A long-term ‘fix’: The many benefits of spaying and neutering pets

single-meta-cal September 26, 2022

You’ve heard the pleas. You’ve scrolled past the pictures in your social media feeds. You’ve heard the sad music on the commercials. You’ve seen the local news coverage.

“We used to take in 7-10 [animals] on a typical day…a few weeks ago, we took in 34 in just one day.” – Dr. Karen Sheppard

16 puppies in a plastic bin

Litters like this one of 16 are left at the shelter weekly, outpacing adoptions.

Animal shelters and rescue organizations across the U.S. have been operating in crisis mode for months due to a surge in the homeless pet population, and Huntsville Animal Services is no exception. The good news is that there is a simple path toward a solution – spaying and neutering your pets.

Small snips, big impacts

Huntsville Animal Services has seen a significant increase in its daily intake number.

“We used to take in 7-10 [animals] on a typical day,” said Dr. Karen Sheppard, director of the shelter. “Lately, it’s common for us to take in 25 or more in a single day. A few weeks ago, we took in 34 in just one day.”

While the need for adopters and foster homes is still there, another need exists that has a direct impact on the number of homeless animals in the city.

“We really need people to get their pets spayed and neutered,” said Sheppard.

A mama tabby cat nurses her two kittens and an additional orphan kitten.

A mama tabby cat nurses her two kittens and an additional orphan kitten at the shelter.

Spaying (for females) and neutering (for males) is surgical sterilization of an animal (commonly referred to as “fixing” a pet), and there are several benefits to getting it done:

  • Spaying prevents uterine infections and decreases the risk of breast tumors that can be cancerous.
  • Neutering prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems.
  • Spaying/neutering decreases behaviors like yowling while in heat, urinating in inappropriate places and roaming away from home.
  • Early neutering can also decrease aggressiveness in males.

“Lots of people think that spaying/neutering leads to personality changes in pets, but that’s just not true,” Sheppard said. “They might have better manners, but they aren’t going to have a total personality shift. Playful pups won’t suddenly become depressed dogs and curious cats won’t turn into skittish wrecks just because they are spayed or neutered.”

Low-cost options

A tawny mama dog stands while nursing several puppies.

The shelter is a stressful place to nurture and care for puppies.

If the health benefits to your pet or the reduction in numbers of homeless animals at the shelters isn’t enough to overcome the idea of paying for a minor elective surgery, consider the bottom line. The cost of your pet’s spay/neuter is much, much less than the cost (of both time and money) of caring for a litter. Also, consider that every litter dropped off at Huntsville Animal Services becomes an issue of time and money for the shelter, and ultimately, the taxpayers.

If the cost of getting your pet fixed is cost-prohibitive, there are several ways to get a lower cost, income-based spay/neuter. Huntsville pet owners who are on state or federal subsidized assistance or have an adjusted gross annual income of $35,000 or less qualify for the Fixin’ Alabama Spay/Neuter Program.

Qualifying pet owners can go to Huntsville Animal Services at 4950 Triana Blvd. SW, show proof of eligibility (e.g., Medicaid, Disability, EBT, WIC, tax documents) and get a voucher. They can then contact one of the participating veterinary offices and schedule the spay/neuter and remit the voucher. This also qualifies the pet owner for a free lifetime license for the newly spayed/neutered pet.

Spay/Neuter Action Project (SNAP) also assists with low-cost spays and neuters for pet owners with low incomes in Madison County.

Anyone interested in adopting a spayed or neutered animal should visit Huntsville Animal Services. All animals in their care are fixed prior to adoptions being finalized. It’s one less worry for new owners and a lifetime of benefits for the pets, all while ultimately reducing the number of homeless animals in our community.

Visit the Huntsville Animal Services website to learn more and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.