College students must be responsible with animal adoption, ownership

Opinions Columnist | Journalism Junior

Students should take care to spay and neuter their cats and dogs in order to keep shelter populations low and animals out of harmful homes.

When going off to college, many students get their own apartments, jobs, and in many cases, their first dogs or cats. It is awesome to have an animal around the house. They are fantastic remedies for stress, fun and loneliness. However, pets should be properly cared for, and students should keep in mind the consequences of having unspayed or unneutered animals.

Unintentional pet pregnancies are hard to control without spaying and neutering. These unintentional pet births contribute highly to overcrowded animal shelters and high stray populations. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states that only ten percent of animals received by shelters are spayed or neutered. A clear consequence of having unfixed pets is that shelters often receive litters of puppies or kittens the owners cannot take care of.

Once these animals leave the shelters, they are not always guaranteed a home that is forever. A study done by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy states more than twenty percent of people who surrender animals to shelters adopted them from shelters.

Keeping animals out of kill shelters is another concern. Overpopulated shelters result in the mass euthanization of perfectly healthy and adoptable animals. The ASPCA states of the 5 to 7 million animals taken into shelters each year, approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized. That means roughly half of all healthy animals that enter shelters are put down.

Strays are a huge concern. Unfixed strays multiply quickly, and this only leads to more of these animals. The ASPCA states cats are capable of having two litters of six kittens a year, and dogs are capable of having one of up to six puppies. While it is very difficult to determine the actual number of strays in the U.S., estimates are as high as seventy million for cats. Making sure that all pets are spayed and neutered is essential to keeping the stray population down. Pets are at the mercy of their owners, and it is cruel to partake in creating lives that have no chance of happiness.

Some people do not get their pets fixed for health reasons. I advice those pet owners to simply educate themselves. Spaying or neutering does not necessarily affect pets’ behavior or health if it is done at the correct time in the animals’ lives and in the right manner. Males need growth hormones released during the first year of life that help ensure strong bones and joints and prevent disease. However, according to the ASPCA, females can be spayed at an earlier time, ideally before six months of age. While spaying and neutering will lower the will of the animal to wander, and calm their manner, these are desirable attitudes for indoor or family pets.

Other pet owners argue that their animals are primarily indoor pets and the chances that they will reproduce are slim. However, one can never tell when a pet may escape from the yard or break its leash and run away. Some things simply cannot be controlled, so it is better to be prepared for what can happen rather than to cross fingers and hope it never will. There is no logical reason for a household pet to remain unfixed.

Students should nip the problem in the bud and spay and neuter their pets. Of course, there is no way to completely eliminate animal abuse, strays and euthanization. However, if students are aware of the issue and the difference spaying and neutering can make, they can most certainly make an impact.