Australians love their pets and can’t imagine life without their furry friends. With one in three households claiming dog ownership and one in four households serving cats, why do so many pets need a loving home? Despite 62% of Australians welcoming pets into their homes, roughly 23 cats and dogs are euthanized every hour nationwide. To combat this killing crisis, a biennial National Summit to End Companion Animal Overpopulation began its crusade to save the 200,000 healthy cats and dogs euthanized in Australia every year. Organized by the Animal Welfare League of Queensland and the National Desexing Network, this summit has worked tirelessly to get the movement Getting to Zero off the ground. The Getting to Zero model ensures every community can achieve zero euthanasia of healthy, treatable cats and dogs. 

The problems contributing to pet overpopulation

Pet overpopulation is a real concern in Australia and other parts of the world. What has caused the surge in the cat and dog populations?

  • Backyard breeders, who encompass a variety of breeder types, such as: 
    • People who think every female animal should have at least one litter
    • People who are convinced their dog will have the cutest puppies
    • People who believe their children should experience the miracle of life
    • People who think breeding will make them a quick buck

Backyard breeders tend to quickly get in over their heads, especially once they realize breeding animals is not cheap or easy. Sadly, many of these pets are not socialized, are in poor health, and are loaded with fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites. People searching for a pet take pity on these poor creatures, believing they are rescuing them from a horrible fate, which only encourages backyard breeders to churn out more pets. 

  • Puppy and kitten factory farms: These farms are the main puppy and kitten supply for many pet stores. The parents are kept in horrible living situations and are forced to reproduce at every heat cycle, with no pause to give their bodies time to recover from giving birth. These animals experience virtually no human interaction and often have never touched grass. The most popular breeds fill the cages to keep up with pet shop demand.

  • Lack of regulations regarding desexing pets: More consistent, national regulations concerning pet sterilisation would help to reduce our pet overpopulation. Fortunately for our feline population, all cats must be sterilised by 6 months of age, unless they are breeding animals. Dogs vary widely in adult size, so setting a sterilisation age is more challenging.

Pet overpopulation solutions

Be part of the pet overpopulation solution. Not only will sterilisation help your pet live a longer, healthier life, he or she will not be part of the problem that pet overpopulation causes communities. Here are some other ways to reduce our homeless pet numbers:

  • A consistent breeder permit system: Such a system will weed out unscrupulous breeders and force them to make ethical decisions about their animals’ health. Breeder permits should include routine inspections to evaluate housing facilities and care, breeding frequency, and the rehoming of older breeding animals. Breeders should also be required to sterilise pets prior to placement in their new homes, unless another breeder purchases the pet.

  • Desexing prior to adoption or sale: Pet sterilisation would eliminate backyard breeders and, more importantly, halt unplanned pregnancies and provide numerous health benefits, such as:

    • A sharp decrease in the risk of mammary cancer in females
    • Elimination of uterine infections in females
    • Avoidance of obnoxious behaviors of animals in heat, such as yowling
    • Reduced urge to roam and fight
    • Decreased urine marking
    • Reduced aggression or territorial behavior
    • Fewer prostate problems in males
    • Elimination of testicular cancer in males

  • Legislation: The Cat Act 2011 took effect in 2013 and requires all cats to be microchipped, sterilised, and registered with the local government by the age of 6 months. Registered breeders are the only exception to this law. All cats must be sterilised and microchipped prior to registration. Ensure your cat wears a collar with her registration tag, so she can be easily identified by tag or microchip should she become lost, trapped, or impounded.

  • Pledge to adopt, not shop: Choose animal shelters or rescues instead of backyard breeders or pet stores when searching for your new furry friend.

  • Ensure your pet is properly identified: Invest in a microchip, which is the only permanent form of identification for your four-legged pal. Double up with a collar and an ID tag for all pets, even if they never go outdoors. If your pet darts out the door, proper identification makes a successful reunion likely, which is often not the case with unidentified pets, who instead languish in a shelter while their families eventually move on and welcome a new pet into their home.

Take a stand to end pet overpopulation and support the Getting to Zero movement. Schedule an appointment for sterilisation surgery for your furry friend to prevent unwanted litters.