Learning about animal sterilisation at KAPS
In line with worldwide thinking on population control, KAPS places sterilisation at the top of its agenda to limit the exploding numbers of animals, especially dogs.
In the households of the poor a dog must earn its keep. It may be a status symbol, a guardian, a plaything for the children, or – all too often – a means of producing puppies to sell for R10 or R20 each. Puppies are so easily available that people tell us to put down their adult dog because “we’ve got a new puppy instead”. Thus a vicious cycle is created: dogs are expendable because they are so easily replaced.
Pups from a starving mother don’t stand a chance. We have countless horror stories about starved bitches producing weak and sickly pups that are taken away and sold at 4 weeks old. Then the mother herself will often be abandoned.
At KAPS we sterilise for free
This kind of thinking is the reason why KAPS is adamant about sterilising for free. Unaware of the benefits of sterilisation, animal owners in the poor communities will never consider voluntarily spaying or neutering. Many are instinctively opposed to the idea, even if they are not planning to breed. If it costs them money, it will never be done.
Without sterilisation the streets will be overrun with starving, mangy, unwanted dogs scavenging and making themselves a nuisance and a health risk.
Chairperson, ColetteTeale at KAPS free clinic
Thus KAPS’s philosophy is twofold
(1) We bring regular programmes of free sterilisation into all the deprived communities we serve. To do this we engage veterinarians (kind souls who are willing to charge us welfare rates) to travel to the Little Karoo and stay over for one, two or three days at a time, while we pay their travel, accommodation and fees. We find a local hall or community centre where an ad hoc operating room is set up, and a vet working alone can perform as many as 40 sterilisations in a day. On average, year by year, KAPS carries out two days of mass sterilisations per month.
(2) We campaign for municipalities to enforce laws against backyard breeding and apply heavy fines. Two of our municipalities have seen the benefit of a general requirement for residents to spay bitches unless there is good reason not to. A third, Hessequa, unilaterally abandoned breeding control at the end of 2008 and is reaping the consequences.
Our dual stick-and-carrot approach means that the threat of fines is offset by the pledge that KAPS will always help needy owners by having their pet sterilised for free.
Not only dogs need sterilising, of course. The most humane way to control the feral cat population (and reduce predation on our wildlife) is to sterilise the household cat.
We have also several times stepped in to geld horses and donkeys, especially in cases where stallions have been so crazed when nearby mares come into season that they create havoc and even trample foals to death.
* Disease control. In deprived communities, owners don’t vaccinate their pets. So every dog sterilised by KAPS gets vaccinated. Sexual interaction spreads communicable diseases like distemper, of which epidemics are now much rarer as a result of our interventions. There is one really terrible venereal disease that tends to be rife in impoverished areas – Transmissible Venereal Tumour (TVT) – a fatal cancer affecting the genitals which can also affect other body parts. Reduction of sexual activity combats the spread of this and other diseases, as well as parasites.
* Disease prevention. Numerous serious conditions in dogs can be prevented by sterilisation, including prostatic disease, perineal hernia, testicular tumours and peri-anal adenomas. Spaying females prevents pregnancy complications, infections of the ovaries and uterus, and mammary diseases including cancer.
* Prevention of unwanted behaviour. At the same time as preventing straying, the chances of dog-fights and traffic accidents are reduced. Sterilisation prevents unacceptable sexual behaviour towards other dogs and humans, and helps control aggression, dominance and frustration.
Welfare societies are overflowing with animals needing homes, and are forced to euthanase thousands every day. There is no justification for breeding more, thereby adding to this toll of misery and death.