It's Raining Cats and Dogs

Stray cats and dogs written by Laurelee Blanchard

Sept 12, 2008

It is a sad sight to see. Hundreds of thousands of homeless animals in Hawaii (mostly cats) reside in parks, shopping centers, apartment complexes, beach parking lots, hotel grounds and wilderness areas. Often tossed out like garbage and left to multiply, many die slow, painful deaths from starvation, dehydration, illness or injury. The problem is so vast that it is almost impossible to solve, let alone control.

Possibly the most effective approach to combating companion animal overpopulation is now being taken by progressive animal shelters, humane organizations and individual rescuers that have implemented strict "Alter Prior to Release" policies, whereby they spay and neuter all animals before placing them in new homes. Ann Ulrich, an animal rescuer in Haiku Maui, has come to the aid of and found homes for hundreds abandoned cats and dogs over the years. Says Ulrich, "No matter how well-intentioned people seem when they promise me they will have their new pet altered, I always have the sterilization surgery completed before the animal leaves my care. If I take a chance, and the animal I adopt out reproduces, then I have contributed the overpopulation problem."

Kittens and puppies can safely be spayed and neutered as early as seven weeks of age, and the practice is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Studies reported in the Journal of the AVMA show there are no negative health or behavioral consequences associated with early-age sterilization.

Contrary to overwhelming scientific evidence that early-age sterilization is medically safe, some veterinarians still refuse to sterilize young kittens and puppies. When questioned about this, these veterinarians often reveal they are unfamiliar with the latest work in this area, feel unskilled to perform the task, or have unexplainable emotional reservations preventing them from doing it.

Dr. Marvin Mackie, a nationally renowned veterinarian and the founder of Animal Birth Control clinics in California, is a pioneer of early-age sterilization and has performed many thousands of surgeries on seven-week-old puppies and kittens. He travels the country speaking to veterinarians and humane groups about the effectiveness of this practice as a way of ending companion animal overpopulation. Dr. Mackie explains, "My staff feels great about the fact that we are helping to solve a serious problem. The rescuers report that these puppies and kittens get adopted faster, as people prefer to adopt animals already spayed and neutered. For the surgeon, it is significantly easier and faster to sterilize younger animals because they have less tissue and fat obstructing their reproductive organs. Seven-week-old puppies and kittens recover extremely quickly, with minimal after-effect from the anesthesia. They get right up and bounce around, eager for food and attention."

Despite the trend of humane organizations and animal shelters instituting mandatory "Alter Prior to Release" policies, certain municipal shelters continue to release unaltered kittens and puppies. Without question, a percentage of these animals go out and reproduce, with their offspring winding up back at the shelter. The taxpayers foot the bill to capture, transport, medicate, feed, shelter and ultimately destroy many of these unwanted animals


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