Things got really out of control in the spring of 2009. That was when seven dogs and eight cats at the shelter turned out to be pregnant. They ended up having their babies within two weeks of each other: fifteen homeless animals suddenly turned into over one hundred homeless (and very helpless) animals.
The surprise pregnancy part of this story is not as unusual as you might think. We can take in an animal that exhibits no sign of being pregnant and two weeks later notice that it is starting to show. Both dogs and cats have really short pregnancies: all it takes is nine weeks.
Does it go without saying that morale among the shelter staff was very low at this point? We love puppies and kitties as much as anyone, but we have no space for sheltering stray animals when every other kennel or cage houses a nursing mama. Luckily there were long-time volunteers willing to foster some of these litters in their homes. And happily Missy (our manager) was able to transport some mamas with their pups to rescue groups in other parts of the state.
But we clearly have a problem when one animal that no one wants turns into six or seven or even fifteen!
This experience caused us to become much more proactive with our spay/neuter effort. As a community shelter, we depend on the community to do the right thing: keep the cat and dog population from exploding. The only way to do this – apart from keeping every female animal under strict supervision whenever she is in heat, which can be as many as five times a year for a cat – is to have her spayed and have him neutered.
So now we promote spay/neuter every spring. And we help folks in financial need pay for the surgery. And local veterinary clinics do their part by reducing their rates for spay/neuter in March. And we get results.
Oh, there are still surprise pregnancies. And there are still litters of pups and kittens dropped off at the shelter, especially in the spring. But not as many as there used to be.
Overall within the last three years (since 2010, when the March “Prevent a Litter” campaign began) we have seen a significant reduction in our annual intake numbers. Our save rate (number returned to owner, adopted, or transported to collaborating rescue groups) has risen accordingly. Clearly our investment in spay/neuter is leading to fewer homeless animals and more happy endings!
Please spay/neuter your dogs and cats. And if your animal is already fixed, remember that you can “spay it forward” by donating to our campaign; your donation will stay in this community and help a neighbor. Read more about our spay/neuter effort at preventalitter.blogspot.com.