Okay, word of warning, this is going to be an extremely controversial post. I welcome all insightful debate, and absolutely feel that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if you can not constructively contribute to this conversation then please refrain from contributing at all. If you do not agree with what I am about to say, all I ask is that you try to be open to other views, which I will do as well. It’s dialogue like this that will help us move forward, rather than stay stuck in the same rut of unwanted pet overpopulation.
So, what in the world am I going to rant about today, you ask? There is a young person involved in rescue that I follow on Facebook who posted something that got my wheels spinning like crazy yesterday. The post (this is not verbatim because they actually deleted the post before I had a chance to copy the wording) went like this, “Today we took momma cat in to get spayed and they aborted all of her kittens. They said there are too many unwanted kittens and this is what they do. We are devastated and have cried all day. It’s just so wrong.”
My reaction? Good for that veterinarian! I am saying it now: I am pro-choice. Both with humans and with animals. “But wait!” you say. “That cat didn’t have a choice and the veterinarian killed all her kittens!” You’re right. The cat did not choose to have her kittens aborted. You know what else she didn’t choose? She didn’t choose to land at an animal shelter (the young person I mentioned was fostering through a rescue that pulled her from one), she didn’t choose not to be spayed, and she didn’t choose to get pregnant. And I bet she wouldn’t choose to have her kittens killed later on down the road when they inevitably landed at a shelter, either.
Here is the reality of the situation: animals do not have the ability to reason the way we as humans do. When they mate, they are acting on instinct alone. They do not think about where the babies will go after they are born. They can’t plan to ensure they end up with safe, loving homes. They don’t create savings accounts for Obedience School or manage a Kibble Fund. As humans, those tasked with caring for animals, it is our duty to make these responsible decisions for them.
Are you thinking I sound jaded and lacking in optimistism? According to the ASPCA approximately 5-7 million companion animals find themselves in shelters every year. (I have found several other sources with much higher estimates.) Pretty startling right? Now try this one on for size: 60% of those dogs and 70% of those cats will be euthanized. That’s around 4 million. Ready for another one? In just five years, one cat and her offspring can produce 12,680 kittens. In 10 years 80,399,780 kittens. Currently there are an estimated 70 million stray cats in the United States alone. This does not count cats in shelters or rescue groups that are also homeless.
So, with that in mind, I once again say, “Good for you Mr(s). Veterinarian!” I can’t even begin to imagine how uncomfortable it must be to make a decision like that, but I applaud them for doing so. They just saved countless lives from possible neglect, abuse, life on the streets, or even landing back at a shelter like their mother. “But the cat was part of a rescue! Surely they would have made sure the kittens were adopted into loving homes!” you say. And to that I give you another statistic from the ASPCA: shelter intakes are almost equally divided between owners surrenders and animals that are picked up off the streets by Animal Control. More than 20% of people who leave their pets at the shelter, adopted their pet from a shelter. Another sad reality is that no matter how perfect an adoptive family sounds, they frequently return that pet to the shelter or rescue, often in less than a year. I literally cannot count how many adoptions I have personally been involved in where I left feeling like it couldn’t have been any more perfect (and I check vet references, personal reference, and do home visits first) just to be contacted days, weeks, and yes years later by that person saying they no longer want the pet.
This is the world we live in. Pets are disposable. They are rarely the life-long commitments that they should be. I will say it again: It is our duty to make responsible decisions for them. If this means that a veterinarian has an opportunity to humanely abort kittens before they are even born and aware of their surroundings, before they have a chance to experience anything negative, and before they have the opportunity to reproduce and further add to the problem, they should! Until we start making these types of tough decisions nothing is going to change. Our shelters will remain full and these companion animals, solely dependent on us, will continue to suffer and die.
I will concede that I think it was wrong of the veterinarians not to at least warn this person first of what they planned to do. I imagine it would be quite an unpleasant shock to find something like that out after the fact, and I do feel sorry for them in that aspect. That said, they are someone involved in rescue, so I don’t understand how they cannot see the bigger picture. They have an extremely large following and I was so disturbed to see nearly everyone that commented thought the veterinarian was in the wrong, with some people even calling for lawsuits! This is why I am taking a stand and voicing my opinion, regardless of the backlash I might get. Too many people are caught up in the kittens-are-adorable-and-life-is-all-sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice mentality and they refuse to acknowledge the problems facing our companion animals. I’m okay with being the bad guy if it opens a few eyes.
So, do you think I am heartless or do you see the big picture the way I do? What are your thoughts on terminating pregnancy in pets? Again, let’s please all be respectful.