Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Breaking Down the Petsmart Survey

USA Today has a piece on the survey commissioned by Petsmart which asked 3000 adults questions about spay-neuter and shelter kill numbers. The article dives in head first on "pet overpopulation" which is unfortunate since there is no such thing. The longer we perpetuate that myth, the further we are away from having a real societal discussion on the inherent value of pets' lives.

The piece also focuses on how the public grossly underestimates how many pets are killed in shelters every year. I don't see this as significant because even though the numbers guessed by many respondents were significantly lower than the commonly reported estimates, they were still huge numbers - one hundred thousand, one million, etc. The public knows that many shelters are needlessly killing pets in this country, they just don't know the estimated numbers.

The important takeaways from the survey results to my mind are:
  • Roughly 7% of dog owners and 10% of cat owners reported unplanned litters: This is not a shocking response in my view. The survey did not delve into such things as whether the pups/kittens from these litters were placed responsibly with screened homes and lifetime return guarantees but then again, we know that not all planned breedings result in responsible placements so there ya go.
  • 24% obtained their pet from a rescue group or shelter: This is good! Granted this is a small scale survey in comparison to the entire pet owning country but if we could see 24% adoption rate in every community, we'd be in like flynn.
  • 31% didn't neuter their pet because of cost: The article mentions that there are many options for low cost neuter surgery. Apparently there aren't enough. Or if there are, why doesn't the general public know about them? The other important consideration which the piece doesn't mention is no cost neuter. There are some people who, out of the goodness of their hearts, will share what little food and warmth they have with a stray pet but can't afford to neuter that pet at any price. We need volunteers and subsidized programs in order to offer no cost neuter to that segment of the pet owning population. Now.


Brent said...

Ok, if these numbers are at all accurate, that's just crazy. 48% of the people who got their pet in the past year say they haven't gotten it altered yet? And 24% got from a rescue (which means legally, in almost every state, the pet must be altered). So that means that about 65% of people who got an unaltered pet in the past year haven't altered it yet.

Anyway, really interesting. Not surprising that $$ is the leading reason why they haven't altered yet...and given so much recent research that indicates some negative health implications of juvenile spay/neuter, the "pet too young" comment isn't too surprising.

YesBiscuit! said...

The article says:
"Of the unsterilized dogs and cats acquired in the past year, 48% still haven't been sterilized."
So of the 76% who got pets from some source other than a rescue or shelter, we can assume some (IDK how many, maybe most) were not neutered. Of these, some will be puppies and kittens obtained within the past 6 months and I would guess that the number of those which the new owners would have already neutered would be close to zero. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if very few of any pups/kittens obtained within the past 12 months were neutered already by the new owners. I wish the survey went into greater detail. The articles mentions neutering at 2 months and 4 months but, as you note, doesn't touch upon the many people who wait until growth plates have closed or wait for other health considerations. Those people are waiting in terms of years, not months. The main point being that preventing unwanted litters is the priority - not so much neutered vs. intact.

Kasha said...

Very interesting. Enlightening. Frustrating.

Jess said...

People cannot take advantage of low cost spay/neuter if: they don't know about it. Can't get to the location due to work or lack of a vehicle. If the organization has unreasonable qualifications.

I read about a group recently that works in the Northern midwest, mostly on Native American reservations, and they had a great low cost spay/neuter program. (Heck, it might have actually been free.) They advertise heavily in the community for weeks before the event, and have it over a weekend. People bring in loads of pets, and even ask if they can go home and get more. The community children are 'drafted' to help out with recovery for the animals.

Another organization I read about meets clients before work at a central location, takes the pets away for surgery, and brings them back to meet the owners at the end of the day.

I live on the border with Mexico, and locally, the city has a mandatory microchip law. Needless to say, lots of people here are less than trusting of authority of any kind, and such a requirement likely does not increase the numbers of pets done by the spay/neuter van.

The unplanned litters thing: I have been keeping intact dogs a long time, and I've moved around and been to many vets. I've had lots of vets push spay/neuter on me; when I decline, I've never had one offer to explain the bitch's reproductive cycle to me, and how to keep her from getting pregnant. Or even give me some kind of hand out. Ever.

On cost: several of the message boards I read have done informal surveys of spay/neuter cost. The average seems to be somewhere around $300 for a medium sized dog. $300 for me, is six months of car insurance. I make enough money that I don't have to make that choice, but there are plenty of people who don't.

I thought this was very interesting, and probably leads into the other statistics: "42% of people who recently got a pet did no prior research, formal or informal."

Heather Houlahan said...

Thanks, this is useful for a post I've been nibbling at for a couple days.

Would be nice if they would break down their numbers by SPECIES.

Somehow I think there might be slightly different profiles for dogs and cats. Like, I seriously doubt that anything approaching 19% of dog owners got their dogs as strays. And I bet not very many cats come from purebred breeders or pet stores.

Health, behavior, population issues -- none of them are the same in dogs and cats.

-J. said...

USA Today article is a summary of a press release of this study:


That has much more detail and juicy data.

Whipple said...

I recently took in a little stray kitty. I really don't have the money to spay her, but I will keep her inside in the warmth and feed her. She has toys and has a comfy spot to sleep. but she's pregnant. She was when she got here. I really hope I can find decent homes. I have already started looking.