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Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

  • 1.  Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 11-20-2017 02:01 PM

    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?


    #adoption
    #neuter
    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms
    #spay
    #requirements


  • 2.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 11-21-2017 06:33 PM

    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. 


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 3.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12-06-2017 03:27 PM

    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.


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 4.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12-06-2017 08:42 PM

    I think this is why we are seeing so many cruciate issues too. 


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 5.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 11-21-2017 09:20 PM

    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:

    • German Shepards: In intact males, 7% were diagnosed with one or more joint disorders, while in males neutered prior to a year of age, a significantly higher 21% were diagnosed with one or more joint disorders. In intact females, 5% were diagnosed with one or more joint disorders, while in females neutered prior to a year of age, this measure was significantly increased to 16%. The increased joint disorder incidence mostly associated with early neutering was CCL. MC was diagnosed in 4% of intact females compared with less than 1% in females neutered before 1 year. The occurrence of the other cancers followed through 8 years of age was not higher in the neutered than in the intact dogs. Urinary incontinence, not diagnosed in intact females, was diagnosed in 7% of females neutered before 1 year, a significant difference.
    • Goldens and Labs: In Labrador Retrievers, where about 5 percent of gonadally intact males and females had one or more joint disorders, neutering at <6 mo. doubled the incidence of one or more joint disorders in both sexes. In male and female Golden Retrievers, with the same 5 percent rate of joint disorders in intact dogs, neutering at <6 mo. increased the incidence of a joint disorder to 4-5 times that of intact dogs. The incidence of one or more cancers in female Labrador Retrievers increased slightly above the 3 percent level of intact females with neutering. In contrast, in female Golden Retrievers, with the same 3 percent rate of one or more cancers in intact females, neutering at all periods through 8 years of age increased the rate of at least one of the cancers by 3-4 times. In male Golden and Labrador Retrievers neutering had relatively minor effects in increasing the occurrence of cancers.

    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 6.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12-06-2017 03:24 PM

    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!

     


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 7.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12-05-2017 06:01 PM

    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! 


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 8.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12-06-2017 03:25 PM

     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.


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 9.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12-05-2017 06:34 PM

    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.  

     
    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 10.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12-06-2017 03:29 PM

    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!


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 11.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12-06-2017 08:59 PM

    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


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 12.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 06-01-2018 10:44 AM

    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.

    My $.02.

     

     

     


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 13.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 06-03-2018 02:14 PM

    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.  


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 14.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 06-04-2018 06:52 AM

    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.  


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 15.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 06-04-2018 07:49 AM

    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. 


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 16.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 06-06-2018 11:34 AM

    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?


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 17.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 06-04-2018 10:15 AM

    Hello, 

    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. 


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms


  • 18.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    This message was posted by a user wishing to remain anonymous
    Posted 14 days ago
    This message was posted by a user wishing to remain anonymous

    This post came back up when I did a search on this site and I'm curious as to how we should handle a similar situation. 

    We received the following message from a member of our local community on our Facebook page and I was curious about how other organizations handle communicating the requirements you may have in place when adopting out animals to homes with other unspayed/unneutered pets. We are trying to be more open with our adoptions but I'm not sure quite how to respond to this inquiry without further causing any frustration or alienating a potential adopter.

    "Good morning, We are a stable, loving home. We wanted to adopt an 8 year old female neutered pet that has gone through hell! I was refused because my 3 year old is not neutered. It's a choice we took because I believe my dog should keep his hormones and other reasons for his health. Is this fair? I want to save a life and give back to my furry friends. We are responsible people and we are always with our pet, also the pet is neutered!!!!!!! I don't understand, very frustrated and sad" 

    Is there any information you would share with this potential adopter about the importance of spaying/neutering their pet or why our organization has this requirement in place? 

    Thanks in advance for any help.


  • 19.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    This message was posted by a user wishing to remain anonymous
    Posted 14 days ago
    This message was posted by a user wishing to remain anonymous

    They should be allowed to adopt! I don't understand why you won't let them adopt. It deprives a dog of a home for no good reason.  If they can't adopt from you, they will go somewhere else. You are not going to stop them from getting a dog. And if they get one in the community, there's a good chance it will be unspayed and then they'll end up with puppies.


  • 20.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 13 days ago
    Since the second question is ultimately about your particular rescue group's policies, I feel like an important first step is clarifying internally why your group feels that you can't adopt to households with intact pets. That might mean holding a meeting with leaders/decision-makers in your group, or even just having everyone share their thoughts with each other by e-mail.

    Once you have your answers to that, then I think you have more ability to talk to adopters about concrete reasons. For example, if the primary worry is about accidental litters, then placing an already spayed/neutered pet shouldn't increase the risk of that household having an oops litter. (On the other hand, you still might not want to place an intact foster pet into a home with intact pets of the opposite sex.) Or if the main worry is about the adopter's ability to provide vet care, this adopter already mentioned that health reasons are part of keeping their dog intact. So politely asking about the health risks they are concerned about and whether those risks have been discussed with their vet might give you more insight into their pets' vet care than assuming that an intact dog is receiving less vet care than an altered one.

    As you probably noticed in this thread, there are a lot more shades of nuance than "intact=always bad" or "altered=always good" and I think that is what this possible adopter is questioning. I think it is great that you are trying to be open in your adoptions, and would like to find a way to resolve this conflict without the adopter feeling more hurt. One thing I have personally found helpful in this sort of situation is making sure to reply quickly and let the adopter know that you considering their request and information, and will get back to them once the decision-makers have had a chance to discuss options. (Particularly since folks tend to expect an instant answer to FB messages!) If folks have been denied, I think it often feels like a painful judgement of their pet care decisions. Since you mentioned that you don't want to alienate a possible adopter, I would include something along those lines in your initial reply, so they know that you are still considering them as a possible home for a pet and don't regard them as a bad dog owner.

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    Emme Hones
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  • 21.  RE: Should we allow exceptions to Spay/Neuter before adoption requirements?

    Posted 12 days ago
    As a general rule I would never have a publicized policy that allows animals to be adopted before spay-neuter surgery. 

    I say this because back in the 1980s one of my shelter tasks was the follow-up calls to adopters who didn't use their prepaid spay-neuter certificates.  I did this both in New York and Seattle.  The excuses were everything from "too busy" and "I gave the animal to a friend" to "I decided she needed to have one litter" and "I wanted the children to see the beauty of birth.  It made me sick.  And the results were dreadful:  no matter how much spay-neuter work was done, until pediatric spays were developed, so no shelter animals could be adopted before sterilization, the euthanasia rates remained horrifying and the "no kill" shelters I saw were nightmares of overcrowding and neglect.  These were shelters who spent a great deal of time interviewing and "getting to know" adopters, called landlords to verify, etc.  We thought we chose "responsible" adopters.

    That said, I believe there are times when exceptions should be made for almost every rule, including this one.  Any exceptions should be extremely rare, made  on a case-by-case basis, and not publicized.  In this case, I would consider an exception based on:
    • the fact that it is a large-breed dog , which is more likely to develop an issue from pediatric spay-neuter
    •  your credentials and references, and results of a thorough background check
    Then I would do a foster-adopt contract stipulating that the ownership will transfer to you only after the dog is sterilized.

    Good luck with your advocacy for the dog, I hope your can reach a compromise.  But please understand that there is a very, very good reason for the requirement to spay-neuter before adoptions!

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    April King
    Volunteer and Board Member
    Kotor Kitties
    +1 206 407 5336
    http://www.kotorkitties.org
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