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Pet Sterilization Laws Raise Health Concerns

Spayed or neutered dogs more at risk for cancers, other ills, research shows

Studies have found that spayed or neutered dogs are at increased risks for problems including certain cancers, thyroid disorder, incontinence and some of the same behavior issues that the surgeries are said to prevent.

As legislators push for more mandatory spay and neuter laws for pets as young as 4 and 6 months in hopes of reducing the number of unwanted animals, critics are crying foul over research showing that such surgeries may raise certain health risks in dogs and therefore shouldn’t be required.

Studies have shown that dogs that undergo spaying (removal of the ovaries and uterus) or neutering (removal of the testicles) are at increased risks for certain cancers, thyroid disorder, incontinence and some of the same behavior issues, such as aggression, that the surgeries are said to prevent.

Most of these problems aren’t common to begin with, and the increased risks can depend on the type of dog and the age the surgery is performed. Still, the findings are leading some experts to say that, contrary to conventional wisdom, later spay/neuter surgery for dogs, and even vasectomies for male canines, may be better options for some animals, depending on such factors as breed and lifestyle.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has not taken a stand on spay/neuter legislation, but the American College of Theriogenologists, a group of veterinary reproduction specialists that advises the AVMA, is considering a position paper opposing the legislation at its meeting in St. Louis in August, says veterinarian John Hamil of Laguna Beach, Calif., a member of the group’s task force that looked at the issue.

“What they’re saying is that because there have been problems associated with spay/neuter surgery, they think it’s improper for it to be mandated, much less at an early age,” says Hamil. “They feel the decision should be made after discussion between the owner and veterinarian.”

Proponents of spay/neuter legislation say it’s a way to reduce the numbers of animals in shelters and cut down on euthanasia rates. They also cite the health and behavior benefits of the procedures, such as prevention of mammary cancer, spraying and marking territory, and roaming.

Patty Khuly, a veterinarian in Miami, says a better solution to control the animal population than mandatory spay/neutering by a certain age is to offer the surgeries at lower costs so more pet owners can afford them and get them done according to a veterinarian’s recommendations.

“I don’t believe that the fourth month is a reasonable window,” she says. “Most veterinarians would agree on that. I think low-cost spay/neuter, making it more available, is the solution, as opposed to mandating a time frame, especially when we don’t know the real impact of early spay/neuter.”

For more than a decade, the cities of San Mateo and Belmont in California have required sterilization of most cats and dogs more than 6 months old. But more attention is being paid to the pros and cons of pet sterilization now because of a recent spate of legislation that has been passed or introduced. Los Angeles, for instance, passed an ordinance requiring cats and dogs more than 4 months old to be neutered or spayed by October or risk fines up to $500. Palm Beach, Fla., and North Las Vegas also have approved such measures, and dozens more cities and counties, including Chicago and Dallas, are considering them. Rhode Island is the only state to have passed a mandatory spay/neuter law, and it applies just to cats.

No one-size-fits-all answer
The idea that pets should be spayed or neutered at approximately 6 months of age or earlier dates to studies in the 1960s and 1970s showing that spaying a female before her first estrus cycle almost eliminated mammary cancer — which is common in dogs — and that spayed and neutered dogs showed a decrease in behavior problems that can be fueled by sex hormones.

Spay/neuter surgery also has other benefits, including prevention of unwanted litters, no messy twice-yearly estrus cycles in females and a reduced rate of uterine infections later in life. Spayed and neutered dogs and cats also have longer lifespans.

Since the early studies were conducted, however, research has also shown downsides to the surgeries beyond acute side effects such as bleeding and inflammation.

Margaret V. Root Kustritz, a veterinary reproduction specialist at the University of Minnesota, reviewed 200 studies and found that while spay/neuter surgery has benefits, it is also linked to increases in the incidence of certain diseases and conditions such as bone cancer, heart tumors, hypothyroidism and canine cruciate ligament (CCL) injuries, as well as prostate cancer in male dogs and urinary incontinence in females. The extent of the risk can depend on the problem, as well as the size and sex of the dog, and the age the surgery is performed.

