Creating Opportunity for Spay/Neuter

Dog in Romania

Dog in Romania

FiXiT loves to promote those that are creating solutions for ending overpopulation. Nancy Janes started her non-profit, Romania Animal Rescue (RAR), in 2003, with a goal to spay/neuter as many dogs as possible.  Romania’s severe dog overpopulation problem was multi-faceted, requiring long-term solutions and thoughtful approaches.  At first she met with severe resistance among people.  There were those who believed that a female would make a better pet if she had birthed at least one litter.  Conversely, they thought male dogs were entitled to have their fun.  To combat the idea that pets were happier reproducing, Janes pointed out to her detractors that once the puppies were weaned, they were often disposed of in inhumane ways.  Wouldn’t it be kinder for the dogs to avoid that situation?

Money was also an issue.  Many of the people Janes encountered earned approximately $200 a month, making elective pet care a low priority, so Janes decided to hold a free spay/neuter week at a veterinary clinic in Galati, Romania.  She had rubber bracelets produced that said in Romanian, “Sterilize your dogs and cats.  Give them a new chance.”  Billboard space was purchased advertising the event.  To her surprise, people were lined up around the block on the first day.

As word spread, Janes realized RAR could make a difference.  She enlisted American veterinarians to help train their Romanian counterparts.  Janes expanded the spay/neuter services to other areas and hired a permanent, full-time Romanian vet in 2008, Dr. Stefan Aurelian, who had trained in the U.S.  RAR has performed 18,000 spay/neuter surgeries in the last 10 years but Janes says that the majority have occurred since 2009.  She credits Aurelian and his team of five for making the difference.

Only one in ten procedures is performed on cats, who seem to have an easier life than dogs.  In a country of 21 million humans, there are 2.5 million canines, many of whom are homeless.  Janes says that people are fearful of dogs because the ferals pack-up and pose a public safety problem.  While RAR never turns away a cat, their primary focus remains reducing the dog population to ensure more and better homes for those already here.  Janes and Aurelian estimate that those 18,000 surgeries have probably saved millions of lives by preventing unwanted puppies from entering an unforgiving world.

Janes notes that given the knowledge and tools, most people want to provide a better life for their pets.  She also proves that one dedicated person can make it possible.
photo credit: Camil Agapie via photopin cc

Adoption Alternative

A cute pair: Juju, Aube’s pet rat, with a foster, Sputnik

Many animal lovers in this economy cannot afford to expand their four-legged families.  But Aube found a solution to that dilemma when she started volunteering with Fix Our Ferals in the fall of 2010 after reading one of the organization’s flyers.  Founded in 1998, Fix Our Ferals is a San Francisco Bay Area non-profit that focuses on Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), helping reduce the number of homeless and feral cats through their spay/neuter program.

A firm believer that a pet is a lifelong commitment, Aube decided to foster kittens until she felt better able to take on the financial responsibility of pet guardianship.  Fostering kittens has not only given her great joy but provided her with an education regarding the problem of pet overpopulation and the scarcity of good homes.  When Aube started fostering, friends and family warned the tender-hearted vegetarian that she would get too attached to give up her charges.  Instead, Aube located permanent homes for the first two cats she fostered. She has also orchestrated several subsequent adoptions. Aube also credits the Milo Foundation for allowing her to bring two kittens to one of their mobile adoptions.

Kittens who are rescued early enough can become good pets through intensive socialization.  Knowing the kittens are well socialized when they leave her care increases the odds they will find permanent homes.  To aid in this process, Aube routinely hosts “kitten parties,” inviting friends to come and interact with the felines. While sharing her flat with a constant stream of kittens (no more than two at any given time) has been great fun for Aube, she hopes for a day when TNR and spay/neuter programs negate the need for her services.  Whether they live on the street or land in a shelter, the lives of homeless and feral cats are too often cut short.  On the street, they are subject to illness, hunger, loneliness and abuse.  In shelters, they have little or no time to find new homes.

“Pet overpopulation is a problem we’ve created and it creates suffering.  Domestic animals are primarily suited to live with people so we need to limit their offspring to what’s maintainable for humans.”  Through her volunteerism, Aube proves that there are many ways to enjoy and care for animals without being a full-time guardian to one pet.  If you or someone you know loves animals but is not in a position to adopt, please consider fostering through a local shelter or a favorite rescue organization.

photo credit: lenz art via photopin cc

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