New Mexico's Pet ResourceFALL 2002

THE SPAY/NEUTER STAMPS:
HISTORY OF A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN

by Ardeth Baxter

It all started with a letter to Best Friends Magazine.

In the April 1996 issue, New York City animal advocate Sally Giovanis urged readers to write to the US Postal Service in support of a spay/neuter stamp. Hope Tarr, a romance novelist and animal lover with no experience running national campaigns, read her letter and contacted Giovanis to offer her help. It was the beginning of a five-year labor of love.

In September 1997, Prevent a Litter Coalition, Inc. (PaLC) launched the Stamp Out! Pet Overpopulation campaign with an all-volunteer staff and virtually no support. PaLC proposed the spay/neuter stamp to the US Postal Service, and was soon notified of its placement before the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee. This was a remarkable accomplishment, considering that the USPS receives 50,000 stamp subject requests every year. In October 1998, the Committee nominated the spay/neuter stamp for consideration, which meant that two major hurdles had already been overcome.

The campaign got a big boost from US Congressman Ben Gilman (R-New York), who in April 1999 urged his colleagues in Congress to support the creation of a spay/neuter stamp. By August a Congressional sign-on letter had been delivered to the USPS.

In 2000, in what was to be a temporary setback, the Postal Service announced it would not issue a "Stop Pet Overpopulation, Spay or Neuter Your Pet," although it remained "under consideration for future issuance."

By 2001 the spay/neuter stamp coalition included over 210 national, state, and local humane groups such as the ASPCA, the HSUS, and the Doris Day Animal League, as well as Tufts and Cornell University veterinary medical colleges, The American Animal Hospital Association, The American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, and The National Animal Control Association. In addition, ordinary American citizens from around the world sent some 200,000 letters to US Postal Service headquarters requesting the stamp, according to Terry McCaffrey, manager of stamp development.

In May of 2001, all the hard work of so many animal lovers finally paid off. Hope Tarr was informed that the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee of the Postal Service had recommended the spay/neuter stamp be issued in 2002 as a commemorative stamp pending the approval of the Postmaster General. On August 22nd, the Postal Service announced that there would be not one, but two stamps issued, one of a kitten ("Spay your pet") and the other of a puppy ("Neuter your pet"). On December 11th, animal advocate and TV game show host Bob Barker unveiled the stamps on his CBS show "The Price is Right."

The first day of issue for the stamps will be September 20, 2002 in Denver, Colorado at the Animal Humane Association's 125th annual conference. After their issue, PaLC and the US Postal Service plan to collaborate in promotional tie-ins and educational opportunities to spread the word about spay/neuter. In addition, the American Partnership for Pets, which consists of leading animal health and welfare organizations, has been created to educate the public about the importance of spay/neuter through educational and promotional materials and local events. Please check their website for details about the program and how you can participate: www.americanpartnershipforpets.org

Two hundred million stamps (many more than the usual issue of 80 million for a commemorative stamp) will be sold in all 38,000 US post offices. They can also be purchased at the US Postal Service website (www.usps.com/shop) or by calling their toll-free number (800-STAMP-24).

Artist Derry Noyes designed the stamps. Sally Andersen-Bruce photographed the subjects, Kirby, a shelter puppy, and Samantha, a shelter kitten, both of whom have since been adopted. The issue is of two side-by-side designs, first-class-rate self-adhesive stamps. They will be available in a pane of 20 (10 puppy and 10 kitten). The reason for using a puppy and kitten rather than older animals is that the stamps' supporters want to promote spaying and neutering BEFORE an animal is old enough to breed.

In an interview on the PaLC website (www.palc.org), Hope Tarr, reflecting on the five-year effort that began with reading the letter to Best Friends Magazine, emphasized the word "inclusiveness" as a secret to the success of the spay/neuter stamp campaign. While giving credit to the efforts of the animal welfare community, she added that ". . . our focus was to build on our major strength--our common love of dogs and cats--while avoiding getting bogged down in any philosophical differences. . . if we were to have a prayer of winning issuance of this stamp, the proposal mustn't appear to be allied with any single community. The Spay/Neuter Your Pet campaign couldn't be seen as an animal welfare issue only but rather as an American issue." She attributed the ultimate success of the campaign to the combined efforts of veterinarians and veterinary professional groups, stamp collector organizations, politicians, media celebrities, breed rescuers, and private citizens, as well as animal welfare organizations.

We urge you to support the Spay/Neuter Your Pet campaign by purchasing as many stamps as you can. Let's encourage the Postal Service to print even more stamps, and help keep their important message in circulation for more than the single year that commemorative stamps are usually available.


No one who has ever had a dog or cat can doubt the animal capacity for happiness . . . Like uninhibited human happiness, the pleasure is contagious, and pets serve as a conduit to joyful feelings. -Jeffrey Moussaief Masson


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