City champing at bit to cut rise in number of strays|[02/26/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 26, 2007

For more than a decade, Bob Barker, host of &#8220The Price Is Right,” has made the words &#8220spay” and &#8220neuter” famous with his outgoing greeting reminding viewers to have their pets &#8220fixed.”

But, people don’t seem to be heeding his call.

&#8220And, how many millions of people watch that show?” asked Georgia Lynn, president of the Warren County Humane Society. &#8220I think a lot of people just do not make it a priority.”

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Mayor Laurence Leyens, however, is pushing the issue by proclaiming Vicksburg will join in Tuesday’s Spay Day USA, which is a national campaign by the Humane Society of the United States to promote spaying and neutering pets as a way to end animal control issues.

&#8220If we don’t stop the uncontrolled pet population, we can’t expect expenses to go down,” Leyens said. &#8220Everybody has to get involved.”

Leyens said in a city board meeting last week that the unwanted animal population in the city is up 20 percent a year.

&#8220It’s costing the city a lot of money,” he said.

The city funds its animal-control staff and shelter, which costs about $180,000 a year.

Stormy Boyette, a city inspections employee and board member of Paws Rescue, said 4 million healthy cats and dogs were euthanized in this country last year.

&#8220We’re not talking about wild animals,” she said. &#8220People just don’t want them.”

But, by raising awareness, she hopes pet owners will become more responsible.

&#8220In the U.S., 141,000 animals were spayed or neutered on Spay Day USA,” she said. &#8220That’s a good start. I would really like for Vicksburg to participate.”

Lynn said the humane society took in 2,093 unwanted pets last year, up from the 1,612 in 2005. The organization has a 17 percent adoption rate, she added.

&#8220We do everything in our power to save these animals,” she said. &#8220The only ones we euthanize are animals that are aggressive toward people and other animals, those that are severely diseased or if an animal has been there a long time – is depressed and not eating. That’s why we stay so full.”

Having a pet spayed or neutered not only reduces the unwanted pet population, but also reduces the risk of deadly diseases, said local veterinarian Dr. Dale Cordes of the Vicksburg Animal Hospital.

&#8220If you’re letting them reproduce uncontrollably, you’re allowing transmittable diseases,” he said. &#8220By not allowing pets to breed, we’re able to stop them.”

Lynn said she hears all kinds of reasons for people not having a pet spayed, removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female animal, or neutered, the removal of the testicles of a male animal. They range from people saying they don’t have the time to care for the animal to such reasons as, &#8220I just can’t put up with it anymore,” she said.

&#8220The reasons people have are incredible,” she said.

Cordes said, oftentimes, owners are afraid their pet will become overweight by leading a more sedentary life. Or, some male owners have a problem dealing with the issue of having a male animal castrated.

&#8220They relate it to themselves,” he said. &#8220It’s a mental issue.”

He also hears from pet owners that if a dog or cat has a litter once before getting fixed, it makes a better pet, which he said isn’t necessarily true.

In fact, if female dogs and cats are spayed before their first heat cycle, he said, it greatly reduces the potential for mammary cancer.

The cost of the procedure may just be the biggest reason pet owners refuse to have their pets spayed or neutered. Cordes said the surgery is based on weight and varies for cats and dogs. At his clinic, it costs about $95 for a medium-size dog and $80 for a cat to be neutered. Spaying costs are about $105 for a dog and $95 for a cat.

But, financial help is available. Lynn said the humane society includes spay/neuter, as well as shots, costs in the adoption fee, which is a flat rate of $75 for all animals.

On the state level, the Mississippi Spay and Neuter Alliance, is an organization that provides low cost spay and neuter. Established in 2002, the alliance has helped spay and neuter 3,600 animals. It gives pet owners vouchers to help pay for their pet’s surgery. For information, visit or call 866-901-7729. Boyette said the alliance will pay up to half of the cost.