Is Spaying And Neutering Pets A Sin?

I saw the need for this article and dialogue after recently discussing spay and neuter with a local person who wanted to get their cat spayed, yet refused to spay their cat on religious grounds … she was pregnant. They did not believe in abortion for ANY reason. And THEN a few weeks later they asked the Animal Refuge Center to take the 7 kittens that could have been prevented.
It is not the first, and likely not the last time, I will deal with such.
Out of frustration, as this mode of thought is becoming more common of late and is hamstringing ALL spay and neuter efforts in so many communities as an uphill battle and a lesson in futility, I found it necessary to get opinions from verses of various religious texts and opinions from religious leaders, to get the final word on the topic of spay and neuter.

Yes, the Bible has some heated words on the topics of neutering, castration and abortion. The most adamant defenders of these words nearly always fail to use them in context. The Torah explicitly forbade castration of animals. In context, the methods of castration in that time were explicitly cruel and brutal. The Torah’s commandment: “The Torah prohibits the sacrificial use of animals whose ‘testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut,’ and further prohibits one from performing such deeds to sexual organs (Leviticus 22:24).” Thankfully, in the 21st century, technology and medicine have progressed to the point that spay and neuter surgeries are humane and painless, and remove the problem of unwanted pets…when actually utilized, and our understanding of the Scriptures and their intent is precise.


This page espousing views against abortion (as well as mocking Evolutionists and insisting that animals have no souls and therefore do not deserve our consideration–which in turn means if animals do not have souls, this contradicts their argument against abortion in the first place–since ANIMALS were not created in God’s image…WE were…or so we seem to think) for the most part pleads its message on abortion to speak out against violence, bloodletting and in chastising the Jews for sacrificing their children to the idols of Canaan:

2. The Bible forbids us from shedding innocent blood.

The Bible clearly commands, “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13). As already mentioned, the Bible does not forbid all killing, such as in capital punishment by the government, national defense, or personal defense. But murder is forbidden. The Bible uses the phrase “innocent blood” about 20 times, and always condemns shedding innocent blood. God chastised the Jews for shedding innocent blood when they sacrificed their children to the idols of Canaan (Ps. 106:38). As John Piper argues, “Surely the blood of the unborn is as innocent as any blood that flows in the world” (Brothers, We are Not Professionals [Broadman & Holman], p;. 222).

It fascinates me to hear, debate after debate after endless debate, that the very same people who fight tooth and nail against euthanasia of unborn puppies or kittens to prevent unwanted births, on the other hand DO NOT BLINK AN EYE at the millions more unwanted puppies and kittens who are born, surrendered and then euthanized in animal shelters every single year.
Why?

Or this: “I can’t take my pet to Animal Control! They put animals down and kill them immediately. They are cruel! They are butchers!” (For starters, they are NOT, but–)

WHY are they in business in the first place??? WHICH IS THE GREATER SIN?

The Bible forbids us from shedding innocent blood.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You BETTER start spaying and neutering your pets!

But the debate rages on. On online forums, I have personally dealt with foes of spay and neuter who argue, “If we spay and neuter all our pets, cats and dogs will go extinct!!”
“For otherwise, a species would die out after death ended all of its kind. Therefore, if someone incapacitates the organs of generation, he shows himself to be as one who cannot tolerate the work of the Creator and desires the destruction of his good world” (Sefer HaHinnukh, No. 291).
My answer to them: “Not bloody likely. Do you work in animal rescue yourself? Have you seen the euthanasia statistics in America lately? This is not likely to happen in our lifetime or any other.” See: American Humane: Animal Shelter Euthanasia and Pet Statistics: ASPCA

It is estimated that approximately 3.7 million animals were euthanized in the nation’s shelters in 2008. This number represents a generally accepted statistic that is widely used by many animal welfare organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Genesis 1:26-30 ESV / 57

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

1 Corinthians 4:2 ESV /

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

The Patron Saint of the Animal Refuge Center since its inception in 1989 is Saint Francis of Assisi, from whence came our slogan, “While We Have Time, Let Us Do Good.” It is by Saint Francis’ directives–and our works, not our words–that the Animal Refuge Center has served this community for almost 30 years.

God requires that we assist the animals, when they need our help. Each being (human or creature) has the same right of protection. — Francis of Assisi

Please feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts on this article.
–Pam Harrison, Board of Directors, Marketing Director, Animal Refuge Center, Inc.

Also see: Ask the Rabbi: Neutering Animals


“My thinking is that it is not a sin because animals were not created in God’s image and do not have a soul. We kill and eat animals all the time which would obviously be a sin if we did the same sort of thing to humans. I just spayed my dog and this same thought came across my mind, too. Since my dog is an animal, I think spaying her should be okay. I would be interested in hearing if the Church has an official teaching on this.”

 

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Is desexing pets a sin?

#1 Ephestion

Posted 06 November 2009 – 05:25 AM

We were getting all this support from the vet and other people to have our pet cat de-sexed. We thought she should have the right to have babies but everyone clouded our judgement including several letters from the Vet. We felt guided by people we knew and by professionals to undertake the task of de-sexing. Well eventually we did take her in to get the operation and then for the first time all the moral issues started to arise in our thoughts. At the time of writing this she is waiting to get operated on, and we are thinking of calling it off.

