Protecting the Lives of Unborn Puppies and Kittens in Shelters

Mother dog and litter at Austin Animal Center, as posted on PetHarbor.com

Mother dog and litter at Austin Animal Center, as posted on PetHarbor.com

As a no kill advocate, I am opposed to the spaying of pregnant shelter animals.  While I do not believe in the myth of pet overpopulation, that has nothing to do with my opposition.  Even if I believed pet overpopulation was real (I do not), I would still be opposed to spaying pregnant dogs and cats because doing so means killing unborn puppies and kittens who have the right to live.  As Nathan Winograd wrote in his blog:

When we spay pregnant animals and the unborn kittens and puppies die, the fact that they are not yet born does not relieve our responsibility toward assuring their right to live. When we abort kittens and puppies, we are literally killing puppies and kittens.

If the kittens or puppies are viable, they must be individually killed, usually through an injection of sodium pentobarbital. Even when they are not, however, when a mother is spayed, the kittens or puppies die from anoxia (oxygen deprivation) due to lack of blood supply from the uterus once the vessels are clamped. They suffocate.

I tragically witnessed the spaying of a pregnant dog when I worked in a vet clinic a couple of decades ago.  There were two vets on duty and one was performing the surgery.  She threw the uterus containing the puppies into the trash.  The other vet retrieved the uterus and placed it on a sink table.  The puppies crawled around helplessly while she drew up injections of Fatal Plus for each.  Had she not killed them individually, they would have crawled around in the trash can until they eventually died.  Back then, I did believe that pet overpopulation was real.  But I still knew these killings were wrong.

In a shelter environment, pregnant dogs and cats are either killed or spayed regularly.  There are presumably times when pregnant dogs and cats are killed or spayed and no one knew the animal was pregnant.  While there may be variations among individuals, it is generally impossible to tell if a dog is pregnant just by looking at her during the first 5 weeks of the normal 9 week gestation period.  With some dogs, you can not tell even in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy.  Luckily there are other detection methods which can be performed by an experienced vet but they are limited.  It is possible for vets who specialize in canine reproduction to palpate the uterus at approximately 4 weeks.  The puppies at this time are contained in walnut sized sacs and the window for palpation is brief – about 1 week.  Even if the timing is right and the vet is experienced, there are still some dogs who carry their pups in such a way to make palpation impossible.  Ultrasound is a more reliable method of detecting pregnancy and may be used from about 3 weeks onward.  Radiographs can only be used to detect pregnancy during the final 2 weeks of gestation.  By that point, the dog may be able to diagnosed by simple observational methods such as an enlarged abdomen, development of mammary tissue, and fetal movement.  While I have very little experience with female cats, my understanding is that pregnancy detection methods are similar to those used with dogs and ultrasound is the preferred method for reliability.

What does all this mean for female shelter animals?  I believe we have a moral obligation to protect the lives of all shelter animals, including the unborn.  I would therefore offer guidelines for a certain portion of the shelter population.  That portion includes all female dogs and cats who meet the following criteria:

  • Have reached the age of puberty (approximately 6 months).
  • Have an unknown medical history and no sign of having been spayed (such as spay scar or tattoo).
  • Have not come into heat while in the shelter’s care.  (Pregnant dogs and cats do not come in season.)

For female shelter animals who meet the above criteria, I suggest the following guidelines to protect the lives of any puppies or kittens they may be carrying:

