World Spay Day

by Elsie Walker

 

February 27th is World Spay Day.  Originally called “Spay Day USA “,  it was started by the late actress and animal advocate Doris Day. The day was established to bring awareness of, and to educate people to,  the need to spay and neuter their pets. The once national focus has now taken on an international one.  Spaying and neutering can not only help a pet to stay healthy, but also helps decrease the feral and stray cat population and helps to decrease the shelter overpopulation of cats and dogs that can lead to the euthanasia of otherwise adoptable pets.  As World Spay Day draws near, an area veterinarian and an area animal rescue group member talked about the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs. 

Dr. Michelle Hewitt, of Netcong, a DVM who practices at the Black River Veterinary Hospital in Chester reflected on cat and dog over-population and shared the health benefits to pets of spaying and neutering.   “Cat and dog overpopulation is one of the biggest challenges we face in animal welfare today. Spaying and neutering is imperative to help control overpopulation as well as providing multiple health benefits. Spaying a female dog or cat, or neutering a male, helps decrease the chances of objectionable urine marking behavior, aggression and running away to find a mate. Spaying prevents potentially fatal uterine infections, ovarian and uterine tumors and helps prevent mammary tumors. Neutering prevents testicular tumors and helps prevent prostate disease. Dogs and cats can start to reproduce as early as four – six  months of age,  so it is important to talk to your veterinarian about the proper age for spaying or neutering your pet,” Hewitt said.

As for controlling overpopulation, spaying/neutering helps people from suddenly having puppies or kittens they can’t afford to keep and passing them on to (sometimes already over-crowded) shelters and helps reduce the number of stray and feral cats roaming areas.   To get an idea of  how fast an unspayed/unneutered population can grow, PetKeen (www.petkeen.com) notes that “An unspayed cat can give birth to 24 kittens in one year.” 

The impact of spaying and neutering to control cat over-population is understood by the Mt. Olive TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) Project. It came into existence because of that. Recently, Michelle Lerner, of Flanders, a member of that organization, shared its experience in controlling the local cat population, and also how it can help low-income residents to get their pets spayed and neutered.

“The Mt. Olive TNR Project is a local organization made up of residents who volunteer to humanely control the population of cats in Mt. Olive. We started in 2009 after finding out that in 2008, the town had impounded 181 cats and euthanized 141 of them, and had spent $20,000 to do so, while the number of cats on the streets and the complaints about them were only increasing. We got a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) ordinance passed to allow us to trap, neuter and vaccinate, and return feral cats to structured care and sheltering outside, while removing kittens and friendly strays for fostering and adoption,” she said.

 

Lerner shared the impressive results of the organization’s efforts: “…the street cat population in Mt. Olive has plummeted to close to zero, while the town now impounds fewer than 20 cats per year and only euthanizes those too sick or injured to be stabilized with medical care, which is usually fewer than three per year and often zero. The known (TNR’d) feral cat population is down to fewer than 15 cats in the entire town, most of them seniors and a few over 15 years old. Every year, a few new feral cats show up in town, usually roaming tomcats who cross from neighboring towns without comprehensive TNR programs, and we trap them and neuter them and, if they turn out to be tame, foster them for adoption.” 

 

The organization also helps low-income Mt. Olive residents to get their pet cats spayed and neutered for whatever they can afford, or for free if they cannot afford to pay anything.  This is done by taking the cats to low-cost spay/neuter clinics or to veterinarians who provide the organization with a discount.  Lerner noted that any Mt. Olive resident needing help with spay/neuter, either for feral cats or if they are unable to afford getting their own cats spayed or neutered, can contact the Mt. Olive TNR at mtolivetnr@gmail.com or (973) 804-6273.  She noted that the organization has no facility but is made up of foster homes run by volunteers, so when contacting the organization residents should know that response time varies but the TNR always tries to help.

 

One cat that benefited from the program, but needs a home, is Angelina.  “We got Angelina spayed for a Mt. Olive resident who could not afford it, and who was later evicted from her apartment and couldn’t take Angelina with her,” shared Lerner. Angelina is three years old, tame, and looking for a home.  Lerner noted that anyone interested in meeting Angelina for potential adoption should contact the Mt. Olive TNR Project or complete an application at www.mtolivetnr.org. “She’d do best with an experienced adopter because she takes a few weeks to adjust to new people and places,” said Lerner.

 

In talking about the Mt. Olive TNR project, Lerner noted that it also has some needs:  “We are in need of more foster homes and volunteers to keep us running well. We are also in need of donations of cat food and litter and also money for veterinary care (which can be donated at www.mtolivetnr.org).

 

At the end of each episode of The Price is Right, host Drew Carey follows in the tradition of his predecessor, Bob Barker, in reminding people to spay and neuter their pets.   It’s not just a trite request, but one which World Spay Day reminds us, can make a world of difference for cats and dogs.

 

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