Cultural awareness for veterinary clinicians

This guide is designed to help veterinary clinicians to consider cultural differences in clients

Cultural Perceptions on Animal Sterilization

Attitudes towards pet sterilization vary widely between countries, cultures, and religions. Understanding these differences can help veterinary clinicians better communicate with clients. The differences between cultures can be striking. As an example, 85% of Sweden’s 1 million dogs are purebred, 80% of which carry private health insurance. Due to strong cultural opposition to non-medical surgical sterilization, most Swedish dogs are reproductively intact. In comparison, 60% of households in rural areas of Zimbabwe keep dogs primarily for protecting property and livestock. However, nearly all of these dogs are free-roaming, unsterilized and undernourished, and their average life expectancy is 1.1 years, with 71.8 % of them dying within the first year of life. It is often the case that developing countries with a homeless pet problem do not have moral objections to the sterilization of these animals; the problem persists more before of cost. Mexico, Thailand, India, Turkey, and South Africa all have large homeless pet populations.

Several American city and local governments have adopted mandatory spay-neuter ordinances, but the stray animal issue is low on the priority list for some cash-strapped cities. Estimates vary, but it is estimated that there are between 50 and 70 million feral cats in the United States. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates about 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters every year. In a recent study, most Americans agreed or strongly agreed that sterilization can provide health benefits (65%), but conversely, almost the same percentage (64%) agreed, strongly agreed, or were neutral in response to the statement that “Spaying and neutering operations can be dangerous”. (Glasser 2021) It does not require a very high percentage of the American population to be ambivalent to the spaying/neutering of pets to maintain a pool of breeding animals that contribute to the overpopulation problem. Lack of information on the side effects of sterilization can lead to erroneous assumptions across cultures, and gender differences are well documented. A 1994 study in Australia found that men were almost twice as likely as women to agreed that desexing male dogs removed maleness when asked “Do you equate dog sexuality with human sexuality?”

In Turkey, the Turkish Animal Protection Law requires that ownerless animals be taken to a shelter and neutered, vaccinated, and released back where they originated. However, most cities do not follow this mandate. The Islamic prohibition on disfiguring animals is expressed in provisions prohibiting practices such as declawing and removal of vocal cords; neutering or spaying of animals is generally accepted in Islamic culture.


  • Blackshaw, J., & Day, C. Attitudes of dog owners to neutering pets: Demographic data and effects of owner attitudes. 1994. Australian Veterinary Journal, 71(4):113–116.
  • Butler, J, & Bingham, J. Demography and dog–human relationships of the dog population in Zimbabwean communal lands. 2000. Veterinary Record:147, 442–446.
  • Glasser, C. Attitudes Toward Spay/Neuter in the US Population: Urban/Rural, Cat/Dog, and Demographic Differences. 2021. Anthrozoös:34, 93-107.
  • Kelch, T. Cultural solipsism, cultural lenses, universal principles, and animal advocacy. 2012. Pace University School of Law. Website:
  • Malm, S. Breeding for improved health in Swedish dogs. 2007. European Journal of Companion Animal Practice:17, 75–77.
  • Toukhsati S, Phillips C, Podberscek A, Coleman G. Semi-Ownership and Sterilisation of Cats and Dogs in Thailand. 2012. Animals (Basel) 6;2(4):611-27.
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2023 11:27 AM