Pet Overpopulation in America (Zachary Ashman)

The Research Question and Collection:

I wanted to explore whether spay and neutering companion animals had an effect on the pet overpopulation problem in America. I used the following material to research the issue and found that it can have a positive impact.

ZachpicPet overpopulation: An uphill battle, by Michael A. McLaughlin, DVM, DVM Magazine pg. 22 issue 11/2009

This is a short piece that talks about spay and neutering.   The author discusses what he feels is too much emphasis on sterilization and vaccinations and not enough emphasis on basic health and disease testing. Apparently many humane society type organizations focus on spay and neutering and don’t do testing for diseases like leukemia or parasites. Dr. McLaughlin thinks this is a poor use of resources because people could end up adopting an unhealthy animal because they chose to spend funds on sterilization and not basic health testing.

Impact of a Subsidized Spay Neuter Clinic on Impoundments and Euthanasia in a Community Shelter and on Service and Complaint Calls to Animal Control, By Janet Scarlett and Naomi Johnston, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 15:53–69, 2012

This study was done after the community opened a subsidized Spay & Neuter clinic in Transylvania County, North Carolina, to see if it had any measurable impact on the impound and euthanasia rates of dogs and cats in local shelters. The study results surprised me a bit, but there were a lot of areas that data wasn’t collected, which made the results difficult to interpret. For example, the study didn’t know how many spay and neuters were being performed by local veterinarians before or after the subsidized clinic opened. Essentially there was no way of telling whether the total number of spay and neuters in the county had increased or stayed the same, because there wasn’t data to compare if pet owners had switched their neutering behavior from veterinarians to the clinic. Although area shelters did see declines in impound and euthanasia rates, the percentage was insignificant, so it’s difficult to call the subsidized neutering program a success.

Impact of Publicly Sponsored Neutering Programs on Animal Population Dynamics at Animal Shelters: The New Hampshire and Austin Experiences, By Sara C. White, Ellen Jefferson, Julie K. Levy, , Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 13:191-212, 2010

This was a study done in New Hampshire. Although the study was similar to the North Carolina Study, this study compared its findings with areas that did not have spay and neuter programs along with area shelters that did. The findings of this study showed a much more dramatic decrease in the number of animals entering shelters and being euthanized than the North Carolina study. It also showed a significant difference between the areas that did not have sterilization programs.

Case Study: Companion Animal Over-Population Programs in New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Maine And A New Program for Maine, By: Sharon J. Secovich Advisor: Dr. Dahlia Bradshaw-Lynn August 2003

This study looks at spay and neuter programs set up in New Hampshire and New Jersey to see if a similar program can be repeated successfully in Maine. This study was extremely thorough. The author interviewed shelter and Animal Control workers to get insider view points on the viability of a subsidized spay and neuter program. Maine at the time had a certificate and voucher system set up to provide $25 to $50 toward spay and neuter surgery for low income individuals and families, but some veterinarians wouldn’t honor the certificates and pet owners were required to pay any difference in cost if the procedures cost more than the voucher amount. In comparison, New Hampshire’s program pays for all but $10 of the spay and neuter procedure cost. The proposal recommends setting up a spay & neuter program Maine and suggests that using the existing pet licensing model and increasing the price to license an animal by a couple dollars would finance the cost with money left over to market the program to the public.

The Public Writing

Dear Oregon State Rep,

I’m writing you today, to ask that you consider writing legislation to make spay and neutering of companion animals mandatory in Oregon. There is a huge overpopulation problem with companion animals in America. Millions of animals are surrendered and euthanized at shelters across the country every year. Many factors contribute to this problem, but there is good evidence that spay and neutering animals, reduces the amount of unwanted animals going into area shelters/ rescues and in turn reduces the amount of companion animals getting euthanized.

There have been several studies in different States that evaluate the impact of such neutering programs already in existence. Most of the studies have found that having a subsidized spay and neuter program to assist low income pet owners has had a positive impact at lowering the amount of animals being admitted and euthanized in shelters. By making it mandatory and offering inexpensive and free services to low and fixed income individuals, we could make a big impact on the amount of unwanted animals in Oregon.

Benefits of spay and neutering companion animals:

Reduce animals going into shelters – Unaltered cats and dogs can reproduce several times in one year. Dogs can have up to 2 litters a year and can produce up to 16 puppies. Cats can have 2-3 litters a year and produce up to 24 kittens. Factor in the fact that each animal can become sexually mature within 4-6 months or up to a year for some dog breeds and it isn’t difficult to see how quickly overpopulation can get out of hand.

Reduce euthanasia of stray dogs and cats – The theory is that with less animals reproducing, that less animals will be going into shelters, and thus less animals will get euthanized.

Stops bad behavior – Anyone who has experienced an animal in heat will understand. Unaltered animals can have all kinds of annoying behaviors. They can spray, be destructive, become more excitable around other animals and have the urge to roam. Bad behavior is also one of the leading reasons for surrendering an animal to a shelter.

Better for the animals health – It will help keep the animal safer by reducing its urge to roam and reducing the chances of getting into fights or hit by a car. There are also several different types of cancer that it can prevent.

Saves money – By preventing certain types of reproductive cancers it can save money. Unaltered pets have a tendency to be more aggressive and fight, which can lead to injures that require veterinary care. Unaltered pets can also be more destructive toward furniture and other items which cost money to replace.

Prevents animal suffering – Stray animals that don’t receive proper care can develop all kinds of nasty diseases and end up riddled with pests like fleas and mites. Untreated, many of these animals just suffer. And then there is also starvation, many of these animals don’t have access to proper nutrition and can end up starving to death.

Someone could get around the mandatory sterilization by paying higher licensing fees or applying for a breeder’s license or by getting a medical waiver from a veterinarian. There are some cases where performing the medical procedure could endanger the animals life.

How do we pay for it? That is a good question. The funds could come from an existing animal licensing fee or from lottery funds or from some other form of revenue to be determined.   If the program works out successfully, Animal Control should save money on enforcement and shelters should save money from having less volume. I know many people are against more regulations and more fees, but I think the benefits of having a subsidized spay and neuter program would outweigh many of the negatives.

Mandatory sterilization would help curb the companion pet overpopulation problem in Oregon. Similar programs around the country have been successful in lowering the amount of animals surrendered and euthanized by animal shelters. Ultimately it would be about enriching the lives of companion animals and trying to minimize their suffering and death.

I appreciate your consideration,


Zach Ashman



  1. Dom Alvarez

    I liked how you formatted it with the main starting points in bold and details following that. I do feel like you should have cited some evidence and statistics in those areas instead of just simply stating it. That would make it longer but it also would give the reader the option to look at it in more detail or to just skim it to. That being said it was a very interesting read.

    You certainly took a very strong stance. I think the point you make in the second paragraph about making options for low income families is a very good point. I know I several people who could be benefited by such options. It was also very great that you didn’t just propose the idea but also came up with ideas on how to fund it. Lastly,your word choice was also very good at getting to the readers.

  2. Himanandini Mohanty

    I loved your research collection.It is very organised. You have given us a lot of information. The benefits are very well covered in your letter. The points you have made are valid. Each point is being analysed in depth. Hence it makes a very interesting read.

    I feel the sequence can be worked on a little bit and you can make it a bit formal and polite. Try to bring in more clarity in your work Rest it is great piece of writing. Good job.

    • Zach Ashman


      I struggle with organization. I was working on this up to the submission time, so I definitely could have improved upon it if I spent more time editing and revising.

      Thank you for the feedback. I appreciate it.

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