World Spay Day emphasizes importance of fixing pets

Four in 10 families own at least one dog. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)

WASHINGTON – Tuesday may be the only international holiday most have never heard about.

There are no greeting cards and no parades. But there is a pet pageant people can enter (see below).

So what’s so special about today?

It’s World Spay Day, an effort by the Humane Society of the United States to spotlight the need to spay and neuter pets. According to HSUS, four million animals are euthanized at shelters every year. Most of those are, 3.7 million , are unwanted cats and dogs.

Shelters around the country and in the D.C. region say the need for spaying and neutering pets is clear. There are just too many animals for too few homes.

“We are doing a great job in the animal sheltering industry of keeping animals longer, finding them better homes,” says Anna Strates, manager of the Medical Center at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

But she says one challenge remains.

“We still get large numbers of animals that are unwanted every single day.”

Strates says there are a number of reasons to spay or neuter a pet.

For one, it avoids the negative behaviors that “intact” dogs can exhibit.

“Males don’t tend to lift their legs all over the house if they’re neutered young,” says Strates. And, females won’t develop a “nesting” behavior that can make them territorial.

Cat lovers won’t deal with the wailing of a cat in heat if the pet is spayed. For those who’ve never heard it, Strates says, it’s not pleasant.

“They’re in excruciating emotional turmoil.”

There also are health benefits. It reduces the incidence of a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, by up to 90 percent when owners spay or neuter their pets.

Certain types of trauma can be avoided by fixing pets as well. Strates says a number of the dogs brought into the shelter’s medical center were intact dogs chasing down others in heat.

But finally, Strates says, a spayed or neutered pet is more focused on one thing – – you.

For those who can’t afford to spay or neuter a pet, Strates says low-cost options are available and not just at WARL. Many shelters offer low-cost options and vets may offer special pricing options.

Here are some options:

And, of course, owners who want to have their pets strut their stuff can take part in World Spay Day 2013 Pet Pageant for a chance to have your pet crowned Miss or Mister World Spay Day 2013.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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