February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and an opportunity to highlight the great work Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) was able to do in 2016 thanks to a grant from the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF).  For pet owners in need with intact animals, SAS was able to offer a free week of spay/neuter services to anyone who pre-registered their pet. This effort supported 32 dogs, 16 cats and 6 rabbits.   This year, SAS is applying for another grant from SASF to support its spay/neuter promotion February 27th through March 3rd.

World Spay day is an annual campaign led by the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.  On the last Tuesday of February, World Spay Day is observed, giving the community the opportunity to spay/neuter their pets for free.  Spaying and neutering is a crucial part of pet care.  It helps control the animal overpopulation, leads to a longer and healthier life and reduces the risk of roaming, which can lead to injury and disease.

This year, World Spay Day is on February 28, 2017.  SAS will be celebrating the whole week, however, offering free spay/neuter surgeries to area pets from February 27th through March 3rd.  The shelter is also offering free microchips during this promotion to stress the importance of pet identification.

The goal during this week is also to promote the SAS clinic and let the community know that every day is Spay Day in their eyes.  The SAS clinic regularly provides low cost services to everyone, thanks to funds from the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation and Pet Population Control Fund. According to SAS, “Dr. Mary Ellen Zoulas, the staff veterinarian, has over 30 years of surgical experience and has done more spay/neuter surgeries than any other doctor in Seattle.”  The clinic has a highly trained staff of licensed technicians and surgical nurses as well.

When Dr. Zoulas helped open the SAS Spay & Neuter Clinic in 1982, the shelter was euthanizing more than 8,000 animals a year.  At that time, only animals over 6 months of age were altered when they were adopted.  Animals younger than that were sent home unaltered with a request to come back for surgery when they turned 6 months of age.  You may not be surprised to learn that at least half of the female cats had a litter before they came back for surgery.

In 1989, SAS started its prepubertal spay/neuter program for dogs and cats. Implementation of this program was not without controversy.  Conscientious veterinarians throughout the country thought that surgery on animals as young as 6-8 weeks was too risky.  Dr. Zoulas continued, “Fortunately SAS went ahead with the program, learned that not only we could safely perform the surgery, but the animals recovered much more quickly than adult animals.  Plus, euthanasia rates dropped by 75 percent and the rate has continued to fall year after year.’’

Dr. Zoulas noted that she would be remiss if she did not point out that there is again a reported controversy around prepubertal spaying and neutering of dogs and cats. The issue came up following the release of a narrow study that indicated one breed of large dogs from a select region of the country had an increased incidence of health problems if they were spayed/neutered at any age.  While this report was widely circulated on the internet, there have been no other studies that reach a similar conclusion.

She shared that organizations committed to animal welfare including The American Animal Hospital Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society of the United States and ASPCA continue to support early spay/neuter.

‘’As with any question regarding the health of your pet, your best bet is to talk with your veterinarian about the needs of your pet,” said Dr. Zoulas.  “Together you can determine the best strategy for keeping your pet healthy – whether that be when to spay/neuter and what vaccinations to have.’’

Spaying and neutering has definite health benefits and significant behavioral benefits for the pet. Spaying/neutering does not change the fundamental personality of a dog but it does curb undesirable behaviors such as aggression, excessive barking, mounting and other dominance-related behaviors.  There has been no controversy about spaying/neutering of cats regardless of age.  And a noted benefit is decreasing the urge to spray. Don’t forget rabbits either as they also benefit both behaviorally and health-wise from the procedure.

There is no income limit or residency requirement for the spay/neuter services during the week of February 27- March 3, 2017.  Please call and make an appointment as surgeries are by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, call 206-386-4260.

For more information about the clinic and spay/neuter, go to www.seattle.gov/animal-shelter/spay-and-neuter.

To continue to support the great work of the spay/neuter clinic, SAS accepts donations to the Pet Population Control Fund to provide affordable spay/neuter services and benefits from SASF grants to support the Seattle community.

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