At ARNO’s shelter, and shelters everywhere, most cats and dogs taken in have not been spayed or neutered.

Many people from all walks of life, rich or poor, continue to believe that sterilizing pets will change their personality. Spay/neuter will not change personality, but here is what it can accomplish:

• In females, spaying prevents a potentially fatal infection of the uterus called pyometria.

• In males, it prevents testicular and/or prostate cancer.

• In both sexes, it prevents mammary gland cancer.

There is another important issue: behavior. Sterilized pets are calmer and slower to react to flashpoints that dogs respond to instinctively.

Canines are, by nature, pack animals. (Packs are defined as more than one dog in the household.) Spaying and neutering, particularly when young, reduces that pack mentality greatly.

Pack behavior can mean serious aggression in a number of instances. A dog chases a cat in the house or outside in your yard, and the cat runs. If the dog chases and attacks the cat, the pack may react in frenzy in the same way as the main predator.

All of these dogs could have been friendly to cats in the household, but once “prey” takes flight it is instinctive for them to chase, attack and, if the prey is small, kill. All it takes is one dog to become aggressive, and the rest will follow.

Unfortunately, and almost always in the case of unsterilized dogs, a pack can attack their caretaker if there is even one dog that starts the frenzy.

Normally there exists a trigger for an attack. It can be as simple as the owner carrying in a pet that the unsterilized animals consider prey or of which they are jealous. Other animals will join in the attack to support the pack mentality.

Domesticated dogs are protectors of their own kind/pack. The presence of puppies gives them another job to perform.

In the recent case of a mauling in Westwego, in which a woman was critically injured by her four dogs, her boyfriend was shocked because, he said, the dogs were well-behaved and never even fought.

However, according to police, one dog had recently had puppies. The boyfriend said the woman was carrying a small dog in her arms. The mother dog, obviously, had not been spayed.

None of these facts are peculiar to any breed or mix. Obviously the larger and stronger a dog, the more danger there is in an attack.

Spaying and neutering is one of the most important things you can do for your pet both for their health and your welfare.

Free, low-cost services

In Jefferson Parish, contact Jacob Stroman, Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, (504) 736-6111. In Orleans Parish, contact Loretta Lambert, LA/SPCA Community Clinic, (504) 363-1333.

Orleans Parish rabies vaccination drive: Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m., veterinarians will vaccinate dogs and cats for rabies and issue tags and licenses for $15 (cash only).

Locations are: Louisiana SPCA, 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd.; Engine 1 Fire House at 2920 Magazine St.; Engine 12 Fire House at 5600 Franklin Ave.; Engine 17 Fire House at 4115 Woodland Drive; Engine 24 Fire House at 1040 Poland Ave.; Engine 25 Fire House at 2430 South Carrollton Ave.; Engine 27 Fire House at 2118 Elysian Fields Ave.; Engine 35 Fire House at 964 N. Carrollton Ave.; and Engine 36 Fire House at 5403 Read Blvd.

Dogs must be on leashes and cats must be in carriers or on leashes. The rabies vaccination drive is made possible by the Louisiana SPCA, Southeast Louisiana Veterinary Association, city of New Orleans Health Department, city of New Orleans Fire Department and Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.

For more information, visit

Charlotte Bass Lilly is CEO of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501c3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends upon the generosity of people from all over the country who have followed them since Katrina. Contact ARNO at, or leave a message at (504) 571-1900.