals that aren't adoptable because of personality issues, because they're difficult to housetrain, are destructive or hyperactive, or have a medical condition that makes them too expensive to maintain. And there are always going to be dogs who aren't placeable simply because they're too big. Most people want small. Or because they're black. (There's apparently a prejudice against black dogs. Fewer black dogs are adopted than all others.)
An employee at the Central California SPCA, which receives over 50,000 animals a year, wrote, "Look into the faces of our euthanasia technicians after they have compassionately spent an entire day extinguishing the lives of many wonderful animals because there is no place on earth for them to go. Anyone who opposes this should sit for one day at our front desk, spend an hour in our euthanasia room, or one minute in our freezer. Our animals deserve better."
There are plenty of good people who do the right thing without being forced, but far too many don't. It seems the first step might be to make the procedure affordable and easily accessible, and then the selfish people who still refuse to do the right thing will stand out.
Karin Fuller invites you to share your suggestions on how to combat pet overpopulation, and voice your opinion about a mandatory spay/neuter law. She can be reached at (304) 348-5191 or karinful...@cnpapers.com.