It is the time of year that we reflect on what we accomplished in the 12 months past and our goals for the coming year. In 2019, we saved the lives of more than 700 homeless dogs and cats. We have our generous supporters, volunteers and advocates in the community to thank for that and we are grateful. Last year, the shelter took in 150 more animals than in 2018 and we know there are many more that need help. As a “no-kill” shelter, the SPCA can only take in animals when we have the resources to care for them. Those resources include space, staff, finances and veterinary care. This requires monitoring and balancing the number of animals that need to be accepted into the shelter and the number going out through adoption.

We are always pushing to provide care for the maximum number of cats and dogs that our resources will support. The availability of financial means determines much of what we can do, but it isn’t the only point of pressure. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of simple mathematics, particularly in the case of cats—too many are born. If every cat in a home in Hancock County were spayed or neutered our numbers  wouldn’t be going up, they would be going down. We realize, because it is an issue for us, that access to low-cost spaying and neutering is part of the problem. So is the fact that even people who intend to have their pets spayed or neutered wait too long. Cats should be spayed or neutered by five months of age. The age that dogs should be spayed or neutered can be dependent on breed type and size—generally, smaller breed dogs can be done at a younger age that large or giant breeds. There are many other reasons to spay or neuter beyond the fact that too many dogs and cats are born. Spayed and neutered pets stay closer to home, often have lower rates of serious illness like certain types of cancer and have fewer problematic behaviors. It is part of providing a pet with the “best care.”

At the SPCA we, along with many other animal welfare advocates, promote the message: if you want to help homeless animals—adopt, foster, volunteer, give. We would further add: spay or neuter your pets and talk to people who haven’t about the importance of spaying/neutering their pets. It will take the efforts of every animal advocate to embrace this basic philosophy as the norm. Only then, will shelters see our intake numbers begin to drop to a manageable level in our rural Maine communities.