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Benefits of Spaying and Neutering PetsTerm Paper

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Spay Neuter

Dogs, cats, and other companion pets like rabbits and pot-bellied pigs bring great joy to their owners. The benefits of caring for a dog and cat are immeasurable. However, with pet ownership comes a responsibility to care for the animal for the rest of its life. Sterilizing the animal through the processes known colloquially as spaying and neutering are the most fundamental features of responsible pet ownership. Spaying refers to the ovariohysterectomy operation performed on female animals, and neutering refers to the orchiectomy procedure performed on a male animal. Both of these procedures are relatively straightforward, relatively simple, and relatively inexpensive. Spaying and neutering is an ethical obligation that all pet owners share.

In addition to the individual benefits of spaying and neutering for the animals and the animal custodian, spaying and neutering also benefits the animal population as a whole. Animal overpopulation is a serious problem costing billions of dollars in spending on municipal animal control, shelter operations, and euthanasia programs (Frank & Carlisle-Frank, 2007). In the United States alone, there are millions of "surplus" companion animals that are put to death (North Shore Animal League America, n.d). The Humane Society of the United States (2014) places this number at between 6-8 million unwanted animals. These animals are suffering and being put to death only because some pet owners have been too neglectful, irresponsible, or too stubborn. Sterilization is the best, if not the only, solution to controlling animal populations and reducing the problems associated with it. The benefits of spaying and neutering cats and dogs can be grouped into three main categories: social benefits, ethical benefits, and benefits for the health of the pet.

There are humane and ethical considerations with regards to spaying and neutering companion animals like cats and dogs. Uncontrolled breeding of these animals leads to a large number of cats and dogs being euthanized. Cats breed 45 times as often as people, and dogs fifteen times as often (North Shore Animal League America, n.d.). This leads to staggering numbers of unwanted animals, some of which die in the streets from starvation or accidents, and others that die in shelters. Animals who have not been spayed or neutered tend to wander away from their homes when their hormones are raging, because their bodies are programmed to look for mates. If left to their own devices, unaltered cats and dogs could run away from home, get into fights with other animals over territorial disputes or aggressive behavior, get hit by a car, or hurt a person. Sterilization is a reliable, straightforward, and relatively cost-effective procedure that prevents unnecessary and preventable animal suffering and death, and which prevents the risks associated with lawsuits as well.

Spaying and neutering should be viewed as a civic duty for several reasons. The social benefits of spaying and neutering include the reduction of pest animals in communities with overpopulation problems, and the reduction of costs associated with addressing animal overpopulation. Unwanted and uncared-for animals cause a number of community problems including acting and behaving aggressively toward humans or other animals. Some stray dogs and cats have been known to kill wildlife, livestock, and people's pets (North Shore Animal League America, n.d.). Strays can also cause as well as be the victim of automobile accidents (North Shore Animal League America, n.d.). According to the North Shore Animal League America (n.d.), as many as 85% of dogs that have been hit by cars were not sterilized. Other community problems associated with companion animal overpopulation include noise and the defecation on streets and gardens. In female cats and dogs, spaying removes the reproductive organ causing the "heat cycles." These heat cycles last as long as four to five days and occur frequently: about every three weeks during certain times of the year (ASPCA, 2014). Problems associated with heat cycles include the animal's loud and incessant howling and urinating uncontrollably to spread their pheromones in the search for a mate (ASPCA, 2014). Cat urination is extremely difficult to clean, and in some cases, the smell may never leave. Some stray animals may carry diseases like rabies. Therefore, unwanted animals present a clear public health and safety concern. Spaying and neutering directly minimizes the risk these unwanted animals poses to the community.

To promote spaying and neutering, communities should do more to develop programs like low-cost options for low-income families who want a pet in their lives. Spaying and neutering programs offer net benefits to communities, reducing the long-term costs associated with animal overpopulation. From aggressive dogs biting humans to aggressive dogs biting other dogs, spaying and neutering can reduce liabilities associated with irresponsible pet ownership or the presence of feral animals. Likewise, reducing the population of unwanted and uncared for strays of any species will help reduce the community taxpayer burden associated with problems like traffic accidents, soiling of public property, and conflicts with local wildlife and ecosystems.

In addition to community health and safety benefits, there are also cost-saving benefits to spaying and neutering pets. Spaying and neutering pets presents a small one-time cost that offsets potentially years and thousands of dollars worth of related costs. Those costs have reached proportions that warrant clear public policy intervene tion, perhaps on a national level. Dealing with companion animal overpopulation costs billions of dollars per year, paid for mainly by private organizations and taxpayers (North Shore Animal League America, n.d.). Most of these costs are related to shelter overpopulation, shelter management, municipal animal control, and procedures for euthanizing the unwanted animals. Spaying and neutering should become mandatory in order to prevent these costs from accruing. Ancillary costs of animal overpopulation are related to the damage strays cause to the community, including the need for cleanup and addressing public health issues like aggressive behavior or car accidents. Therefore, spay and neuter programs are cost-effective investments with long-term benefits.

Spaying and neutering is also cost-effective for pet owners. In some areas of the United States, neutering a companion animal is a legal requirement of pet ownership; noncompliance will lead to a fine more costly than the price of the spay or neuter procedure (Found Animals, 2014). According to the Humane Society of the United States (2014), "many counties have spay/neuter laws that require pets to be sterilized, or require people with unaltered pets to pay higher license renewal fees." Spaying and neutering is not expensive. Most states have subsidized spay and neuter programs for families who cannot afford the service, which is generally an affordable procedure anyway. Furthermore, spaying and neutering creates healthier pets and can therefore save individual pet owners money on veterinary bills. As the ASPCA (2014) points out, spaying and neutering is much cheaper than paying to care for or adopt out an entire litter; and likewise, spaying and neutering reduces some of the behavioral problems in pets that can lead to owner legal liability. The American Humane Association (2014) claims that the cost of feeding, worming and first vaccinations for a litter can be upwards of $200 to $300," which is much more than the cost of spaying or neutering a single pet.

The ethical benefits of companion animal sterilization include improving the health of the animal and reducing the number of animals who are neglected, abused, or killed. Animals who are sterilized live longer and healthier lives than their non-sterilized counterparts. Dogs live on average one to three years longer when they are sterilized and cats live three to five years longer (North Shore Animal League America, n.d.). Unneutered male stray cats live only two years or less on average (North Shore Animal League America, n.d.). Animals who are not spayed or neutered and who are uncared for are more likely to be in fights with other animals, starve, acquire diseases, and generally live a life of suffering. Even unneutered cats and dogs that are cared for suffer more than their neutered counterparts, because of the increased likelihood of several fatal illnesses including many types of animal cancer. Preventing animal suffering is an ethical duty, which is why spaying and neutering can be considered ethical obligations for all animal lovers.

The ethics of spaying and neutering can be promoted through education, with is also an ethical obligation. The ASPCA (2014) reminds pet owners of some myths about spaying and neutering. For example, spaying and neutering is not related to animal weight gain. Spaying and neutering are also ineffective, irresponsible, and unethical ways to teach children about the "miracle of birth," (ASPCA, 2014). Moreover, spaying and neutering is not necessarily "depriving an animal of the natural right to reproduce," because reproduction only leads to suffering and death (American Humane Association, 2014). To promote responsible pet owner education, programs can be offered through public schools and community centers at no cost to the consumer. These courses will help families understand the benefits of spaying and neutering, as well as introduce animal caretakers to local options for veterinary care or animal discipline services. Animals who are spayed and neutered will live longer, healthier lives.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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