Are dogs and cats the nation's most popular animals? It doesn't seem so when millions[1]of healthy dogs, cats, puppies and kittens have to be killed each year in private andpublic shelters due to lack of responsible homes. Countlessothers starve or freeze to death, are killed by humans or animals, or die from untreatedillnesses and injuries after being abandoned to fend for themselves. If given the chance, most of these animals wouldhave made excellent companions.


The breeding rate of puppies and kittens greatly exceeds the number of homesavailable to animals. Negligent individualswho fail to have their dogs and cats spayed or neutered to prevent reproduction,commercial and hobby breeders, and puppy mills, continue to bring more puppies and kittensinto an already overpopulated world, thereby ensuring that the vast majority of animalsbrought to shelters will not be placed in adoptive homes.

The way by which many people acquire animals also contributes to the mass killing. Instead of adopting from a shelter and signing anadoption contract, many people:

  1. Answer "free to a good home" or "animals for sale" ads.
  2. Buy from a pet shop.
  3. Buy from a breeder.
  4. Acquire a puppy or kitten from aneighbor’s or friend’s unwanted litter.

Acquiring animals from the above sources condemns shelter animals to death. Only 2.2 to 15% of dogs and .2 to 3% of catsbrought to shelters are placed in homes. The rest are killed, or worse, turned over to dealers or laboratories. On average, 25% of animals killed in shelters arepurebred. In some regions, 50% arepurebred. The most popular breeds areoften found in shelters in the greatest numbers.

This endless killing perverts a major purpose of humane societies, which is toprevent suffering and to investigate and prosecute cases of animal cruelty. Vast numbers of animals briefly cared for and thenkilled in shelters are an enormous drain on both public funds and on private philanthropy. Governmental agencies and humane societies areforced to devote their resources to processing and killing animals, while education,investigation, and prosecution go without funding.


The solution is to adopt animals only from shelters and have them spayed orneutered to prevent the cruel overpopulation that condemns millions of animals a year todeath in the United States. We may facilitatethis solution with the following actions:

  • A forthright discussion of the problem,in which humane societies and shelters disclose the number of animals they are forced tokill (see ISAR’s Special Report entitled “Model Euthanasia StatisticsStatute,” which contains model legislation).
  • Implementing mandatory adoptionsterilization in every state, requiring every dog, cat, puppy and kitten adopted from ananimal shelter to be spayed or neutered as part of the adoption contract (see ISAR’s SpecialReport entitled “mandatory Adoption Sterilization Statute,” which includesmodel legislation).
  • Passage of mandatory spay/neuterlegislation to dramatically reduce the number of unwanted animals (see ISAR’s SpecialReport entitled “Model Mandatory Spay/Neuter Statute,” which includes modellegislation).
  • Establishing low cost spay and neuterclinics. Areas with efficiently run clinicshave seen dramatic reductions in the number of animals killed in shelters. Vancouver, British, Columbia, and Las Vegas,Nevada, are two examples.
  • Frequent media coverage of the dailykilling at shelters, combined with public appeals to spay and neuter companion animals,and to adopt from shelters rather than buy animals from pet stores or breeders.
  • Educating the public on the tragedy ofpurebreds. The unnatural process ofinbreeding causes painful and life threatening conditions. Hip displasia in the larger breeds, spinal disc ailment in dachshunds, andrespiratory distress in short-nosed breeds are only a few of the more visible problems. See ISAR’s AKC Special Reportfor more information.
  • Cessation of animal sales by pet storesand commercial and hobby breeders. Animalsshould only be acquired from shelters. Theyare not commodities. They should not be sold. Please see ISAR’s Special Reporton puppy mills for information on how these deplorable breeding factories contribute topet overpopulation.


Spaying and neutering not only saves countless lives by preventing the birth ofmore animals into an overpopulated world, there are also many direct advantages to bothguardians and animals when pets are spayed or neutered.


  • Behavioral Benefits – Spayingeliminates reproductive cycling. Therefore,a spayed dog or cat will not attract packs of male animals. The spayed animal is content to stay at home and is not inclined to roam and annoythe neighbors. Spayed animals are less likelyto bark or howl excessively. Spaying alsoprevents personality changes caused by hormonal differences.
  • Health Benefits – Spayingeliminates false pregnancies, uterine infections and the possibility of uterine or ovariancancers. Spaying also greatly reduces therisk of many diseases, including breast cancer. SeeISAR’s Special Report on Juvenile spaying and neutering for more information.

