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Turn Down the Heat Program

June 4th, 2004, 01:14 PM
This is a new program just being started at our local Humane Society.

Humane Society animal-care worker Kerry Yates gets a big kiss from a 10-week-old shepherd-collie cross. The Humane Society has launched its Turn Down the Heat program to encourage dog owners to have female dogs spayed and stem the tide of unwanted births.


Turn off the heat -- on your female dogs.

The K-W Humane Society is making the plea to any owner who has inadvertently allowed a litter of puppies to be bred and born, then wonders what to do with them.

The society is urging people to bring the pups into its Riverbend Drive premises rather than advertise them as pets "free to a good home," sell them to a pet store, or, worst of all, to a puppy mill, said Ward McAlister, manager of the humane society.

"We are worried that too many puppies are going to the wrong homes. We are worried they are being inappropriately bred. This program is an opportunity for people who can't afford the spaying, or who don't believe in having their animals done," McAlister said.

The Turn off the Heat program -- the term refers to a female dog's fertility period -- encourages owners to bring the litters in and get a free voucher to have the mother spayed at a local veterinarian of choice.

The society will then find suitable homes by screening potential owners and "matching" owners and pets.

"We're hoping this program will be a positive step towards lowering the amount of unwanted puppies that are born each year in our area," McAlister said. Waterloo Region has turned into a "hot spot" for unplanned litters, he said. The humane society knows this from communicating with other animal shelters around the province, and because fewer litters are being brought in.

"We are not seeing litters like we used to. What we are seeing, over the past three years, are puppies around eight, nine and 10 months, puppies born last year."

These young dogs are often brought in with multiple behavioural and socializing problems. They have not necessarily been physically abused, but are simply not being treated as a loved and wanted pet, McAlister said.

"Right now we have an eight-month-old spaniel, terrified of everything. He's just been left to his own devices. This is a highly adoptable dog, but not right now."

Like his staff, McAlister gets upset when there's evidence of neglect.

"People like puppies. Then the puppy grows up. You can't just throw it in the backyard, give it food once a day and a little pat here and there. It's a lifelong commitment you make, and if you are not prepared to do it, don't bother. That's when we get involved."

Prices generally charged by veterinarians are $232 for spaying a female dog and $210 for neutering a male dog.

Cats are a bit cheaper at $197 and $129. Taxes are additional. Right now, however, the spaying offer is not available for cats.

Most local vets work with the humane society on the voucher arrangement.

Humane society staff will deny adoption to a potentially unsuitable owner. "We run into this all the time. We have no hesitation turning down someone we feel doesn't have the commitment," McAlister said.

Not only does the Turn off the Heat program offer vouchers for free spaying, the normal charge of about $50 to drop off the unwanted puppies will be waived for three months.

Normal adoption rates at the shelter are $200 to $275 for a dog, which comes spayed or neutered, microchipped and with first shots. Cats are $130.