In Focus

Popping populations

Animal overpopulation sees increase in Tucson, nationally

Morgan Darby

            Just like Tucson’s monsoon season, animal overpopulation has stealthily crept up across the country.

            Though animal overpopulation is a major problem in Tucson, itis spreading across the U.S. due to Americans failing to spay or neuter their pets.

Tucson’s Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) is feeling the impact of the crisis at hand.

PACC takes in approximately 28,000 animals per year due to their pledge to always take in pets, regardless of their condition.

            The shelter currently cares for 791 animals.

            Jenny Kading, the head of PACC’s outreach program, gave an idea of how the animal population has grown over the years.

            “Our intake when I first started [2004] was probably around 15,000 [per year].”

            In a span of nine years, the shelter has increased their intake by 13,000 animals.

            Jose Ocano, PACC’s volunteer coordinator, also stressed the magnitude of the situation. 

             “It’s a huge issue for this country,” Ocano said. “60 percent of all dogs that enter shelters get put to sleep every year, and that’s because of overpopulation. That’s three to four thousand animals.”

            To illustrate the severity of the problem, Ocano gave an alarming statistic.

            “The offspring of two dogs in six years is over 67,000 Ocano said. ”The offspring of two cats in nine years is 11.6 million cats.”

            Since PACC is a no kill shelter, it is always full to the brim, often combining multiple animals per kennel.

            PACC promotes spaying and neutering, which prevents animals from breeding, ultimately decreasing the animal population in the U.S.

            According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates, 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year.

            The cause of this abnormality is overcrowding in the shelter, according to HSUS.

            “Even by owning an animal that is not spayed or neutered it is contributing,” Ocano said. “The reality is that they just keep breeding and breeding.”

            Not only does spaying or neutering your pet keep them from adding to the growing problem, but it also provides health benefits.

            “They live two to three years longer, they have better temperament, and they have a better quality of life,” Ocano said. “It also eliminates or drastically decreases certain cancers in male dogs.”

            Kading is also a strong advocate of spaying or neutering pets.

            “It makes a huge difference. It’s definitely worth doing for your pet,” Kading said.

            Additionally, neutering a male dog can potentially save their lives.

            Ocano explained that the male’s natural instinct to breed is so compelling that it overrides everything else, such as their obedience to say within the backyard.

            Ocano said the root of the problem is the owners not realizing the importance of having the surgery performed.

            “I really believe that people are genuinely good,” Ocano said, nodding. “Working here, it’s easy to become cynical. But they really just don’t know. When you know better, you do better.”

            Part of PACC’s commitment is to educate the community about responsible pet ownership, which includes the spaying and neutering of pets.

            To fulfill that promise, PACC offers an educational program that reaches out into the community, particularly in schools to plant the idea of spaying and neutering pets into young children’s minds.

            Kading has been invited to THMS on several occasions on behalf of the Animal Rescue Group (ARG) to talk about the importance of spaying and neutering pets, but has had a rough time reaching the teen crowds.

            “Some of it is changing cultural bias,” Kading said. “There are different people who see pets as things, and [PACC is] trying to get more people into the belief that pets are family members, and not a disposable commodity.”

            For some kids, participating in a tour of the shelter is a real eye-opener.

            “Kids come here and they’re sensitive kids, some of them get quite overwhelmed,” Kading said. “They have a hard time at the shelter because they see so many animals and it upsets them.”

            Ocano said educating kids of all ages is an important step in making a difference concerning animal overpopulation.

            “You have to put these ideas in now,” Ocano said. “It’s easier for you to change your mind and get you to believe something when you’re little than right now, because now you are so influenced by your own experiences.”

            The only setback with educating young people, as Ocano explained, is it doesn’t take effect until decades afterward, once the children become pet owners themselves.

            “We live in a society where we love instant gratification, I know, I love instant gratification,” Ocano said. “But the problem is with education, you’re not going to feel the impact for many, many years.”

            PACC plans to continue the implementation of the program.

            “Within time, every little bit counts,” Ocano said. “It’s one of the things we are going to start focusing on building and making stronger.”

            Aside from PACC children’s education program, there isn’t much else to be done to spread the word about responsible pet ownership, according to Kading.

            “All we can do is promote spay and neuter as much as we possibly can, and educate people and hope it will get better, but it’s going to be gradual,” Ocano said. “The community has to decide if that’s what they want.”

            Kading also gives her negative outlook on the growing problem.

            “It’s an uphill battle. Personally, I think we have a lot more work that needs to be done.”

            Yet another fragment of the issue is the point that Pima County itself is growing.

            Human population directly correlates with the growing animal population.

            Moreover, PACC hasn’t grown as an establishment to support the community’s growing numbers.

            According to the trends in animal population, it doesn’t seem likely that we will see the resolution of overpopulation in the near future.

            “I think we will always have somewhat of an overpopulation problem, and I don’t know if in my lifetime we will solve it, because its so drastic,” Ocano said with a shrug.

            Taking everything into account, Ocano insists that it’s vital to clue others in and to be informed to take the first steps toward the resolution.

            “It’s so important that people are part of the solution. It’s as simple as spaying and neutering your own animals.”

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