Petsmart Charities/Ipsos Study: The Where and Why of Spay-Neuter

Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011. In this post, I am going to pull out a few of the findings related to spay-neuter.

Close to 1/3 of the respondents who had acquired a pet within the past year indicated the reason they had not neutered the pet was cost. (page 25) Of those, roughly 80% were not aware of any low cost spay-neuter services in their area.

The study also found that more people are using the internet to research spay-neuter prior to having the surgery done. (page 28) It seems to me that those providing low and no cost neuter services should take advantage of this trend in order to increase awareness within the community. A user friendly website with clear contact information is a must. And to state the obvious, any website containing text such as: “There is currently a 9 month waiting list”, “DO NOT CALL US to see where you are on the list”, and similar negative comments are a major turn off for owners.

Pet owners trust veterinary practices to neuter their pets much more than they do low cost spay-neuter clinics or “humane societies”. (page 29) Respondents overwhelmingly believed the private vet office would be clean, safe and take good care of their pets. To my mind, this is a direct reflection of the customer service and marketing put forth by many low cost spay-neuter clinics and “humane societies”. A fixable problem, if anyone involved cares to address the issue.

As far as what motivates pet owners to get their pets neutered, perhaps unsurprisingly, the primary reason is to avoid having litters. (page 31) Only a very small percentage of respondents indicated they were motivated to have the surgery done due to a local MSN ordinance.

Although many shelter directors and animal welfare advocates blame the public for a failure to neuter their pets, there is clearly a need for more low cost services, a need to make the community aware of the services that exist and to instill trust in pet owners via good customer service, marketing and quality pet care. Word of mouth is some of the best advertising money can’t buy. Right now, it’s working against many of the places that provide much needed low cost neuter services. That can be changed.

Related reading:

Why People Aren’t Adopting

The Where and Why of Adoption

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23 Comments

  1. mikken

     /  January 24, 2013

    I wonder if there’s a better attitude towards s/n “events” ? I think the atmosphere of something like that (Come on down! Get your pet spayed/neutered! We’re going to be doing it all day!!!) is more positive than the “sign up on the list” thing.

    Reply
  2. There is no reason on God’s green earth to sterilize masses of our pets.

    There are so many detrimental health effects from sterilization that it is difficult to list them all, but for starters, orthopedic problems due to abnormal delayed closure of the growth plates, hypothyroidism, spay incontinence in bitches, higher rates of bladder cancer and prostate cancer in males, DOUBLE the rate of osteosarcoma, and on and on and on. There was even a large study on longevity in Rottweilers that shows that bitches spayed in middle age or never spayed lived 30% longer than their spayed counterparts.

    In many countries, it is considered taboo to sterilize your dog without a demonstrated medical necessity.
    Perhaps some day we here in the US will also become more enlightened in this regard.

    Those who allow their pets to roam have bigger problems to worry about than reproduction; namely, their pet stands a good chance of being hit by a car, stolen by someone, or killed by a coyote.

    We already have very effective tools to control pet reproduction, and as an added bonus they also keep our pets safe. They are called “doors” and “leashes”. It’s about time we start to focus on the use of those tools instead of mass sterilization.

    Reply
    • mikken

       /  January 24, 2013

      “Perhaps some day we here in the US will also become more enlightened in this regard. ”

      Perhaps. But today is not that day.

      Reply
      • Yes, many pet owners – hell, many SHELTER WORKERS AND RESCUERS are uneducated about canine and feline reproduction. I have heard all manner of absurd beliefs from people on the subject. At this time, we need spay and neuter for people who want it for their pets. Those who don’t want it, understand reproductive science, and have the ability to prevent unintended breedings – hey, I am all for keeping your pets intact if that’s your choice.

        On Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 11:12 AM, YesBiscuit!

      • mikken

         /  January 24, 2013

        Oh they won’t make kittens! That cat is his mother and they know better than that!

      • He’s not impregnating any neighborhood dogs. He knows not to leave the yard.

        On Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 11:27 AM, YesBiscuit!

      • mikken

         /  January 24, 2013

        It’s the wrong time of year for breeding.

      • Your chihuahua is going to get impregnated by a great dane and DIE!!!

    • ezbuddy

       /  January 25, 2013

      Geneva: Maybe you haven’t seen the masses of cats born in ferel colonys, all over the country. Maybe you haven’t noticed the masses of pound pups & dogs from unintentional backyard breeding of chained or even fenced dogs, or the uncared for dogs born from excess litters.