The idea that an animal will become fat and lazy if she is spayedis untrue. Inactivity and overfeeding causeweight gain and laziness, not spaying. Thethought that a dog or cat should be permitted to have one litter before being spayed isalso mistaken, as is the notion that children should witness animal births. For those who want their children to witness“the miracle of birth,” consider instead offering them a valuable lesson inresponsibility. Responsible people would notwant children to witness the killing of animals in shelters because caretakers did nothave their animals spayed or neutered.


  • Behavioral Benefits – The neuteredmale cat does not spray or fill the house with an obnoxious odor, as does the unneuteredmale. Unaltered males are more likely toexert dominance over family members and are more apt to bite than altered pets. Neutering curbs aggression, fighting, andexcessive barking and howling. Neuteringreduces the tendency to roam and prevents the male from trying to get out to pursuefemales in heat, thereby decreasing his likelihood of becoming lost or being injured byother animals, unkind humans, or being struck by motor vehicles.
  • Health Benefits – Neuteringeliminates or greatly reduces risk for the following conditions: testicular tumors; perianal tumors and hernias;prostate enlargement, infections, and cancerous tumors; and, neutering reduces the chanceurinary problems which tend to occur in later life among many unaltered male animals.

Due to health and behavioral benefits, spayed and neutered animals live an averageas twice as long as their unaltered counterparts.

There are also human safety benefitsderived from spaying and neutering dogs. Themedia reports horrifying accounts of people being knocked down, bitten and sometimeskilled by dogs or dog packs. Few peoplerealize that the cause is often that the child or adult has been near an unsprayed femaledog and the scent of that dog is on the person, thus attracting the unneutered dog ordogs. According to the Associated Press, Dr.Richard Fondrk of Hope Veterinary Hospital, said the female’s smell would prompt maledogs to compete for her attention even if she was absent and “cause some aggressivebehavior in the pack.”

In the interest of safeguarding human life, responsible people have their animalsspayed or neutered.


We can teach respect for sentient life to children by being responsible in our careof animals. In turn, children will realizethat all life deserves respect and care.

  • have your animals spayed or neutered.
  • Urge friends, relatives, neighbors, andco-workers to do the same. The overwhelmingimportance of spaying and neutering warrants you to encourage acquaintances, perfectstrangers, and even mortal enemies to spay or neuter their companion animals.
  • Always adopt your companion animalsfrom shelters. Encourage others to do thesame.
  • Don’t shop at pet stores that sellpuppies or kittens and be sure to let them know why they won’t be getting yourbusiness. Suggest instead that they offeradoption days in conjunction with local shelters. Likewise,be sure to write a letter of appreciation to pet stores that do not sell animals. For stores that wish to take a stronger standagainst pet overpopulation, you may wish to suggest they offer a discount one day a weekto guardians who provide proof that their pets are spayed or neutered.
  • If your local shelters do not operate alow cost spay/neuter clinic, ask them to contact ISAR for information on how to establishone.
  • Seek introduction of a mandatoryspay/neuter statute, euthanasia statistics statute, and adoption sterilization statute(available from ISAR) in your area.
  • Attend or coordinate a candlelightvigil for National Homeless Animals’ Day, sponsored by ISAR. Contact ISAR for information on this annual eventheld on the third Saturday in August in remembrance of homeless animals.
  • Help us spread the word! There are many ways you can help us to educateothers about the tragedy of pet overpopulation and its solutions. Please inquire for information on how to be avolunteer for ISAR.
  • Visit local schools and othergatherings of young people and speak about pet overpopulation and the importance ofresponsible pet care. ISAR is developing aneducational program designed specifically for children. We will provide literature for distribution to various age levels.
  • Create displays in public libraries,malls, schools, etc. which focus on pet overpopulation and set up information tables atcommunity events. Materials are availablefrom ISAR.
  • Ask your local radio and televisionstations to air ISAR’s Public Service Announcements on pet overpopulation. We currently have radio PSAs recorded by BobBarker and Brandon McKennah. Soon, we willalso have a radio PSA by Steve Allen. TV PSAsare available by Bob Barker.
  • Write a letter to the editor of yourlocal newspaper on pet overpopulation. Formletters are available from ISAR.
  • Bumper stickers and t-shirts are aneffective way to state your message. Contactus for a current listing of merchandise with our important spay/neuter message.
  • Distribute copies of this Special Report, available without charge from ISAR.