Bad breeding: Neutering a smart choice

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By Katy Korkos

Everybody thinks puppies and kittens are cute, but the consequences of allowing your pet to breed can be dire. With 75 million dogs and about 85 million cats in the United States, people should think long and hard about contributing to the population of pets.There is not a county statute that requires that pets be neutered, but the health of the pet can depend on a timely operation, said county animal control officer Charles Lujan. “It’s a healthy practice,” Lujan said.He said spaying and neutering pets helps cut down on overcrowding in shelters, and prevents animals from being euthanized. Additionally, “state law indicates animal shelters must have animals spayed unless the owner has a breeder’s permit,” Lujan said. The Los Alamos Friends of the Shelter volunteer organization has worked not only in the county but throughout northern New Mexico to keep animals from being euthanized, and to keep the shelter from becoming overcrowded by finding foster homes for stray animals, paying for medical care for sick animals and socializing animals to make them more adoptable. Friends of the Shelter provided the following list of responses to common reasons cited by people who want their animals to breed:

1. My dog is so cute and would produce adorable pups. Your dog probably is cute; however, there are hundreds of thousands of cute dogs in the world.

 2.  It’s my dog and I can do whatever I want.  Consider that most of those cute dogs will end up in animal shelters and be euthanized because of a lack of loving homes to care for them.

3. I want my kids to see the miracle of birth. Birth is a mysterious and wonderful thing but it can also be horrifying for young children or too gross or messy for their comfort.  What do you tell your kids if a puppy is born dead or deformed? The mother can die during the birthing process.  There are many books and videos available to teach kids about birth that a live one becomes unnecessary.   Animals arrive at shelters already pregnant.  People can provide a foster home for that animal for the child’s experiences of birth.

4. I want to make some extra money. The likelihood of making one penny on the sale of your puppies is pretty slim. Consider the costs of responsible breeding: veterinary care throughout the pregnancy, vaccinations and first exams for the puppies, the cost of food and other supplies, advertising, and unexpected expenses. What if mom has complications and needs a cesarean?   What if the puppies get sick and need medications and care?  What if no one buys your puppies? These are all likely scenarios that need to be well thought out.  Even if friends say in advance they want a puppy, often they change their minds when the time comes to take it, then what do you do?

5. I want my dog to have a litter before I have her spayed, she’ll be a better dog.  This is a myth that is unsupported by research.  Allowing your female dog to go through even one heat cycle can increase her chances of getting breast cancer. In fact, 52 percent of un-spayed female dogs will develop this disease. A spayed dog cannot develop pyometra, a common uterine infection, serious and often fatal. Spayed females are less likely to wander and will not pick up unwanted diseases from male dogs. On the other hand, spaying alone will not make an aggressive dog a model citizen; only training and behavior modification can do that.

Wendee Brunish, long-time volunteer for Friends of the Shelter, said that only responsible breeders, with a commitment to ensuring the health and future of their animals, should be breeding“They will take all precautions to make certain that the dogs they are breeding are genetically sound, come from quality lineage, and have the proper temperament to make good companions,” Brunish said. A responsible breeder will guarantee the health of their puppies and be willing to take back those that develop problems. A responsible breeder will ensure that every puppy has a good home, even if it means raising it themselves. A responsible breeder will make sure that their puppies are properly socialized and cared for until they go to their new homes.The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Animals (ASPCA) fact sheet, as prepared by its executive vice president Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, states that nationwide, “approximately five to seven million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately three to four million are euthanized due to a lack of space or resources to adequately care for them. Only 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered.”The average cost of basic food, supplies and medical care and training for a dog or cat is $775 annually, according to the fact sheet. The Animal Clinic of Los Alamos offers spaying and neutering services for less than $280, depending on the size of the pet.The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is also less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for one year.The Friends of the Shelter offers a voucher with a $10 co-pay for any resident, and provides a free service to low-income residents. An additional benefit to adopting a pet from other shelters is that unneutered pets will come with a voucher for low-cost spaying or neutering.