"There is some wonderful research that shows that every effective spay/neuter that would not have happened otherwise leads
to between a half and three-fourths fewer animals in intake," Marsh says.3 "So, to bring the shelter euthanasia rate down to the level that will make it unnecessary to put down adoptable animals,
we just have to do five million more surgeries nationwide each year than we're doing now."
Raising funds to offset philanthropic losses
Marsh advocates placing "shelter euthanasia in the same context as any epidemic threat." That means, he says, approaching
the problem scientifically, with adequate data and planned strategies. "The scientific approach allows you to put together
a realistic plan," he says. "Then it's not about hope. It's about meeting your goals.
"Just as you heard the axiom, 'the poor will always be with us,' people thought, 'shelters will always have to put down healthy
cats and dogs to control their populations.' The idea is you can't do much about it. But the reality is that if you come up
with a strategy and you look at the data, you can do something."
Advice from the Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board
An important reason the New Hampshire program worked, Marsh says, is the recognition that low-income communities contribute
more animals to shelters because a larger proportion of household pets remain intact. Once poor pet owners—about 15% of the
population—had an affordable program, a dramatic drop in shelter numbers occurred. Marsh says veterinarians were willing to
come onboard for the spay and neuter program when it was aimed at people who really needed help paying for the surgeries.
"WE'RE HERE FOR A REASON"
It is clear where Brian Forsgren, DVM, a private practitioner in Cleveland and a past president of the Society for Veterinary
Medical Ethics, stands on the question of whether or not euthanasia of several million healthy animals a year is a practitioner's
problem. He'd like to move more of his colleagues to become, in his words, "the epicenter of animal welfare in their communities."
He offers the following four first steps he thinks practitioners should take to become more involved:
1. Communicate with local animal-control officers and police departments. Let them know you will provide immediate care
for strays and for dogs and cats hit by cars.
2. Form alliances with local shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups. Provide discounted services and be responsive
to their need for timely help.
3. Provide an open door for low-income and indigent pet owners, including immediate triage and care plans, preventive medical
intervention in zoonotic diseases, and a walk-in clinic six days a week.
4. Create your own in-house rehabilitation and adoption program. Rescue groups can assist you with such a program.