Birth Control for Cats and Dogs

| 7 Comments

On the road. Scientists are looking for better ways to combat the world's homeless pet problem. (Credit: Victorgrigas, Wikimedia Commons)

Next week, I’ll be the keynote speaker at the 5th International Symposium on Non-Surgical Contraceptive Methods of Pet Population Control. The conference title is a bit of a mouthful, but the basic idea is this: Can scientists develop a drug that will permanently sterilize dogs and cats? Or, put even more simply, can we make “the pill” for pets?

Now a lot of you may be asking, “Don’t we already have birth control for our companion animals?” Well, yes. Spay/neuter has been around for decades. But it’s not a perfect solution. For one, it’s expensive. That means not everyone can afford to sterilize their pet, even at a low-cost clinic. For another, it’s time consuming. That’s been a huge problem for non-profits trying to tackle America’s feral cat problem. With tens of millions of these felines on the streets, volunteers can’t catch and sterilize them quickly enough to keep up with their numbers. And if you think things in the U.S. are bad, consider China and India, which are home to tens millions of stray dogs that bite and spread rabies, yet these countries lack the resources to implement even meager spay/neuter programs. As a result of all of these limitations, millions of cats and dogs are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year, and millions more are shot and poisoned around the globe. If scientists could develop an injection or pill that would work as well as spay/neuter surgery, we might have a shot at eliminating the world’s homeless pet problem.

Enter the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs (ACC&D). Founded in 2000, the Portland, Oregon-based non-profit has been working with scientists and animal welfare advocates to create a non-surgical sterilant for pets. In late 2009, the mission got a huge boost from a U.S. billionaire named Gary Michelson, who announced $75 million in grants and prize money for the development of such a product. The announcement spurred dozens of research teams to begin brainstorming a solution. Some have proposed drugs that would kill the cells that produce sperm and eggs, treating them, essentially, like cancer. Others hope to go after the brain, shutting down pathways involved in fertility and reproduction. I covered these efforts in my award-winning 2009 article in Science, A Cure for Euthanasia?

ACC&D is behind next week’s symposium. It will be giving an update on these efforts and describing some new approaches to the problem of pet overpopulation. I’ll be talking about the topic of my book and what feral cats teach us about the changing status of pets in society. I hope you’ll check out the important work this organization is doing!

7 Comments

  1. avatar

    David -
    Thank you for your dedication in promoting animal welfare.

    I look forward to meeting you in Portland. Donna Kimball

  2. avatar

    It was great meeting you, Donna. Thanks for your support!

  3. avatar

    Pet overpopulation is a staggering problem, resulting in over 4 million potentially healthy adoptable animals being euthanized each year in just Canada and the United States. More dogs and cats need to be spayed or neutered; all animals adopted from animal shelter should be mandatory altered. An animal sterilization pill, if developed, will make a huge dent in the worldwide pet overpopulation problem . The ongoing efforts of Trap Neuter and Return programs need continued support. Lastly, we as potential pet owners need to be adopting pets from animal shelters and rescue groups, not pet stores.

  4. avatar

    Dave what a great post. It hopefully will wake up those dog and cat owners that allow their pets to indiscriminately breed whenever they want to. It will continue to be a world wide problem until we see the rational in limiting the breeding of both cats and dogs.

    Keep up the good work. I will watch for your update.

  5. avatar

    Hi David,

    Is there any update as of yet regarding non-surgical methods of cat/dog sterilization? As I spend vacations in Greece, I would love nothing more than to feed a one-time only birth control additive to the tons of feral cats roaming the streets. I can’t believe that in 2014, no-one has come up with a way in which to accomplish this. Please let me know if there is anything in the pipeline.

    Thank you,
    Patricia

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