Spay or Neuter before Placement

This article discusses the nescessity of spaying or neutering a rescued dog before that dog is placed. (Today in 2003, some states legally require dogs adopted from Animal Control to be spayed or neutered prior to release; some of them make exceptions for Rescue organizations.) I also discuss some of the things you may need to do prior to the surgery.



by Pam Green , © 1992


A lady in Oakland phoned me a few months ago (in 1992) about a Bouvier she had rescued from the Pound and wanted to place. I referred several prospective adopters to her, and heard nothing further from her. Last night, I learned the rest of the story. The Oakland lady had placed the dog without first neutering him ! There is worse to follow. The adopter, despite promises to neuter the dog, never got around to it. The dog proved a bit of an escape artist and got out a few times. Soon he showed up at the back yard of a guy with an in heat unspayed Rottie crossbred bitch. This idiot was seriously considering allowing this very handsome male Giant Schnauzer to mate with his bitch ! Fortunately he instead called Schnauzer rescue and they arranged for the dog to be boarded overnight and then picked up by them. The dog , who is indeed indisputably a Giant (a very nice , though very untrained, 9 month old) is now neutered and in the hands of Giant Rescue. (And since this happened in 1992, this dog is now in 2003 either very old or deceased.)

The moral of the story, which those of you with an IQ above the freezing point of water will already have guessed, is : Rescuers, never, never, never place a rescued dog without first spaying/neutering it !!! While it may seem less urgent with a male than a female, remember that it takes only a few minutes neglect by a procrastinating adopter to let an unneutered male escape and breed someone's bitch, producing yet another crossbred litter that will probably end their brief and futile existance in the death chambers of the local Pound.

Get the spaying or neutering done yourself, as well as Rabies and DHLPP shots, and require the adopter to reimburse you for same. I have done this with all my rescue dogs and have never had a prospective adopter protest in the slightest over this modest expense. Breeders, the same applies when selling or placing any pup/dog over 6 months (or earlier if you are lucky enough to know a vet who believes in earlier spay/neuter) that you know damn well is not highly superior in temperment, trainability, and physical functionality (ie health and confo). Do it yourself and you'll never have to worry whether someone else lived up to your responsibility.


A couple of months ago , I reported the story of a rescuer who placed a dog without first neutering it, with the result that the adopter failed to carry through on his promise to neuter the dog and the dog soon got out and almost sired an unplanned crossbred litter.

Since then I have learned that there was a bit more to the story.

The original rescuer, a Bouvie person, had bailed the dog out of the Pound in the belief that it was a Bouv, but upon shearing off its matted coat, soon realized that it was a Giant Schnauzer . (Which has also happened to me once. (Update 2003 : more than just once !)) It was also apparent that the dog was extremely starved and much too weakened to be able to safely undergo surgery in the immediate future. Prompt neutering would have seriously risked killing the poor dog. So when an apparently respectable and reliable Schnauzer rescue person volunteered to take over the dog and promised to neuter it before placement, the original rescuer relied on this promise. I probably would have done the same. Unfortunately the take-over rescuer placed the dog without actually neutering it.

So far from acting irresponsibly as my original story may have implied, the original rescuer made a reasonable choice The actual irresponsibility laid with the take-over Schnauzer rescuer.

The moral of the story remains the same : it's always best to get the spaying / neutering done while the dog is still in your own posession. But , in the rare instances where there is an overwhelming reason to postpone it, entrusting it to an apparently reliable fellow rescuer or adopter, be sure to follow up with phone calls and make sure that the spay / neuter really does get done.

Things to Do Prior to Neutering

While, as you know , I am in favor of getting the newly rescued dog spayed / neutered as soon as possible (and absolutely before the dog is placed), there are a few things that ought to be done either before neutering or else at the same time.