  • If the female dog or cat meeting the specified criteria has been at the shelter for less than 9 weeks, the operating assumption must be that the animal is pregnant.  For those animals meeting the criteria who have been at the shelter for less than 3 weeks, an inconclusive veterinary determination must be interpreted as positive for pregnancy until a conclusive determination can be made at a later date.
  • Under no circumstances should a female dog or cat meeting the specified criteria be killed unless a veterinarian determines she is irremediably suffering, in which case euthanasia should be performed.
  • Once a female is scheduled for sterilization, she should be evaluated for signs of pregnancy by the shelter vet.
  • If the shelter vet determines the animal is pregnant, the shelter may release her with reasonable restrictions to ensure that mother and litter are all sterilized prior to permanent adoption.
  • If the vet’s determination is inconclusive, the female may be released with a signed agreement to avoid all contact with intact males of her species until 9 weeks have elapsed from date of impound at which time she can be returned to the shelter for spay (or spayed by a private vet of the adopter’s choosing with verifiable documentation to be provided to the shelter).
  • Females meeting the specified criteria who have been at the shelter less than 9 weeks (but more than 3 weeks) may be spayed if a veterinarian determines, based upon ultrasound and confirmed by observation, that she is not pregnant.
  • Females who have come into heat while in the shelter’s care and who have been prevented from any unsupervised contact with intact males of their species may be assumed not to be pregnant and may be spayed without veterinary consultation regarding possible pregnancy.
  • Females meeting the specified criteria who have been at the shelter for more than 9 weeks and who have been prevented from any unsupervised contact with intact males of their species may be assumed not to be pregnant and may be spayed without veterinary consultation regarding possible pregnancy.
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55 Comments

  1. Selma

     /  April 12, 2013

    I agree, in principle, but if shelters were that concerned about their inmates, we wouldn’t need this post at all. To them, this will sound like a lot of work and fuss – it isn’t at all but we know they are the Can’t Do squad in a lot of cases.

    One small point. After a bitch has ended her heat cycle, you should wait a minimum of 30 days to sterilize her. She can bleed to death due to increased blood flow and vessel expansion during the cycle which should have returned to normal by 30 days or so.

    Reply
    • Yes my vet recommended we schedule Wendy’s spay for one month after her heat cycle, which we did. The vets I used to work with did spay pets while in heat but that was a very long time ago and perhaps the industry standard has changed. IDK how frequently shelter vets spay bitches in heat, or those who have just come out. It would be interesting to know that information but would require some level of transparency on the part of the shelter and an interest in veterinary health from the shelter vet.

      On Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 11:47 AM, YesBiscuit!

      Reply
      • bestuvall

         /  April 15, 2013

        I am not sure why you opted to spay her.. why did you ..are you expecting that you will have a litter of unwanted puppies?

      • My vet recommended spay b/c Wendy came to us in very poor health and even though she has improved quite a bit in the couple of months we’ve had her, she still suffers from chronic anemia. My vet said removal of the uterus was recommended to rule out that the uterus was the source of the problem, which in her experience was a good possibility. Wendy appears to have whelped a number of litters and that can take a toll on the uterus which can lead to other chronic health problems. My vet also strongly believes in removing the uterus for prevention of pyometra as, in her experience, it is a surgical disease, not a medical disease, often needing to be performed on old dogs who are not ideal surgical candidates. We talked about possibly leaving one ovary in place but Billy was strongly opposed to this and I took that into consideration when making my decision.

        In regards to your question about unintended pups, it is a concern as Wendy has managed to squeeze out (or under or over – we don’t know) the fence once already in the short time she’s been here. She was not in season at the time (thankfully) but it’s possible it could happen again. We bought some additional fencing to attempt to secure her better but frankly our yard already looks like Gitmo with multiple layers of fencing all around and she still managed to squeeze out so we’ll have to see how things play out over the long term.

        Why do you ask?

  2. Every morning we wake up and try to make sense
    of the pet-shelter issue.

    But every morning when we wake up we find that the
    pet-shelter issue has slipped further down the rabbit hole.

    While everyone I know is frantically struggling to accommodate the gazillions of living breathing homeless pets wandering the streets and overwhelming our rescue groups and shelters, you people have created

    the Pro-Life-For-Unborn-Cat&Dog Fetuses movement.

    This is what happens when mad people get control of stuff.

    Until a sane person wrests control of the shelter reform issue
    away from Nathan Winograd and his cadre of lawyers- former pet breeders & raving fundamentalist rabble we will continue to wake up every morning trying to make sense out of jabberwocky.

    Reply
    • If advocating for the lives of puppies and kittens is your idea of going “down the rabbit hole”, I’d hate to see your version of acceptable standards.

