The COVID-19 Spay/Neuter Gap
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdowns throughout our nation have been tough on individuals, families, businesses, and the overall economy. Though our country has mostly re-opened, we continue to feel the effects of the pandemic. Most economists agree we will continue to do so for some time in many sectors, including the veterinary world.
Beginning in March 2020, some animal shelters and veterinary providers across the country closed their doors, while others reduced the size of their teams and service options. The length of these shutdowns and reductions varied, but the overall effect was a large decrease in the number of spays and neuters provided for community pets during this timeframe.
Historical Information Vs. COVID Pandemic
The availability of low-cost, high-quality spay and neuter providers has been shown to decrease the number of animals euthanized in shelters across the nation. TCAP, joined by similar low-cost providers, helped reduce pet euthanasia in animal shelters nationwide from an estimated 13.5 million in 1973 to 1.9 million in 2019.
A retrospective study of patient data from 212 spay-neuter clinics using Clinic HQ practice management software was conducted from January 2019 through December 2021. This study found a decrease in sterilizations performed by 13% in 2020 and 3% in 2021. In total, just among these 212 clinics, the study found that 190,818 fewer surgeries were performed in the 24 months from January 2020 through December 2021 than would be expected had 2019 levels been maintained. If a similar pattern was experienced by other spay/neuter providers in the US, it would suggest there is a deficit of more than 2.7 million spay/neuter surgeries that animal welfare organizations have yet to address. When we consider that an unspayed female dog can give birth to 8-14 puppies each year and an unspayed female cat can birth 10-20 kittens each year, we begin to see the true impact of these shutdowns.
The Good News
At TCAP, our team was acutely aware of the problems that extended shutdowns could bring. We committed ourselves to remaining open safely from the very beginning of COVID-19 shutdowns. This meant dramatically changing our operations and revamping our staff training. Through support from our leadership, staff determination, increased team work, and continued community support, TCAP increased our sterilizations performed in both 2020 and 2021 respectively. In short, despite a nationwide pandemic, TCAP remained mission-centered and working.