The risk of a type of cardiac tumor called hemangiosarcoma is five times higher in spayed female dogs than unspayed females, noted Kustritz. And neutered males have 2.4 times the risk of unneutered males. The risk was also higher for osteosarcoma (bone cancer): Dogs spayed or neutered before age 1 were up to two times as likely to develop the disease than those that hadn’t been altered.

Spaying and neutering may also heighten behavior problems such as aggression in some breeds and noise phobias in dogs altered at less than 5 months of age, she found.
While it’s long been believed that spaying and neutering can improve a dog’s behavior, one large study done at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine found that, with a few exceptions, spaying and neutering was associated with worse behavior, although those effects were often specific to certain breeds and depended on the age at which the dog was altered.

Cats seem to fare better, though. The main risk they face from sterilization is that they can become sedentary and obese, according to Kustritz’s review of studies. As a result, vets say sterilizing cats before 6 months of age is appropriate.

Reproductive choice
Still, some oppose the mandatory spay/neuter surgery for both cats and dogs based on the grounds that pet owners may not be able to afford the surgery if reduced-cost programs aren’t available. Plus, they argue, people should have a choice.

In San Mateo, Calif., Peninsula Humane Society president Ken White says such legislation provides a one-approach answer to a problem that is different from community to community.

White believes low-cost or free spay/neuter programs are a better way to reduce the number of unwanted animals, based on what’s worked in San Mateo. The numbers of animals requiring euthanasia dropped dramatically — a 93 percent reduction since 1970 — as the humane society added ways for people to take advantage of low-cost and no-cost spay/neuter programs.

Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Humane Society of the United States, says that in general the organization is in favor of spay/neuter laws but “we look at every piece of legislation individually. We generally recommend that those decisions are made with a veterinarian. If an individual pet owner feels they want to wait longer or their veterinarian feels they should wait longer, that’s their choice.”

Veterinarians should consider the age for spay/neuter surgery based on the individual animal rather than rely on the traditional 6-month standard, says Khuly.

For instance, giant dog breeds are more at risk for some types of cancer, and akitas, German shepherds, golden and Labrador retrievers, Newfoundlands, poodles and Saint Bernards are among the breeds at higher risk for CCL ruptures.

“It seems that the bigger the dog, the less desirable it is to spay them early,” says Hamil. In his practice, he recommends spaying or neutering large or giant-breed dogs later than small or medium-size dogs.

Some veterinarians suggest spaying females at 12 to 14 months of age, after the growth plates have closed and between estrus cycles. Hamil says that’s not unreasonable.

A kinder cut?
Vasectomy is an option, although a rather uncommon one, for dogs that participate in sports with their owners. The main advantage is better musculature, which can help with arthritis later in life, says Khuly. A vasectomy prevents procreation but keeps testosterone production.

“I think it makes a lot more sense to consider a vasectomy,” says Khuly. “Males with their testosterone really do have some advantages over those that don’t have their testosterone.”

While experts debate the timing of spay/neuter surgery, they generally agree that the benefits outweigh the risks.

“The disadvantages, although real, are not stark,” Hamil says. “It’s not like if you neuter them they’re going to get [bone cancer]. You would have a very slight increase in incidence, and it’s going to be breed-related … [Whatever the increase is] that’s not a very big reason not to spay or neuter your dog.”

By Kim Campbell Thornton, MSNBC contributor, is an award-winning author who has written many articles and more than a dozen books about dogs and cats. She belongs to the Dog Writers Association of America and is past president of the Cat Writers Association. She shares her home in California with three Cavalier King Charles spaniels and one African ringneck parakeet.

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive

Outtake:

As legislators push for more mandatory spay and neuter laws for pets, critics are crying foul over research showing that such surgeries may raise health risks in dogs.

