Module 4: The Case of the Spay-Neuter Skeptic

The Shelter Veterinarian’s Perspective

At times, the roles and responsibilities of shelter veterinarians may differ from those of private practitioners. In very general terms, shelter veterinarians are responsible for the health of large populations of animals, both inside and outside of the shelter, whereas private practitioners are responsible for the health of individuals.

Euthanasia in animal shelters for population control is still the single largest cause of death for cats and dogs, more than any infectious disease or health condition. This preventable tragedy should be a call to action for the veterinary community. Delaying sterilization often results in unplanned pregnancies that populate shelters with unwanted offspring. On the other hand, a private practitioner with a known, responsible client, may have the luxury of time before spaying or neutering a pet. They can discuss the pros and cons of spay-neuter with their client, and together make an informed decision based upon current data. Watch for more developments as more research informs this rapidly changing topic.

After much research and consideration, Dr. Newgrad feels comfortable explaining her shelter’s policy to sterilize all animals prior to adoption. She will begin her conversation with Ms. Rich by asking what her concerns are, diplomatically sharing with her the evidence-based research, and underscoring the importance of population control from a shelter medicine perspective. Expressing gratitude for Ms. Rich’s years of support and her interest in providing a loving home for this little pup will also be key points for Dr. Newgrad to cover.


Veterinary student with recently spayed kitten
Whether it’s a career in spay-neuter surgery, shelter practice, volunteerism in remote areas, or sterilization of pets in a private clinic, the principals of high-quality surgery as defined by the ASV Guidelines always apply. Few innovations have enhanced the welfare of cats and dogs as much as high-impact spay-neuter.


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