A bunch of dogs play outside

There’s a nursery rhyme that my son Calvin learned in school that begins, “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.” When I look at the plight of abandoned, homeless, abused, and unwanted dogs around the world, it reminds me of this poor old woman with too many mouths to feed.

I wrote to you a few weeks ago about how many mouths there are — six hundred million unwanted dogs worldwide. That’s one dog for every twelve people, and that’s only counting dogs that do not already have loving homes. Unchecked, that’s only two canine generations away from homeless dogs outnumbering people two to one.

Spay and Neuter Awareness

It may seem like an impossible, daunting problem, but there is something you can do about it this year, this month, this week — right now. February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, and this Tuesday, the 26th, is World Spay Day. An annual campaign by the Humane Society U.S. and Humane Society International, this day is intended to raise awareness of the importance of spaying and neutering in saving the lives of pets as well as strays that might otherwise wind up killed in shelters or abandoned on the streets.

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved, from informing your friends and neighbors to volunteering at a spay and neuter event, and you can find events all over the world at the Humane Society International site or do a Google search for “spay and neuter day events.”

Last summer, while I was in Europe filming “Leader of the Pack”, I had the chance to visit Germany and see how they handle the stray dog problem. There, spaying and neutering are mandatory and subsidized by the government. Killing animals in shelters is not funded by the government — because they don’t need to. In fact, their program was so successful that they ran out of unwanted dogs, and their shelters had to start taking them in from neighboring countries.

In the U.S., we have yet to move to the mandatory solution, but some places are attempting to do the same by raising the price. In the city of Los Angeles, for example, it’s a lot more expensive and complicated to license an un-fixed dog — $ 335 per year versus only $ 20 — and it’s a lot cheaper to get a dog or cat fixed. In fact, in a lot of places, you can have the procedure done at little or no cost, especially during this month.

Spay and Neuter Myths

There are also a lot of myths about spaying and neutering — that it will make male dogs become fat, that it will have a negative psychological effect on your pet, or that it’s expensive. None of these are true, especially the latter. It can cost $ 875 a year or more to take care of a dog’s basic needs, so every unwanted dog that is prevented now can lead to tens of thousands of dollars saved over a typical canine lifetime. One unfixed female and her offspring can lead to 67,000 dogs in just six years, representing hundreds of millions of dollars in food or care, or tens of thousands of dogs that will be killed.

Next month, it will be spring in the northern hemisphere, when we shake off the cold of winter and nature comes alive again — but you can do something now to invest in life, whether by having your pets spayed or neutered, encouraging your pet loving friends to do so, or heading down to a local shelter or vet to share a little of your time.

The old woman in the shoe may have not known what to do about all those children — but now you know what you can do to help reduce the problem of unwanted dogs.

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