      I wouldn’t imagine not sterilizing my kids. The male cats spray less or not at all, the females cats stay at home, the dogs are less apt to fight & tend to stay at home even when gates are opened. I don’t know about you, but I hate the whineing, howling, paceing, bleeding and begging that unaltered dogs AND cats do when they’re in heat. Wives too!

      If you don’t want to sterlize and CAN keep your kids from breeding, that’s fine with me, but all too often I end up with the dogs no one else wanted from unintentional or over breeding.

      Reply
  3. KarenJ

     /  January 24, 2013

    I agree on the studies and the enlightenment. AND – I am one of us who believes the public is NOT the problem – even after two tours as an AC Director. I have ALWAYS wondered why when we alter our animals they are not put on supplements including hormones – or have regular blood panels for this. It’s a hormonal change in animals just like in humans. However – I believe in Spay and Neuter. Why? Because animals get loose…people get in a hurry…there are too many “surprise” litters, females in heat are not kept indoors, natural animal intincts, and more. Does this mean that EVERYONE with an unaltered – “as born” animal will be an issue? NO.

    My my experiences, and those of my partner trainers, rescue partners and Vets – is that there are instinctual and natural issues between unaltered males and other dogs – regardless of MOST pet parents best intentions and training. Does this happen in every meeting? NO. Does it happen regularly? Yes.

    In my experiences working closely with Dog Park Managers, Boarding Orgs, Rescue partners (good ones who are animal advocates), and Vets – the resounding thoughts are basically these: Animal parents will take them along when they go out – the animals are part of the family. They may board their animals in “fun” social type places when necessary. They always try to keep their animals in safe. But – not everyone who loves their animals and does these things understands natural instincts. NOR have most spent the time to learn (training or other methods) to prepare and be proactive for situations that can occur with unaltered meetings. We simply are far away from this in our society.

    I have started two advocate groups here in Tennessee – we meet weekly in one and monthly in the other. We discuss these issues too. And these two groups of enlightened advocates and loving pet parents of many rescued animals believe in spay and neuter, and don’t feel confident in having our communities support the opposite – for now.

    If we had laws and legislation for the “responsible pet parents” – if Vets spent the time to teach pet parents these medical points and skills – things could and would be so different. And I hope one day we will be there.

    So – in my current level of practical experience – for now – I believe that Spay and Neuter is part of the necessary equation to help our pet population…as does NO KILL. For now.

    Reply
  4. Ona

     /  January 24, 2013

    Tipton County shelter in Tennessee has a new low cost spay/neuter program that started this week. The shelter will sell $25.00 vouchers that can be used at only one vet clinic. It will cover the S/N but not vaccinations. This program needs a lot of tweaking to be successful but…it is a start. For more information, please call 901-837-5919.

    Reply
    • Is the vet clinic one that has a good reputation and is well known in the community? I hope the vax aren’t full price. I’ve seen some vet clinics sign up for these so-called low cost neuter services apparently believing they will make their money back on the required vax and HW tests/preventives. Totally defeats the purpose.

      On Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM, YesBiscuit!

      Reply
      • Ona

         /  January 24, 2013

        It is not a vet clinic I would use. I just called and they are planning on charging $63.00 for the vaccinations. It includes 7 in 1, Bordetella, and Rabies. No charge for office visit but there will be additional charges for bloodwork, pain meds, e-collar, take home meds etc., anything extra. So when its all done – is this really low cost?

      • Sounds like regular cost to me. What a shame. This kind of thing hurts more than it helps b/c people get frustrated by experiences with places like this. Then next time they come across some “low cost neuter” or “low cost vax” clinic, they’ll shy away, feeling they’ve been burned before. And they’ll tell their friends. More pets going without vet services whose owners otherwise would have gotten them if affordable.

        On Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 12:15 PM, YesBiscuit!

      • Ona

         /  January 24, 2013

        I can hear it now. The shelter and Tipton County officials will be saying, “We tried a low cost spay/neuter program and it didnt work.”

      • Right. “The deadbeats weren’t even scheduling appointments…’ (after they found out about all the hidden costs). I dread to think how much the blood work, pain meds and e-collars run.

        On Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 12:24 PM, YesBiscuit!

  5. Even though I agree that there are potential health consequences surrounding spaying and neutering our pet animals, I think that most average pet-owning Americans will continue to want to spay and neuter most of their pets.

