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Fighting overpopulation and euthanasia: A history of spay-neuter practices in the U.S.


Key milestones reflect an increasing desire in society to prevent the killing of millions of healthy dogs and cats.Bowman ReportJanuary 2022
Fighting overpopulation and euthanasia: A history of spay-neuter practices in the U.S.
  • 1893

    "A Veterinary Surgeon," in the anonymous Diseases of Dogs and Cats, describes neutering a male cat by rolling it in a blanket and carrying out the operation without anesthetic such as chloroform or ether.1

  • 1929-1933

    Records at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in New York City show a peak of over 300,000 stray animals per year, reflecting the displacement and upheaval that accompanied the Great Depression.2

  • 1930s

    Spaying and neutering of pets becomes increasingly accessible, although techniques have been in place for sterilizing livestock for some time.3

  • 1969

    The first low-cost spay-neuter clinic opens in Los Angeles with a four-month waiting list of people wanting to get their pets sterilized.4

  • 1972

    ASPCA begins spaying and neutering all animals it adopts out.5

  • 1973

    The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that about 13.5 million dogs and cats are euthanized in the U.S.6

  • 1979

    Bob Barker, host of TV game show The Price Is Right, begins using his signature sign-off to end the program: "This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population — have your pets spayed or neutered."7

  • 1995

    The Doris Day Animal League designates the fourth Tuesday in February as World Spay Day, an awareness and advocacy campaign now run by the HSUS.8

  • 2020

    Around 347,000 dogs and cats are euthanized in U.S. shelters this year,9 down 97% from the early 1970s.

  1. Hartwell S. "Cats and cat care — 1940s-1960s: Neutering and population control." Messy Beast. Copyright 2004. Accessed November 30, 2021.
  2. Zawistowski S. "Companion animal populations – historical context and future directions." Petfinder. July 7, 2000. Accessed November 30, 2021.
  3. Grier KC. Pets in America: A History. University of North Carolina Press; 2006.
  4. Rosenthal CM. "When did U.S. get first spay/neuter clinic?" My San Antonio. July 6, 2011. Accessed November 30, 2021.
  5. Pi S. "Spay/neuter Awareness Month: The history of spaying and neutering pets." DogTime. Accessed November 30, 2021.
  6. Rowan A, Kartal T. "Dog population and dog sheltering trends in the United States of America." Animals 2018;8(5):68. doi: 10.3390/ani8050068
  7. Morris J. "How did Bob Barker help influence a nation to neuter their pets?" The Mercury News. October 17, 2018. Accessed November 30, 2021.
  8. World Spay Day. Doris Day Animal Foundation. Copyright 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021.
  9. "The state of animal welfare today." Best Friends. Copyright 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021.

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