      Reply
      • I get what Terry’s saying. For example, the Shelter Reform movement has become a Right-To-Life movement for the Unborn. I’m pro choice for humans so understandably I am for animals. My county isn’t fortunate enough to have unlimited funds.

      • Sky Walker – I am pro choice for humans because humans are capable of giving informed consent. Animals are not. If we set the standard for accomplishing ANYTHING at “unlimited funds”, we will never get anything done.

      • Anon

         /  April 16, 2013

        Terry’s acceptable standards and those of her friends require the spaying and neutering of all pregnant cats and dogs immediately and the killing of all puppy’s and kittens.

    • Oh, it’s Terry Ward, the mad-woman of Long Island. How are those schipperkes. Terry? Don’t waste your time on this one, YesBiscuiters, she should have been put down years ago.

      Reply
  3. Michele Ashley

     /  April 12, 2013

    I agree with your recommendations. All animals deserve to live. Just because they haven’t been born yet makes no difference. It isn’t euthanasia when these babies are killed. its outright murder. Selma, Good shelter should have no problem following the guidelines. As we all know we are all in constant fight with bad shelters and their murderous ways.

    Reply
  4. I am pro-choice for people. Meaning I am all for aborting fetuses. Got no problem with it. I support aborting canine and feline fetuses as well.

    I would never force my pro-choice decision on any human, just as I don’t want anyone forcing their pro-life for fetuses stance/belief on me.

    A strong case can be made that these cats and dogs were raped and shouldn’t be forced to give birth. I support that case.

    Reply
    • Humans are capable of personal consultations with their physician and providing consent. Dogs and cats are not. The mating behavior of dogs and cats is instinctual and rape is not a valid issue.

      On Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 12:57 PM, YesBiscuit!

      Reply
      • Another freakin’ shelter apologist too chicken shit to post their wrong-headed opinions under a real name. “Askimet,” btw, is the software program that deletes spam for WordPress.

      • andrea

         /  April 13, 2013

        Does it matter that the animals cannot give consent? Wouldn’t the life of their unborn kittens and puppies have just as much value even if the mother could consent? Honest question, I have never been able to understand that argument.

      • Andrea, The issue of consent inevitably comes up in any discussion of aborting puppies and kittens because someone always draws a comparison to the same issue in human beings. The comparison is invalid in this issue. Cats and dogs mate by instinct. Humans mate by choice. Whereas a human female is capable of making reproductive decisions based upon consultation with her physician and anyone else she chooses, cats and dogs are not. It is their instinct – their raison d’etre – to mate and for females, to raise their young. As humans, we control this instinct by having them desexed because we feel it makes them better pets, because we feel generally incapable of controlling their instinctual behavior and because we don’t want to be responsible for having more puppies and kittens. There is simply no valid comparison between pets and humans in this issue as regards consent. Exploring the pet/human comparison beyond that, regarding the issue of abortion, is beyond the scope of this blog.

        On Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 12:28 AM, YesBiscuit!

  5. Luree Echols

     /  April 12, 2013

    pet overpopulation is real.

    Reply
    • Math is real.

      Reply
      • mikken

         /  April 12, 2013

        +1!

      • Carla Damrath

         /  April 13, 2013

        Can’t argue with math! I can’t take seriously anyone that would deny that that Nathan Winograd’s “No Kill Equation” works!

    • Do you believe in Santa Claus too? I suppose you think Facebook really IS giving a dollar for every “like” received on a picture of a sick kid? Need a bridge? Do some research, Luree, educate yourself!

      Reply
  6. This is one of the things that makes me angry when these issues come up – there is always at least one idiot who says, “Amazing all of these holier than thou ranters are never able to foster or adopt any of these dogs they scream about. Just want someone else to do it. ” My response to that person is – YOU have no idea what other people do or do not do. We DO foster and/or adopt many animals in our communities. If I was in THAT community (Memphis) I would be doing it there. I do not want someone else to do it where I am – I AM someone!

    Reply
  7. You’re advocating on giving a pregnancy test to every female prior to spay? Do you have the name of a popular one for cats so I can buy some stock in that company?

    Reply
    • If you are just going to troll, you will be banned. If you decide to actually read the post and comment based upon its content, you are welcome to do so.

