Spring is coming, producing not only longer and warmer days but also an overproduction both in our homes and on our streets of unwanted puppies and kittens. As a result, more animals will be dumped at local shelters or left to mature and reproduce on their own in our alleys and neighborhoods.
The good news is that since 2012, the intake rate of animals at Valley shelters has dropped 40 percent and euthanasia of dogs and cats has plummeted more than 85 percent, thanks to Fix.Adopt.Save, a collaboration involving Altered Tails and six other animal welfare organizations, with additional help from PetSmart Charities and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
Despite this success, there is more work to be done, as thousands of dogs and cats still are being euthanized every year.
Altered Tails (alteredtails.org) began in 2005 with a mobile sterilization vehicle on a mission to provide accessible, affordable spay and neuter services across the Valley.
In 2007, we opened our first clinic in Phoenix, thanks to generous donations by local philanthropists Bea and Dick Barnhart, and we expanded in 2013 to Mesa, making it more convenient for East Valley residents to bring in their pets.
Our W.A.G.S. (Wheels for Animals Getting Spayed/Neutered) program in Mesa followed in 2014, enabling pet owners and feral cat trappers without transportation to call on us.
There are several misnomers about spaying and neutering pets. What most people don’t know is that taking care of them in this way promotes good physical and behavioral health and helps them live longer.
Sterilization also can have a positive impact on the animal population by reducing euthanasia as a means of animal population growth.
Consider some of these myths and facts:
Myth: Spaying/neutering won’t do anything for my pet’s health or behavior.
Facts: It will help prevent reproductive cancers — testicular in males and mammary gland in females. It can help reduce spraying by male cats and marking by male dogs and decrease their inclination to wander. It also may calm male and female animals and cut fighting and aggression.
Myth: Spaying/neutering is costly.
Facts: It can be, but services performed by Altered Tails staff, who specialize in sterilization, are, on average, 75 percent lower than at private practice and full-service veterinarians. Our furry clients experience less time under anesthesia and in recovery and have smaller incisions.
Also, because Altered Tails is a nonprofit organization and we want to ensure that cost isn’t a barrier to sterilizing a pet, we frequently have grants available that enable us to provide free surgeries and vaccines or surgeries for a small client copay of $20.
Myth: Spaying/neutering will cause our family’s female pet and our children to miss out on the miracle of birth.
Facts: Animals neither want nor need to have babies. And sometimes the births of dogs or cats in our homes don’t go as planned, which can traumatize family members. There are plenty of children’s books and videos that teach birth in a responsible manner.
Additionally, letting your pet produce offspring you have no intention of keeping teaches your children irresponsibility. Instead, educate your child about being a responsible pet owner.
Myth: Spaying/neutering my pet will make my pet fat and lethargic.
Fact: There’s no correlation here. Overfeeding and a lack of exercise, however, will lead to that.
I hope you’ll keep these facts in mind and do what’s right for your pets and the larger pet population in Arizona.
To help you out, Altered Tails will participate in a spay and neuter event hosted by Fix.Adopt.Save. on Saturday and Sunday March 3-4. Check-in is 7 a.m. both days.
Spay and neuter surgeries will be free on a first-come, first-served basis, vaccines will be free in combination with the surgeries and vouchers will be issued to those who can’t be seen those two days.
-Susana Della Maddalena is executive director of Altered Tails, a nonprofit organization at 7246 E. Main St.