Societies urge pet owners to have pets spayed, neutered

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— This time, the advice isn't coming from Bob Barker, but the message remains the same.

Like the legendary host of "The Price Is Right," humane societies across the nation are encouraging pet owners to have their dogs and cats spayed or neutered in recognition of Spay Day U.S.A.

Spay Day U.S.A. falls on Tuesday this year, and the Routt County Humane Society is offering $20 discounts for area pet owners who have spays or neuters performed on or before March 1.

"Left unchecked, pets multiply very quickly," Humane Society Vice President Maggie Smith said. "Keeping the pet population in check really cuts down on strays, dog bites and feral cats."

Spaying and neutering also improves the health of cats and dogs, said Dr. John Rule of Mount Werner Veterinary Hospital.

Female dogs are particularly vulnerable to mammary gland tumors and uterus infections if not spayed, Rule said. Neutering male dogs eases their aggression and reduces the chance of testicular cancer and prostrate cancer.

Male cats will not spray their urine on walls and other objects after they are neutered and female cats won't meow throughout the night while in heat after they are spayed, Rule said.

The Humane Society has held spay and neuter clinics the past three years, and the program is already reaping benefits, Smith said.

"I think it's helping. There are fewer animals in the shelter this year than there were last year," Smith said.

Almost 1,000 cats and dogs passed through the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter last year, animal control officer Tara Yohannan said.

That number will decrease if more pet owners spay and neuter their pets, she said.

"We get a lot of puppies and a ton of kittens because of not spaying and neutering," Yohannan said.

Many pet owners are too casual with breeding their pets and don't know the demand for pets, Smith said.

"You never know if you can really find good homes for eight or 10 kittens or puppies," she said.

The Humane Society and the animal shelter work closely in an attempt to spay and neuter all dogs and cats before they are adopted from the shelter, Smith said.

According to the Doris Day Animal Foundation, which sponsors Spay Day U.S.A., two unaltered cats and all their descendants can theoretically number 420,000 in just seven years. Two unaltered dogs and all their descendants can number 67,000 in just six years.

A majority of dog and cat owners rank pet overpopulation as the most important pet issue, yet not taking the time to have their pets spayed or neutered is the top reason these owners give for why they haven't had the procedures performed, according to DDAF.

In eight years of Spay Day's U.S.A., 835,000 animals have been spayed and neutered across the country.

"(Spay Day) brings a national awareness to the issue," Smith said.

Many local veterinarians are participating in the Spay Day U.S.A. program, Smith said. There is a limited number of $20 vouchers, so pet owners are encouraged to contact their veterinarian to set up a spay or neuter as soon as possible.

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