Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for California to become a “no-kill” state by including $50 million in his budget for the University of California at Davis to create a new grant-based system to help shelters achieve the goal of no longer euthanizing treatable cats and dogs.

Making California no-kill is an outstanding and commendable goal. Animal shelters almost always kill animals simply because of a lack of space. Hold times for animals in a shelter can range from no time at all for animals surrendered by owners, to five days or less for an unchipped stray, to 10 days or more for a microchipped animal. Hold times are up to the discretion of the shelter manager or shelter veterinarian—and animals that show any sign of illness or unfriendliness often end up on a euthanasia list.

It’s a matter of simple math: The only way to reduce the animal-shelter population is to reduce the number of animals.

Mimi Mitz has been the president of the Morongo Basin Humane Society in Joshua Tree for the better part of 30 years.

“Spay and neutering, and reducing backyard breeders, (are all) important to reduce the animal overpopulation,” she said. “There are three animal shelters within 10 miles of each other, and all three are always full, all of the time. If unwanted animals are not in a shelter, they are on the street.”

There’s another reason to spay or neuter your beloved animal: It can prevent medical issues. I asked Dr. Rachel Reedy, of Carter Animal Hospital in Cathedral City, about the top reasons to spay and neuter. “First, to avoid more puppies or kittens,” she said. “Second, to prevent mammary and ovarian cancers in females, and prostate cancer in males; third, for behavioral reasons: to reduce aggression in both males and females.”

We are fortunate in the Coachella Valley and high desert to have access to low-cost spay and neuter services. We have the Animal Action League, located in Joshua Tree, which provides low-cost spaying, neutering and vaccines (plus other services). AAL was founded in 1989, started providing mobile services in 2005, and has spayed and neutered more than 55,000 cats and dogs. Think about it: The number of dogs and cats that did not end up in a shelter as a result of AAL’s work is incredible.

AAL works with SNIP Bus and Molly’s Miracle, a mobile spay and neuter hospital built by S.O.A.R. (Society’s Outcast Animal Rescue) to provide low cost clinics. The need is great; check the calendar at www.animalactionleague.net.

I asked Melody Farnik, the director of the Animal Action League, why people don’t get their pets spayed or neutered. “Education and not knowing the reality and severity of the problem, as well financial constraints and location/transportation,” she said.

AAL performs spay and neuter services at its clinic in Joshua Tree; before the mobile services became available, people had to travel there.

“Mobile spay and neuter has made a huge difference,” she said.

Farnik recommends spaying and neutering cats and dogs at eight weeks or 2 pounds. I asked Farnik if she had any wishes for AAL.

“One wish would be to have another spay and neuter clinic come in and help out,” she said. “It takes a lot of planning, and we service communities in Banning and Beaumont, the Morongo Basin, the Coachella Valley and even as far as Imperial.”

Each low-cost mobile clinic session costs around $3,300 to put on; between 27 and 33 male and female cats and dogs can be seen per session. Clinics are underwritten through grants and donations.

Even with all of these wonderful spay and neuter services, the need is greater than the amount provided. To get to no-kill status as a community, we must first get spay and neuter laws enacted. We must curtail backyard breeding by creating laws and regulations that register and monitor these breeders—or ban them outright. We must educate people about the medical benefits behind spaying, and the devastation to female dogs when they have mammary or ovarian cancer. So many un-spayed dogs end up in shelters with mammary masses and horrendous tumors—and their discomfort and pain are heartbreaking.

What can you do to make a difference? First, adopt, don’t shop. Save a rescue beloved’s life. Go to a shelter, and bring home a wonderful woof or meow. Second, if you buy from a breeder, make sure it is a legitimate and legal breeder. Check out the way the animals there live, and how they are being treated. Cast-off and dumped breeder dogs are commonly found in shelters—often in terrible physical condition.

Third, spay or neuter your animal as early as possible. Unless you are a legitimate breeder, there is no reason not to do so. Ego is not a reason. Finally: Donate to your local animal shelters and rescue groups—organizations like AAL, that work toward a no-kill animal future.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

3 replies on “Moving Toward a No-Kill Future: It’s a No-Brainer—Virtually All Pets Should Be Spayed or Neutered”

  1. Thank you for the article; however, No Kill is not only about spay/neuter. It’s about putting in place solid programs that help animals that are already in the shelter and need help to get out, for example, strong adoption programs, foster programs, volunteer programs and medical and behavioral rehabilitation programs.

    For too long, we have defined the solution as spay/neuter and education only. That is great, but there have to be real-time, concrete, practical programs in all shelters, to get to No Kill. It’s true – it isn’t rocket science to get to No Kill, but it takes more than spay/neuter. Luckily, shelters in cities like Austin, TX, Washoe Co., NV and Thompkins Co., NY are already saving 90+% of their animals. Some are even meeting the goal of No Kill sheltering: saving all healthy and treatable animals in their shelter, and leaving euthanasia only to those animals that are irremediably suffering and cannot be helped. But to get to No Kill, the work has to be done through a many methods, including but certainly not limited to, low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter.

    No Kill also means there has to be transparency so that shelters know they’re meeting their No Kill goals. This means publishing their outcomes to the public. It is only through multiple-method, evidence-based approaches that include transparency that we can reach No Kill.

    Thank you for this article. Looking forward to a better future for our shelter animals with Governor Newsom’s new initiative.

  2. I don’t know if you’re local or not to the Coachella Valley,but we do have strong rescue programs out here and foster and adopt programs. The problem continues to be too many animals that cannot be placed.

  3. Another alternative is adopting dogs through the various nationwide rescue groups that are breed-specific. Many people want a specific breed for the dog’s temperament, size, hypoallergenic qualities, or other characteristics, which is understandable, but many people don’t know that they don’t have to go to a breeder. Most popular dog breeds have national rescue groups associated with the breed.

    I foster through Silky Terrier Rescue, a national organization that focuses on the silky terrier breed. Many of the dogs come from situations where a dog in the house didn’t work out, or the dog’s guardian is no longer able to care for the dog for one reason or another. The dogs the organization takes don’t necessarily have to be purebred, just close enough for someone who’s looking for the characteristics of the breed. They’re given complete medical exams, treatments (including a dental if needed), and vaccinations, so they’re good to go when adopted. The adoption fee goes to medical and other expenses for the next dogs.

    There are some illegitimate rescue organizations out there, so be careful. The rescue associations associated with the AKC breed clubs, like Silky Terrier Rescue is associated with the Silky Terrier Club of America, are legitimate.

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