Terminating Pet Pregnancy

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.”

Shelter Kittens

              Kittens in the Shelter – Google Images.

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.

Homeless Cat

                                   Stray Cat in Shelter – Google Images

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.

Stray Kittens

Kittens living on the street – Google Images

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.

Puppies in Shelter

                               Puppies in the Shelter – Google Images

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.

Homeless Kitten

                                                    Homeless Kitten – Google Images

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.

27 thoughts on “Terminating Pet Pregnancy

  1. Wow, tough topic! I totally agree with what you said. I think it is wrong if the vet truly did not speak to anyone prior to the termination, however maybe it is an agreement with the rescue group, and the foster just wasn’t aware? Clearly that policy should have been mentioned, because no one would react well to that initially, I don’t think. Like you said though, being in rescue, you should be able to understand why this is a good, NECESSARY thing. Another similar topic, is breeders requiring all puppies to be fixed. This is another controversial thing, because if it is a good breeder with a champion-type dog, then the puppies have great blood lines, yada yada…but still, how many purebreds end up in shelters?! I’m not saying all breeders are evil, and I’m not looking for anyone to lose their income/job, however if there were just stricter (more strict?!) guidelines on the need for spay/neuter, I am certain this epidemic of unwanted pets would begin to get better!

    • That is such a great idea — requiring all puppies to be fixed. I can’t tell you how sad I get when I see someone selling pit bull puppies! When there are so many in shelters who will die.

      • Exactly! There are so many pits and labs in shelters, yet people are still buying them from backyard breeders! Why not get your dog from the shelter where they’ve most likely been somewhat vetted, and micro chipped? Shelter dogs are a better deal if you ask me! Side note, it’s interesting to me that most people seem to be assuming that the vet acted without permission. I highly doubt that the rescue was not aware of these plans. If this is what the vet does in these situations, I would assume that the rescue was aware AND agreed, otherwise they wouldn’t be using that vet. I definitely think the foster should have been warned…but that is the rescue’s responsibility, not the vet’s. I’ve taken my foster dogs to/from the vet multiple times, and they never tell me anything. I have to go through the rescue for info, bc technically the rescue is the dog’s owner. Anyway, thanks for posting a great topic Morgan! 🙂

      • I agree, the more I think about it, the more I’m sure the rescue knew for exactly the reasons you listed.

  2. I can see the big picture. I also think they should have told them what they were going to do. Although, they wouldn’t have done agreed to that and the kittens may have ended in the shelter. The statistics are awful, but true.

  3. I agree with you 200%, Morgan, and I thank you for bringing up a subject most would prefer to turn their heads at. Every single point you addressed….200% with you.

    • Thank you! I don’t know if everyone is just being nice, or if all my readers are very like-minded, but we all seem to agree so far, which I wasn’t expecting!

  4. I agree. 185% agree. We have the ability to reason. Which puts the onus of making responsible (and sometimes hurtful) decisions on us.
    It’s a lot like deciding to spay or neuter actually, right ? What gives US the right to make laws to spay & neuter pets and snatch away their right to procreate and violate EVERYTHING that is natural ? This same sense of reasoning. We can see how fixing our animals is a good decision in the longer run ! Would I want 5 little Kahluas prancing around in my apartment? Hell Yes ! Do I have a bottomless Kibble Fund ? Hell No! Would I take the little Kahluas to the shelter ? Yes, I am human, I am weak, I can’t handle that many. Do I want to go down this route ? NO. So, I say let’s Neuter and Spay. And maybe even Abort .. It’s the logical extension of Spay & Neuter and the reason we look at it with such distaste is because it’s such a HUGE controversy among humans. But we have the ability to make tough and good decisions, and we should.

    • I always love your analysis of issues Shalini! “5 little Kahluas” – wouldn’t we all love that?! But you are exactly right. We must make the tough and good decisions.

  5. You are Completely right in your thought process. As hard as it was for the foster person to hear the reality of what had been done, when they take a look at the bigger picture, after the shock has worn off, I Hope they will agree it was the right thing to do.

  6. Here’s my caveat first: I am pretty much as Pro-Choice as it comes. Controlling your own reproduction — deciding when to or IF you want to have children, how many, how far apart — this decision will shape your life more than anything else. And your children’s lives as well. Most of our global problems — pollution, disease, global climate change, poverty, habitat destruction, etc. would be solved if we could learn to control the population of humans on this planet. (And I’ll tell you here that I was a very, very unplanned, although much loved, child.)

