THE United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals 2030 clearly state “We envisage a world ... in which humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which ... living creatures are protected”. Thus, protecting animal welfare is an equal part of sustainable development – via sterilisation.

Domestication of animals has taken them out of their natural environment, negating the regulation of natural reproduction by predators or habitat. The result: An overpopulation crisis that has brought about a myriad of issues.

It is not uncommon to find irresponsible pet owners dropping their felines (cats/canines) off in public parks or rural areas, thinking someone will feed them or take them in, much to the annoyance of local residents, or worse the notion these animals will be able to fend for themselves.

The tragic fates these animals face are horrendous and immoral: From cruel treatment to starvation, disease, freezing, being hit by cars, and finally unregulated breeding. Recent social media posts highlighting these issues is not part of that equation, as the Asean Post in March this year headlined “Animal cruelty on the rise in Malaysia”.

Is there a long-term solution for combating pet over population? While animal shelters provide a short-term reprieve, a long-term solution would be to spay (females), or neuter (males), domesticated animals. But for some strange reason this option is not an often-discussed topic. Spaying/neutering surgery is the most common surgery performed on pets to prevent uncontrollable litters.

Spaying/neutering also improves animal well-being as there are tremendous health and behavioural benefits. Which is why worldwide anti-cruelty animal rights groups have continuously voiced that spaying or neutering pets is one of the most important things one can do for a pet.

The science and data are clear, for instance, the Humane Society of the United States noted that spayed female canines have a longer life span, while male neutered canine live longer than those that are not.

Meanwhile, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals often cited that one unspayed female feline and her off-springs can produce up to 370,000 kittens a year.

A study on neutering practices by Veterinary Practice, an online knowledge and information hub for veterinary professionals, found that Britain has one of the highest canine neutering rates in the world, with over 80% for both males and females.

The same study, highlighted in the US, found that early neutering commonly starts as early as eight weeks. However, in Europe, there has been mixed reactions with regard to calls for mandatory sterilisation, but Belgium has made it mandatory, which is fodder for thought in Malaysia.

To make this initiative work, the general idea is to get the help of local veterinarians to pitch in by offering their services at minimal cost. The government can step in by engaging local councils to work with the veterinarians. An added boost would be providing tax incentives to veterinarians who perform such surgeries – a win-win situation for all.

In the long run, these innovative initiatives would circumvent the running of animal shelter homes.

In conclusion, surgical neutering and spaying is necessary to ensure responsible pet ownership, as the benefits far outweigh the costs in the long run.

Dr Thanaseelen Rajasakran

Assistant Professor,

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman,

Sg Long Campus