It never fails. A horrible story hits the Internet, detailing how some "shelter" is killing pretty much every animal who comes in its doors, and often neglecting the pets who were in their care. The director of the facility is interviewed, and blames it all on the irresponsible public, wrapping it up with the tagline, "Spay and neuter your pets!"
At this point, some no-kill advocate -- frequently me -- leaps into the fray with all the statistics about how most owned dogs and cats are already altered, and how the only segment of the population where there are low rates of spay/neuter is among the pets of low-income people -- most of whom indicate they want to alter their pets, but either can't afford it or can't get to the clinic.
Then someone else starts yammering about how that's not true and they know it because at the "shelter" in their town, kazillions of pets come in every day, and I must be insane to think spay/neuter isn't the answer.
And then I come back with statistics on adoption, and how in most communities adoption, not spay/neuter, is the silver bullet for saving lives, and how spay/neuter will not save the life of one single pet who is already born, and how not one of the dogs and cats in their community's shelter right now can be saved by spay/neuter, and how by focusing endlessly on spay/neuter instead of adoption, all we're doing is giving up on the pets in our shelters today, who we can and must save.
An argument that has the merit of being true, but has nontheless never, ever convinced a single person.
So, I'm really sick of this whole argument. Yes, it's very possible that someone lurking in the threads where these debates take place has his or her eyes opened to the truth, but most likely we're all just in our own echo chamber, singing lustily to our respective choirs.
So instead of singing, let's consider this:
The No-Kill Equation is comprised of 11 proven programs for ending the killing of homeless pets, and has been implemented successfully in more than 80 communities across the country. The No-Kill Equation includes low cost/free, accessible spay/neuter.
For no-kill advocates, all that happens when we frame our pro-adoption message in terms of competing with spay/neuter advocacy is we get labeled "anti-spay/neuter," which is not -- assuming we actually believe it when we say the No-Kill Equation is the answer -- the truth.
And to those individual advocates and pet owners on the "other side" -- by which I mean to exclude those with organizational agendas and vested interests -- you, too, need to stop framing this as being "spay/neuter vs adoption."
Because you say you want to see animals live, right? You tell us you do. It's the whole premise of your advocacy. So when you realize that you don't have to wait until the fairy tale future when all the pets are spayed and neutered to see that day, but you can do it right now by stepping up the adoption game, you should be happy, not pissed off.
Yes, there are people who advocate spay/neuter not to save animal lives, but in order to end pet ownership. They are a tiny minority, and most of them are in leadership roles of organizations and advocacy groups. Many of their supporters who parrot the "spay/neuter is the answer to everything always!" line do not share that view, and while they may not have really thought the whole thing through, truly do want to continue having companion animals in their lives.
And whether or not we want to try to bring these folks into the No-Kill movement, we should at least stop letting our opponents define us and our position. The NKE includes spay/neuter, it is not in opposition to it.
Therefore, the only correct response to a passionate "Spay and neuter!" plea by a sincere animal advocate (not an anti-no-kill troll) is: "Spay/neuter is a tool to reduce future shelter intake, and that's why the No-Kill Equation includes it. But better adoption, pet retention, and return-to-owner practices will save these animals now. Isn't that what you want, too?"