It's hard to comprehend the seriousness of pet overpopulation until one learns the facts.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), it only takes seven years for one female cat and her offspring to produce 420,000 cats. In six years, one female dog and her offspring can give birth to 67,000 dogs.
While those numbers are astounding, it's sobering to learn how few of those animals will actually end up in caring, loving homes.
HSUS estimates eight to ten million cats and dogs enter shelters in the United States each year and four to five million of those animals -- at least half -- are euthanized.
The problem is clear: there are too many pets and not enough homes. And not enough humans educated on how they and their pets can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Spay Day USA, organized by the Doris Day Animal Foundation, was initiated ten years ago to offer solutions. Raising public awareness of the pet overpopulation problem and promoting spay and neuter services are the primary goals of the program.
Spay Day 2004 will be held Tuesday, February 24, 2004. The theme chosen for this year's event is "Be PET-riotic." Participating veterinarians across the country will be offering reduced-cost spay and neuter surgeries during February.
According to organizers, an estimated 225,000 companion, and feral animals were spayed or neutered during the program last year, including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and horses.
Spaying and neutering does more than keep unwanted animals from being euthanized. It's also healthier for the animal.
Spaying dogs and cats greatly reduces their risk of breast cancer and helps prevents various reproductive tract disorders.
Neutering eliminates testicular cancers and can often help with behavioral problems, such as aggression and spraying.
Spay Day USA organizers said they want the program "to inspire each humane American to take personal responsibility for preventing the births of surplus litters."
They said anyone can participate, either by having their own pet spayed or neutered, or by offering to pay for the spay or neuter of a friend's or relative's animal companion animal.
People can also donate money to pay for the spay or neuter of a shelter animal awaiting adoption, a feral cat, or to help with the cost of the procedure for animal guardians who are elderly or on fixed incomes.
"Education is key to combating the pet overpopulation problem," said Stephanie Shain, The HSUS's Director of Companion Animals Outreach.
"Unless people know the facts about pet overpopulation and sterilization, they are virtually helpless to do anything about the problem," Shain said.
© 2004 Animal News Center, Inc.