I know that pets are so significant in many of our lives. Most give us unconditional love, make us laugh, become integral members of our family, and much more. As a person with bipolar disorder (a mental illness), I’ve also experienced pets as a source of great emotional support. During my life, I have primarily been a cat or parrot owner, but I love all animals. When I see any animal struggling or injured (or dead alongside the road) it breaks my heart. The sad thing is that such observations are far too numerous. Obviously some of these occurrences are just the reality of nature, others are clearly caused by humans, unintentionally, and tragically sometimes intentionally. Though many of us wish we could end humans’ negative impact on animals, often we have to become partially numb to it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do some things that can make a difference.
Helping animals stay safe and well is a topic one could write about in several books. Here I just want to concentrate on urging people to spay or neuter their pets. Veterinarian bills can be very high, I know, but when we welcome a pet into our homes, we have a responsibility to them. I know some people become pet breeders. That’s not what I’m writing about. I’m writing about people who only want pets without struggling to find homes for any offspring. I’m also writing about people who adopt a pet casually only to send it back where it came from, send it to a probable death, or send it to a harsh life on the streets.
Though parrots are not generally spayed or neutered, keeping them separate from the opposite sex obviously prevents unwanted chicks. Loose birds can fly away. In some places (I remember in a park in Amsterdam, Holland, and in San Francisco) some breeds have formed flocks with growing numbers. They do damage to the environment and property, and can sometimes suffer in various ways. Unwanted cats (and later kittens) and dogs (and their puppies) so often also meet a sad fate in the wild, as I referenced above. Some I’ve seen (and heard) in my country and in some countries abroad, are strays, like curs, who struggle to find food and become emaciated, get in violent fights with other strays, develop mange, are hit by automobiles or motorcycles, or are even beaten to death by humans. I’ve heard the suffering cries of the latter when living in a big city. I’ve seen many desperate animals in the condition of the former. The horrible memories will stay with me forever. At the time, there seemed little I could do. I wished the citizens did more, but in some places there is mostly apathy.
Though I have heard, too often, of people sending their unwanted pet to the streets, many homeless domestic animals are born on the streets. They breed at high rates. Most once owned pets on the streets have also never been spayed or neutered. Statistics show that only about 10% that eventually enter shelters have had these procedures. Only about 30% of animals in shelters are ever reclaimed by a previous owner.
Maybe about seven years ago, my husband and I were driving to a very busy highway (Rte. 1). In the corner of my eye, I saw something moving on the curb near a gas station, poised to cross. I yelled for my husband to pull over at the station so I could run out and try to prevent the inevitable. I scooped up what was a very young kitten in the nick of time. I noticed it was covered with some kind of oil, perhaps from being born in and/or living around the gas station. You’re probably hoping that I took it home and raised it to adulthood, but unfortunately we couldn’t do that. Instead, we took it to a no-kill shelter, gave them a $50 donation and hoped that it would be adopted. If the mother (or at least maybe the father) of that kitten had been fixed, there would not have been a kitten to almost be run over by a speeding car. Imagine how many other animals were not as lucky, including maybe that kitten’s siblings.
There are other very good reasons to spay or neuter pets, pertaining to their health. Read about them in the article here on the ASPCA website.