GET IT FIXED: The problem of unwanted cats and dogs, like this homeless mum and her kittens, can easily be solved by having animals neutered.

AFTER more than six years of volunteering for the SPCA, I’m still surprised at the number of puppies and kittens that keep arriving at the Kawerau centre.

It’s a problem not unique to Kawerau though, as it’s happening all over New Zealand. Too many animals, not enough homes. Just ask any rescue group.

The obvious solution to reduce numbers is for more people to desex their dogs and cats. Puppies and kittens given away undesexed can often go on to produce more “free” puppies and kittens.

Animals that are adopted from SPCA are all desexed prior to going off to their new homes to prevent unwanted litters. Most rescue groups do the same.

I was curious about what different councils around the country did when adopting out unclaimed and temperament-suitable dogs from their pounds, so I made a few enquiries to a variety of areas around New Zealand.

Information received from 18 councils revealed that 11 local bodies desexed dogs prior to adoption from their pounds, or used a rescue group to rehome the animals, and they did the desexing.

Comments from representatives of these 11 councils regarding desexing included that they wanted to promote responsible dog ownership, and prevent uncontrolled breeding in the community, which could result in further pressure on rescue groups.

Two of the councils I surveyed did not desex prior to adoption but actively encouraged new owners to do so. A further five councils did not desex prior to rehoming dogs from their pounds. A representative from one told me that it is about saving lives, that it is the responsibility of the new owner to desex the animal if they choose to, and that not all owners of entire dogs are irresponsible.

SPCA and animal shelter volunteers around the country would be delighted if more people desexed their animals. Fewer animals would equal less homelessness, less cruelty, and less time and resources being consumed trying to fix a very fixable problem.

There are many benefits in having pets desexed, including that they will be less likely to wander and become lost or injured; they are more likely to be healthier and to live longer; and some may be less likely to get into fights and display aggressive or anti-social behaviour.

Puppies can become capable of breeding at six months of age, while for kittens, from four months, so it pays to be proactive.

Financial assistance for pet desexing operations may be available to some pet owners if they have a Community Services Card. Contact your nearest SPCA or vet clinic for further information.

By Carey Conn