Spay/neuter, PETA, and the Octomom

I’m neither a PETA lover nor a PETA hater. I agree with some of their philosophies, but I’m strongly opposed to many of their tactics. Their biggest contribution to animal welfare is helping to put the movement on the country’s radar. But PETA has also helped foster the notion that animal lovers are a bunch of kooks, and despite the inaccuracy, that’s a tough perception to overcome.

Their latest undertaking, a marriage of dubious intent to Octomom Nadya Suleman, leaves me scratching my head. PETA will reportedly pay the mother of fourteen, in danger of foreclosure and desperate for cash, five-thousand dollars to post a sign in her front yard reading:

“Don’t let your dog or cat become an ‘Octomom.’ Always spay or neuter.”

Problem is, there’s a crucial difference between Octomom’s situation and that of unaltered companion animals. Suleman made a distinct (albeit irresponsible) decision to become pregnant and bear so many children. For unsprayed dogs and cats, becoming pregnant is generally not a choice: The unmanageable numbers of litters are a result of inaction on the part of their owners.

Secondly, does it get any tackier than that? A sign in one’s own front yard comparing her band of tots to unwanted animals just seems to be in poor taste. While the results are similar–too many babies, not enough resources–is this really the message she wants to impart to her children?

Ultimately, this move will have people talking about Octomom’s decision to bring human children she can’t care for into the world as opposed to the preventable problem of homeless dogs and cats. And that’s too bad. Because financially and morally, a single instance of the misuse of fertility technology is a relatively small issue compared to the crisis of companion animal overpopulation.

So let me make plain what I believe to be PETA’s intended message: Spaying and neutering your companion animals saves lives and reduces suffering. Not doing so contributes to the euthanization of millions–yes, MILLIONS–of dogs and cats every year. The most intelligent, humane, and cost-effective way to drastically reduce that number is through comprehensive spay/neuter programs.

Meanwhile, I hope I’m wrong: I hope this veritable publicity stunt gets people talking. Or better yet, gets people acting. Let the parade of jokes begin.