Sometimes, You Just Can’t Give It Away
If you’re reading this article in the UK or the USA, it is likely that you see neutering simply as an integral part of responsible pet ownership. Not only does it prevent female animals getting pregnant, but it also helps reduce territorial behaviours and aggression, so why wouldn’t you do it?
Why Not Neuter?
However, in the villages we work in around Cusco, neutering is not something that people spend much time thinking about. Until now, it’s been completely inaccessible, with no veterinary surgeries in the villages and operations costing at least 15% of the national minimum wage (which many rural families don’t make anyway). But it’s also a cultural issue: whilst people are often quite excited to have female animal spayed, so they don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of babies, owners of male animals aren’t interested.
Firstly, their dogs can’t get pregnant, so it’s not their problem; secondly, the machismo culture is still prevalent in Peru – especially rural areas – and the thought of taking away a male animal’s opportunity to have babies (or even have sexual intercourse, because people seem to think that neutering males means they can no longer do so), is seen as something akin to a rights violation!
The Fear Factor
Alongside the machismo issue, neutering is such a foreign concept to people in the communities we work in, that they just don’t know what’s involved. Owners are genuinely afraid of the surgeries and think their animals will probably die. We’ve heard people say they think you have to cut the dog in half to carry out the procedure and others think that if you cut a dog, it will almost certainly die.
This latter idea is understandable, as many dogs die of open wounds, which have been left untreated and therefore get infected. Additionally, various organisations have been known to carry out mass neutering campaigns in larger communities, during which they push through as many animals as possible, as cheaply as possible. So not surprisingly, infection and death rates are high.
Education, Education, Education
So, if offering free, in-village neutering operations isn’t enough, how do we solve this? Education, of course! Our vet and vet’s assistant Joel and Anally are very focused on spending time talking both with individual dog owners and the communities at large to raise awareness of what castration and spaying surgeries actually involve and what the benefits are. They take the time to really answer questions and make sure people are fully informed.
They also make sure to fully brief owners on post-operative care and the importance of preventing infection, which includes frequent return to the villages during recovery to ensure the animals are recovering as they should be.
Jessica & Her Cat
It’s often the children, like Jessica (not her real name, pictured), who are in charge of caring for their animals. A few weeks ago, she was sent by her mum to bring her female cat, Minina, to the clinic to be spayed. When she arrived, she was obviously really worried and told us that she was scared that Minina would die in surgery.
Joel, our vet, took her aside to talk to her about the process and showed her how another animal was recovering. While he couldn’t let her be there during the operation of course, he invited her in afterwards to sit with Minina as she recovered.
Easing Owner's Minds
Prevalent attitudes and lack of knowledge about neutering animals are the main barriers our sterilisation programme faces. This means that taking time to speak to owners, allay their concerns and educate them on the benefits of sterilisation, are key factors to ensure the success of the programme.
Help us educate more villagers on the benefits of neutering and neuter more dogs and cats! Only through neutering can we curb further population growth and the abandonment or culling of puppies and kittens.