      Reply
    • Michele Ashley

       /  April 12, 2013

      Sure Sky Walker its called Spay/Neuter programs. You really show your ignorance.

      Reply
  8. Tina Clark

     /  April 12, 2013

    I totally agree with you, Shirley. I still cringe when I think about the woman at the s/n clinic who told me they would go ahead with a spay on a pregnant animal “unless we actually see a head sticking out.” And this wasn’t even a shelter, simply another organization so caught up in the hysteria that they went to obsene lengths to combat “overpopulation.”

    Reply
  9. I would only spay after she had given birth to her puppies and only with a vet consulting , I would not kill the pregnant mom’s babies I would save them because they deserve a life too and a fair chance to live one.

    Reply
  10. Daniela

     /  April 12, 2013

    It is a real dilemma in the TNR community. These are animals that are going back out into the community and the longer you keep them the less ethical it is to release them again – because they have now come to depend on humans for their food and water, and if you release them in an unsafe area might have lost their natural fear of humans. If you release them while they are pregnant you might not be able to catch them again at all, or you might catch them after they gave birth but they are pregnant again already (a cat can get pregnant within 3 days of giving birth). Plus now you have to catch all those kittens! The protocol for most TNR places is to just spay them all no matter what, but it would be nice to have other options.

    Reply
    • With cats there is the advantage (as far as determining pregnancy) of heat cycles repeating every 2 or 3 weeks. Unlike with dogs where you are waiting on something that only occurs once every 6 months or so.

      Reply
      • Daniela

         /  April 12, 2013

        You really don’t want to be keeping feral cats for 2 – 3 weeks at a time. It isn’t good for them or for you. The longer you keep them the more damage you are doing to them if the long term goal is to release them back. Plus them going into heat isn’t always as obvious as you would like. I had an unspayed cat in my house for a full year (couldn’t catch her to get her to the vet after she gave birth in my spare room). It was at the one year mark that I realized when she was going into heat because she kicked it up a notch. Until then it was so subtle I just couldn’t tell.

      • The 2 -3 weeks would be the maximum length of time you’d be keeping them (if waiting for them to come in season) but I understand your concern. Another option would be to work with a feral friendly vet who has an ultrasound. While it won’t detect very early pregnancies, it will detect those that are 3 weeks along and later.

      • Daniela

         /  April 12, 2013

        I do work with a TNR program. We had one feral who couldn’t be released back into his original colony so we were keeping him for our colony. He bit at least 4 people and that was over a period of 5 days. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally able to be released into our colony. I can’t imagine the damage he could have done if he was kept for 2 -3 weeks. Plus he was also getting very stressed out having all these humans be around him.

        That cage we kept him in meant that when we did TNR at other sites we could trap one less cat. Right now we are trapping sites with 25+ cats. So that means if we keep every female cat for 2 -3 weeks we trap about once a month. At a certain point every single female we trap will be pregnant. How pregnant I don’t know – but they will be. Cats are exceptionally fertile. We can house 15 cats. So the first 15 would be kept and then no more trapping for about 2 -3 months (since we need to keep mom and kittens for that long). Which kinda defeats the purpose of doing TNR. Plus now we have the problem of what to do with moms if they didn’t become very friendly in the meantime.

        If you look at AlleyCat Allies and other big TNR groups the protocol is to spay abort no matter what age. I don’t agree with that. I really don’t like late term spays. But I also don’t think we can keep every single pregnant female in the springtime. We don’t have the resources or space for it. It’s a big conundrum and we have lost sleep over what to do about it. And I don’t have a perfect answer either – I just have a “this one is not as bad as that one” answer.

      • I second the part about cat heats not always being obvious. When I had my female cat spayed at around 18 months of age, I made the appointment right after I thought she had come out of heat, and I found out after the surgery that she had been in heat at the time of her spay.

      • Our cat wasn’t pregnant (we kept her pretty well confined until we could afford to spay her, which was when we moved to an area with low-cost s/n), and I am against late term spay-aborts, but if it were too early to really tell on a cat, I would be okay with it.

