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Please do your part for pets

February is the month of romance. Couples declare their love. You could call it the mating season.

The mating season also begins for our unspayed/unneutered pets. The offspring of these unwanted matings are often brought to the animal shelters in hopes that they will find homes. Many of them do not. This past year, 735 were euthanized.



As a volunteer for the Nevada County Animal Shelter, walking dogs, cuddling cats and helping find as many homes as possible is very rewarding. When one of my animal friends is successfully adopted into a kind and caring home, I feel blessed to have been a part of that. However, when so many are euthanized as a result of the irresponsibility of pet owners, I feel saddened. Euthanasia is not a pleasant activity for the caring shelter staff. Each person responsible for the necessity to euthanize these animals should be required to witness the euthanasia.




Why don’t people spay/neuter? Some say it costs too much money. There are low-cost ways to get this procedure done. This will be especially true during the month of February – National Spay/Neuter Month. AnimalSave and Nevada County Animal Control have put together a list of veterinarians who will be having specials in February to encourage spaying/neutering. The Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic in Auburn is reasonably priced all year long. Certificates can be obtained at AnimalSave and the Nevada County Animal Shelter to defray much of the cost.

Some find it difficult to get their pet to the Auburn Clinic or to a veterinarian because of work schedules. There are several veterinarians open on Saturdays, and, if you have difficulty getting your pet to a veterinarian, volunteers will take your pet for you. There are resources to help with money and time, but you must care enough to take the initiative.

There are a series of “old wives tales” or myths as to why people don’t spay/neuter.

My personal favorite is that children should witness the “miracle of birth.” Most pets have their litters in the middle of the night and in a secluded place. The birth is not witnessed by anyone.

For those of you who want your children to witness the “miracle of birth,” perhaps you would like to come full circle and have your children witness the “tragedy of death” and watch the euthanasia. A better alternative would be to find a video at the library or on the Internet, or to let your children witness birth the next time you or a friend has a baby.

Another myth is that animals get fat from spaying or neutering. The real cause of weight gain is overfeeding and lack of exercise. Just like humans, as pets grow older they must reduce caloric intake and increase exercise to stay healthy.

I have heard people say, “My dog is cute and has a great personality and her puppies always get homes.” Although that may be true, the bottom line is that there are more pets than homes – for every puppy or kitty you place, another one does not get a home and is euthanized. If you are allowing your animals to breed, you are contributing to the euthanasia of 5 million pets in this country each year. This is not a pleasant statistic and I hope it motivates you to do your part to end this misery.

There are also those who may be hopeless in helping solve this enormous problem. I asked a young man if he would be neutering his pit bull. He replied, “I want him to spread his seed far and wide.” Without neutering, this is exactly what will happen. We need laws to deal with people like this. If he’s your son – do something with him! I have no words to describe my contempt for people like this.

No matter how hard we work to find homes for the unwanted pets, we cannot work fast enough to keep up with the rate of reproduction. This past year, 400 kittens were diverted from the shelter through Teresa Bryerton and Friends of Nevada County Animals. Those kittens were spayed/neutered, inoculated and adopted. The shelter volunteers working separately and in conjunction with AnimalSave have placed over a hundred dogs that otherwise would have been euthanized. In spite of all these efforts, 735 animals were euthanized.

The majority of dogs we see at the shelter are large, unneutered males about 1 year old. As they reach sexual maturity, they begin to roam when there are females in season. Many strays end up at the shelter and are often euthanized. These dogs started out as adorable puppies that were not neutered, trained or socialized properly. Behaviors that are cute in a puppy are often not cute in a 70-pound dog (i.e., jumping up on people, aggression with other dogs, etc.).

Many believe that humans are at the top of the heap when it comes to intelligence. We spend years training and teaching our human children to be productive, mannerly members of society. Often people won’t take 10 minutes a day to train their dog.  When the dog becomes out of control, off to the shelter it goes. Dogs have been returned for pooping on the floor.We don’t expect our children to be potty trained in one day, but we think the dog can learn in 10 minutes. There are resources to help you with training your dog, but you must take having a pet as a serious responsibility. Call if you need help.

If you think pet overpopulation is a given and we can’t really do anything about it, consider this: For 20 years, the state of Utah, under the leadership of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, has been working collaboratively with shelters and nonprofit organizations, to make Utah the first no-kill state. They will have accomplished their goal by the year 2003. Marin County has cleaned up its problem and often does not have animals in its shelter for adoption.

Please do your part for the animals. Thank you for reading this article.

Cheryl Wicks, volunteer coordinator at the Nevada County Animal Shelter, is an organizational consultant specializing in executive coaching and team building. She has been a volunteer at the Animal Shelter for a year, and before that for a year at the Santa Clara Valley Humane Society.


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