Many/most shelters and rescues have policies regarding spay/neuter and do not allow pets to be adopted without spay/neuter. Does your shelter have this policy? What do you think of it?
Personally, I'm about to adopt a German Shepherd mix from a rescue organization. A little bit of background... I'm a veterinary behaviorist whose focus is shelters and rescues, i've fostered many dogs myself over the years, i've led a foster based adoption program, i've never bred a dog or cat and i don't plan to. They are requiring spay/neuter of this large breed pup before adoption. I asked to have her spay/neutered myself in a few months. The answer was no. Which results in this discussion
I'm sure this is going to be controversial, but here goes.... I prefer waiting until a little laterto spay/neuter pets because:
1. The delay reduces the risk of hormone responsive urinary incontinence in female dogs
2. Spay/neuter delays closure of growth plates, which results in dogs becoming taller than they would naturally be. Some orthopedic surgeons recommend waiting to spay/neuter until dogs reach skeletal maturity, especially those prone to orthopedic diseases such as large breed dogs. https://source.colostate.edu/pet-health-timing-spay-neuter-depends-individual-pet-owner/
So... what are your thoughts? Would you allow a responsible person to wait to spay/neuter? SHOULD we allow a responsible person to wait, if they have valid reasons for doing so?
Good question. I know several dogs who have had incontinence issues thought to be caused by spaying young, and #2 intrigues me. My dog was neutered at 4 months, and I always joke that he looks like a pit bull type dog on stilts. I do wonder if that might be due to the early neuter...but, I also know that our local shelter had a huge (hundreds of thousands of dollars) trust fund for a while because when they switched to doing S/N before adoption, the vet they'd done the vouchers through had to reimburse them for all the unused ones.
Love the 'pit bull on stilts' analogy! I have a rat terrier on stilts Neutered him at six weeks of age and he grew to twice the size he should have been! I'm sure that is why yours is tall... cos the effect on body composition is an undisputed fact.
I think this is why we are seeing so many cruciate issues too.
Hi Sheila, great question to pose!
Full disclosure, I am not much of a dog person and most of my work is in cats/kittens.
I am hearing more and more about S&N at 6 weeks/1.5 pounds which just feels mind blowingly small/young to me. But then I think about every critic that said the same thing about 8 weeks and 2 pounds and wonder if I am stuck in the dark ages. When I was with Nevada Humane we had a city ordinance that all animals leaving the organization had to be spayed and neutered including everything down to rabbits, so we didn't have much choice in the matter as an organization. There is so much research now about potential risks and dangers with fixing dogs at that young age, I wonder if we are doing a disservice to owners by not giving them all the info and allowing them some agency in the choice, especially if they can show somehow that they are responsible. On the one hand how do we implement that agency in a way that supports reducing the pet populations but also provide owners the option and knowledge to make informed decisions regarding whether they are willing to deal with 20% higher chances of joint problems later in life? Veterinary bills, especially associated with CCL tears are pricey. In your case I wonder if any of this research could help you back up your wanting to wait with the puppy?
A couple colleagues of mine at UC Davis have taken up this topic for research and done some long range studies (13-14.5 year studies) on several hundred dogs regarding health outcomes for early S&N dogs. I have summarized some of their findings below in case you haven't seen these results before:
Hey Scarlett, Thanks for your response and sorry for my delayed reply- looks like my notification of your reply went to spam . One of the authors of those UCD studies was my mentor, so i'm familiar with it However, there have been some criticisms of this work. Most importantly that the findings are correlations and not causation, and that it was a biased population- pets that visit a veterinary speciality teaching hospital. So... while they MIGHT be true, they also might not be. However on the other side of the coin, we know about growth plate changes with early spay/neuter so it makes sense that it also might change risk of orthopedic disease... Definitely a complicated issue and i appreciate your feedback!
I've thought about this question a number of times over the years. It's one of those cases where the decision I would make for my own pet is a different one than I would put in place as policy for a shelter. I, too, would likely delay altering a puppy if I had the option, for the reasons you mentioned. However, as a shelter director, I would (and do) require every pet to go home altered. Compliance with post-adoption spay/neuter agreements is too low and the risk of accidental litters too high. It's just a whole different risk-benefit analysis when you're making it for one pet than for a whole community. I feel for you, Sheila!
i agree about the concerns and issues with compliance. Its all about the benefits to the community vs. the benefits to the individual and right now in most cases we side on 'benefit to community' to prevent unwanted litters.
Running a rescue I am a big believer in policy and adhering to it. However, I am a bigger believer in common sense and changing or altering policy after information is presented that changes what we know. Or, as in your case, you are a responsible person in animal rescue who can be trusted to do what you say you are going to do.
Thanks Fearless Kitty. I agree with you 1000%!! Its also why at Maddie's Fund, we try to avoid creating 'set in stone' policies... cos we acknowledge that if we learn something new we will change our policy!
