Want to help reduce pet overpopulation but haven't the time, space or money to contribute in a major way? Write a letter.
No time for that? Then make a call.
Can't find your phone book? Buttonhole neighbors, friends or co-workers and politely persuade them to spay or neuter their pets.
Consider that if you can gently convince even one person to spay one cat, you are personally responsible for preventing the deaths of several hundred "surplus" kittens -- because they will never be born.
It's that simple.
I know many people who work for animals in just this way, five minutes here, a half-hour there. They're never pushy. They state their case politely and rationally, and then they back off.
Even if they strike out, they're still sending a message.They're telling them that people who care about animals do not add to the tragic problem of pet overpopulation.
The easiest way to start is with letters. One reader has this down to a science, her word processor ready to go at a second's notice. Her letters are polite, well-researched and well-written. Her latest target is Parents magazine, which suggested recently that letting the family pet have a litter is "a wonderful learning experience for the entire family."
Another reader calls on "free kitten" ads, providing referrals to low-cost spay/neuter programs.
But it doesn't have to be that formal an effort. If you're an animal lover, chances are people seek you out to tell you about their pets. If someone tells me she's thinking about breeding her pet, I ask why and tell her why not.
If someone tells me he doesn't need to neuter his male dog ("It's not like we're going to have to deal with the puppies, after all"), I give him a few reasons why he should anyway, including the reduced risk of cancer and the probable elimination of several behavior problems.
When I was walking my dogs last week, a neighbor told me she has some kittens to give away. I asked her if the mother had been spayed yet, and told her she'd better get to it unless she wanted more kittens in a few more months.
I say it, I smile and I drop it. But I never let pass opportunities to inform. And you shouldn't, either.
Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278