World Rabies Day: Have your pets spayed
The faint crying noises emanating from a garbage-filled mausoleum at the cemetery may have sounded like spooky specters to some. But a kind passerby suspected that the sounds had a more earthly explanation. After combing through the mountain of trash, he found the source: two tiny orphaned kittens. He took them to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), and we vaccinated and neutered the siblings before placing them together in a loving home. Just like that, thanks to the intervention of one thoughtful person, two cats didn’t turn into hundreds—or even thousands—more.
Today (Sept. 28) is World Rabies Day, and many governments will be celebrating by offering free rabies vaccinations. And while the World Health Organization cites mass vaccination as the most cost-effective way to prevent rabies, there’s an additional effective tool that can help achieve a rabies-free Philippines: sterilization of companion animals.
Unvaccinated dogs and cats—either allowed to roam or born on the streets—who aren’t sterilized reproduce rapidly, making it easier for the disease to spread. A single unspayed female cat and her descendants can produce a staggering 370,000 kittens in only seven years, while in six years, one female dog and her descendants can produce 67,000 puppies. In the Philippines, the vast majority of animal bites that are considered high-risk for rabies transmission are from stray animals. Spaying and neutering reduce the overpopulation of dogs and cats. And fewer stray animals means fewer animal bites, which means fewer rabies cases.
Not only does companion animal overpopulation contribute to the spread of rabies, thousands of dogs and cats are also euthanized in pounds throughout the country every year. Thousands more suffer and die on the streets. By preventing unwanted animals from being born and subsequently abandoned or given away to cruel or irresponsible people, we can prevent suffering that results from the horrible things that homeless and neglected animals endure: being hit by cars, infected with deadly diseases, attacked by other animals or cruel people, or simply stuck outdoors to die of starvation or neglect.
Peta routinely finds animals on the streets who’ve lost most of their hair as a result of mange, whose bones have been shattered by cars, who have painful infections and who are otherwise suffering. I recently worked with local authorities to rescue a frantic kitten who’d become hopelessly trapped in a drain.
Kapon also helps dogs and cats enjoy longer, healthier lives. Sterilized animals are less likely to roam, get into fights, bite or catch deadly viruses like feline AIDS and leukemia that are largely spread through fighting and mating. Kapon doesn’t make animals fat and lazy, as some people mistakenly believe—that usually comes from overfeeding and lack of exercise. Spaying not only eliminates the risk of developing uterine cancer and pyometra (a potentially fatal uterine infection), but also greatly reduces the chance of suffering from mammary cancer. Neutering prevents testicular cancer and reduces the risk of developing prostate cancer. The cost of a one-time kapon surgery is minimal compared to that of treating these health conditions.
Kittens and puppies can be sterilized as early as 4 to 5 months old, and both spaying and neutering are safe for animals through most of adulthood. Increasing numbers of veterinarians are encouraging earlier sterilization, noting that younger animals often recuperate faster.
If your own cats and dogs have already been spayed or neutered, offer to assist friends, family members and neighbors in getting their animals “fixed” by setting up appointments, providing transportation to the veterinarian, or helping to defray the cost. If there are strays hanging around your neighborhood, make arrangements to have them sterilized so that they don’t turn into even more strays. Remember: Every single stray cat and every unwanted dog came from animals who weren’t sterilized.
To learn about low-cost spay/neuter programs in your area, contact the Philippine Pet Birth Control Center Foundation (09173316223 or Facebook.com/PPBCCFoundation), The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (4751688 or PAWS.org.ph), Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (5323340 or CARAPhil.org), the Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (7339427 or Facebook.com/pspcaPH), or a city or provincial veterinarian in your area.
Jason Baker is the senior vice president of international campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) Asia. To adopt or foster an animal or to get involved with Peta’s work in the Philippines, visit PETAAsia.com or call (02) 8175292.
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