    • Michele Ashley

       /  April 12, 2013

      FYI there are several TNR programs in place in most communities. Having one cat stay and extra day or so is not going to imprint human companionship with people. I take care of a feral community that know me well but will not approach me but will show gratitude that I care enough to make sure they have food water and shelter. I am here to tell you, ferals staying in the clinic a day or two makes absolutely no difference they are just as feral as they were before.

      Reply
      • Daniela

         /  April 12, 2013

        1 to 2 days – no that wouldn’t make a difference. But 2 – 3 weeks could make a difference. and 6 – 8 weeks would definitely make a difference.

    • Triangle

       /  April 13, 2013

      As Daniela says, I don’t see how this could be doable for feral cats. It would bring TNR operations to a screeching halt and would be detrimental to the cats themselves. TNR only works when cats can be efficiently altered and returned to the colony.

      What about a homeowner who traps the feral stray on their own land and cannot bring that cat inside at all? We used to frequently do spays/neuters on such animals and keep them until they were awake or overnight. The land owner would then return the cat. The vet office certainly wouldn’t be able to keep such a cat for several weeks, and the landowner wasn’t able to.

      Again, as Daniela says, keeping female ferals would mean many organizations would have to wait to spay/neuter the next set of cats…allowing more cats to get pregnant. Paying for the use of an ultrasound would reduce money for the actual spay/neuter operations.

      Under your proposed policies, the number of cats being TNRed would drop dramatically.

      Reply
      • It’s my job, if you will, to put forth what I feel are best practices – that is, what I believe would result in saving the lives of all unborn puppies and kittens in the shelter. Realistically, I have no expectation that any shelter will implement all of my suggestions or even any of them. But if I can at least manage to start (or continue) a conversation about the saving of unborn puppies and kittens in shelters, I think we’ve managed to put the ball a little farther down the field.

      • Triangle

         /  April 13, 2013

        But it isn’t best practice if it results in the dramatic reduction of feral cats being TNRed, or if it results in feral cats being held and unduly stressed because of it. I have seen pregnant ferals abort their kittens while trapped…holding them for long periods would only increase the risk of that. It also wouldn’t be best practice for the safety of the humans involved.

        Basically, it isn’t best practice if it saves kittens but negatively impacts adult ferals.

        The implication of this post is that many readers who TNR ferals or assist in doing so are doing wrong by the animals in spaying possibly pregnant females. Even if that is true from an ethical standpoint, from a practical standpoint they really aren’t left with much choice other than not TNRing at all.

      • The primary group of females being addressed in this post are the ones specified – not TNR cats. However, my response to you was to basically say that no one is likely to follow these guidelines, in whole or in part, but hopefully someone will have a thought in the back of their mind about it in future. Maybe someone who does TNR will decide to work with a clinic that has an ultrasound on site. Maybe someone who does TNR will decide to keep their eyes open for the development of a simpler and less costly pregnancy test for cats which will perhaps be marketed in future. Or maybe not. But I put my opinion out there, FWIW. Most shelters are doing either zero or extremely small numbers of TNR cats. I intended the guidelines to apply to the group of females I specified in the post, the vast majority of which are not TNR cats. But if it helps anyone involved with shelter pets (doing TNR or otherwise) to think more about the issue, I’m glad of it.

        Instead of continually focusing on the tiny percent of females (TNR cats) who would fall under the guidelines specified, I would rather address the vast majority, since it’s merely a hypothetical discussion. The tiny minority have a right to live as well, but in practical terms, since no shelter is adopting these guidelines and we are merely having a theoretical discussion, it makes sense to focus on the most likely scenarios.

        I liken it to a discussion of saving shelter pets who have a treatable illness or injury such as a cold or a broken leg. No kill advocates say these pets have a right to live. Killing apologists inevitably counter with something along the lines of “What about an 18 year old cat who needs a $20k kidney transplant – should the shelter pay for that too?” The fact is that the overwhelming majority of shelter pets being killed are either healthy or have some treatable medical condition such as a cold or a broken leg. When we talk about no kill, we are not expecting that every shelter (or any shelter) will in fact stop killing their pets today based upon our advocacy work. What we hope though, is that we are putting the ball a little further down the field by putting forth our best practices that all shelter pets have the right to live.