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Dog Meat In Beijing Ordered Off Menu For Olympics

As the Olympics with their spectacular venues, always inspiring events and amazing performances by all the athletes involved, are dancing in front of our eyes nightly, if not 24/7 for the next two weeks, I thought it as a good time to remember that although China has come a long way, they still have a long way to go in many areas, including animal rights.  So, I started writing about Dog & Cat Meat temporarily being taken off the menus in Beijing’s restaurants, when I came across the following article written about a month ago. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so have decided to share it instead. Thanks, Deborah!!  Let us hope that  the Chinese might be inspired to live up to their ‘One World Dream’ after being afforded the opportunity to  host the Olympics without living up to many of the standards and promises that went with that honor.  Pay it forward China… and you can start by leaving Dog and Cat meat off your menus!! Marion Algier – Just One More Pet~

With concerns of offending sensitivities of Western visitors and animal rights groups for next month’s Olympics and September’s Paralympics, Beijing’s Food Safety Office has issued a directive forbidding 112 restaurants and hotels from selling man’s best friend — dog meat to be specific (as well as cat meat) — on menus for the duration of the Olympics.

Dogs look out of their cages from a truck on a motorway on the outskirts of China's capital Beijing April 8, 2006. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

Warning, some images and content may be deemed highly offensive. As a passionate dog lover, this puppy’s intentions were meant to instill the realities and horrors [to some] of certain cultures taking place not only in China, but other areas as well for the sale and consumption of dog meat as a delicacy.

Dog meat — commonly known as ‘fragment meat’ in the area — is not traditional food fare in northern China, but it is a regular menu item in the large number of Korean restaurants in Beijing.

And in Yunnan, Guizhou, and Jiangsu, dog meat has recently become the latest trend for hip Beijingers. Fried “long dog tails” are a treat in many areas of China, “as long as all the hair is removed,” usually burning off if deep fried.

It’s become a popular delicacy in the country believed by many Chinese to be an effective element to lower high blood pressure, and said to have warming qualities in winter, hardly an issue in a scorching Beijing August.

The Chinese have eaten dog for 7,000 years , farming them for their meat even today. But dog is less popular these days because of the high feeding costs. Young dogs are preferred because the meat is softer.

The directive ordered Olympic contractor hotels not to provide any dishes made with dog meat, advocating all restaurants serving dog suspend it during the Olympics, and said any canine material used in traditional medicated diets must be clearly labeled. Many have been strongly advised to suspend serving it up to September.

Designated restaurants for the ban which are caught selling dog meat will be blacklisted by the association, but the punishment was not specified.

“We had a notice from the city restaurant association.” said a spokesman for Huatian Cold Noodles, a Korean restaurant chain which has a contract to provide Olympic catering. “We usually have about 20 dog meat dishes on our menu. It will certainly have an effect on our sales.”

One restaurant was claiming to know nothing about the ban yesterday. “If it applies to us, the effect will be huge.” said a member of staff at Dog Meat King, a small, specialist purveyor. “If we get an order like that, I have no idea what we would do.”

The move is part of efforts “to respect the dining customs of different countries” and also aimed at heading off protests by animal rights groups. It’s unclear whether other delicacies including donkey and horse will be kept off the menu for the Games.

Criticism from Westerners caused the dog meat-loving South Koreans to ban canine dishes for a period of time during the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Dog Meat Customs
In some countries, apart from being kept as pets, certain breeds of dogs are raised on farms and slaughtered for their meat. Some eat it as an alternative source of meat or for specific medicinal benefits attributed to various parts of a dog.

In parts of the world where dogs are kept as pets, people generally consider the use of dogs for food to be a social taboo.

Though the consumption of dog meat is generally viewed as taboo in Western culture, some Westerners support the right to eat dog meat and accuse other Westerners who protest against dog eating in other countries of cultural imperialism and intolerance.

