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Open Letter from Dr. Julie Levy: Can Deferring S/N Until Post-Adoption Save Lives?

May 31, 2023, Julie Levy

From: Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DABVP, Fran Marino Endowed Professor of Shelter Medicine Education, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, University of Florida
To: My colleagues in animal welfare
Subject: Concerns and benefits of post-adoption spay/neuter

Spay/neuter has been woven into the fabric of animal welfare for decades, and is a crucial part of the incredible strides we have made in 30 years. Yet in March 2020, the last time I published an open letter on this blog, I called for a pause of this lifesaving strategy. COVID-19 had suddenly challenged every aspect of daily life and shelter operations, rewriting the book on what essential services were. In order to keep as many people as possible healthy and to safeguard our staffs, I asked you to suspend routine spay-neuter.

And now, over three years since that open letter, I am asking you once again to rethink how the animal welfare profession is using this lifesaving tool. Shelters and animal welfare organizations are reporting longer lengths of stay. You’re also facing a massive nationwide veterinary care shortage, resulting in a backlog of spay/neuter surgeries. I recently heard about PetSmart adoption partners who were frustrated watching young animals grow up in foster care while waiting for their spay/neuter surgery–while store managers were reporting that their adoption cages were not completely filled because local adoption partners could not find prompt spay/neuter access.

Many agencies are waiving the requirement that an animal be spayed or neutered at the time of adoption, and instead implementing post-adoption surgeries, in an effort to alleviate crowding in shelters and get animals through the system faster, and healthier.

Does your organization require spay/neuter for all animals prior to adoption? Whether you currently are, or are exploring the easing of that requirement, I invite you to an important discussion with PetSmart Charities next Tuesday, June 6, at 4pm ET. I will share my thinking and concerns around enforcing spay/neuter post-adoption, as well as how we can best evaluate this tactic.

Please join me at the Roundtable, and let’s talk about how we can ease the burden and save more lives.

About Julie Levy
Dr. Julie Levy is the Fran Marino Endowed Professor of Shelter Medicine Education at the University of Florida. She has published more than 100 scientific papers on the health and welfare of animals in shelters, feline infectious diseases, humane alternatives for cat population control, and contraceptive vaccines for cats. She founded Operation Catnip, a university-based community cat trap-neuter-return program that has sterilized more than 57,000 cats since 1998. In 2014, she joined Dr. Kate Hurley at the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at UC Davis to launch the Million Cat Challenge.