Best Friends Blog

The holy grail of spay/neuter

Over the weekend, I was invited to speak at the 5th International Symposium on Non-Surgical Contraceptive Methods of Pet Population Control presented by the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs (ACC&D). That’s quite a mouthful!

Best Friends was one of the sponsors of the symposium, which brought together a variety of stakeholders in Portland, Oregon, to learn the latest developments in one of the most important areas of research for animal welfare – the chemical contraception and sterilization of animals, including dogs and cats. We heard from scientists, veterinarians, animal welfare professionals, public health advocates, pharmaceutical industry representatives, and funders from the U.S. and abroad.

The potential lifesaving impact of a safe, easy-to-administer, and permanent contraceptive is enormous. Imagine if you could give your pet a pill rather than take him or her to the vet to be fixed. No stress for your pet, and no stress for you worrying about anesthesia or the risks of surgery.

Imagine the benefit to low-income families, who often have to overcome the hurdles of travel to and from a clinic with no car, or the often-prohibitive cost of a spay/neuter surgery. They could simply give their dog or cat a safe pill with their food, and presto – no unwanted litters.

Imagine how easy such a pill would make the management of community cat colonies. Trapy/neuter/return (TNR) would be replaced by a much simpler management protocol.

Imagine how such a pill or injection would mark the beginning of the end of suffering for hundreds of millions of animals, mostly dogs, who roam the streets of cities and villages across Asia, Africa and South America, and some parts of Europe, not to mention some impoverished communities in the U.S.

During my own presentation as a luncheon speaker, I discussed the many practical problems with which spay/neuter on a significant scale is beset, such as cost and the need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, every year, to make and maintain an impact in even a small city as well as the fact that private vets are often not located in proximity to the communities that need their services the most. These are just a few of the scalability issues that would be solved if spaying or neutering a pet were as easy as de-worming or giving a vaccine. The world of animal welfare, and the no-kill movement in particular, would be changed overnight.

The holy grail, unfortunately, has not yet been developed, but there is plenty of incentive out there for the enterprising scientist or pharmaceutical company. Found Animals Foundation founder and benefactor, Dr. Gary Michelson, has posted the $25 million Michelson Prize to be awarded to the first individual, corporation, research organization, university, etc., that develops the first single-dose nonsurgical sterilant that is safe and effective in male and female dogs and cats and is suitable for use in a field setting, among other criteria. In addition to a payoff to the winner, Michelson has established funding for research grants totaling an additional $50 million. For more information, visit the Michelson Prize & Grants website.

In the meantime, however, there are some very promising nonsurgical options that have come to market or are on their way. The one that many are familiar with is Zeuterin™, an injectable sterilant for male dogs that can be administered without anesthesia, although a mild sedative is commonly utilized to reduce stress. Zeuterin™ has been in use for years under a different name in other countries and is now making inroads in the U.S. since it received FDA approval. Not the holy grail, but getting there.

Best Friends supports this new frontier of animal welfare, and we are excited by the possibilities that are emerging along with advances in human medicine. I’d also like to commend Dr. Michelson and Found Animals Foundation for putting a much-needed spark into the quest for the silver bullet of a once-and-done non-surgical spay/neuter solution.

Each development brings us one step to a time when there will be No More Homeless Pets.


Gregory Castle
Best Friends Animal Society

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  • dmarshlabs

    What worries me is that someone will get ahold of this pill and use it on dogs that weren’t destined to be spayed or neutered yet, for example if jealous of someone’s champion show dog.

  • EcoPolitics&Animals

    Cost is often the main reason why so many people don’t have their pets spayed or neutered. Veterinarians must be encouraged to offer special discounts for pet owners on low incomes. Maybe a benefactor could set up a trust that subsidizes this at half price.

  • Brenda C

    Teed to update this. See Arc Sciences website. They offer the training and mobile clinics for a fee.

    On August 31st, 2012, FDA approves Zeuterin™ to non-surgically zinc neuter male dogs

    . This is FDA approved. I do not understand why Veterinarians are not getting trained and stepping up the pace here. I spoke with a person from Spay TN and she said they had offered training to Mid South Spay and Neuter in Tn but no takers. There have been veterinarians in East and Middle TN trained. The vision is that the shot can be given by vets who take annual rabies vaccinations around to people in the counties.

  • Karen clark

    This is so awesome. I wish it was here now. I work for animal control and i have often said that i wish there was a pill or shot to give. Especially to backyard breeders but i guess i shouldn’t say that. Oh well!

  • Nature_Proponent

    This inexpensive pill; today costing only $0.02-$0.05 per dose, that need only be applied one time, which also permanently vaccinates any cat against every conceivable disease (even those which cats are transmitting to humans that are listed as bioterrorist-agents because there are no vaccines for them, and is a permanent vaccine), can be given to cats that have even learned to evade all trapping and bait-food methods, while it also miraculously and instantly stops cats from destroying any more native animals, and as an added bonus even gives each cat a permanent “forever home”; this miraculous pill was invented over a century ago. It is also available nearly everywhere, even from your local Wally-World stores. It’s called a .22.

  • Lisa

    This is a great idea. Offering monetary
    prizes to solve big problems works. We humans love prizes. Lindbergh
    made his great flight because of a monetary prize. There are many of
    these multimillion dollar prizes available for people (or teams
    of people) who can come up with solutions for the world’s greatest
    problems and it really is fueling innovation. I’m delighted to see that
    there is now one that is focused on animals and could potentially save
    many millions of lives.

  • Bonnie Gilbert

    I was just saying SPAY AND NEUTER isn’t working, evidenced by so many moms and puppies in RESCUES and SHELTERS..hmmm, a pill.? If only humans would give it to their animals. Sharing..thanx BFAS for the update.

    • kandiale

      Excuse me but spay and neuter is working! When I first got into rescue 35 years ago the death toll in shelters was 20 million annually. Now the estimate is usually put somewhere between 4 and 8 million. But if something can be made better I am all for it. One problem though, You still have to get people to give it to their pets. Maybe men would be more likely to do a pill, I don’t know. But you still have all of those people who are going to get their pet fixed, someday, and someday never comes. Some people actually still believe that they should let their female have a litter before they spay her. Education will always be needed.

      • Bonnie Gilbert

        I didn’t mean to suggest S&N isn’t working, just not enough or there wouldn’t be 20 cats in my yard, not to mention shelters and RESCUES. I rescued St. Bernards for 30 years, yet there were many puppy saints I CC would buy. I’m just saying more could be done especially with social media around these days. I don’t rely just on stats, reporting is usually vague.

  • PitBullAdvocate

    How can they do this without lab testing on innocent animals though?

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi there, and thanks for your question. Trials have to be completed, as they are the only way to know if the drugs are effective. However, great lengths are taken to ensure that animals are safe. You can read more about this from the FAQ’s at the ACC&D website:

      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator
      Best Friends Animal Society

    • Crystal Yarlott

      Good question. From what Melissa says, it should be okay but how can you be sure when you test on live beings?