        It does not advance the cause and in fact serves as a distraction to get tangled up over the hypothetical $20k kidney transplant cat in a no kill discussion because we are so far from being there. If/When we someday have advanced to the point that there are not millions of healthy/treatable pets being killed in shelters then yes, I would be all for addressing the kidney transplant situation – is the animal a good surgical candidate? Is there a donor kidney available immediately? Is there a surgeon qualified to do the surgery available locally? If not, is the cat a good candidate for transport? Would the surgeon be willing to offer a discounted rate for a shelter pet? Can we raise the funds from donors? All of these would be practical questions in terms of a no kill discussion if we weren’t throwing perfectly healthy, friendly shelter cats in to the dumpster by the millions.

        I hope I have addressed your concerns. I sincerely doubt anyone is interested in reading my comments saying the same things over and over to one person so I’m going to end my part of this discussion here.

        On Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 12:48 PM, YesBiscuit!

  11. Larkin Vonalt Says:

    April 12, 2013 at 3:43

    “Oh, it’s Terry Ward, the mad-woman of Long Island. How are those schipperkes. Terry?
    Don’t waste your time on this one, YesBiscuiters, she should have been put down years ago.”

    Reply
  12. >>>WHEN YOU’VE TAKEN PART IN NUMEROUS FERAL CAT TRAPPINGS AND RESCUES IN EXTREME HOARDING CASES EVERYONE GETS SPAYED & NEUTERED – EVERYONE!!!<<<

    Reply
  13. Erica

     /  April 13, 2013

    I think saying you can’t abort puppies and kittens, but you can abort HUMANS because of an issue of consent is a ridiculous argument. EVERYTHING we do to animals is without their consent. I’m pretty positive that my dog has never consented to going to the vet for her check-ups. In fact, I KNOW she hasn’t consented by the fact she is scrabbling on the floor pulling to get out of the room. I doubt dogs consent to wearing prong and choke collars. And I damn well doubt they would consent to having their sex organs removed from their body. Something “higher thinking” animals such as humans don’t even like to do. Instead we go with vesectomies, etc. So to say that aborting a human is okay, but the dog/cat isn’t, I have to ask when we as owners really cared so much about having consent? Either they have the right to live, or they don’t. And if they have the right to live, then why don’t human babies as well? If you were pro-life for people as well I wouldn’t really care so much about your stance on the issue, but in my mind your views are currently hypocritical.

    Reply
    • You are falsely characterizing my argument. If you decide to read the post and comment on the actual content, you are welcome to do so. If you’re just going to troll, you will be banned. I won’t be drawn into a pro-life debate regarding humans. One time warning.

      Reply
    • Michele Ashley

       /  April 13, 2013

      Everyone with their right to life comments need to keep that to themselves. This issue is with animals and only animals. Erica my animals have no problem going to the vet. Maybe you need to change your vet. My animals actually like my vet and greet them for a petting.

      Reply
  14. carole

     /  April 13, 2013

    The problem that many shelters are facing is MAN POWER. If pregnant animals are allowed to whelp or queen, they now need to be placed into special foster homes comfortable and experienced in this. If everything goes perfectly, these babies will be in foster care for a minimum of 8 weeks before they are available for adoption. Most of the time there are multiple babies per litter, and most fosters can’t handle more than a few puppies or kittens at a time once they are weaned. So, now even more fosters are being needed.

    In the shelter I deal with, foster families are the limiting factor as to how many puppies and kittens (and mommies) we can handle at one time. It takes a special person to take care of neonates and their mom, and heaven forbid that problems occur because now you are faced with bottle feeding.

    We will spay pregnant females if they are not at term. If mom is close, we do place them into foster and let them give birth. This is the way we have chosen to deal with this subject. We are scrambling to find fosters for puppies and kittens that are born and thriving and need our help, and justifying bringing more into the world just doesn’t make sense right now.

    Reply
    • Luckily there is no need for justification. They have a right to live. FULL STOP.

