A very well-written article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer reveals that aggressive spay-neuter programs have dramatically decreased the killing of pets simply because they are unwanted.
From a ghastly high of 20 million pets per year in the 1960s, and an improved but still unacceptable level of 8-10 million by 2000, it is estimated today that only 4 million pets will be euthanized in shelters this year. However, 4 million is still a heck of a lot of pets–way too many, of course! But the drop is even more impressive when you figure that in 1970 there were just over 60 million pets in households, while today that number is closer to 170 million!
Encouraging adoptions has helped. Petfinder.com, which lists adoptable animals all over the U.S. and Canada, has facilitated about 17 million adoptions since it went online in 1996.
Still, more pets are born each year than there are available homes. Some people still refuse to have their pets spayed or neutered, often based on a wildly anthropomorphic (not to mention highly egocentric) idea that since the person wouldn’t want to be surgically sterilized, the animal wouldn’t want it either. But pets are calmer and happier when they are not being driven by raging hormones and the biological imperative to reproduce.
While there is some evidence that intact, large and giant breed dogs may be less prone to a certain few health problems, the general lack of personal responsibility evinced by most humans in this culture make spaying and neutering absolutely necessary for pet population control.
Fortunately, there are new solutions on the horizon, such as drugs and vaccines that will render a pet sterile without surgery.