What do you guys think?

 

#2 Alice

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Posted 06 November 2009 – 12:32 PM

I don’t think it is a sin and has never crossed my mind that it is. Is it not more of a sin to have litters born that may not have anyone to take care of them? Animals also make much better pets when they are neutered with much less aggression and behavioural problems. I would not think twice of neutering a pet (and have done it to mine) unless I was seriously interested in breeding, and was sure that all the offspring would be taken care of.

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 06 November 2009 – 12:59 PM

Ephestion said

We were getting all this support from the vet and other people to have our pet cat de-sexed. We thought she should have the right to have babies but everyone clouded our judgement including several letters from the Vet. We felt guided by people we knew and by professionals to undertake the task of de-sexing. Well eventually we did take her in to get the operation and then for the first time all the moral issues started to arise in our thoughts. At the time of writing this she is waiting to get operated on, and we are thinking of calling it off.

What do you guys think?

Despite what PETA thinks, pets are not people. They have multiple births because in the wild many, if not most, do not survive. That is not true for pets that live in an artificial environment. Offspring will need to be either destroyed (as would happen in the wild) or supported. Finding homes for these animals means those homes are not available for rescued animals, and even these pets may end up contributing to the feral population which contributes to the destruction of the natural habitat of “native” animals such as birds.

By having a house pet, you have created an unnatural situation that has to be dealt with by other than “natural” means. I know of at least one OC Greek priest who would say that having house pets, in and of itself, is a sin since in his view, animals are to be strictly utilitarian, not pampered, but I don’t think he represents the teaching of the Church as a whole.

Unless you plan on running a cat farm and either finding homes for or caring for all the offspring, spaying is the responsible thing to do and the Ecumenical Patriarch would probably back that up as a rather well-known environmentalist.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain
Herman the not a pet Pooh

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#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 06 November 2009 – 04:02 PM

Man has been given that innate sense of responsibility for creation which includes tending and caring for it. Of course the debate is ongoing about whether certain practices really tend or care for or whether they are abusive; but this is part of the larger point that as humans we are always in a relationship to creation. There is no way in which we can extricate ourselves from this relationship.

The other side of this relationship though is also important to keep in mind; for it is often overlooked in the contemporary discussions of this question. ie animals themselves are also innately attracted towards us. That in fact is how domestication of animals first occurred. Therefore from this attraction comes a responsibility towards such creatures.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

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#5 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 06 November 2009 – 06:24 PM

“Animal rights” advocates do greatly err when they assume that everything animals do is natural and therefore good. Animals are also affected by the fall, and therefore not everything they do is truly natural or good. They prey upon each other and upon man, they pollute and degrade the environment, and they breed compulsively whether or not an increase is needed in their numbers. It is man’s responsibility to tame the fallen beast to make it suitable for the service of man and God. Spaying or neutering is one very reasonable way of doing this.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 06 November 2009 – 06:51 PM.

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#6 Rick H.

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Posted 06 November 2009 – 06:40 PM

I think it is possible that some beasts are better left alone–especially Canadian beasts!

#7 Alice

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Posted 06 November 2009 – 08:47 PM

Brian Patrick Mitchell said

“Animal rights” advocates do greatly err when they assume that everything animals do is natural and therefore good. Animals are also affected by the fall, and therefore not everything they do is truly natural or good. They prey upon each other and upon man, they pollute and degrade the environment, and they breed compulsively whether or not an increase is needed in their numbers. It is man’s responsibility to tame the fallen beast to make it suitable for the service of man and God. Spaying or neutering is one very reasonable way of doing this.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

Interesting post. I never thought about animals also being affected by the fall, but I have thought about how some of the are kind of evil…

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#8 Father David Moser

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Posted 07 November 2009 – 03:25 AM

Herman Blaydoe said

Despite what PETA thinks, pets are not people. They have multiple births because in the wild many, if not most, do not survive.

Herman has an excellent point here. Pets are not people. If you do not spay or neuter your pet, be sure that YOU are willing and able to care for any and all offspring that may result from their “natural” interaction with other animals. You are the one responsible, not them, for the care and feeding of their offspring for the life of those animals (and for the grand, grand, grand (etc) children of the original pet. Are you ready and able to care for all those animals? If not, perhaps you should take the non-sinful and extremely appropriate action of spaying or neutering your pet.

Fr David Moser
Who has raised enough litters of pups to know the truth.

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#9 Christophoros

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Posted 07 November 2009 – 06:39 PM

I’m not exactly sure how my opinion on this subject relates to Orthodoxy, but my understanding is this in relation to canines: the domestic dog is not the product of natural selection, but selective breeding by man. In most breeds, we have removed many of the natural, God-given instincts and traits of wild dogs in order to make them more useful or enjoyable to humans. We have even created breeds that would have absolutely no chance to survive in the wild (see the “toy breeds” among others) that frankly wouldn’t exist without the influence of man. Because man essentially “designed” these animals for our use, it is our responsibility to care for them, and controlling their population when we live in a culture that considers them quite disposable is essential to prevent further negelect and abuse.