      Yes it would require even more hard work. See previous paragraph if any questions on that.

      Reply
  15. I haven’t had a chance to dig into this, but I don’t think this process is actually necessary for dogs. While there is no early PREGNANCY test for dogs, I believe you can tell from a blood (and maybe urine?) test if a bitch is in or was recently in estrus. If not, she obviously cannot be in an undetectable stage of pregnancy. If so, then you could potentially implement your protocol.

    With feral cats, I believe this will only become practicable when we have reliable non-surgical sterilization, which I think is coming soon. Then we won’t need to worry about catching them again after they have their kittens.

    I wonder if they could develop some kind of time-release implant or drug that would allow the kittens to be born but prevent future reproduction in the queen. I don’t see why that would be impossible… science is pretty awesome, and I find it hard to believe that would be harder on a female cat than cutting open her abdomen and cutting out her repro organs. Not to mention it would be cheaper and easier.

    Reply
    • I am sure that all manner of testing and sterilization options will advance, as they are bound to do. In fact, I’m counting on it.

      Reply
  16. Taken right from the “Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook” (the experts).
    4. Pregnant cats
    Gestation for a cat averages 63 days. During the early part of a pregnancy, there is no way to tell visually that a cat is carrying kittens. Towards the later stages, the female’s belly is noticeably round and protruding below her. In the last one to two weeks
    of pregnancy, the nipples become distended and lactating actually begins shortly before birth.
    If a cat is known to be pregnant, there are three options: (1) trap and spay her and abort the pregnancy, (2) trap her and let her give birth in a cage or other confined space where she can then raise the kittens or (3) don’t trap her and allow her to give birth
    outdoors, trapping her and any surviving kittens at a future date.

    Unless a caretaker objects on religious or other deeply personal grounds, Neighborhood Cats recommends trapping a pregnant cat and aborting the kittens when possible. This is because of the harsh realities of cat overpopulation. If the kittens are born and you find homes for them, it could mean other cats already in the
    shelter system will not be adopted and will be euthanized instead. If the kittens are born and not adopted, but live outdoors as ferals, their mortality rate is likely to be high and most of their lives short. Right now, with so many cats dying in shelters and on the
    streets, more kittens only make the situation worse. If your veterinarian is very experienced with spay/neuter, cats can be safely spayed right up until the last day of a
    pregnancy. Discuss with your clinic or veterinarian to find out what their policies are.
    If the decision is not to abort, whether for ethical reasons or concerns for the health of the pregnant female, then what happens to the kittens becomes the focus. Should you trap the mom-to-be and let her raise the kittens in a cage, or leave her be to give birth
    outdoors? Certainly, having her give birth indoors in a secure environment will be much safer for the kittens. Outdoors, they face numerous threats – anemia induced by fleas, disease from other cats which their undeveloped immune systems can’t fight off,
    predators, traffic, and more. In addition, if the goal is to eventually adopt out the kittens, it will be much easier and faster to socialize them if they are born indoors and handled by
    people from birth.

    Reply
    • There is no expert (or non-expert) opinion that can trump a cat’s right to live.

      Reply
    • mikken

       /  April 16, 2013

      That’s…a weird argument. You have to kill to prevent killing/death? I think that they just argued themselves into a corner on that one.

      Reply
  17. I’m currently fostering a female dog. While waiting for the paperwork to be completed, several people looked at her – Gracie – and asked me, “What happened to her puppies?” Naively, as it turned out, I said, “I don’t know. No one said anything to me about puppies.” When I read her medical history, I discovered Gracie had been scheduled for a spay procedure on April 18. After she was under anesthesia, the vet noted: “Spay not completed due to late term pregnancy.” Well, needless to say, the next day, the spay was completed. Of course, Gracie got an infection and rather than drive 90 minutes to ACS, I just took her for a checkup and antibiotics to my private vet. I’m so sorry for what happened to her. Gracie’s not an easy dog; there are no boundaries as yet. But I hope to teach her some manners and find a wonderful home for this loving dog who apparently hasn’t had many good things happen to her thus far in her life. Wish me luck!

    Reply

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