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A Dog’s (and Cat’s) Best Friend: Esther Rosenthal Mechler ’64

Some advocates of pet population control have high-profile soapboxes. Most daytime TV viewers have seen Bob Barker sign off from his “Price Is Right” show with a plug for pet spaying and neutering.But others, like Esther Rosenthal Mechler ’64 of Trumbull, Connecticut, work tirelessly behind the scenes to raise awareness of the population explosion among dogs and cats.

Each year, more than twelve million dogs and cats are killed in shelters across the country, reports the American Humane Association. Most are less than eighteen months old, and about 90 percent are healthy and adoptable.

Volunteer groups have tried for three decades to increase the adoption of pets, but the sheer numbers make that solution impossible. For example, on any given day, 10,000 human beings are born in the United States while 70,000 puppies and kitten are also born. That’s seven pets for each new person.

Mechler has worked for twenty years to curtail pet overpopulation through education, sterilization, and legislation. Working out of her home, Mechler founded SPAY/USA in 1990, a national referral service for low-cost spay/neutering (1-800-248-SPAY). The network, which is part of the Pet Savers Foundation of Port Washington, New York, now involves more than seven hundred clinics and thirty-five hundred veterinarians across the country. She has produced a widely distributed video about discarded pets, called “Throwaways.”

SPAY/USA recently received a plug from Dear Abby in her syndicated advice column. “I’m delighted to know that your program, which resolves the problem of homeless, unwanted pets without destroying them, is a making a difference,” said Abby.

In honor of Mechler’s work, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation of Morristown, New Jersey, recently awarded her its first Humane Ethics in Action Award, a prize that recognizes “a humane leader anywhere in the United States whose achievements advance the possibilities of a more humane society.”


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