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Big Brass Ones

Reproductive math 101

June 28th 2006 4:38 pm
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Nobody—as far as I know—got too excited about my BSL musings. So, what the hell, let’s attack another sacred cow:

Neutering male dogs has no effect whatsoever on the production of unwanted puppies.

Now, let us admit up front—reasonable folks that we are—that neutering 100% of male dogs certainly would have an effect on puppy production. But let us also admit—while we’re being reasonable—that that’s never going to happen on any planet in this solar system.

It is my position that, while there are perfectly reasonable reasons for neutering, population control just isn’t one of them.

Let us imagine a small town—say Greater Metropolitan Spreckels—that is home to 100 canines, 50 dogs and 50 bitches. Let us imagine further that none of these canines is spayed or neutered and that they are wandering around town at will.

Pretty clearly, every bitch will be impregnated every time she comes into heat, which is approximately (so I am told) twice a year. Assuming an average litter to be in the neighborhood of five puppies, we’re talking about 500 puppies a year, give or take.

And that is, of course, way too many. So what can we do about it?

Well, we could neuter half the males. That would bring annual puppy production down to… let me see here… 500!

Not much of an improvement. So let’s neuter 75% of the males. Dang! Still 500 puppies a year!

OK, let’s get positively draconian here and neuter 49 of the 50 males—98% of them. Could one mere mortal male father 500 puppies a year, given access to 50 intact females? He doesn’t have to keep the ladies actually entertained, mind you. He just has to perform a total of 100 times in a 365-day period. Or maybe 200, to be sure of getting the job done. Sounds pretty doable to me, hopeless (young) romantic that I am.

Pretty clearly, neutering the males just isn’t going to get the job done, unless we neuter 100% of them—and guarantee that no new ones saunter into town when they get wind of the bitches. Good luck with that.

So maybe we should look at spaying the females. Spay half of them, and your annual puppy production is pretty much guaranteed to drop by half to 250. Spay 75% of them, and you’re down to 125 puppies. Spay 98% of them, and you’re down to 10 puppies. Absolutely without regard to whether or not you neuter a single male.

Women are fond of asserting that men anthropomorphize the whole discussion and are basically just squeamish about the subject of castration. Fair enough. No doubt they do. No doubt they are—Dog knows I am.

But I think women do a fair amount of anthropomorphizing themselves. It irks them—understandably—that so much of the burden of human birth control falls upon them, rather than upon men. Simple justice demands that men should do more. And simple justice apparently demands—I just love this part—that dogs should be treated like men (I know you see the humor of that).

But dogs are not men. And it is far from clear to me that dog owners should be expected, merely in the name of solidarity, to bear the expense of a surgical procedure that simply has no bearing on canine population control.

So neuter your dog because it will (maybe) make him less aggressive. Neuter him because it will reduce his risk of various hormone-related cancers. Neuter him just because you feel like it—hell, he’s your dog. But don’t try to tell me it has anything to do with producing fewer unwanted puppies.


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