In Islamic culture, eating dogs is forbidden under Muslim dietary laws.

Cultural attitudes, legalities, and history regarding eating dog meat varies from country to country with very little statistical information available.

China
Dog meat has been a source of food in parts of China from at least the time of Confucius, and possibly even before. Ancient writings from the Zhou Dynasty referred to the “3 beasts” which were bred for food including pig, goat, and dog. Dog meat is sometimes euphemistically called “fragment meat” or “mutton of the earth.”

During a hard season when the food store was depleted in the past, dogs were occasionally slaughtered as an emergency food supply. Today it’s consumed for its perceived medicinal value of increasing the positive energy for the body (the yang), and helping to regulate blood circulation. Due to this belief, people eat dog meat in the winter to help to keep themselves warm. Others don’t eat it, believing it will overheat the body.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, the Chinese only eat dogs raised specifically for meat, not those raised as pets. They’re allegedly slaughtered between 6 and 12 months of age because of their size at that age, and for desirability of the meat.

Despite being a socially acceptable practice, the average Chinese don’t usually eat dog meat since it’s relatively expensive compared to other meats, being generally more accessible to affluent Chinese. 300,000 dogs are killed in the county annually, much of the meat being processed into stew for export across China and Korea.

The Chinese typically cook the dog meat by stewing it with thick gravy or by roasting it. One method of preparing the dog carcass is by immersion in boiling water, allowing the skin to be peeled off in one pull.

Some controversy has emerged about the treatment of dogs in China not because of the consumption itself, but because of other factors like cruelty involved with the killing including allegations that animals are skinned while still alive.

In recent years, Chinese people are increasingly changing their attitude towards eating it from personal choice to unnecessary cruelty. A growing movement against consumption of cat and dog meat has gained attention from people in mainland China which began about 2 years after the formation of the Chinese Companion Animal Protection Network.

CCAPN began organizing well-publicized protests against dog and cat eating in January 2006, starting in Guangzhou, following up in more than 10 other cities “with very optimal response from public.”

Some Chinese restaurants in the United States serve “imitation dog meat” which is usually pulled pork, flavored to taste like dog meat.

According to the recent documentary TV from BBC, Tibetan monks in China also eat dog meat.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, a local ordinance dating from British colonial times which has been retained after the handover to Chinese sovereignty prohibits the slaughter of any dog or cat for use as food, with penalties of fines and imprisonment. Four local men were sentenced to 30 days imprisonment in December 2006 for having slaughtered 2 dogs.

Apart from this, a large proportion of people are currently against the consumption of dog meat.

Korea
Gaegogi — “dog meat” in Korean — is often mistaken as the term for Korean soup made from dog meat, bosintang. Since 1984, selling dog meat has been illegal in South Korea. Dog meat manufacturing and processing are not allo

The consumption of dog meat can be traced back many centuries. Dog bones were excavated in a Neolithic settlement in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. One of the wall paintings in the Goguryeo tombs complex in South Hwangghae Province, a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from 4th century AD, depicts a slaughtered dog in a storehouse.

Types of dishes include:
• bosintang — dog stew including dog meat as its primary ingredient.
• gaejangguk — dog meat soup.
• gaesuyuk — boiled dog meat.
• gaesoju — a fermented drink that is distilled by cooking the dog in a double boiler. Dog’s penis used to be added as a medicine to supplement energy.

Use of dogs for meat and the methods of slaughter used have generated friction between dog lovers, both Western and Korean, and people who eat dogs.

Today in Korea, a segment of the population eat bosintang (literally “invigorating soup”), believing it to have medicinal properties, particularly for virility. Dog meat is also believed to keep a person cool during the intense Korean summer.

Many Korean Buddhists consider eating meat an offense, which includes dog meat. Unlike beef, pork, or poultry, dog meat has no legal status as food in South Korea. Some in South Korea and abroad believe that dog meat should be legalized so that only authorized preparers can deal with the meat in more humane and sanitary ways, while others think that the practice should be banned by law.

