A contractor visiting our office recently walked by my desk and stopped to admire the (many) pictures of my dog, Axle. “Ooo, you’ve got a Pit Bull?!” she exclaimed. “When’s he going to have puppies? I need a new one. My dog, she’s fixed and lazy. I need one that’s going to make me some money.”
In my mind, I was banging my head against a brick wall. I don’t perform well in these sorts of situations. My instinct was to berate her ignorance, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to win someone over from the dark side of irresponsible, backyard breeding — after all, February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. I explained that although he was purebred and, yes, quite handsome, he was neutered because he wasn’t breeding quality. We also didn’t feel that we had the knowledge, time, or resources to devote to the proper breeding of even one litter. I was awarded a blank look, then a long speech about how much money I could have made off his puppies already.
Before the woman left my office, I suggested she visit our local shelter. She argued that she could only get a neutered dog from there and that would make him lazy, but I let her know about all of the energy Axle has and about how every dog is different. I really wanted her to just go in there once and see the rows of kennels, full of puppies that look like Pit Bulls, plus the host of potential purebreds, just waiting for a home. What bothered me the most was that I couldn’t seem to get through to her. I only wanted her to understand the magnitude of responsibility that comes with creating life, especially since that life would permanently rely on human beings for food, shelter, and care.
I dug through all of my dog books and advocacy pieces. Most of them were full of the same old rhetoric, and I knew most of it would not get through to people like her. She already had certain ideas formed in her mind about dogs and their purpose in life, so what I needed was a simple, yet effective analogy that could permeate that ideology. That’s when I came across a piece in Bark magazine about explaining why we spay/neuter to children in Trinidad/Tobago.
These children were from low-income families, and spay/neuter certainly wasn’t high on the pet priority list. Mitra De Souza of Animal Welfare Network gave one child two paper dogs, one pink and one blue, symbolizing female and male dogs. She then gave the same child four more “puppies” and told them to find a home for each dog. Each child was only allowed to have one dog, and each child who had a pink dog was then given more of the “puppies.” Very quickly, the children saw that there was no one else to give a dog to, yet the dogs were still reproducing. Souza told them that spaying/neutering their pets was a very quick and easy way to prevent pet overpopulation.
Now, I don’t know that I’ll be running around with dogs cut from construction paper, but that was a very simple way to explain the ramifications of letting your dog have puppies. Of the responsible breeders I’ve dealt with over the years, every single one of them will be quick to tell you that money is NOT a reason to breed your dog. In fact, the money that they get for their puppies rarely, if ever, covers all of the costs involved with them. They would have had more than a few choice words for this particular woman.
How do you handle situations like this? Do you have a great way to explain the importance of spay/neuter to people? Let us know below in the comments!
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.