    So I have to agree with you completely on pet pregnancies. Kittens are precious. Puppies are divine. But how we treat domestic animals in American is despicable. Shame on us. Euthanizing millions of dogs a year! That’s barbaric.How is that Pro-Life? If we really want to value life, we have to start with animals that we are responsible for. That’s the deal we made when we enticed them into the firelight away from the wilderness. We need to live up to it, and responsible spaying and neutering, and yes, terminating pregnancies, is part of that.

    I read an article the other day about BSL, and how you couldn’t just show up at a city council meeting shouting how BSL is wrong — you should reassure the public and the politicians that we all want the same thing, public safety, happy dogs, satisfied owners. We just have to pick some OTHER way to limit dogs in public, not by breed. I’d like to see un-neutered and unspaid dogs be the limiting factor. Also, much more government support for spay and neuter programs, along with education and legislation. AND providing anyone who wants it a chance to attend a free basic obedience class.

    OK, so that’s my manifesto for the day. And as always, a huge thanks to those of you who rescue or foster dogs.

    • As always Kym, you say it infinitely better than I do! I did my best to only talk about pet pregnancy but you are so right about all the issues in our world! I know you love to read and if you haven’t already, you really should read Inferno by Dan Brown. It’s fiction but I think it’s something EVERYONE should read because it sheds so much light on this topic! Thanks for sharing your always wise, perfectly put together, thoughts!

  7. I completely understand why the vet did it, but I would have hoped they would have at least discussed it with the rescue first. It is a tough subject indeed, but sometimes what is best for the big picture is tough.

    Even though it is a sad situation in so many ways, I believe the vet did the right thing. What I think is just as sad is people being so irresponsible as to not spay and neuter their pets. They think, “Oh, someone else will want them. Kittens are cute!” Or, “We can just take them to the shelter. They will take care of them.” These idiotic people really need a harsh lesson as to what happens to these poor animals at the shelter. Even the lucky ones that make it out might still have psychological effects from being there. And the poor souls that never make it out….I can only imagine what they go through. Some might be lucky enough to be humanely euthanized while others must suffer in the gas chamber. It is a devastating thing.

    I only hope that dog advocates like you and your readers can help educate the general population to end the needless suffering. I do my best to educate others daily. I even have a magnet on my car! Sorry for the long comment. This topic is just very near and dear to my heart.

    Thank you for taking a stand for the big picture, Morgan!

  8. Welp, this is a very ballsy post, and I love ballsy posts! I definitely see your side, ma’am, and believe that it could solve a lot of problems. However, I do not agree that kittens should be killed in the womb. I believe the root of the problem should be spaying and neutering. Every animal should have a chance and they should not be punished – killed – because us humans choose the ridiculous decision of not neutering/spaying our animals. In my opinion, we need to learn how to solve the problem, to teach others how to make a compromise (the animal lives, but will not produce offspring) instead of taking away everything to begin with (killing the animal). I think that aborting the babies should not be the solution, and that stricter education on spay/neuter and shouting even louder about adopting instead of buying will both teach the world and save the animals. I definitely think that aborting would be the quicker “solution” (nothing is really solved), but we would not learn as much as dealing with the animal properly and responsibly, not to mention give the animal a chance at life. I really enjoyed this post and it opened my eyes very wide. Thank you so much for sharing ma’am, I look forward to our talks in person during one of my visits.

    • Kudos to you for voicing your opinion! I really do see where you are coming from: how is it fair to punish the unborn animals? BUT until we can really get to the root (spay/neuter, better education, etc, etc) I stand by what the veterinarian did. To me, you are right that we learn more of a lesson by having to deal with the kittens and not just abort them, but this lesson still comes at their expense since they are likely to land at a shelter, too. I would rather eliminate the possibility that they will ever have to suffer (and also get the opportunity to reproduce.) Obviously I wish everyone would deal with all animals the way you said: properly and responsibly, but since we all still have a long way to go in educating the masses in this regard, I stand by the decision to abort unborn animals before they have to face this cruel world. I hope that one day the “cruel world” doesn’t exist though and there would be lines upon lines of loving people just waiting for the opportunity to adopt an adorable kitten or puppy FOR LIFE. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

  9. Bless her heart — I hope she finds a furever home. For every new kitten born and adopted (or puppy) there is one (or more) that doesn’t get adopted. Every day there have been “no kill” shelters in the news where animals have been stockpiled and are treated badly because these shelters don’t have the room or the resources to properly take care the animals. I’m pretty sure all the people who read your posts are animal rescuers or at least support animal rescue. We have to look at the big picture. You are right. It’s hard, it goes against what we do but it is necessary.

