The latest data for euthanasia has been published by Animal People in their most recent online magazine. For the second year in a row, we see an overall decline in the number of animals euthanized – down to 3.5 million. This is a significant improvement from just 5 years ago, when we hit a 20-year high at 4.9 million.
While I think these numbers inspire cautious optimism about the success of promoting spaying and neutering, the variance across the country is what strikes me. There is no region in the U.S. where cats and dogs are euthanized in equal proportion. In the Mid-Atlantic, the ratio of cat to dog killing is over 5:1, while in the Gulf region the ration is 1:2.
These skewed ratios are based on regional cultural differences, including how cats versus dogs are perceived as members of the family, as property, or as pests. This is something that I deal with everyday on St. Croix. Dogs represent 80% of our spay/neuter clinic clients. Is this because there are so few cats? No. They are represented proportionately on the island at least by half of the number of dogs. It is that cats and dogs are not
perceived in the same way.
During our spay/neuter perception survey conducted last year, FiXiT saw differences in the perspectives of people who take care of cats versus dogs. More cat caretakers said that it was “unnecessary” when asked why they were not fixed; cats are seen as part of the environment, more like wildlife. Dog people more often said that they would like to breed them; they are considered more like property or status symbols.
These differences in cultural perspectives are why we need to test how different messages will play in each unique location. As FiXiT continues onward, each region that we enter in the continental U.S. to find the optimal marketing solutions will need to be seen through the eyes of the local residents – a challenge, but one well worth the end result.