DEAR READERS: My memory of seeing cattle handlers restrain young bulls for branding and castration was triggered when I saw the footage of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He nonchalantly kept one hand in his pocket while his knee and body weight were on the neck and throat of the handcuffed and prone George Floyd, with other officers alongside. As a veterinarian with a doctoral degree in ethology (animal behavior), I have a trained eye for interpreting the behavior of humans and other animals, and I was immediately struck by the similarity of the two situations. A man was treated like some beast, without any compassion or respect — only power and control, which proved fatal.


Racism and speciesism are coins of the same inhumane currency, as are hate crimes and crimes of indifference and neglect. Jewish author Isaac Bashevis Singer, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978, made the comparison in several of his stories, including "The Penitent" and "The Letter Writer." In the former, the protagonist says, "When it comes to animals, every man is a Nazi."


This endemic virus of inhumanity, cruelty and injustice makes the COVID-19 pandemic pale in comparison. There is no vaccine to make us humane and responsible citizens and planetary stewards — only the examples of good parents, teachers and leaders. As I have urged in my book "The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures and Creation," respect for all life is a boundless ethic, and is the essential cornerstone of any viable society. The essence of democracy in spirit and politics is egalitarianism: equal and fair consideration and justice for all sentient beings.


DEAR DR. FOX: We began feeding a stray female cat years ago. She has had several litters, and the local SPCA took in many of them. I have tried to catch her with a Havahart trap without success. Is there anything available that could be put in a cat's food to sterilize them? I believe I saw a news program about a town in New York where they had a deer population problem, and they put something in baited food that sterilized them. — J.O., Staatsburg, New York


DEAR J.O.: Here is a recent posting that answers your question. The Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs (acc-d.org) is a nonprofit whose mission is to advance nonsurgical sterilants and contraceptives for cats and dogs and to promote their global accessibility. I took the following information from their website on May 29:


"In light of the need to provide healthcare workers with protective gear, conserve resources and to maintain social distancing, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an order to limit both human and veterinary 'non-essential' or 'elective' surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Surgical sterilization (spay/neuter surgeries) are being defined by some organizations/local or state governments as non-essential. Animal welfare organizations and veterinarians are concerned about how this policy will impact their work. Several influential entities in veterinary medicine have advised animal shelters, spay/neuter clinics and veterinarians to comply with this order by deferring sterilization surgeries for dogs and cats and continuing to manage adoptions. Organizations and professionals are understandably worried that pregnancies will result in unwanted litters that will further stress shelter intake and the community when shelter resources will be low and community need high, especially during high seasonal reproduction for cats."


The organization then provides the following statement from veterinarian Julie Levy:


"COVID-19 brought a sudden need to evacuate animal shelters across the country, and communities responded by taking thousands of pets into their homes. There wasn't even time to spay and neuter before they were placed. I support ACC&D's recommendation that the field deploy megestrol acetate as a stop-gap contraceptive for female cats to prevent heat cycling and pregnancy until surgery comes back online." — Dr. Julie Levy, DVM, Ph.D.


A local veterinarian or the SPCA should be able to help you get the hormone to put in the cat's food to stop her from having even more kittens.


(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.


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