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ANIMAL CONNECTION: Join the fight against pet overpopulation

“Overcrowded Shelter in Desperate Need of Adoptions” – We read this headline week after week, but never really think about how we can do our part to help the shelters prevent overcrowding. This is not a shelter issue or solely a shelter’s responsibility to resolve; it is a community issue. An issue that we all need to work together to improve and there is only one tried and true solution – spaying and neutering.

According to statistics, 90% of dogs and 98% of cats entering shelters are unaltered. Further, 80% of the kittens born each year in the U.S. are born from unaltered community cats (www.humanesociety.org). These staggering statistics show a true picture of the issue facing our shelters every day – too many unaltered animals giving birth to too many animals without homes.

When a shelter reaches a crisis level of animals, we see undeniable, amazing support from the community in helping get a large number of animals out of the shelter and into a loving home. Though incredibly important, this is only temporary. Not long after, these shelters will be filled to the brim with homeless animals once again – adding to the point that the issue is not a lack of adopters but rather a lack of spaying and neutering.

I can’t express how important this call to action is, so what keeps people from hearing our plea and not spaying and neutering in the first place? There are many myths surrounding this procedure that scares many pet owners out of altering their pets:

• “Spaying and neutering causes weight gain.” False.

• “Neutering will cause my male dog to become aggressive.” False.

• “The surgery is too expensive.” False.

• “Altering your pet will cause health issues.” False.

Spaying and neutering not only helps shelters combat the overpopulation issue, it reduces aggression, roaming behaviors, spraying and marking, lowers the risk of cancers and can even increase your pet’s lifespan up to 3-5 years (www.spcavetcare.org/spayneuter). Spaying and neutering benefits our pets and helps them live their longest, healthiest and happiest life.

With over 23 million pets living in underserved communities, and nearly 87% of those pets being unaltered, the "too expensive" idea may not completely be a myth to those underserved persons. It’s true that there are many private veterinarians that charge a price too high for some pet-owning households. This doesn’t mean that these loving homes should not own a pet; they just need to find an affordable option. Lucky for them, there are many nonprofits and animal shelters offering affordable solutions.

The SPCA Albrecht Center, and other nonprofit spay and neuter clinics, offer affordable prices as a way to incentivize the public to alter their pets. Specifically, the SPCA’s Veterinary Care Center offers spay and neuter surgeries from $60 to $150 (based on the weight and sex of the animal). If this price is still unaffordable for some, the City of Aiken, Aiken County and Edgefield County offer $15 or $20 spay and neuter vouchers to qualifying households.

For more information about the SPCA’s Veterinary Care Center, visit www.spcavetcare.org.

For more information about the spay and neuter voucher program, visit www.spcavetcare.org/spayneuter.

In addition to these myths, there are some that want to breed their animals for the sole purpose of having a "clone" of their pet. In reality, there is no guarantee what personality traits will carry on to the offspring. Almost always, the owner does not end up with a mini version of their pet but rather a litter of puppies or kittens they cannot care for that ultimately end up in shelters.

None of these false ideas are more important than the fact that 1.5 million animals are being euthanized in shelters across our country every year, many of which are healthy and adoptable (www.aspca.org), not to mention the numerous no-kill shelters, like the SPCA Albrecht Center, that don’t euthanize but have exorbitant expenses, staff burnout and animals with declining mental health after being in a shelter for weeks, months and even years. All of this can be alleviated if we all did our part to lighten the load of pet overpopulation.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is a community-wide issue. There is no single organization or person to blame but rather extremely important work that needs to be done together. There are many ways you, too, can do your part to save these animals and your local shelter. Share this article and (respectfully) educate friends and family about the pet overpopulation issue. Share about affordable spay and neuter programs, or donate to your friend’s pet’s spay and neuter surgery. Help spay and neuter community cats through a local TNR program. Adopt a shelter pet – they’re already altered! But most importantly, spay and neuter your own pets.

Join us in the fight to end pet overpopulation. The animals are better off when we work together.

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