By Martha Michael
There has always been a healthy campaign urging pet owners to have their animals spayed and neutered.
Canyon Country resident Kyle Harris, owner of Kyle’s Custom Critter Care, a local pet sitting business, is a part of that campaign.
“Absolutely necessary,” wrote Harris in an email. “The earlier the better! Pet overpopulation is a deadly problem!”
For 12 years Harris has been a volunteer at the Castaic Animal Shelter, where, she said, there will be a new clinic for spaying and neutering. Formally called the L.A. County Animal Care Center in Castaic, the shelter broke ground on its new clinic earlier this year.
Canyon Country is home to numerous animal rescue venues and non-profit animal advocacy groups. The Gentle Barn occupies land on Sierra Highway, the Brittany Foundation and New Leash on Life are located in Sand Canyon, in addition to individuals who spearhead the rescue of particular breeds.
Local resident Michelle Lewis is a tireless volunteer at Oak Creek Corral, a Sand Canyon horse ranch promoting equine care and riding, with a variety of animals in a petting zoo.
“Every one of my animals, male and female, is fixed,” she said. “Every male goat, horse, sheep on the ranch is fixed. The baby peacocks are the last babies, as we will now eat the eggs. I aim for zero population on the ranch. The baby lamb is a rescue lamb who was abandoned by its mom.”
Lewis has owned dozens of animals, mostly dogs, and expresses a slew of good reasons for the procedure.
“Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life,” said Lewis. “Your spayed female won’t go into heat. While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house!”
Neutering has its strong points for the pet owner also. “Your male dog won’t want to roam away from home,” said Lewis. “An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate! That includes digging his way under the fence and making like Houdini to escape from the house. And once he’s free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other males. Neutering provides major health benefits for your male. Besides preventing unwanted litters, neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer, if done before six months of age. Your neutered male will be much better behaved. Neutered cats and dogs focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unneutered dogs and cats may mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Many aggression problems can be avoided by early neutering.”
Money is, of course, a factor when it comes to choosing the procedure for one’s pet. Lewis thinks this is misunderstood.
“It is highly cost-effective,” she said. “The cost of your pet’s spay/neuter surgery is a lot less than the cost of having and caring for a litter. It also beats the cost of treatment when your unneutered tom escapes and gets into fights with the neighborhood stray!”
One of the mainstays in the campaign is the argument that spaying and neutering helps fight pet overpopulation. “Every year, millions of cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer as strays,” said Lewis. “These high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.”
Young married couples sometimes get a pet before tackling the role of parents. And sometimes parents want to let their kids experience the family pet having “just one litter.”
“Your pet doesn’t need to have a litter for your children to learn about the miracle of birth,” said Lewis. “Letting your pet produce offspring you have no intention of keeping is not a good lesson for your children—especially when so many unwanted animals end up in shelters. There are tons of books and videos available to teach your children about birth in a more responsible way.”
Animal advocates believe spaying and neutering your pet is good for the community. “Stray animals pose a real problem in many parts of the country. They can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, damage the local fauna and frighten children,” said Lewis. “Spaying and neutering packs a powerful punch in reducing the number of animals on the streets.”