Joppe, a schapendoes or Dutch sheepdog, glances up at its owner Nina Thorstensen.
He whimpers, and Nina understands something is amiss. She looks him over and sees that his testicles are red and irritated. His pain apparently mounts and later she takes him to a veterinarian, who can’t pin down the cause of the affliction.
The vet concludes that the best option would be to remove the inflamed testicles because they are causing so much pain.
But experts disagree about neutering and the threshold for neutering dogs is highin Norway compared to for instance practice in the USA, where nearly all male dogs are castrated.
Focus should be on training
The Norwegian Animal Welfare Act makes it clear that surgical procedures are not to be used to adapt animals to the needs of humans, unless strictly necessary.
“It’s not the dog’s need, given there are no medical considerations,” says Torunn Knævelsrud, head of Section for Animal Welfare and Fish Health at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA).
According to the NFSA it’s essential for vets to make decisions regarding the necessity of a neutering or spaying on a case-by-case basis.
“Neutering can never be a substitute for proper training of a dog,” says Knævelsrud.
“The likelihood of diseases has to be weighed against the disadvantage of neutering,” she adds.
“As we see it the risk of healthy female dogs getting afflicted, with for instance a septic uterus or with mammary gland tumours, is not weighty enough to merit permitting spaying.”
Norway’s Animal Welfare Act was amended in 2010, and its stipulation about neutering or spaying was relaxed.
The NFSA is currently working on a regulation under the new law. The government agency has stipulated here that the neutering of dogs is permitted when mandated by utility, or if it helps give the dog a justifiable quality of life, including social contact with other dogs.
“We know that the sex drive of some male dogs makes them aggressive against others. Dogs are social animals so in such cases a veterinarian could consider such a procedure in accordance with the regulation,” says Knævelsrud.
She stresses that the regulation has not been adopted as yet, but the hope is to get it passed in the course of 2012.