We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching commercials. As Sarah MacLauchlan’s “Angel” plays in the background, photos of abandoned animals suffering behind wiry bars flash across our television screens. Although many of us instantly lunge toward the remote control to change the channel, the evidence of animal abuse and neglect replays in our heads like a haunting echo.
Nationwide, 5 to 7 million companion animals end up in shelters every year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Roughly 3 to 4 million of those pets, 60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats, are euthanized.
Ironically, because the death toll for abandoned animals is so outrageous, it can be difficult to grasp the severity of this issue. It also doesn’t help that once we shake off the sickly feeling we get after watching those commercials, we turn right around and continue on with our day, having forgotten how many dogs and cats are pacing their cages unknowingly awaiting their fate in the next room.
Something has to be done, and the City of Chula Vista happens to agree. Several meetings have been hosted within the past few weeks, aimed at forming a solution to this very problem. What are they contemplating? Requiring owners to spay and neuter their pets.
I expect some of you will recoil immediately, but this is the most proactive and responsible solution. First of all, we would be directly attacking the source of the problem by preventing additional births. It is completely illogical, and cruel even, for people to continue breeding pets in a country where millions are already unwanted.
Second of all, while avoiding as many deaths as possible is the biggest factor, there are also economic aspects to consider. The City of Chula Vista, for example, currently spends about $2.2 million on the Animal Care Facility, which housed roughly 7,000 animals last year. And Chula Vista isn’t the only city to examine such legislation. Shelters in Los Angeles accumulated roughly 50,000 animals and ended up euthanizing 15,000. This costs roughly $2 million.
Some believe requiring pet owners to spay and neuter their pets would reduce the prevalence of euthanasia, according to an article by 10 News. L.A. has already implemented a law requiring most dogs and cats to be either spayed or neutered before they reach four months of age. While this specific law excludes certain animals, such as guide dogs, show animals, police dogs and those belonging to professional breeders, the average owner is required to spay or neuter his or her pet.
I’m sure the question hovering in people’s minds now is how we’re going to pay for these services. According to The Humane Society of the United States, “Most regions of the U.S. have at least one spay / neuter clinic within driving distance that charge $100 or less for the procedure, and many veterinary clinics provide discounts through subsidized voucher programs.”
Another main concern is whether or not this legislation infringes on our individual rights. Some believe the average pet owner should be allowed to do what they please with their own pets. In general, I tend to agree. But what about animal rights? I realize we are all going to raise our dogs and cats differently, some more lovingly or more strictly than others, but that doesn’t mean we are allowed to do with them what we please. Certain laws, such as legislation preventing animal cruelty, were put in place to protect those without a voice.
The same concept should be applied to breeding in a world already overcrowded with abandoned pets. I realize abusing a dog or cat may not seem like the same thing as breeding them or letting them naturally sexually interact. But in the end, the result is the same. We put these animals in harm for our own selfish satisfaction and we completely ignore the consequences until it is brought to our attention.
Face it: We do not need any more puppies or kittens in this world. There are enough sitting in cages with “Adopt Me, Please” signs draped over the sides. What we need is strict legislation to prevent more animals from ending up in those very cells. We must come to understand these deaths, these fates, are preventable. We can avoid them entirely if we choose to speak up and take action. Help address this issue head on. Emphasize the importance of spaying and neutering your pets and support legislation that will keep pets out of shelters and cages.
— Stacey Oparnica is a journalism junior.