HARP Position Statements

Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh is a progressive shelter that bases their policies and positions and the most up to date scientific research and recommendations of Shelter Medicine experts. We are committed to following best practice guidelines and educating our community about these practices and how they are applicable to be shelter and owned animals.

The Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh strongly supports spay/neuter as an effective means to reduce shelter intake, prevent accident pregnancy and avoid reproductive diseases in the dog, cat and rabbit population. In particular, HARP supports voluntary, affordable, accessible spay/neuter programs for owned pets, Trap/Stray-Neuter Return (SNR/TNR) programs for feral and community cats and the mandatory sterilization of shelter animals and dogs and cats prior to adoption.  

We also support provisions that incentivize spay/ neuter in situations of pet reclaim from the shelter. This can be an effective strategy that does not create unintended negative consequences, such as preventing low income owners from reclaiming pets due to inability to pay applicable fees. 

Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh also practices and supports the practice of pediatric spay and neuter. Numerous scientific studies evaluating the effects of early-age spay-neuter suggest that the procedure does not lend itself to serious health implications and is medically sound. Early age spay neuter offers many advantages including safe anesthetic and surgical techniques, shorter surgical and recovery times, and avoidance of the stresses and costs associated with spaying while in heat, pregnant or with uterine disease. 

There are also numerous long-term physical and behavioral health benefits including reduced risk of pyometra and mammary tumors, elimination of testicular and ovarian tumors, and a reduction in undesirable reproductive behaviors. Neutering prior to sexual maturity is strongly recommended to ameliorate pet overpopulation, and prevent the birth of unintended litters.  

In addition, being sexually intact has been identified as the leading risk factor for owner relinquishment of cats and dogs; therefore, neutering prior to adoption is likely to improve the odds that adopted animals will be retained in their homes. Early-age spay-neuter helps combat the single largest killer of dogs and cats: overpopulation and euthanasia of unwanted, homeless pets. 

Because Spay and Neuter is so entwined with our mission as a humane welfare organization as a whole, we also require that all pets being seen through our low-cost Veterinary Medical Centers be altered, or in the process of being altered, to utilize our services. This helps to ensure that we maintain our philosophies and positions on these vital surgeries throughout the organization. 

Euthanasia is painless inducement of a quick death. Veterinarians have a responsibility to help guide animal owners in making end of life decisions and to ensure that the lives of animals are ended humanely and painlessly. We will euthanize an animal if he or she is suffering from an irreparable condition and our veterinarians advise that there is no chance of recovering an acceptable quality of life. While this is a difficult choice for the family and the veterinary team, we approach this decision from the perspective of what is in the best interest of the individual animal and in our best effort to prevent suffering. 

Euthanasia may also be pursued in rare cases of irreparable animal aggression in which:

  1. A veterinarian has eliminated medical treatment as a solution.
  2. Rehabilitation efforts by behavior specialists have failed.
  3. Staff and public safety cannot be reasonably assured, or other management protocols would seriously compromise the pet’s quality of life. 

Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh provides euthanasia services for the public. Through our clinic we offer families the opportunity to have the service performed in their presence. With this option you may also have a health consultation to discuss quality of life should you request it prior to euthanasia. Our second option is to have the service performed through our admissions department where owners are not able to remain present with their pet. In either case, we also offer aftercare and cremation services for our clients.  

The Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh strongly opposes “declawing” (via onychectomy or tenectomy) as an elective procedure. Cats’ claws are vital to their natural habits and as well as for defense. Declawing of cats, or onychectomy, is the amputation of the last digital bone, including the nail bed and claw, on each toe. Unlike popular thought, it is not just the removal of the claw, but rather the amputation of an entire digit! This is a permanent procedure and often leads to chronic pain and deviation from normal behavior.  

Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh suggests alternative options to declawing as it is a controversial procedure , one that is banned in many other countries, and our veterinarians will not perform it. We will happily provide alternative options for cats that are causing damage with their nails in the home to prevent relinquishment to the shelter.  

Alternative management options may include:  

  • Providing cats with scratching posts/pads.
  • Regularly trimming the claws to prevent injury or damage to household items.
  • Considering temporary synthetic nail caps. 
  • Using synthetic facial pheromone sprays and/or diffusers to help relieve anxiety or stress. 
  • Providing appropriate feline environmental enrichment. 

There are inherent risks and complications with declawing that increase with age such as acute pain, infection, nerve trauma, as well as long term complications like lameness, behavioral problems such as litter box aversion, inappropriate elimination, and biting behaviors, as well as chronic neuropathic pain. 

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