Why Spay and Neuter Programs are Vital

If you’ve visited the Isla animals Facebook site recently, you’ve probably noticed they are getting ready for their 10th Annual Spay & Neuter Campaign on November 18th through the 21st. As I read through the posts, I got to wondering about how many puppies one single female dog can have in her lifetime.  If you’ve ever wondered about that, you might be astounded by the answer (and I’ll cover that a little later in this article). I’ve always been fascinated by the Isla Animals Spay and Neuter event, and I’d like to take some time to tell you all about it.  

As you know, Isla Animals is a nonprofit organization founded by Allison Sawyer Current back around the turn of the century (when I say it like that, it sounds ancient!). Back in the 1990’s, when she first visited the island, she discovered it was overrun with stray dogs.  The dogs were not healthy, were suffering from mange and were covered with fleas, ticks, and scars.  Back then, the solution to the problem was brutal and heartbreaking.  Because the mentality of the residents was that the dogs were disposable, and because there were no formal spay-and-neutering programs, animal control would routinely round up the dogs and exterminate them by electrocution or poison.  Fortunately, at the time there was already a group on the island, Amigos de Animales, that was taking in and adopting out puppies. Through assistance provided by Ms. Sawyer, they were able to hold the first Spay and Neuter clinic on Isla Mujeres, sterilizing over 200 animals.  

Dog in a veterinary surgery

Over the years, as tourism grew so did Isla Animals. They continued offering ongoing spay/neuter, education, vaccination, and adoption services. Because the wild dog population was viewed as a threat to vacationers, Isla Animals began a routine program where the strays could be trapped, sterilized, and released.  The program was so effective that within a few years, the wild street dog population was gone.  However, there was still an overpopulation of strays and unwanted litters of puppies.  Their work was far from complete! 

Mexico is home to the largest population of stray dogs in Latin America, with estimates ranging between 15 and 18 million dogs living on the streets.  If there were no spay and neuter campaign, that number would simply continue to increase, as dogs are free to roam and continue reproducing. Keep in mind that most strays live in atrocious conditions. They are plagued with illnesses and are not given the same love and adoration that we bestow on our pets. 

Isla animals does everything they can for animals in need on Isla Mujeres, Mexico as well as throughout the Yucatan peninsula. They have even consulted with Mexico City animal rescue organizations about animal overpopulation in the entire country.  They continue to hold that weekly event in Isla where dog owners can bring their pets for free spay and neuter surgeries, and free or low-cost vaccines, de-wormer, flea & tick medicines.  All of this is in addition to the Annual Spay & Neuter Campaign that I mentioned at the beginning of the article. This program is a wellness campaign for the dogs and cats in the very poor area of Rancho Viejo, Mexico. Rancho Viejo is near Cancun but is considered part of the municipality of Isla Mujeres. The clinic runs for several days and they offer free spay and neuter services to cats and dogs in this area. The service is becoming more and more important because the population of Rancho Viejo is growing. As Cancun grows as a tourist destination, the area around it became more densely populated. More people (residents) there means there are more cars and also more trash. The trash attracts stray animals and this combination makes for a very dangerous situation for these strays. Mange, fungal infections, and parasites are commonplace; the animals suffer horribly and scratch themselves raw. In general, the dogs are not welcome nor are they cared for. There are only seen as a menace and as a threat to public health. 

Spay it Forward….

There are very few veterinarians in this area and any dog that ends up pregnant has a much shorter life span than normal – usually under three years. The extreme poverty in these areas doesn’t help the situation, as the animals simply don’t have access to health care or adequate nutrition.  The disposable puppy mentality of the residents still prevails. The spay and neuter campaign is likely the only exposure to medical care that these animals will have.  The best way to fix this situation is to get into the areas and round up those animals to spay and neuter them.  Isla Animals work brings in veterinarians and at these clinics they also vaccinate against disease, treat existing ailments, and educate the residents.  Education is an important element of their mission. They speak to the residents and visit schools to educate children about how to take care of their pets.

So, now, as promised, let’s talk about why spay and neuter services are vital.  The number of babies a dog or cat can be responsible for in a lifetime will astound you.  According to allanimalsfaq.com, if the average number of litters a female has in one year is 2, and the average number of puppies/kittens per litter is 5, by doing the math that means that one female and her babies can have as many as 67,000 puppies/kittens in just 6 years

Sadly, these numbers take into account that only about one fourth of those animals actually survive because of the environment they are born into. Isla Mujeres is only 4.22 km2, it simply cannot support that kind of stray animal growth. This is why spay and neuter programs are so crucial. 

In the past years, thousands of cats and dogs have been spayed or neutered on Isla Mujeres.  Considering the kind of numbers we just discussed above, this represents an exponential number of unwanted births that have been prevented. The island is essentially street-dog free and has almost no wild dogs. And the people are more educated on taking care of their pets. In addition to those impressive statistics, the organization has also found loving homes off the island for over 2,000 homeless animals. Isla Animals was born to fulfill a need and has had a significant impact on the lives of dogs and cats, as well as on the community.  

But their work is far from done. Resources are extremely limited in Mexico and they rely primarily on volunteers to get the work done. They can cover the cost of their rescue work on what most people spend on a coffee each day.  Isla Animals is a 501c3 organization and is 100% funded by donations and the generosity of animal lovers around the world. It’s amazing what they have accomplished with the donations.  If you ever have the good fortune to visit Isla Mujeres, please stop by to play with the puppies and become educated on what Isla Animals is all about! 

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