Yes...absolutely require s/n....with some exceptions (including health and age)
I have heard of some shelters doing a "foster to adopt" in situations where an immediate s/n was not in the animal's best interest. A waiver is signed that any veterinary care after the foster date was the responsibility of the foster family. This way, the animal has not technically been adopted, and the animal did not need to have an immediate s/n before being placed in the home
I personally would love to see some leeway in my own rescue's policy. As an owner of a Great Dane, I'm fully aware of the problems giant breed dogs can face when they're spayed/neutered at pediatric ages. A few years back, we had three Dane puppies land in our program, and after much debate, decided to have them neutered prior to adoption. I wish we hadn't.
If we have to trust our adopters at some point--to care for the animals they adopt from us--why can't we trust them enough to spay and neuter the pets they adopt from us? Now, I have no issues with us altering cats and kittens prior to adoption, adult dogs, and small to medium breed puppies. I think it shows that we as a rescue are invested in their care and we want to have them 'ready' for new homes. But I think a knowledgeable owner of a Dane or similar type dog is doing their homework if they ask us if we can wait on the spay/neuter until the animal is mature. Yes, it's a risk. But every placement is a risk. I think if we talk enough to the adopters, and we're sure that they're doing it in the best interest of the animal, we should go ahead and adopt on a spay/neuter contract. A legally-binding one, and yes, it will require extra resources from us, but we are both trying to do what's in the animal's best interest.
We are also pretty firm on not sending animals to homes with unaltered dogs, cats, rabbits, but are flexible depending on the reason why the animal is unaltered. Obviously if the animal is a show animal or on a contract from a breeder that is ok. If the reason for not fixing is "can't afford" or "never got around to it" or "we were thinking about breeding him" (and it's not a serious breeding situation) then we politely decline the applicant and refer them to resources that can help get the animals fixed. I am adopting a cat out this evening to someone who has an unaltered dog. I asked her why, and in the course of the discussion she confided that the dog up until recently belonged to an abusive partner who would not allow the dog to be neutered. She is still recovering from the bad relationship and does plan to neuter him, although she was worried about putting him under at the age of 7. So I talked with her about doing a pre-surgery bloodwork panel and gave her reassurance as much as I could.
And I feel like the adoption will be fine. I am not going to turn down someone who is interested in a cat I've had in foster for over a year because she's only recently out of an abusive relationship with someone who didn't want a dog neutered. All her cats are fixed. My cat is fixed. The dog is not running willy-nilly impregnating other dogs. She is being a responsible owner of an intact dog.
First you would need a clear definition of "responsible person" and a clear means of confirming that the person is in fact "responsible." If the shelter in question practices adopter screening, then evidence, a spay/neuter contract, and follow-up visit to confirm that the pet has in fact been spayed/neutered, e.g. could be options. On the other hand, if the shelter in question is practicing open adoptions, then also allowing pets to be adopted without spay/neuter would be much too risky since it would be very difficult to ascertain responsibility level of the adopter and allowing pets to be adopted before spay/neuter would eventually result in more backyard breeding, accidental pregnancies, and an increase in unwanted puppies and kittens.
All of that said, at this point in our evolution as a society I'm with the person below who said that her shelter would not and does not do it, ever.
I know there are risks in early spay/neuter and people are advocating for later spay/neuter of pets. I also have worked for a Humane Society for more than 20 years and I believe all animals should be spayed/neutered before adoption. You can't really know if a person is "responsible". Years ago we used to give "responsible" people vouchers to get their pet fixed and a lot of them never did it, even though it was paid for by the Humane Society.
We do not spay/neuter really young animals. We have a policy that allows county residents to adopt unaltered animals, they pay a spay/neuter deposit and make an appointment for their spay/neuter at the time of adoption. If the person does not return for their appointment, we send an Animal Control officer to their house to work out the details or issue a citation. If someone is not a county resident, they are not allowed to adopt and unaltered animal.
As an aside, I have a female great pyr mix who was spayed before we adopted her from a shelter (8 weeks old). She does have incontinence issues and our local vet told me it was directly related to being spayed so young.
I wonder how they could tell though... My mom had a mastiff mix she adopted at a year and a half who had just been spayed then. She also developed urinary incontinence. How would a vet know what the cause is?
I have mixed views about this. I know that for shelters and rescues spay/neuter at a young age (we do 8 wks) is necessary due to the volume of animals that need to move through the process. Delaying spay/neuter can literally cost the lives of other animals because of the backup and space issues it causes. So early spay/neuter is a no brainer. And it's not because shelters want to it's because they have to.
However, I have and do make exceptions (occasionally) for adopters and veterinarians who request a delay. In these cases I do ask that the veterinarian making the request send a written request with the reason why and a date of spay/neuter.
Again, this is incredibly difficult for rescues and shelters to keep up with and work through. Spay/neuter as soon as possible is such an important factor in effective and efficient sheltering. Without getting too much into it we have also read research and studies that show early spay/neuter does not affect pets negatively in the ways traditionally thought.
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