    Most people do not want to deal with sexual behaviors in their household pets, especially cats’ sexual behaviors. There is too much personal responsibility involved in managing a female in heat , which is a big part of the reason I believe spaying became common in the first place, in addition to the stress of dealing with an unplanned and accidental litter if the owner’s efforts to contain his female animal (or exclude courting males) fail. In regards to males, I don’t know of anyone who is not a cat breeder who willingly lives with an unneutered male cat, unless he or she cannot afford to have the cat neutered, which, again, is a big part of the reason I believe neutering male cats became common. I feel that the neutering of male dogs is debatable. Sure, there can be increased amounts of aggression towards other male dogs, or if there is a female in heat the dog is protecting, but most unneutered male dogs I have come across or known seem pretty personable. The issues of territorial marking and inappropriate mounting of humans, animals, or objects could be considered on a case by case basis as a reason to neuter, depending on how much the dog exhibits those behaviors and how much it bothers the owner of the dog.

    As far as potential health benefits vs. risks, in regards to the average pet, owners could decide to go ahead with the surgery anyway, to wait until a pet is over a year of age or until the growth plates are closed in large breed dogs, or decide to manage the unaltered pet, depending on the owner’s lifestyle, pet care methods, and available resources. It also depends on the sex and species of the pet in question.

    I think that low-cost and free spay/neuter clinics will probably always be a needed resource. Many of the people who would like to take advantage of these services lack the resources and/or time to properly contain an intact pet. Our family’s first cat had to spend about a year confined to our bedroom because she was constantly going in and out of heat and we could not afford to have her spayed, nor could we afford the cost of caring for any potential litter she might produce if she happened to slip out the front door or a window. Once we moved to an area that had readily available low-cost neutering services, we immediately had her spayed. She was able to enjoy considerably more freedom, and we later found a little male cat who we also were able to take off the streets and keep as a pet, again taking advantage of low-cost neutering and vet services. These services will also probably always be needed (at least for the foreseeable future) in the form of TNR for feral cats.

    Bottom line, it should be the owner’s choice. I’m all for well-informed choices, and for greater access to spaying and neutering for those who choose that for their animals, but it still comes down to being the owner’s choice whether or not to have their animals altered.

    Reply
  6. Judy Franklin

     /  January 24, 2013

    Our County has instituted differential licensing rates, with licenses dispensed by the vets at the time rabies shots are administered. A 3 year license for an intact cat or dog costs $125.00; $50 for 1 year. “Low cost” vaccination clinics are offered by the County Health Department, but only one year shots are offered, and license purchase is mandatory at that time. Low cost S&N is available only sporadically and is income dependent.
    Several nearby cities, including the county seat, are also instituting this policy, at the instigation of the local AR/Rescue types. Does anyone have any statistics or even anecdotal material as to the effects on pet ownership/pet retention/vet care, etc. on areas that have this policy in effect? Thanks.

    Reply
    • mikken

       /  January 24, 2013

      Damn, that’s pricey. It costs $12 here to license a dog (intact or not). Cats do not get licensed.

      Making license purchase at the time of low cost shots doesn’t seem to be a very health-oriented move…more like a money grabbing move.

      Reply
      • SS

         /  January 25, 2013

        Our local shelter charges more for licensing intact dogs than sterilized dogs. If your dog ends up at the pound as a stray, and is intact, the total cost to bail your dog out is lowered if you agree to let them spay/neuter your unaltered animal before they release it to you.

  7. I tried to get my dog spayed through a low cost spay/neuter program and the vet said I would have to schedule an examination and have some bloodwork done first. Then schedule another appointment for vaccinations. Then come back again for more vaccinations and surgery. If I could afford all that I wouldn’t need a low cost spay/neuter program. So I still need to get her spayed but it will have to wait because in spite of keeping her in the bedroom and constantly supervising her, she had a littler. Anybody want a puppy?

    Reply
  8. I’ve been taken cats, both tame and feral, to Washington Humane Society for five years, and I’ve taken one dog to them as well. They are attentive to the cats, they are always courteous to me, they do excellent medical work, they can always supply replacement records when fosters/adopters need them, and the one time a cat (the only one among the hundreds I’ve taken there) developed complications after her surgery (she died shortly after I took her to an emergency vet), the people there expressed their condolences to me and offered to do a necropsy to determine exactly what Kogachi had died from, but by then I had buried her. She was a feral cat I had trapped the night before I brought her in, and they showed as much concern for her as I would have expected for an owned cat. I have taken my own cats there to be spayed/neutered, and I have a high level of confidence in them. I guess they just need to establish a higher online presence.

    Also, when I email them for an appointment, which I do every week, they can usually give me one within two or three days.

    Reply

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