In Christ,
Chris

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#10 Olga

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Posted 07 November 2009 – 09:43 PM

Christophoros said

I’m not exactly sure how my opinion on this subject relates to Orthodoxy, but my understanding is this in relation to canines: the domestic dog is not the product of natural selection, but selective breeding by man. In most breeds, we have removed many of the natural, God-given instincts and traits of wild dogs in order to make them more useful or enjoyable to humans. We have even created breeds that would have absolutely no chance to survive in the wild (see the “toy breeds” among others) that frankly wouldn’t exist without the influence of man. Because man essentially “designed” these animals for our use, it is our responsibility to care for them, and controlling their population when we live in a culture that considers them quite disposable is essential to prevent further negelect and abuse.

In Christ,
Chris

Good points, Chris. On the other hand, domestication and selective breeding in cats has led to essentially superficial, cosmetic changes (variations in coat colour, mainly). Otherwise, a cat remains, fundamentally a cat, with all the wherewithall of its ancient ancestry. Many have observed that cats, not being pack animals as are dogs, have allowed themselves to partake of the benefits human interaction, but not to submit completely to human intervention.

Because cats are entirely capable of reverting to their ancestral instincts if they are removed from a “domestic” environment, all the more reason for people to be aware of the consequences of not desexing their pets. All too often, litters of kittens are killed inhumanely, or, perhaps worse, let loose to fend for themselves, either to die, or to become feral. Here in Australia, there is the perennial debate about the damaging effect feral cats have had on wildlife populations.

Another benefit of desexing male dogs and cats is that, done at the right time, will curb much of the natural aggression which may manifest itself as the animal matures. If anything, a desexed male dog or cat becomes a more even-tempered, affectionate pet.

And, for the record, my family had pet cats for more than 35 years (and I still do), and all of them were desexed at the appropriate age.

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#11 L. Allen

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Posted 08 November 2009 – 12:09 PM

If you do not spay an animal, and she is not able to become pregnant, she will constantly go into heat for nothing. Some animals are susceptible to what is called phantom pregnancy, where the physical symptoms of pregnancy occur. It’s really not kind to keep a ‘whole’ animal unless you are a knowledgeable breeder.

I’m not sure animals’ desire to have babies is very much like the human desire. One hopes we don’t want babies just in order to have something to care for and to carry on our genes: we want babies who will be part of our family. Given that most animals don’t seem to remember their children once these are grown, I don’t think the same is true of them!

#15 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 09 November 2009 – 09:01 PM

Adrian said

It matters what God thinks. I think that it hurts animals.

What does eating animals do, then? Yes I know that monks don’t eat meat but God has not put us all under that obedience and the Apostle Paul is quite extensive on the subject, even Christ ate lamb and fish. Animals are here in the service of man.

Spaying and neutering pets is more uncomfortable than painful. Ask a veterinarian.

Herman the carnivore Pooh

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#16 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 November 2009 – 09:58 PM

In light of this discussion it is very enlightening to note that in The Lives of Saints, the saints always have a commanding and supervisory role over animals. This applies even as they show extreme compassion to animals. In this attitude of compassion however there is no sentimentalism.

This attitude is found especially among monastic saints; eg St Gerasimos and the lion.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

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#17 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 09 November 2009 – 10:33 PM

Adrian said

It matters what God thinks. I think that it hurts animals.

Circumcision hurts little baby boys, too, but God for a long time didn’t mind that.

I’ve never watched a vet spay or neuter an animal, but I’d be surprised if it weren’t done with at least a local anesthetic nowadays.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 09 November 2009 – 11:25 PM.

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#18 Paul Cowan

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Posted 09 November 2009 – 10:46 PM

Fr Raphael Vereshack said

This attitude is found especially among monastic saints; eg St Gerasimos and the lion.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

And,

St. Zosimas and the lion (St. Mary of Egypt story)
St. Seraphim of Sarov and the bear
St. (I forget his name) and the snake in the monastery kitchen.
Noah and the raven
Elder who sent the talking deer to rebuke the emperor who only got angry at the deer and tried to kill it.
Elder whose donkey got killed by the lion so he commanded the lion to carry the donkey’s load to town for him.

I am sure there are many more.

I have one fixed male dog and 1 male and female not fixed dogs. We are hoping for a litter. I doubt it will happen. There is a severe height issue. Is it a sin to get them fixed or not? no! is it a sin to not be responsible for the talents (whatever they happen to be are) we are given? yes! It is wrong to run a puppy mill. It is not wrong to have puppies to give away or sell. Just like humans, each case is uniquely different. Sin is not a broad stroke on all topics.

Paul

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#19 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 09 November 2009 – 11:29 PM

Fr Raphael Vereshack said

In light of this discussion it is very enlightening to note that in The Lives of Saints, the saints always have a commanding and supervisory role over animals. This applies even as they show extreme compassion to animals. In this attitude of compassion however there is no sentimentalism.

To add Fr. Raphael’s comment (warning?) about sentimentalism, I once heard sentimentalism defined as “caring more for something than God Himself cares for it.” That may be the problem here.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

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