Animal welfare in the U.S. and other countries is going to get a huge boost on Monday. In order to appreciate just how big a boost it will be, some sad facts must be acknowledged. First, there are approximately 600 million stray dogs and cats worldwide living on the streets. A permanent home is something only one out of every ten dogs born will ever find. In the U.S., animal shelters euthanize 2.7 million dogs and cats every year in order to make room for incoming strays, and one quarter of all the dogs that enter shelters are purebred. On February 17, however, a product called Zeuterin becomes available for shipment. Zeuterin sterilizes a male dog for life via a single injection. This method of sterilization is expected to greatly lower stray dog populations in the U.S. and other countries.
Zeuterin is the first-ever FDA-approved injectable sterilization compound, and it will remove the largest obstacle that currently exists with regard to the humane control of stray dogs in the U.S. Joyce Briggs, the president of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs (ACC&D), is an advocate of alternatives to the traditional surgical procedures: “The truth is, we may have maximized what we can do with surgical spay-neuter.” Briggs calls nonsurgical sterilants “a game-changer for animal welfare across the world.”
Zeutrin’s February 17 shipping date comes directly on the heels of the worldwide outcry over the inhumane methods used by Sochi to rid the city of its stray dogs. Strychnine poisoning, though it is used in many other parts of the world as well, is the most common extermination method for the stray dogs of Sochi. According to Kelly O’Meara, a director at Humane Society International, meat is usually laced with strychnine and placed on the street where any animal is apt to eat it. When a dog eats the strychnine-laced meat, it results in convulsions and can “take up to an hour to die—it’s horrific and extremely painful for an animal to go through.”
Mass dog-killing programs are instituted in many countries, and incidents have been documented recently in Romania and South Korea in which dogs have been rounded up and bludgeoned to death. Sterilization of stray dogs and cats as well compulsory sterilization for pet dogs and cats is the only proven method for maintaining control of the stray animal population. The extermination of dogs in Sochi was going on before the city was ever chosen as the site for the Winter Olympics. Animal activist Dina Filippova of Sochi, Russia told the Associated Press that “we should understand that it is done not only before the Olympics but constantly.” Filippova said that the extermination company was killing “300 dogs a month” in Sochi even before construction for the Olympics began.
Feral cat populations in the U.S. are maintained through sterilization. Animal rescue organizations use a procedure called Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR). Healthy, non-agressive (but unfortunately unadoptable) feral cats are trapped, taken to a veterinarian for rabies vaccinations and to be spayed or neutered, and then released. After the procedure, the cats are returned to their original locations by the rescue organization. In the feral dog populations outside the U.S., Zeuterin is expected to cause a drastic reduction in numbers and, it is hoped, eliminate the need for dog-killing programs. There is a $25 million award, offered by The Found Animals Foundation, that will go to the inventor of a single-injection sterilant that works in both cats and dogs. It is an award that remains available.
Zeutrin has a very simple composition: sterile water, the trace element Zinc Gluconate, and the amino acid Arginine. All of these ingredients are required for the body, and there are no preservatives added. In 99.6% of the cases, studies show that a permanent sterilization was created in dogs who were between three and 10 months old. The injection is being administered to dogs that fall outside that range with successful results.
Distribution of Zeutrin is limited to licensed veterinarians who have taken a two-hour certification course. Incredibly, five dogs can be sterilized with Zeuterin for the price of one, and five dogs can be sterilized in the same amount of time it takes to surgically sterilize one dog. It is also five times safer than surgical sterilization. The manufacturer, Ark Sciences, has regulatory approval in Panama, Bolivia, Columbia, Mexico, and the U.S. and plans to seek approval in other countries. It is hoped that a nonsurgical option that leaves the male testes intact (though slightly smaller) and decreases but does not stop testosterone from circulating will make sterilization of pet dogs favorable to those cultures both inside and outside of the U.S. who view the surgical procedure as unnatural or emasculating. While technically the compound does not become widely available for shipment until Monday, many dogs in the U.S. have already had the procedure. Last weekend, a “Zeuterathon” was held by a group of volunteer veterinarians in Los Angeles. Approximately 75 male dogs of all ages were sterilized in the space of a few hours. The suggested donation was $20.00.
As for the depressing facts at the beginning of the article, Ark Sciences envisions full adoption in the U.S. by the year 2020 through the use of Zeuterin. In other words, there will be an end to the millions of dogs being euthanized each year in animal shelters. The company was founded by an ordained minister in order to honor his commitment to making a difference in the world and is a mission-based private company. Stray dogs desperately need a game-changer, and one will begin for them on Monday, February 17.
By Donna Westlund