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Maurillo: Pet abandonment and overpopulation in Auburn

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Friends - dog and cat together

In assessment of some of the recently viewed social media notifications regarding abandoned pets around Auburn, I feel compelled to mention and re-discuss some information regarding topics and information previously written in articles by myself and other animal health/welfare authors.

The number of feral cats in Auburn has increased dramatically. These pets have been abandoned by their owners and left to fend for themselves. Un-spayed or un-neutered, trying to exist in our central New York environment/climate, with no knowledge how or where to look for sustenance, and not to mention the other animal and human predators they may encounter, they have little chance of survival.

Dogs are controlled to some degree by the dog control laws and animal control enforcement, but the issue still exists. Many of the abandoned dogs are left by owners in homes or garages, tied to trees or posts, and unfound until serious injury has occurred or it is too late. Some are just let loose to wander, looking for their owners, only to suffer from car and truck accident injuries or death.

The average number of litters a fertile female dog can produce in one year is two. The average number of puppies in a canine litter is six to 10. Theoretically, one female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in six years. The average number of litters a fertile female cat can produce in one year is three. The average number of kittens in a feline litter is four to six. Theoretically, one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.

There are approximately 70,000 dogs and cats born every day in the United States. That’s nearly 3,000 every hour, or 50 every minute. The number of stray dogs and cats living in the United States is around 70 million. The number of dogs and cats entering U.S. shelters each year is between 6 and 8 million. The percentage of healthy, adoptable dogs and cats entering U.S. shelters is 90%. The number of animals that die each year in the United States from cruelty, neglect and exploitation is 30 million. The number of dogs and cats euthanized in U.S. shelters each year is around 3 to 4 million. That’s nearly 10,000 animals killed every day. Pet overpopulation is costing U.S. taxpayers nearly $2 billion a year for impounding, sheltering, euthanasia and disposal of homeless animals. These are staggering numbers for a country that claims to love its dogs and cats.

Veterinarians, the American Humane Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals all agree that spaying and neutering pets is the single most important step to be taken toward a solution to this rampant phenomenon of pet overpopulation. Prevention is less expensive and more humane. The average cost to spay or neuter is only $50 per pet, which is less than the cost of raising a litter of puppies or kittens. Spaying and neutering pets often eliminates undesirable behaviors, such as spraying, roaming and fighting. There are also health benefits to spaying and neutering pets, such as lowering the risk of reproductive organ cancers, leaking of blood during estrus cycles in canines and excessive focalization in felines, life-threatening complications to the female and those of her litter during pregnancy and delivery, and offspring born with life-threatening defects. Pet owners should do their part by having their pets spayed and neutered, contributing financially to spay/neuter clinics and animal shelters in their area, adopting their next pet(s) from a shelter rather than buying them from an internet ad or pet store (these are usually from breeding mills), considering the consequences and responsibilities of pet ownership and the decision to make a lifetime commitment to the pet, and encouraging children, friends, family and co-workers to do the same. And never abandoning their pets.

Animal abandonment is a crime. It needs to be reported to the authorities. Laws need to be reexamined to call for harsher punishments. Every animal that becomes a euthanasia statistic was an innocent creature that deserved a good home, love and a long life. It is up to all of us to be proactive and take action through personal responsibility and social advocacy. Please report abandonment and spay and neuter your pets!

Robin Maurillo, of Auburn, has worked as a veterinary technician and animal cruelty investigator for several years in central New York.


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