Tuesday, February 28th is not only the last day of February and probably our last hope of a winter this year, but it's also known internationally as World Spay Day, a day dedicated to eliminating the problem of homeless pets through spay/neuter education and opportunities.
The Doris Day Animal League created "Spay Day USA" in 1995. After their merger with the Humane Society of the United States in 2006, the annual campaign was renamed "World Spay Day". This now international day of spay/neuter awareness has been recognized by nearly 70 countries, promoting the need for companion animal sterilization and providing practical resources, such as educational materials and listings of affordable, accessible options for surgery.
Locally, the SPCA Albrecht Center celebrates this important day with an annual SPAY-ghetti Dinner. It's an effort to raise funds for their Veterinary Care Center, which provides very affordable options for spay/neuter surgery to pet owners in our community. The event is also a fun opportunity for local families or individuals to gather at the SPCA for a night of food and drink in the name of a common goal: ending pet homelessness through reproduction prevention.
Living in the southeast, you are probably very familiar with the problem of pet overpopulation. Stray cats and dogs can be found roaming our streets and neighborhoods, just as in many other towns and cities across the country. Many of these animals live their entire lives on the street, scavenging for food, suffering from medical conditions, and braving environmental elements like our sometimes unbearable summer heat, and bone-chilling cold in other areas.
Many more end up in crowded animal shelters, as many as 6-8 million every year, nationwide. And while an animal shelter can offer food, water, perhaps medical care and a chance at adoption, the reality is that barely half of them are adopted. Sadly, the rest are humanely euthanized because there are never enough adopters, and shelters lack the space and resources to care for them all.
In areas like ours, an animal shelter often runs like a faucet with the drain open. Adoptions and return-to-owners happen daily, but there are always newcomers to fill those open spaces. For a limited admission, or "no-kill" shelter, this means having to turn away animals in need when those spaces are full. For an open-admission shelter, such as government run, municipal shelters, this means humane euthanasia for often healthy, adoptable pets who have simply run out of time, in order to make room for the never-ending supply of additional homeless pets.
We cannot adopt our way out of this problem. The only solution is prevention. Spaying and neutering pets not only prevents unwanted litters, it increases a pet's lifespan by eliminating the chance of reproductive diseases, it curbs bad behavior such as urine-marking, and keeps pets safer by decreasing the urge to roam.
With all of this in mind, there really is no reason not to spay or neuter your pet. Cost is another reason that should no longer be a factor. Part of World Spay Day's awareness campaign provides lists of low-cost, sometimes free spay/neuter clinics and programs, including those right here in our own community.
City of Aiken and Aiken County residents meeting certain income levels can apply for spay/neuter vouchers that bring the cost of surgery down to just $20. Regular prices at the SPCA's Veterinary Care Center are quite affordable too, with cat surgeries starting at just $40 and dog surgeries starting at just $70. Visit LetLoveLive.org to check pricing and find out more, or call 803-648-6863 to schedule an appointment.
In the meantime, you can help support World Spay Day by enjoying a meal with fellow pet lovers at the SPCA Albrecht Center. Tickets are just $10 at the door and include a plate of SPAY-ghetti, salad, bread, and a drink. Beer and wine will also be available. You can dine in or take a plate home. Dinner is served on Tuesday, February 28th from 5:00 - 8:00pm at 199 Willow Run Road, in Aiken. I'll see you there!
Sarah Neikam is the Communications & Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her family which includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA.