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Most Americans are proud to proclaim that they are animal lovers, and many are loving and responsible pet owners. We are all disturbed and saddened when we see animals being starved or abused, or when we learn that animals must be destroyed because there are just not enough loving, responsible homes available.
But the sad fact is that, according to the Humane Society of the United States, more than 4 million pets are put down in U.S. shelters each year. Approximately 3.7 million of these are cats or dogs. A single cat can give birth to 18 kittens each year. One dog can produce 20 puppies each year. While kittens and puppies are cute, every unspayed or unneutered cat or dog that is allowed to roam free, or that is "set free" to fend for itself, contributes to the burgeoning overpopulation of dogs and cats that end up in shelters or dying of disease or starvation on the streets.
The only effective way to reduce the suffering of these loving companion animals is to limit their numbers to the amount of homes available. The best way to do this is to spay or neuter them, a relatively simple surgical procedure that can be performed in most veterinary clinics.
In February of each year, the Humane Society of the United States sponsors "Spay Day," a day of action to promote the spaying and neutering of pets. Inaugurated by the Doris Day Animal League in 1995, the Humane Society joined in sponsoring "Spay Day" in 2006 to encourage pet owners to spay or neuter their pets as an effective and humane way of decreasing the euthanasia of homeless animals in shelters.
In its first 15 years, "Spay Day" participants spayed or neutered approximately 1.5 million animals, potentially sparing many millions of animals from euthanasia and saving hundreds of millions of dollars in shelter costs. The Humane Society's web site, at www.humanesociety.org, has information about "Spay Day" events.
On "Spay Day," many veterinary and humane society offices offer discounted spay/neuter clinics. Other reduced cost spay/neuter clinics may be available near you year round. Your local animal shelter may have recommendations from local veterinarians or other sources that can help cover the cost of spaying/neutering your pet.
I encourage everyone to be a responsible pet lover: look for your next pet at homeless animal shelters, and spay or neuter your animals to keep the population in the shelters and euthanasia down.