Companion Animal Overpopulation
New Mexico has a tragic and costly problem: companion animal overpopulation. In 2007 alone, over 133,000 dogs and cats entered 35 public and private shelters in this state. During that year, 67,000 of those animals had to be euthanized.
It's a tragic problem because 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 workers, rescue organizations and members of the public. The irony, of course, is that overpopulation can be prevented.
It's a costly problem because 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 cases, disease transmission, traffic accidents, and property damage. Associated costs for basics such as personnel, facilities, equipment, training, sheltering, and euthanasia increase proportionally.
The causes of New Mexico's cat and dog overpopulation epidemic 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. For example, APNM teamed up with a local volunteer and other concerned residents in the eastern New Mexico town of Tucumcari to combat dog and cat overpopulation, resulting in two extended visits from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society's spay-neuter van in 2007 and 2008. The Tucumcari city commission helped by underwriting $4,000 toward the effort in 2008, the first time the community invested in this type of project. Citizens are encouraged to work with their town councils and county commissions to secure this type of funding for local efforts in their regions.
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 has worked with New Mexico legislators 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 - to be known as the Bemis Clinic - is scheduled to be open to the public and rescue groups by mid-2010 at the Eastside Animal Care Center.
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.
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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