Spring 2004

by Chris Dalton

February was “Have a Heart for Animals” month in New Mexico. The message of why spaying or neutering your animals is the right thing to do has been talked about and written about in many places, so why are shelters and rescue groups still overrun with animals? Information and aid are available and there are groups designed specifically to help solve this problem.

No More Homeless Pets (NMHP) is one such group. Spearheading a campaign to “fix” the problem in New Mexico, NMHP works tirelessly to get funding for programs like the Spay and Neuter Awareness Program (SNAP). SNAP has a mobile unit that goes into various communities to perform low-cost spay or neuter surgeries. Unfortunately, one mobile van cannot undo what years and years of neglect have done in our state.

Education is the key to rectifying the pet overpopulation problem in New Mexico. This is where publications like PETroglyphs come in. They give a voice to the people who see the damage caused by the pet overpopulation problem every day. These are the people who must look into the eyes of the poor creatures who end up on examination tables to be euthanized. The prick of a needle is followed shortly by a last, dying breath. Euthanasia is a direct result of an irresponsible pet owner’s neglect. Litter after litter of puppies and kittens are born every day in New Mexico to animals who really had no choice in the matter. Hundreds of thousands of animals have died because of this unregulated breeding.

People have many excuses for not sterilizing their animals. Let’s look at a few of them. First is the “expense” of having the surgery.

Money is not a valid reason. You adopt one animal. She gets pregnant. She has a litter, and you have multiple hungry mouths to feed. In the long run sterilizing the first animal could have saved you hundreds of dollars. If you think the expense of spaying or neutering is high, try feeding a litter of six German Shepherd puppies.

Many people worry about the effect sterilization will have on their pet’s temperament. People say, “He wouldn’t feel like a male dog anymore,” or “She’ll just get fat and lazy.” Myths. All myths. Your male dog will become a much better pet without the distraction of mating and the need to mark his territory constantly. As for becoming lazy, it is the responsibility of the owner to regulate an animal’s exercise and diet. So the excuses of male ego and laziness do not hold water either.

Let’s talk about health issues. The risks involved in the sterilization process are far overshadowed by the risks involved in allowing an animal to remain intact. Cancer and labor complications top the list for intact animals. Then there are the animals who go over a backyard wall, running the risk of being hit by a car or picked up as a stray. Without the presence of reproductive organs, most of these factors are eliminated completely. Your dog and cat will live much happier lives when they aren’t concerned with mating. We are able to bond with our animals on a higher level when we take reproduction out of the equation.

The bottom line is this. Over 90,000 cats and dogs are dumped in shelters every year in New Mexico alone. There simply are not enough homes for all the litters that are born every year. It is our moral responsibility to do something about it. Pet overpopulation is a statewide problem that CAN, I repeat CAN be resolved. We just all have to get on the same page. There are statewide programs in the works for more mobile clinics and low-income programs. As pet owners, we must all stand together to stamp out this problem.

My advice is to get involved and let your voice be heard. Don’t let the tragedy of pet overpopulation be put on the back burner. Every year the euthanasia numbers go up, but the litters just keep on coming. The shelters stay full and all of us have seen poor starving dogs or cats on the street. Turning a blind eye will not fix this problem. In fact, turning a blind eye encourages people to allow the problem to continue.

Open your mouth and say something that will make a difference. As pet owners and animal lovers, we have the ability to open the eyes of people who just turn their backs and tell themselves that it doesn’t involve them. The fact is this problem affects all of us, and it’s time to do something about it. I urge you to get involved with shelter or rescue groups. If that’s not the right path for you, talk to people, write to the newspapers, or lecture in schools and clubs about the problems pet overpopulation poses for all of us. Whatever you decide to do, make your voice heard and make a difference.


Listed below are groups in the Albuquerque area where help with low cost spay and neuter surgery is available. Contact these groups if you meet their requirements for aid. In future issues, we will run information on the low cost spay and neuter options that are available in other parts of the state.

Alliance Against Animal Abuse (AAAA)
$35 co-pay, low-income federal guidelines

Animal Humane Association of New Mexico (AHANM)
505-255-5523 ext. 150
$10 co-pay, public assistance

Bernalillo County SNAP program
Reduced fees for County residents

New Mexico Animal Friends (NMAF)
Various reduced or no cost surgeries

No More Homeless Pets
No cost surgeries for low income families

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