One stray has been saved, but many more are out there suffering because people do not spay or neuter their pets


David WebbA first-hand lesson in animal rescue might be what some people need to convince them of the desperate need for neutering and spaying household pets. A little heartbreak could go a long way toward enlightenment.

I got the message a long time ago, but a recent event gave me a refresher course in the need for responsible pet ownership. I experienced up close what animal shelter staff and rescue group volunteers go through daily.

Driving down the road recently, I noticed a small, black poodle-type dog running aimlessly on the grass. A broken tether hung from an old collar on her neck, so I stopped to check her out. She wore no tags to identify her, and the matted, filthy coat told me what else I needed to know: She was a stray.

When I called to her, she ran up to me immediately. The look in her eyes told me she desperately needed human kindness, so I picked her up. She weighed less than 10 pounds, and I couldn’t imagine how such a tiny creature managed to survive during the winter in a rural area known for wild animals.

I made my first stop at the veterinarian clinic I use on Cedar Creek Lake to learn if her former owners had given her a microchip for identification purposes. They had not.

The receptionist asked me, “What are you going to do?” I said I would take her home, clean her up and try to find someone to adopt her. That seemed like the best plan because I already had two dogs waiting at home for me.

Unfortunately, that night after I clipped of the matted hair and bathed her, I discovered she had other problems: no control over her bladder and a horrific odor that would not wash away. So the next day I returned to the veterinarian who diagnosed the problem as a lemon-sized stone filling her bladder and expanding it beyond normal size. She needed expensive emergency surgery to have a chance to live.

Had animal control picked her up and taken her to an animal shelter, she wouldn’t be here today.

The stray animal overpopulation nationwide forces many shelters to put sick animals down, although some are strictly no-kill operations. Healthy animals that do not get adopted after a certain amount of time also often never make it out of shelters.

I knew I couldn’t let that happen to the sweet little dog gazing at me so intently on the examining table. I reluctantly made the decision to pay for her surgery, name her “Missy” and add her to my household when she recovered.

Now Missy is home with me and doing well. It is clear she once enjoyed a good life in someone’s home because she quickly jumped on the sofa. When we went to bed that night, she raced into the bedroom with my two other dogs and hopped on the bed. The veterinarian estimated her age at about three or four.

I am assuming when Missy lost control of her bladder, her owners put her outside rather than taking her to the veterinarian. Who knows how long she ran the streets, dragging that broken tether behind her, before I found her. She obviously had at least one litter of puppies at some point in her life.

Thanks to the generosity of several Facebook friends who offered to help, I am not bearing the whole cost of Missy’s surgery myself. Lisa Jones, the veterinarian, also gave me a break on the bladder stone and spaying surgery, but it still topped $500.
When I posted on Facebook about my experience with Missy, Donny Shubert, the president of the Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake, shared my post on his page and sent me a message: “Now you know how everyone associated with the shelter feels about these poor abandoned animals times a hundred!

Thanks so much for sharing.”

I never doubted the sincerity of the people who run animal shelters and rescue groups, but the experience did give me a much better understanding of how overwhelming such a task would be.

Every year, 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats enter animal shelters, and of those, 1.2 million dogs and 1.3 million cats are euthanized, according to the

Humane Society of the United States. Of dogs entering shelters, 35 percent are adopted, 31 percent are euthanized and 26 percent are returned to owners. Of the cats, 37 percent are adopted, 41 percent are euthanized and less than 5 percent get returned to owners.

Only 10 percent of animals entering shelters are neutered.

For fertile animals, the average number of dog litters is one a year, with four to six puppies per litter. The average number of cat litters is one to two per year, with four to six kittens per litter. There are no reliable statistics for the number of stray household pets in the nation, according to the organization.

There are about 13,600 animal shelters nationwide, but that’s not nearly enough to take care of the burgeoning stray animal population. Entire litters of sick puppies and kittens often get euthanized.

The most common excuse for someone refusing to neuter or spay a pet is that they consider it “cruel.” The truth is that dogs and cats quickly recover from the surgery, and they do experience the frustrations of sexual impulses.

The cost of spaying and neutering is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for one year. Everything considered, the only sensible solution to the stray animal population is neutering and spaying. No one who truly loves animals ever wants to put one down.                     •

David Webb is a veteran journalist with more than three decades of experience, including a stint as a staff reporter for Dallas Voice. He now lives on Cedar Creek Lake and writes for publications nationwide.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 20, 2015.