The first step in any rescue is the preliminary assessment of temperament. Is the dog sound enough to be adoptable? In the case of a dog which appears to be shy or flaky or of marginal temperament, I'd advise letting him live with you for a few days to a week (or more if you are willing) to see how he adjusts and then re-evaluate. Some dogs come out of the Pound in very traumatized state of mind , such that their temperament appears impaired; but a week of good home living and some socializing walks in town and park will bring a substantial improvement. If you have come to the inescapable conclusion that the dog is too dangerous or too much of a basket case to be placable in any normal home, the trip to the vet will be for euthanasia rather than for neutering. (Fortunately the chances of that are not high , eg of my 14 rescues to date , all have been placeable. (Update 2003 : many years and many dogs later, I would say the chances are between 1 in 50 and 1 in 100 of a Bouvier proving to be unplaceable for temperament reasons.)

Once you have decided that the dog is adoptable, further evaluation can wait till after neutering and you can turn your attention to searching for health problems that should be dealt with simultaneously with neutering and with making the vet's exam easier


If the coat is in extremely neglected shape, eg matted and filthy, you might as well shear it off before surgery. This makes sanitary surgery easier and makes it easier for the vet to examine the rest of the dog. Look carefully for any foxtail entry points, especially in the feet, armpits, and groin. Look for any suspicious swellings or lumps anywhere on the dog's body. Check the toe-nails, especially on dew-toes if present : if these are extremely long , let the vet whack them way back and cauterize if necessary while the dog is being neutered. Check the teeth and clean them as best you can ; if they are horrible, consider letting the vet clean them while neutering. Look for broken teeth, especially with the roots still in the jaw ; it may be wise to have such roots removed while the dog is under. Check for umbilical hernia; this can easily be repaired while the dog is under. (I missed this on one occassion, which is why I mention it now.)

Assess the dog's general physical condition before loading up to go to the vets. Occasionally a rescue dog is in such bad shape, sick and /or severely underweight, that it is safer to let him recover a bit before subjecting him to the stress of surgery.

Onwards to the vet's.

Some vets give discount rates for neutering pound rescue dogs. One in my area gives 10% off on Wednesdays for all surgeries. You may want to check around, as prices can vary a lot from vet to vet, if you are trying to limit your rescue dog red ink.

When making the appointment, be sure to find out this vet's requirements for withholding food and water the night before surgery. Crate or confine the dog as needed to ensure this.

Most vets will conduct a general physical , including listening to heart and lungs, to satisfy themselves that the dog is not unfit for surgery. If the dog has been in an area that has foxtails at any time of year, ask the vet to inspect the ears and nose for possible foxtails while the dog is under. It's probably a good idea to test for heartworm prior to surgery, as it is advisable to treat the heartworm and get it cleared up before subjecting the dog to anesthesia.. If you are going to X-ray hips , do it while the dog is anesthetized for surgery. (I would not do hip X-rays on a rescue dog unless the dog showed symptoms of dysplasia. Many dogs which radiograph as dysplastic can live relatively normal lives as pets, and it is rare for a prospective adopter to ask for X-rays.)

If the dog has not already had his rabies and DHLPPvCv shots, these would be done at the time of neutering -- or better yet, done a week to 10 days before surgery. Some pounds give one or both of these at the time of release to you, and of course that is the best policy. (I often run by the nearest vet on my way home from the pound to get the rabies shot, because I live in an area with lots of skunks, most of them rabies carriers.)

Before leaving the vet's office , ask for permission to put up an "Available for Adoption" notice. These will occasionally result in a good home that would otherwise not have contacted you.

OK, you've "taken the worry out of being close" and now you can go ahead with the pleasant labor of further assessment, socialization, and training, and with the work of locating and interviewing prospective adopters. This is a dog you will be able to place without fear than it will produce another generation of rescue dogs.

Congratulations !


(Update Note : today in 2003 , some states by law require all dogs adopted out of Animal Control to be spayed or neutered prior to release into the possession of the adopter. Even without a statewide law, some Pounds and Shelters have adoted this rule for themselves to reduce their future intake load. Generally the adopter goes in and signs the forms and pays the fees and pre-pays the surgery, then the dog goes to a vet under contract to Animal Control, and after surgery the adopter picks the dog up at the vets. There are some variations on this theme. Sometimes exceptions are made for properly documented Rescue organizations, and sometimes exceptions are made for dogs in poor health or puppies too young to be surgeried immediately. If the dog will be going straight from the Pound to the vets, ask to spend some time beforehand with the dog during which you can examine for problems as I have described.)

site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 1992 revised 8/3/03
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