  10. I don’t like the situation at all, but I also don’t think it’s as bad as BYBs ignoring genetics, continuously breeding defective dogs to get lethal whites/double dapples/harlequins and culling newborns that “might” be deaf or blind. When I was young, family friends had a pregnant stray cat take up residence in their yard. They kept her and two kittens, and scheduled a spay. Well, she was still a bit feral and was pregnant again by her appointment. For a feral cat, how long would that cycle be continued?

    Our local shelter kept coming under fire this spring when posting pregnant dogs and dogs with newborns on the super urgent list in an attempt to find 8 week fosters. People said it was cruel, evil, horrific that they would PTS tiny pups – what are older dogs, chopped liver? Without foster, there would be high risk of parvo and URIs since people don’t typically vaccinate before dropping off their animals. Until the community will take advantage of spay/neuter programs and STOP backyard breeding or buying $800 poorly bred puppy mill designer dogs, those mamas will have to be put on the urgent list. Crossroads has so many litters from the shelter right now. No way is that all of them, but the vet tries to pull as many 8-12 week olds as possible since they’re most susceptible to parvo and a number of dogs with newborns as well.

    • Thank you for highlighting something I meant to: killing older pets is just as, if not more in my opinion, horrific than killing tiny puppies or kittens. People get so caught up in how cute and fuzzy the little babies are and seem to forget that they will grow into adult animals that still need good homes.

  11. Let me just say this is a brave post and I hope everyone will keep it civilized like you asked.

    I do feel the veterinarian(s) should have talked with the rescue or the person caring for the cat about what was happening and what to expect. And, I understand how this person felt, having worked in a vet’s office I saw this happen once. I was really upset to see the kittens moving around inside the uterus after the cat had been spayed. I couldn’t believe my clinic was going to let the kittens just die, it broke my heart.

    On the other hand I can see the big picture and unfortunately know the fate of those kittens. It’s a tough call. This is one of the reasons I firmly believe in and support humane education, spay/neuter programs, etc. so this sort of thing doesn’t have to happen.

  12. I can appreciate your comments, however, I feel that it was the responsibility of the veterinarian to consult with the owner first and foremost (or the responsible party). It sounds like (from what you wrote anyway) that they were willing to deal with the kittens and ensure their proper placement.

    To me, what this vet did was tantamount to deciding to euthanize my dog because he’s old and won’t live much longer. It’s not the vet’s choice to make. It’s the choice of the responsible party for the animal. I don’t believe in offing animals because they are inconvenient, but I do believe in ensuring no further unwanted pregnancies happen.

    That being said, I do believe in spaying and neutering animals in all cases. Both of mine are fixed.

    • In all honesty, I don’t if the rescue responsible for the cat did or did not okay what the vet did. It’s certainly wrong that no one informed the foster family but ultimately I still think what the vet did was in the best overall interest. It’s sad that situations like this even have to exist – if people would just spay and neuter their pets (like me, you, and probably all of the readers here) then we wouldn’t even have to have discussions like this! I have faith that we will get there one day though.

  13. I first encountered this issue with our second foster Anna. She arrived at a shelter in Arkansas as a stray and not spayed. After she was transported up here and we started fostering her I read over her paper work and discovered when she was spayed they also terminated her pregnancy. I have to admit it broke my heart a bit. It left a pit in my stomach and I really just thought it was tragic. However, the more I thought about it the more I believe it was probably for the best. No matter how awful it seems to ‘kill puppies’ her litter would have required 4-10 (?) more foster homes and that much more of a strain on the rescue. Who knows if Anna would have even been transported, since puppies tend to get first priority because they get adopted faster. Terminating her pregnancy could have helped save her life and get her adopted. In an ideal world, all dogs would be spayed and neutered, but since we are in a far from ideal situation, I think on a case by case basis, terminating pregnancies might not be such a bad thing.

    • Wow, I’m sure that was a really hard thing to learn. There is no denying that it’s a sad and horrible thing to happen….but like you said, is it more sad than losing 4-10 foster homes to these puppies and having 4-10 dogs subsequently die in a shelter? And you’re right, again it’s super horrible, but lots of times the moms get over looked. There is a good chance Anna does owe her life to the fact that the puppies were aborted. I guess we just have to keep doing our best to one day get to that ideal world so these situations don’t have to keep happening!

  14. Pingback: Multiple Female Households | Temporary Home, Permanent Love

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