Companion Animal Overpopulation
and the Importance of Spay-Neuter Services in New Mexico
Cat and dog overpopulation is at a crisis level in New Mexico. Uncontrolled breeding of cats and dogs, including those who are stray, abandoned and homeless or those with homes, has created this costly and tragic epidemic. The number of dogs, cats, kittens and puppies received annually by New Mexico's public and private shelters is estimated at more than 135,000; Of those, nearly half are euthanized each year because there are not enough homes for them all. The health, safety and general welfare of the animals and residents of New Mexico will be better served by having affordable spay-neuter services widely available to New Mexicans.
The more homeless animals there are, the higher the cost to communities to provide animal care and control services sufficient not only to protect the animals but to protect the public from related risks such as bite injuries and fatalities, disease transmission, traffic accidents, and property damage. Associated costs for basics such as personnel, facilities, equipment, training, sheltering, and euthanasia increase proportionally.
Each year, the tens of thousands of lost and unwanted kittens, puppies, cats and dogs in our state face homelessness, abuse, starvation, disease, injury, and death roaming the streets. Even after reaching shelters, the vast majority cannot be saved, despite the tireless efforts of animal control officers, shelter employees, rescue organizations, and members of the public. The irony, of course, is that overpopulation can be prevented.
The causes of New Mexico's cat and dog overpopulation crisis are simple:
- Uncontrolled and irresponsible breeding of dogs and cats.
- The purchase of companion animals from pet shops and breeders.
- Stray and lost animals who have not been spayed or neutered.
- Unwanted and abandoned animals.
The solutions are equally simple:
- Spay and neuter companion animals.
- Implement and support low-cost and no-cost spay-neuter programs and clinics.
- Adopt companion animals from shelters or from reputable rescue organizations, rather than buying them from pet shops or breeders.
- Develop humane education programs for schools and other community outreach venues.
Spay and neuter surgeries are safe, common procedures performed by licensed veterinarians in order to render female and male animals sterile. Dogs and cats have greatly improved chances of living longer lives and enjoying good health and contentment if they are spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering are by far the most reliable cures for numerous health and behavioral problems. Animal Protection of New Mexico provides continual updates of statewide spay and neuter resources to the public.
Animal Protection of New Mexico collaborates with individuals, non-profits, and local government officials in communities statewide to create effective spay-neuter programs. Citizens are encouraged to work with their state and local officials to secure funding for local efforts in their regions.
Experts agree: helping communities plan for and create affordable spay-neuter services will reap enormous benefits. According to a 1990 study done by the Minnesota legislature (and CPI-adjusted for 2013 dollars), each dollar invested in low-cost spay-neuter means savings of approximately $35.32 in future animal control costs over a ten-year period.
Through APNM's sister organization, Animal Protection Voters, we work to help communities and animals through legislative avenues that can help solve New Mexico's companion animal overpopulation problems. These efforts include updating ordinances and policies to limit unchecked breeding, to enhance animal care and control capabilities, and to secure capital outlay funds for spay-neuter facilities.
Animal Protection Voters worked with New Mexico legislators in years past to secure substantial capital funds for the construction of a spay-neuter facility and the purchase of two mobile clinics in Albuquerque. The new high-quality, high-volume facility is located at the city's Eastside Animal Care Center.
In 2006, the New Mexico legislature appropriated $400,000 for low-cost and no-cost spay-neuter surgeries. The successful and popular program, implemented in sixteen communities over three months in 2007, resulted in spaying and neutering 2,239 cats and dogs of income-qualified households. Almost 50% of the surgeries were performed in communities other than Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Surgeries were performed in both fixed and mobile clinics, with mobile services accounting for more than a third of the surgeries. A non-profit organization administered the program and secured private funding for all administrative costs.
In 2007, thanks to the efforts of Animal Protection Voters and a broad coalition of supporters, New Mexico legislators passed the Animal Sheltering Act, which created the Animal Sheltering Board. The Animal Sheltering Board has the potential to play a vital role in future spay-neuter initiatives in the state.
In 2009, Animal Protection Voters and New Mexico legislators took another positive step toward addressing companion animal overpopulation with an upgrade to New Mexico's spay-neuter license plate law, so that $25 of each plate sold will be used to fund local spay-neuter programs. In addition, the Animal Sheltering Board will now distribute those funds.
In 2014, a $250,000 legislative appropriation is being sought by Animal Protection Voters so low-cost and no-cost surgeries can again be made available for the cats and dogs of New Mexicans. The New Mexico Animal Sheltering Board will provide oversight of program funds. The program will allow access to spay-neuter surgeries for animals of people who, in many cases, simply cannot afford the surgeries, or for whom the services are not readily available in rural areas.
The City of Albuquerque's Commitment to Companion Animals
New Mexico's largest city also has the largest companion animal overpopulation problem. The two shelters owned and operated by the City of Albuquerque take in an average of 575 animals per week, with 30% of those coming from the surrounding communities. The city continues to work toward its stated objectives of developing robust spay/neuter programs and increasing adoptions, thus lowering euthanasia rates.
The new Bemis Clinic is sure to be a key factor in reaching this goal. A new non-profit currently under development by the city will allow private donations to supplement the city's operating costs for the Bemis Clinic, providing even more support to Albuquerque's efforts to reduce companion animal overpopulation on a broad scale.
The Bemis Clinic will include a transport van to bring in animals from outlying areas, as well as a mobile clinic that will be able to provide spay-neuter services to other underserved communities. Animal Protection of New Mexico applauds the City of Albuquerque for recognizing the severity of its dog and cat overpopulation problem and for continuing its commitment to ensure the success of long-term solutions.
Commonly Asked Questions About Dog and Cat Overpopulation
- How old does my companion animal need to be in order to be spayed or neutered?
- How young can a female cat or dog become pregnant?
- Can brother and sister from the same littermate?
- How long after my female cat or dog has had kittens or puppies can she be spayed?
- Will neutering my male cat stop him from spraying?
For answers to these and other important questions, the organization SPAY/USA provides comprehensive answers.
Facts About Dog and Cat Overpopulation
- Average number of litters a fertile cat can produce in one year: 3
- Average number of kittens in a feline litter: 4-6
- In seven years, one unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce hundreds of thousands of kittens.
- Average number of litters a fertile dog can produce in one year: 2
- Average number of puppies in a canine litter: 6-10
- In seven years, one unspayed female dog and her offspring can produce hundreds of thousands of puppies.
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