Green Hotels Association
    April 2017  


Too Many Dogs:
A Simple Solution

A cheap, quick, relatively painless procedure could make
a big dent in overpopulation. What’s stopping it?

At the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota recently, the barking could be heard even over the constant wind. Inside a small community center, dozens of dogs waited in donated crates. Dog overpopulation has been a problem on the reservation. In years past, population control consisted of rounding up strays and shooting them. Now, visiting veterinarians hold free spay-and-neuter clinics several times a year, surgically sterilizing as many as 70 dogs a day and moving many of them off the reservation for adoption.

Lately, the vets have been using a faster, cheaper method of neutering the male dogs: a quick injection of calcium chloride, a common industrial chemical, into the testicles, which renders them sterile. The dogs get a light sedative, but there’s no need for general anesthesia or incisions. They can be up and running again in minutes. The cost: about $1 per dog.

Calcium chloride could be a boon to animal shelters in other impoverished areas, many of which lack the funds and the facilities to sterilize dogs surgically. More than 3 million dogs and cats are euthanized in US shelters every year. But few veterinarians and shelter operators even know about calcium chloride. It’s been stalled in a regulatory Catch-22 that illustrates how products that don’t have much profit potential can languish unused.

Cheap, nonsurgical sterilization would also be a godsend to countries like India, where packs of dogs run wild. World-wide, an estimated 375 million stray dogs are terrorizing neighborhoods, fighting over food and reproducing exponentially.

Research on calcium chloride goes back to the 1970s, when it was tested as a sterilizing agent in calves, colts and other animals. In the past decade, researchers in India published a dozen studies using it in dogs, cats and goats.

In three studies researchers in Bari, Italy, tested a variety of doses and solutions in 80 dogs over one year and concluded that a 20% solution of calcium chloride in ethyl alcohol was optimal, rendering dogs “azoospermic” (without sperm) and reducing testosterone levels by 70%, with no adverse effects. Calcium chloride isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration and probably will never be. It’s such a common chemical that it can’t be patented. As a result, drug companies aren’t interested in investing the $10 million or more needed to run the required clinical trials. Without FDA approval, most veterinary and animal-welfare groups are leery of endorsing it.

Finding safe, nonsurgical ways to control animal reproduction has been a goal of animal researchers for decades, but progress has been slow. Some stakeholders want contraceptive approaches that will drive business to veterinarians’ offices; some want methods that can be provided for pennies in the field. Some animal-rights activists insist that street dogs and strays shouldn’t have a lower standard of care than house pets. Some oppose doing research of any kind on animals—even to advance animal medicine. “The politics are more complicated than the chemistry,” says Elaine Lissner, director of the Parsemus Foundation, a nonprofit that works to advance neglected medical research.

Ms. Lissner tried to start the FDA approval process for the use of calcium chloride in male cats last year, but her bid for a “barrier to innovation” waiver of the $87,000 application fee was denied on the grounds that the research wasn’t innovative enough. The nonprofit Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs considers calcium chloride experimental and calls for more research. “Some vets are horrified at the idea,” says the group’s president, Joyce Briggs. Because the ingredients are readily available, she says, “there’s concern that crazy cat ladies will be mixing this up on their kitchen table and saying, ‘Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.’” Instead, the alliance is supporting a rival, FDA-approved sterilant called Zeuterin, which works much the same way. It’s available for about $20 a dose to nonprofits, but it doesn’t cut testosterone as significantly, which some shelters see as important to reduce aggression.

A few US vets and shelters are quietly starting to use calcium chloride. Rose Wilson, who supervises an animal shelter in Lawton, OK, has been using the drug since last spring, with the blessing of city officials. She says that she wouldn’t go back to surgeries. “We haven’t seen any problems with it,” she says. “It’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and it’s painless. This is the best thing that’s happened in the spay/neuter world in a long, long time.”


Beck, Melinda, The Wall Street Journal, Too Many
Dogs: A Simple Solution, November 28, 2014


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Too Many Dogs

World-wide, an estimated 375 million stray dogs are terrorizing neighborhoods, fighting over food and reproducing exponentially.


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