Guest commentary: Consider having your pet fixed on Spay Day

There's no reliable figure available for the number of homeless pets in Southwest Florida, but anyone in the animal welfare business here will tell you that there are far too many. These experts will also tell you that the best way to reduce the unwanted pet population is by having your pet spayed or neutered.

That's why The Humane Society of Collier County is joining with other shelters and animal care givers to promote Spay Day USA on Tuesday to urge more pet owners to spay or neuter their pets. Spay Day USA was originally begun by the Doris Day Animal Foundation in 1995 and has grown into a nationwide effort.

The Humane Society of Collier County is sponsoring a "Spay My Pet" contest. Five winners will receive a completely free pet spay or neuter for their dog or cat at the Humane Animal Clinic — a value of up to $250.

To enter, applicants must legibly write their name, e-mail address if available, street address and telephone number on a sheet of paper — plus the name of their pet to be spayed — and mail the entry to "Spay My Pet."

The Humane Society of Collier County, 370 Airport-Pulling Road N., Naples, 34104.

The contest is open to all pet owners in Lee and Collier counties. All entries must be received by March 6. The five winners will be selected at random in a drawing on March 10. Please, only one entry per family, and only one pet per entry. No e-mails or faxed entries will be eligible. Winners will be notified by mail or telephone.

Here are some statistics:

If one considers that one dog and its offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 puppies in six years, and that one cat and its offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 kittens over the span of seven years, then the problem is more understandable.

These unwanted pets don't always find a lifelong loving home. Some wind up living an often brief and brutal existence in the wild. Many are brought to shelters, public and private. When private, nonprofit, no-kill shelters such as The Humane Society of Collier County run out of room, they turn people and their pets away. Public shelters, however, are legally required to take in all the animals that come their way. Though many of the lost animals they take in find homes or are reclaimed by their owners, the majority, usually more than 50 percent, are euthanized.

According to the American Humane Association, more than 9 million pets are euthanized annually in the United States, and in Southwest Florida, more than 13,000 pets were euthanized in 2004.

Michael Simonik with his own best friends Ahji, left, and Nefka.

Photo courtesy of the Humane Society

Michael Simonik with his own best friends Ahji, left, and Nefka.

Until more pets are sterilized, the unwanted pet population will continue to grow.

Even allowing your dog or cat to reproduce just once contributes to pet overpop ulation, since each animal born at home means one less animal adopted from a shelter.

Benefits of pet sterilization

There are many benefits to having your pet spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering can help dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives by eliminating or reducing the incidence of health problems that can be very difficult or expensive to treat.

Spaying your pet eliminates the possibility of her developing uterine or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces her risk of breast cancer, particularly when she is spayed before her first heat cycle. Likewise, neutering your pet eliminates his risk of testicular cancer and decreases his risk of prostate disease.

For pet owners worried about the procedure, the surgery itself is done entirely under anesthesia, and post-operative painkillers can be utilized, so there is very little discomfort. In most cases, the animal is back to normal only a few days after surgery.

In addition to medical benefits, there also are behavioral benefits to spaying or neutering your pet. Sterilized pets are less likely to roam the neighborhood, run away or get into fights, while neutering your cat will help to eliminate urine spraying.

Many sterilized pets develop a calmer and gentler disposition, thereby reducing their chances of being abandoned because of behavior problems. Sterilized animals can save taxpayers millions of dollars annually by reducing the need for city and county animal control agencies to spend funds on responding to calls.

Altering your pet prevents any potential offspring — offspring that could eventually end up homeless or abandoned due to a lack of available homes.

Every spayed and neutered animal helps us win a battle in the war against pet overpopulation.

Naples resident Michael Simonik is the executive director of the Humane Society of Collier County.

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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