Abuse of public services puts animals, community at risk

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons | Cats have contributed to the extinction of 63 species of wild animals according to the American Bird Conservancy.

Eliyahu Gasson | Opinions Editor

The City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety Bureau of Animal Care and Control has put its free pet spaying and neutering voucher service on hold.

According to the department, pet owners from surrounding suburbs have been using the addresses of friends and family to fraudulently claim the program’s benefits despite not paying taxes to the city.

The average cat lives to be 14 years old and can start having kittens at around six months. They can give birth to up to four litters per year, with an average litter size being four kittens — in total, the average cat is capable of creating 216 tiny versions of itself.

Dogs reproduce in fewer numbers, and even those vary wildly based on the size of the breed. The average canine lives to be 10 to 13 years old (11 and a half for simplicity’s sake) and can start reproducing around eight months old. Their average litter size is six puppies, meaning the average pooch can make close to 65 more pooches.

That’s 216 cats and 65 more dogs, all of which require food, water and shelter.

Excessive of furry friends, especially those that spend most of their lives outdoors, create a dangerous environment for native plants and animals given that they are effectively invasive species.

Outdoor cats decimate the populations of native bird species. Studies show that felines are responsible for the deaths of between 1 and 4 billion birds every year, leading to the endangerment of one-third of the 800 native bird species in America.

Stray animals also do a great job of spreading diseases and creating unsanitary living conditions.

“Stray dogs and cats wandering the streets can carry zoonotic diseases like rabies and toxoplasmosis,” according to Four Paws, an international animal welfare organization. “Moreover, they can cause property damage or environmental contamination.”

This is especially true in poorer urban environments where residents lack the necessary time and resources to neuter their pets.

This, and the aforementioned damage to indigenous species is what highlights the importance of the city’s paused voucher program and how abuse of government services only serves to hurt our most vulnerable communities.

According to TribLive, the suburbanite pet owners who scammed the taxpayer funded service were using it on designer dogs.

“‘If you can afford a $3,000 designer dog, then you can afford a $200 spay,’” Emily Bourne said in an interview with TribLive.

The no-cost spay and neuter program was designed to help not just to control feral pet populations, but also to help Pittsburgh pet owners in need.

Aside from the environmental benefits of fixing cats and dogs, owners also do their furry friends a service by eliminating a common source for health problems.

According to the Dayton Daily News, unneutered male dogs are at greater risk of prostate enlargement, which can lead to difficulty with urination and bowel movements as well as infection of the prostate. They are also at much higher risk of testicular cancer, as well as other tumors that require surgery.

Male cats don’t have to worry about their health as much as their canine counterparts, but they can wreak havoc with their odorous urine.

Female dogs have much greater risks to their lives if they are not spayed. For one, they are at high risk of a uterine infection which requires emergency surgery. If untreated, the infection will spread to the bloodstream and become fatal.

Female dogs are also at risk of mammary tumors, 50% of which can spread to the lungs, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Like dogs, female felines are also at risk of uterine infection and mammary tumors.

The pause in free spaying and neutering of pets could not have come at a worse time. The population of both animals as pets has been on the rise.

According to Forbes, between 2016 and 2022, the percentage of American households that own dogs has increased 6.1%. Cat ownership has also increased by a slightly lower 4%.

The suspension of Pittsburgh’s spaying and neutering program is a setback with far-reaching consequences.

A vital program which served as an investment in the wellbeing of the city by its residents was bent and abused by wealthy outsiders who knowingly misused a public resource that was not meant for them.

With any luck, a revival of this program, will come with more stringent safeguards to prevent this abuse from happening again.