If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
I’ve done many blog posts regarding my thoughts on different types of shelters, how to adopt from a shelter, and even what to do with your new companion after adoption. We all know that saving a life and adopting can be a very rewarding experience. Shelter dogs can easily become beloved family members.
But wouldn’t it be great if you couldn’t adopt from a shelter because, well, there weren’t enough dogs to warrant shelters?
I think we all know that the number one cause of all the homeless pets is overpopulation. Dogs do not experience reproductive limitations like humans do. Female dogs can give birth well into old age, as they do not go through menopause. Male dogs are capable of impregnating a female dog in estrus at any time after puberty. Obviously, with each litter ranging from 4-8 puppies (or more!) this is a serious problem.
Overpopulation of dogs isn’t just an American problem: it is estimated that there are 375 million stray dogs in the world. We got a glimpse of this through the Sochi Olympics. Who can forget the images of all those dogs wandering through the street?
India is even worse. Conditions in India are ripe for supporting a feral and stray dog population, resulting in India having the highest number of human rabies deaths in the world (estimated at 35,000 per year) due to stray dog bites. Massive amounts of trash remain uncollected in streets, providing these dogs with food, if sub-adequate at best. Further, in 2001, a law went into effect making it illegal to kill these dogs.
So how is this problem solved?
Obviously spaying and neutering a dog is expensive and time consuming. Trap and release efforts can cause funding issues, especially with female dogs, for whom surgery is far more difficult, expensive and invasive.
But there’s a new technique of sterilization that may revolutionize how we approach the animal overpopulation crisis, at least with male dogs. It’s cheap, painless, and costs less than $1 per dog: calcium chloride. A simple solution. After a light sedative, an injection is given to a male dog, which renders them sterile. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article,
“In three studies published in October in a Scandinavian veterinary journal, researchers in Bari, Italy, tested a variety of doses and solutions in 80 dogs over one year and concluded that a 20% solution of calcium chloride in ethyl alcohol was optimal, rendering dogs “azoospermic” (without sperm) and reducing testosterone levels by 70%, with no adverse effects.”
Seems like a no-brainer! Cheaper, safer for the dogs (no general sedative is needed and no incision). Well, there’s a problem. Calcium chloride can’t be patented (kind of like how salt can’t be patented – it’s a common chemical). Therefore, there is no money to be made by drug companies on this form of sterilization, which means nobody wants to go through the time and expense of shuttling this through the FDA for approval. Without FDA approval, it’s difficult to convince shelters and vets that the method is safe and reliable.
Further muddling the issue is that animal testing would be required for FDA approval. Now, I’m against animal testing. Usually. But logic dictates that testing a group of dogs by sterilizing them to prevent perhaps millions of other dogs from needlessly dying due to over population is quite obviously the much lesser of two evils. According to the ASPCA, roughly 2.7 million shelter animals are euthanized each year.
Think of the benefits that are being wasted by not utilizing chemical sterilization: medical costs for shelters would drop, both with the cost of neutering and after-care issues. This method is insanely quick to administer, so just the sheer number of dogs who could be sterilized is staggering. Dogs who are neutered using this method have a decreased amount of testosterone (similar to dogs who have been surgically neutered), leading to less wandering, marking and dominant behavior that is associated with un-altered males.
Quite obviously this isn’t the entire solution to the epic catastrophe that is over population, but it is a possible lifeline. Break the cycle. End the euthanasia at shelters, not because it’s a good or bad way to deal with unwanted pets, but because it isn’t needed anymore.