Lifesaving Impact | PAWS Chicago

The Lifesaving Impact of Spay/Neuter

The single most effective way to end the killing of homeless pets

Control the birthrate of unwanted animals

PAWS Chicago was founded to build No Kill communities—starting with a No Kill Chicago. Controlling the birthrate of unwanted dogs and cats is the single most important component in accomplishing this mission.


An Exponential Issue

A puppy or kitten can have her first litter when she is six months old. The gestation period is just over two months long, and each litter has multiple puppies or kittens. 

Without spaying or neutering dogs and cats, it’s easy to see how so many end up in shelters—or worse.  

On average, it costs $500 above the adoption fee to save, care for, treat and rehabilitate a homeless dog or cat. One spay/neuter surgery costs just $100 and can prevent dozens, hundreds, even thousands of unwanted pets from being born. 

Spay/neuter:

  • Reduces the number of unwanted pets born
  • Reduces the number of unwanted pets turned into shelters
  • Reduces the number of pets killed in traditional kill shelters and the city pound

Our Targeted Approach

From day one, our spay/neuter efforts have been targeted to assist low-income, under served communities. We want to ensure everyone has access to spay/neuter services. That means providing the surgery for free or at a low cost for pets of families who could not otherwise afford it. (See the PAWS Chicago Case Study By the Numbers to see the detailed data analysis conducted to drive these programs.) 

In fall 2000, we opened PAWS Chicago’s Lurie Clinic, the city’s first high-volume, free and low-cost clinic. Located in the heart of a vibrant but at-risk community in Little Village, the Lurie Clinic serves neighborhoods most in need. 

And in 2010, we deployed the GusMobile Spay/Neuter Van to go directly into under served neighborhoods throughout Chicago.


The Proof Is in the Numbers

PAWS Chicago was founded in 1997. That year, 42,561 animals in Chicago were euthanized. Since then, we have seen an 80 percent decrease in the number of pets killed. In 2016, the number of pets euthanized was below 9,000. We attribute much of this decrease to the success of spay/neuter services and education, which lowered the number of animals entering the shelter system.


What’s Next?

There are still nearly 10,000 homeless pets killed annually in Chicago and thousands more in surrounding communities. 

We’re working to be even more effective with our spay/neuter services. Every year, we conduct thorough analysis of:

  • The ZIP code origin of pets coming into Animal Care & Control (the city pound)
  • Neighborhoods where the city is receiving a significant volume of stray calls 

Through this analysis, we are able to determine which ZIP codes are most in need of spay/neuter. This enables us to evaluate our Targeted ZIP Codes eligible for free surgeries and adjust each year.