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Feeling the Need to Breed? Get Over It!

Spring is just around the corner! In six week’s time every un-spayed cat in Sonoma County will be in heat or pregnant! Isn’t that joyful?

No, not really.

It’s time we stopped making excuses for people who insist on breeding their pets. And it’s really, really time we stopped making excuses for ourselves when we succumb to the temptation. In 30 years of veterinary practice, I think I’ve heard them all:

“We always find homes for the kittens.” Really? Congratulations, all you’ve managed to do is kill a different set of babies. For homeless animals, life is a deadly game of musical chairs. When you insist on throwing kittens –or puppies - into the game, you ensure the death of other kittens elsewhere. Really.

“I want my kids to witness the miracle of birth.” Really? How often does an animal give birth with an audience? Seldom. Then, after you’ve added to the population of homeless animals, do you take the kids to the local shelter to witness the “miracle of death?” That’s what’s in store for millions of the unwanted puppies and kittens we allow to be born each year. Get a video instead. Really.

“I want to get her spayed, but I can’t afford it.” Really? Humane organizations (and local veterinarians) have been subsidizing spay/neuter programs for decades. A few phone calls are all it takes to locate a low-cost, or even free spay/neuter program: Call Forgotten Felines (for feral cats) at 707-576-7999, or Humane Society of Sonoma County at 707-636-1716. Heck, call ANY shelter or humane group and you’re likely to find your pets welcomed in for inexpensive spay and neuter surgery. Spaying or neutering are the minimum responsibility of a pet owner, as necessary as providing the animal with food and water. If you can’t afford to pay 30 bucks – or nothing – to spay your pet, you can’t afford to own a pet. Really.

“But it’s not my cat.” Really? So what? You care enough about the poor stray or feral cat to put food out. Suck it up and take her in for free spay surgery NOW, before she gives birth to 30 more like her. Really.

“I’m going to breed her and sell the puppies.” Really? Oh, please! The shelters are full of mixed breed animals whose owners planned to make big bucks selling the puppies – that is, until some enterprising dog from down the street or mysterious stranger arrived and (oops!) romance unexpectedly bloomed, screwing up their best laid plans. Even pure bred pups are not guaranteed a home, and the breeding of healthy, high-quality animals – the sort of animals smart people are willing to pay for – requires a huge investment of time and effort from a responsible breeder. The truth is, fly-by-night animal breeders, who turn their pet into a “cash crop,” are a menace to pets and pet owners alike. No nice person aspires to become one, and who wants to buy their next pet from someone who’s not nice? This behavior is nothing but greed, a temptation we must all resist. Really.

I’m convinced that only about 3% of pet owners allow their pets to breed irresponsibly – and that those same 3% are responsible for the entire pet over-population problem. The rest of us – the 97% - are enablers. We sit quietly by as the same people spout the same tired lies year after year, while their pets spew out litter after litter. We act as if it’s their business, not ours, and we say nothing to them. It’s much easier to preach to the choir, to complain to those who share our opinions, while saying nothing to the irresponsible pet owners who create the pet over-population problem. We can’t remain silent any longer. Really.

And what becomes of those poor homeless animals? The lucky ones find themselves in a shelter, where they have a chance of finding a home. Then, if they are beautiful or outgoing, their lives may be saved. Pity the shy animal, or the all-black dog that blends into the crowd of all-black dogs with nothing to make him stand out. These shiver in the animal control facility until their time runs out and they are killed – at the taxpayer’s expense, because there is no one to love them and no money to provide them care. In an era of dwindling tax revenue to support schools or aid the needy, is this how we want our tax dollars spent? Really?

There was once a time when our society tolerated reckless driving. Someone could blast through a crosswalk, taking out some innocent pedestrian, and then be excused because of drunkenness. “Oh,” we’d say, “the guy was drunk. It’s just one of those things.” There was once a time when we tolerated adults who provided young teenagers with alcohol. “Kids will be kids,” we’d say. Won’t it be nice when we no longer tolerate selfish, greedy, irresponsible animal breeding? I think that time should be now. Really.

Every litter is a tragedy. Spay your cat, now, before it’s too late. Your dog too!

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