The United States has made remarkable advances in the pet overpopulation problem over the past 20 years. Yet animals are still euthanized every day in shelters.
The Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs, an organization dedicated to the humane control of dog and cat populations worldwide, wants to put an end to this.
The benefits of nonsurgical sterilization would extend beyond the stray, feral and homeless animal population, to saving human lives in countries that haven't even begun to tackle the dog and cat overpopulation problem.
By linking nonsurgical sterilization of animals to saving human lives in developing countries, animal lives will be saved there as well.
There is a homeless small animal problem, not just here in the U.S., but in every country on earth.
This is a tragic situation measured only in part by the four million cats and dogs euthanized every year in U.S. shelters.
It’s estimated there are tens of millions of feral cats in this country alone. In other countries, exploding populations of feral dogs are the problem – for example, there are an estimated 30 million unowned dogs in India.
The Problems Posed by Too Many Homeless Animals
Free-roaming cats and dogs present a number of health problems, among them:
- They are a health threat to people and pets. Rabid dogs are the number one cause of rabies deaths in humans. Over 20,000 people die of rabies in India every year, many of them children, and the vast majority contract the disease from dog bites.
- They negatively impact the environment and animals in the wild.
- Their welfare is at risk. One study showed that over half of homeless kittens are killed by either a dog or an automobile before they reach six months of age.
Clearly, dog and cat overpopulation is a situation the world needs to get its arms around. As custodians of the planet, it is our responsibility to alleviate the suffering and other risks associated with this massive and growing problem.
An Urgent Need for Spay/Neuter Alternatives
Spaying and neutering is a more viable option in some areas of the world than others.
Surgical sterilization requires a medical facility and equipment, anesthesia, recovery time in a safe, protected environment, and the services of a trained veterinarian.
These resources aren’t readily available for the human population of many countries, much less homeless animals.
Even here in the U.S. where spaying and neutering resources are in ample supply, the cost can be prohibitive for individual pet owners as well as animal organizations tasked with sterilizing hundreds, thousands or even millions of unowned cats and dogs each year.
The feral population poses its own unique challenges. These dogs and cats must be trapped, sterilized and released, because in most cases there’s nowhere to house them during the recovery period. In addition, follow-up care to remove surgical stitches isn’t feasible.
Due to the size of the homeless animal population throughout the world and the lack of resources in many areas to perform the surgery or provide aftercare, alternatives to spaying and neutering are desperately needed to control the rate of reproduction and ultimately, to save lives.
According to the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs, an ideal nonsurgical form of contraception would be:
- Delivered in a single injection or treatment
- Available for dogs and cats of both sexes
Current research and development of nonsurgical contraceptive products falls into two main categories: contraceptive drugs and chemicals, and immunocontraception.
The first group includes implants, injections and chemicals that interfere with the reproductive hormonal milieu or the activity of the gonads.
Immunocontraception agents are vaccines designed to produce antibodies to suppress normal reproductive function.
Comparison of Nonsurgical Contraceptive Products
As you can see from the table above, only chemical castration currently meets a majority of the criteria set forth by the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs.
Availability of Nonsurgical Alternatives
- Gonazon and Suprelorin, which are delivered through implants, are available in some countries in Europe. Suprelorin has also been approved for use in Australia and New Zealand.
- Acyline and VCD are still under development.
- There are two chemical castration products in existence: Neutersol and an identical formulation called EsterilSol, which became available in Brazil about a year ago. Both products are delivered by injection.
- Neutersol is the only nonsurgical contraceptive product approved for use in the U.S. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been available here since 2005, when the patent holder and marketer severed their business relationship.
- All immunocontraception vaccines are still under development.
Are These Drugs Safe?
In the case of Gonazon and Suprelorin, no negative short term (one to two year) health consequences have been noted.
Short term side effects noted for Neutersol (the chemical castration product) include some pain immediately following injection, ulcers at the injection site which were resolved by changing the injection technique, and more severe reactions at the injection site, some requiring surgery.
Long term side effects of nonsurgical contraceptive products on the health of dogs and cats are unknown at this time, but there will undoubtedly be some. It’s not possible to fool Mother Nature in such a significant way without consequences.
I am not advocating these drugs. However, when you consider the alternative, which is to allow the uncontrolled breeding of hundreds of millions of homeless dogs and cats to continue, it’s easier to defend the risks involved in a nonsurgical medical intervention that can help save the lives of millions of animals, as well as people, across the world.
If You Have a Dog or Cat in Need of Contraception
If you live in the U.S. or other countries where access to pet care is plentiful and owned dogs and cats are treated as beloved members of the family, you have a number of options to choose from in controlling your pet’s reproduction.
- You can choose to spay or neuter your pet as a puppy.
- You can plan the surgery based on your pet’s level of development.
- You can discuss the feasibility of alternative surgeries with your veterinarian, such as tubal ligation or vasectomy.
- You can even choose to leave your pet intact, since as a responsible pet owner who is providing your dog or cat a forever home, you are committed to preventing any situation in which your pet would have an opportunity to breed
For a discussion of the risks and benefits of a variety of surgical sterilization techniques, you can read here.
Again....I am not recommending these drugs, simply bringing it to your attention that we have a major overpopulation issue around the world, with no current viable solutions.