In recent years, more and more Korean people changed their attitude towards eating dog meat from personal choice to unnecessary cruelty.

Japan
For Korean people in Japan, China is the only exporter of dog meat to Japan and exported 31 tons in 2006. Dog meat is available in Korean towns such as Tsuruhashi, Osaka and Okubo, and Tokyo.

Indonesia
In Indonesia, the consumption of dog meat is usually associated with the Minahasa, a Christian ethnic group in northern Sulawesi, and Batak tribe of Northern Sumatra who consider dog meat to be a festive dish and usually reserve it for special occasions like weddings and Christmas.

Popular Indonesian dog-meat dishes include Rica-Rica, “RW” or Rintek Wuuk, Rica-Rica Waung, Guk-Guk and “B1″.

Taiwan
Eating dogs has never been commonplace in Taiwan, but it is eaten in the winter months, particularly black dogs, which are believed to help retain body warmth. In 2004, the Taiwanese government imposed a ban on the sale of dog meat, due to both pressure from domestic animal welfare groups and a desire to improve international perceptions.

According to Lonely Planet’s Taiwan guide, it’s still possible to find dog meat on some restaurant menus, but becoming increasingly rare.

Vietnam
Dog meat is consumed throughout Vietnam to varying degrees of acceptability, though more predominantly in the north. Many dishes feature dog meat, often including the head, feet and internal organs.

Groups of male customers spend their evenings seated on mats sharing plates of dog meat and drinking alcohol as a form of ‘male bonding.’ They believe it to raise the libido, considering it unsuitable for women, although it’s not uncommon for women to eat dog meat.

The consumption of dog meat can be part of a ritual usually occurring toward the end of the lunar month for reasons of astrology and luck. Restaurants which mainly exist to serve dog meat only open for the last half of the lunar month.

Germany
Dog meat has been eaten in every major German crisis at least since the time of Frederick the Great, commonly referred to as “blockade mutton.”

In the early 20th century, consumption of dog meat in Germany was common, but since 1986 dog meat has been prohibited.

Switzerland
According to the November 21, 1996, edition of the Swiss newspaper Rheintaler Bote, the rural Swiss cantons of Appenzell and St. Gallen are known to have had a tradition of eating dogs, curing dog meat into jerky and sausages, as well as using the lard for medicinal purposes.

Dog sausage and smoked dog jerky remains a staple in the Swiss cantons of St. Gallen and Appenzell, where one farmer was quoted in a regional weekly newspaper as saying that “meat from dogs is the healthiest of all. It has shorter fibers than cow meat, has no hormones like veal, no antibiotics like pork.”

The production of food from dog meat, however, is illegal in Switzerland.

Canada
Consumption of dog meat is taboo in mainstream Canadian culture, but it may be practiced by some cultural minorities. In 2003, health inspectors discovered 4 frozen canine carcasses in the freezer of a Chinese restaurant in Edmonton.

The Edmonton health inspector consequently said that it’s not illegal to sell and eat the meat of dogs and other canines, as long as the meat has been inspected. The 4 canine carcasses were actually found to be coyotes.

Under Canada’s Wildlife Act, it’s illegal to sell meat from any wild species. There is no law against selling and serving canine meat, including dogs, but it must be killed and gutted in front of federal inspectors

United States
It’s considered a social taboo to eat dogs in the United States. Under California Penal Code, it’s a misdemeanor to possess, import into, or export from the state, sell, buy, give away, or accept any animal traditionally or commonly kept as a pet or companion with the intent of killing or having another person kill that animal for the purpose of using or having another person use any part of the animal for food.

Beijing Olympic Ban of Dog Meat

Sources: Reuters, Yahoo News, Telegraph, Independent, and Wikipedia

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By Deborah • July 11, 2008

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August 13, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, Stop Animal Cruelty, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments