I came across a disturbing debate about spay and neuter procedures for dogs and cats on Twitter recently. It started with a questioner* tagging our local animal shelter and a low cost vet clinic that I volunteer for "Anyone for neutering cats and dogs, explain to me why." I read some of the Tweet debate between the questioner and a few other people. What it came down to was the questioner believing that animals should not be mutilated and that dogs and cats would be better off allowed to roam free with natural selection to thin any over population. All I could think was "wow. Are there really people this narrow minded and short sighted now, in the same present world that I live in?"
The debate went on with the questioner comparing domesticated dogs and cats being caged and mutilated to plights of wild animals like dolphins and elephants. This was in response to people explaining to the questioner that stray animals die of starvation and disease. Apparently even the label "stray" upsets the free roaming advocate questioner. Another questioner Tweet was "Why are they called strays and other animals are not." Pounds and shelters were compared to concentration camps by the questioner and setting pets free as some sort of tough love way of making right the wrongs humans have done in breeding domestic animals to begin with. Except I am the only one using the word domestic. Right now. In this post. And it is the key to this debate.
Domesticated animals are not wild. They don't know how to be wild. They die without the help of humans. Is this humans fault? Maybe. Partly. But most of the science I have understood as far as dogs and cats are concerned is that it is they who chose to come and live with and rely on humans, not by humans forcing them into slavery. There are animals we have done that with. All animal lovers know that all too well. Most animals humans use as slaves though are still genetically wild animals. Orca whales, dolphins, elephants, bears, etc could and should indeed be set free to be wild. But dogs and cats? They've had a symbiotic relationship with humans for tens of thousands of years. And part of that relationship means we should do what we can to keep them healthy and safe. Which means controlling their population through spaying and neutering.
All of this seems so black and white to me. I believe that we knew we were doing the right thing for long ago domesticated animals by helping to control their populations. The symbiotic relationship between humans and these animals is that we provide them with food and shelter and they provide us with work and love. If there are too many dogs and cats for us to provide for, allowing them to die in the wild or killing them isn't part of the caring for their health and safety deal we made when these animals chose to live with us tens of thousands of years ago. They still work for us and love us. We have medical technology that, with very little side effects, continues to allow us to try to feed and shelter them. Why would this still be something we debate?