Why don’t people spay/neuter their pets?

Pet writing allows me to research all kinds of various pet related issues. There’s probably no issue that is as blatant, and important, as overpopulation and why it’s so important to spay/neuter your pets.

Overpopulation results in about four million cats being euthanized in shelters around the country every year.  That’s right, four million. The graphic pictures of dead cats being hauled away from shelters is accurate.

Spaying and neutering is the best way to curb animal overpopulation. But what are the barriers?

In an intereview with Jeff Davis, senior communication manager for PetSmart Charities, said they have 1,200 organizations in their database that either directly provide low cost s/n surgeries (clinics) or facilitate low cost s/n services (referral agencies). The database went live in early 2011 and they’ve added about 350 agencies this year. The database is available on PetSmartCharities’s website.

But in those conversations, he shared information about why people don’t spay/neuter their pets, and some research as to what might motivate people to do so. The attached press release details the findings of PetSmart Charities’ research.

PHOENIX, AZ (January 12, 2010) —

Most Americans say they’ve heard about the plight of homeless pets, yet grossly underestimate the size and scope of the problem, as well as the number of dogs and cats who must be put to death in U.S. shelters every year.  This, according to the findings of a comprehensive new survey commissioned by PetSmart Charities and conducted online by Ipsos Marketing among 2,000 U.S. adults and an additional 1,000 adults who acquired a dog or a cat in the past year.

“We were intrigued to learn that the overpopulation of homeless dogs and cats ranked third in terms of familiarity with social issues,” said Susana Della Maddalena, executive director of non-profit PetSmart Charities, Inc., the largest funder of animal-welfare efforts in North America.  “However, 76 percent of respondents estimated the number of pets euthanized in shelters every year at 1 million or fewer.  In reality, that number is about 4 million pets every year.  So, while the public knows there is a problem, the public doesn’t know just how serious that problem is.”

Given the robust sample size of the survey, she added, the data “very accurately” reflects the national attitudes and opinions about pet homelessness, pet adoption and spay/neuter services.  PetSmart Charities is now sharing the findings to raise awareness about pet homelessness and help to create lifesaving solutions.

“We hope that by providing this data to others who share our passion for saving the lives of homeless pets, we can break down the barriers to pet adoption and spay/neuter that survey respondents identified,” she said.  “We can all use the data to develop new practices and messages based on what we now know to be key motivators and barriers.”

The survey also found that about 40 percent of pet owners acquired their dog or cat without doing advance research; 76 percent of pets are acquired from sources other than animal shelters; and that the top reasons people don’t adopt pets from shelters are the desire for a specific breed or type of pet and uncertainty about shelters and the pet-adoption process.  Conversely, wanting to “save a life” and an overall sense that pets from shelters are “some of the best companion animals” ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively as top motivators for adopting a pet.

As for spaying and neutering – which animal-welfare proponents including PetSmart Charities® identify as key to ending the epidemic of pet homelessness – most people said confusion about the right age to have a dog or cat sterilized, as well as costs of the procedure, were the biggest barriers.  Still, 65 percent of respondents said their dog or cat was spayed or neutered; meanwhile, of the 35 percent who said their dogs and cats are not sterilized, 75 percent said they are considering having the procedure done on their dogs or cats in the future.

The research also showed that 13 percent of dog owners and 19 percent of cat owners have experienced the birth of at least one litter of puppies and kittens – but typically unintentionally.  Of the pet owners whose dogs or cats had litters, 53 percent of dog owners and 54 percent of cat owners said “it was an accident.”  Another 20 percent of dog owners and 12 percent of cat owners said they wanted their family to see a litter being born.  And although 62 percent of respondents said they are aware of low-cost spay/neuter clinics, most indicated they place a higher level of trust in private veterinary hospitals.

The survey also categorized responses by age and by geographic region in the continental United States. Twenty-eight percent of pet owners in the western U.S. had adopted their pet, while 23 percent of those in the Northeast, Midwest and South were pet adopters.  Pet owners in the West also had the highest number of pets who are sterilized, while pet owners in the South had the lowest number.  And while 62 percent of people aged 18 to 34 had spayed or neutered their pets, they ranked third in that category behind 35-to-54-year olds (65 percent) and people aged 55 and older (76 percent).

In addition to the key findings, the survey provided implications and suggestions for the most effective ways that animal advocates can put the data to use.  Top on the list was the need to educate the public about the size and scope of the pet-homelessness problem.  In addition:

  • Messages about the benefits of pet companionship, saving lives and preventing dogs/cats from being euthanized because of homelessness are the most motivating statements to encourage pet adoptions;
  • Messages about how spaying and neutering reduces the number of homeless/unwanted animals born annually are the most motivating to encourage people to have their dogs and cats sterilized, along with educating the public about the safety and quality of low-cost clinics and the appropriate age for a pet to undergo surgery.

To review a summary report of the research findings and/or to watch a free webinar about the findings,  visit the “Motivators, Barriers for Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter” resource page.

Check out DeListProduct and read more on how to properly take care of your pets. Why do you think people don’t spay/neuter their pets? Please share your comments and ideas?

4 responses to “Why don’t people spay/neuter their pets?”

  1. Andrew Avatar

    Ola! Bjbangs,
    Thanks for the above, I have heard of free and low-cost spay/neuter programs, but I”m thinking of sponosred efforts where people are actually given money to spay or neuter their pets. Kind of like a gun buy-back program. I’m all for educational efforts, but money talks…
    Keep up the good work

  2. Louise Behiel Avatar
    Louise Behiel

    you are so right – pets must be spayed. I didn’t realize when I was younger that females didn’t ahve to have a litter before being neutered, so i let them whelp once. boys were done as soon as possible. thanks for the affirmation of what i’ve learned.

  3. bjbangs Avatar

    Thanks for the follow. Love the name: Tails from the Street.

  4. Kat Avatar

    So excited to have found your blog. This is exactly what I am or was looking to do with my blog, Tails from the Street. I can’t wait to catch up on your posts!

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