Now and again, people ask me why shelters and rescues make such a big deal about spaying and neutering animals.
Sometimes I try statistics. Over FOUR MILLION animals every year die in shelters. Since a dog can give birth to up to a dozen puppies (give or take a couple), and can have a couple of litters a year, as can all her generational female offspring, spaying a single female can take potentially hundreds of dogs out of that deadly cycle. Neutering one male can prevent the impregnation of dozens of females.
Sometimes I try medical reasons. Spaying a female can prevent certain medical conditions. Unspayed females can fall victim to pyometritis, which is a potentially fatal infection of the uterus. They are also susceptible to a number of reproductive system cancers, including mammary tumors (yes, breast cancer), that spayed females either don’t get or are much less likely to get. Unneutered males are very susceptible to testicular cancer, which is frighteningly asymptomatic until it’s quite advanced.
This time I’m going to try show and tell.
This is Dulce. This heartbreaking photo on the left is what she looked like the day she was brought into the shelter. This dog is not very old, but has obviously been bred for as many litters as her poor body would accommodate. She was malnourished, exhausted, and so heavily pregnant that walking was a major effort.
A rescue group called Heart Love Heroes (https://www.facebook.com/HeartLoveHeroes) stepped up to take Dulce in. She’s now in a foster home. It appears to be the first time in her life she has been able to live indoors, with good food, affection, and basic shelter from the elements. The photo on the right is what a few days of real care did for her. I should mention here that Heart Love Heroes is an unusual group; they bill themselves as “An initiative of Compassion, Kid-powered, Mom-supervised.” That’s right, the driving force behind this group is a couple of little girls who decided that they needed to do something. They and their mom do an amazing job.
After a few days of safety, proper care, and good food, Dulce spent last night producing nine beautiful puppies. Given how underweight she was, it is nothing short of miraculous that all nine puppies survived. And truthfully, we are all grateful that she ONLY had nine. If you look at her before picture, her tremendous girth had people betting that she might have as many as thirteen.
Five of those nine are females. If each of those females were to have two litters a year of nine puppies apiece, and all their female offspring did likewise…see how fast the problem grows? And then there are all the inherent risks to irresponsible breeding. Infections, high puppy mortality, retained placentas, miscarriage, mastitis, and a host of other problems could have killed this nice dog. That doesn’t include the fact that the physical demands of repeated pregnancies would have certainly shortened her lifespan.
Dulce and her puppies are lucky. They’re in a safe place. They have good food, shelter, love, and proper care. None of them will ever have to live the life of neglect that used to be Dulce’s.
And because they will all be spayed and neutered, the hundreds of puppies they would have produced will not end up in the shelter system or abandoned on the streets as Dulce did. Because those hundreds of hypothetical puppies won’t end up in the shelter system, hundreds of other dogs will have a chance, because more spaces will be available.
Take a good look at Dulce’s before picture. She’s the best advertisement I know for spaying and neutering.