It has become as predictable as the sun rising in the East that whenever I post anything relating to animals on my Facebook page, several people will invariably respond by writing “People should spay and neuter their pets!” Spay/neuter has become the catch phrase of the animal protection movement, its “go to” tag line, its favored sound bite and a magical cure-all that can fix every harm, right every wrong and save every companion animal. But does spay/neuter live up to all this hype? It does not.
Before I go any further and induce apoplexy, let me next state the obvious: spay/neuter is important and I am not suggesting otherwise. It is a core program of the No Kill Equation, and when I ran shelters, we performed a lot of it. In one of those shelters, we did 10,000 surgeries a year, 84% of which were free.
But: spay/neuter ignores the needs of the animals that are already in the shelter and under an immediate death threat, leaving them with no protection from killing of any kind. When I post about shelter staff abusing the animals they are supposed to be caring for—such as when shelter workers put a mother cat, her kitten and a raccoon into the gas chamber to sadistically watch them fight—inevitability someone will write that “people should spay/neuter their animals.” When I post about shelters killing animals despite rescue groups ready, willing, and able to save those animals—as three-fourths of all rescuers encounter in New York State—someone will do the same. Likewise when I post about shelters killing despite empty cages, refusing to allow volunteers to bottle feed orphaned kittens, or killing animals by heart sticking, again and again and again, I hear that the reason these things happened is a failure to spay /neuter and that the only way to stop these tragedies is to promote spay/neuter. This is a gross oversimplification. In truth, in each of those cases, it’s because the shelter director decided to allow animals to be harmed or killed rather than respond humanely by firing cruel and abusive staff, by allowing people to foster, by working with rescue groups, and by providing care to animals who need it.
To continue to reduce every issue to a failure to spay/neuter is exactly what the regressive shelter director and the large, national groups which fight No Kill want animal activists to do: point the finger of blame anywhere but on those who are actually doing the killing. Those who love animals must stop giving them the luxury of this out. We don’t need animals to disappear from the Earth before we can do right by them. Instead, we should be demanding that those we pay to care for homeless animals with our tax and philanthropic dollars provide them the care, kindness, and a loving home that is their birthright.
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