Debate Kit: Should All Companion Animals Be Spayed and Neutered?

The companion animal–overpopulation crisis and the importance of spaying and neutering animals are hot topics in classrooms and among members of the public. We know that many schools assign debates on topical issues in order to help their students learn to speak and write persuasively, develop research skills, and recognize the multiple sides of a controversial or multifaceted issue—and the question of how to reduce animal homelessness and suffering is certainly such a topic. This debate kit has a list of resources that can be shared with students to help them make the argument that spaying and neutering companion animals should be mandatory in order to help stop the overpopulation crisis and reduce the need to euthanize animals in shelters.

Resolved: Spaying and neutering companion animals is vital to ending the animal-overpopulation crisis, saving taxpayer dollars, and benefitting animals’ health.

dog at the vet

Make an Argument

Every year in the U.S., more than 6 million lost, abandoned, and unwanted dogs and cats enter animal shelters, and approximately 2 to 3 million of them (including many who are healthy, young, and adoptable) must be euthanized because of a lack of responsible, permanent homes for them. The single most important thing that humans can do to save cats and dogs from the suffering and death caused by their overpopulation is to spay and neuter them. Spay/neuter surgeries are a routine, safe, and affordable way to prevent thousands of animals from being born into an already overpopulated world. Statistics show what a difference spaying and neutering makes: Just one unaltered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in only six years, while one female cat and her offspring can produce a whopping 370,000 kittens in only seven years.

Info graphic reading "1 Unspayed Female Cat and Her Offspring Can Lead To 370,000 Kittens in 7 Years"

Each year, communities spend millions of taxpayer dollars dealing with the problems that the failure to spay and neuter causes. The expense of rounding up stray animals as well as feeding and housing those who are abandoned is much, much higher than the one-time cost of a spay or neuter surgery—and many communities offer low-cost or free spay/neuter clinics. Areas with mandatory spay/neuter laws have reported a significant reduction in the number of animals who are taken to their facilities and subsequently euthanized, which shows that spaying and neutering animals saves lives.

Spaying and neutering benefits animals’ health and behavior, too. For females, spaying eliminates the stress and discomfort that they endure during heat periods, removes the risk of developing uterine cancer, and greatly reduces the risk of developing mammary cancer. For males, neutering prevents testicular cancer, reduces the risk of developing prostate cancer, and makes them far less likely to roam or fight. Sterilized animals live longer in general and are less likely to contract deadly diseases, such as feline AIDS and feline leukemia, that are spread through bodily fluids. Sterilization also reduces or eliminates undesirable, aggressive types of behavior such as biting and urine marking as well as hormone-related moodiness.

When animals aren’t spayed or neutered, many unwanted puppies and kittens are abandoned and left to suffer and struggle to survive on the streets, abused by cruel and neglectful people who aren’t meeting their basic needs, or euthanized in animal shelters. And while euthanizing otherwise adoptable animals is heartbreaking, warehousing them in so-called “no-kill” shelters leaves them to endure an even worse fate—in these facilities, they’re kept in cages for weeks, months, or years on end and often go insane as a result of loneliness and confinement.

Spaying and neutering can change this. Cities and counties all over the country are aggressively addressing the animal-overpopulation crisis by passing successful mandatory spay/neuter laws and requiring everyone who chooses not to spay or neuter to pay a large breeder’s fee. Guardians can do their part by spaying and neutering their animal companions, supporting mandatory spay/neuter legislation, and always adopting animals from shelters—never buying them from breeders or pet stores that continue to contribute to the overpopulation and suffering of cats and dogs.

Become an “Expert”

Use these resources to research the impact that spaying and neutering has on animal companions’ health and well-being and to prepare logical arguments in favor of sterilization:

Five dogs behind door of kennel in shelter© iStock.com/fotocelia

Build Your Case

Use the resources below to gather evidence and examples to support your position that animal companions should be either spayed or neutered.

Research Articles, Scholarly Articles, and Investigative Analysis

Statements From Veterinarians and Experts

Examples of Successful Spay/Neuter Ordinances

Additional Information Regarding Spaying and Neutering

Three gray-and-white cats in cage at shelter© iStock.com/Okissi68

Find Solutions

Use these resources to build a proposal that offers solutions for problems that companion animals currently face and for those that could allegedly arise if spaying and neutering were mandatory:

Cute smiley brown dog in grass© iStock.com/Momo64

Anticipate Counterarguments and Prepare Rebuttals

Visit the websites of those who oppose mandatory spaying and neutering to see their justifications for allowing more animals to be born when there is already an overpopulation crisis. Investigate what some individuals and industries stand to gain when companion animals aren’t spayed or neutered, and think critically about their motivations. Also, find out who else is negatively affected by mandatory spay/neuter legislation (e.g., animal breeders and pet stores). Create a list of things that those who oppose spaying and neutering—despite the severe overpopulation crisis and the health benefits of the surgery—typically assert. The resources in this kit can help students respond to those counterarguments.

Additional Resources

Websites and Programs

Infographic and Photos

Videos

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Have students use the resources in this kit to prepare an affirmative argument that states why spaying and neutering companion animals should be mandatory. The resources will help them to support their position with scientific, ethical, and philosophical reasoning.

Want free educational posters and stickers for students to use during their debates? E-mail us at [email protected]

Do your students need to conduct an interview as part of their research? Staff members from PETA’s student sector are available to speak with students via phone, Skype, or e-mail and to answer questions about our stance on spaying and neutering. Have students e-mail us directly at [email protected]—or if you’d like to contact us on their behalf, please fill out the form below, and we’ll arrange for them to speak with a representative.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind