This Is Nuts
Fact: a common method used to castrate young bulls in Saskatchewan is to snap a small heavy elastic band around the base of the scrotum until the testicles dry up and fall off. How, you ask? Well, apparently after a week or two of banding, blood flow to the area stops, and the testicles are sloughed off.
I first learned that from my parents, who both grew up on family farms surrounded by serene prairie, pastoral scenes and — apparently — desiccated balls.
Maybe it was the glib, mechanical way in which they related the process; maybe it was the thought of having the life blood slowly pinched out of a dear appendage; or maybe it was all those twisted anthropomorphic Disney movies I watched growing up in the suburbs; in any event, I was seriously discomfited.
It sounds gross, disgusting and outrageous — but it’s nothing compared to the outrage and disgust you’re going to experience learning about the latest trend in do-it-yourself pet health care. If you’re squeamish, a devoted animal lover or feel strong sympathy pains when you watch men getting kicked in the “tenders,” as my nephew refers to them, read on at your own risk.
Shockingly, the number of dogs in this province that have been seriously injured recently as a result of their owners using the ball band technique has become so problematic that veterinarians and the Saskatchewan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) are speaking out.
“When we got the first complaint, we were concerned,” says Kaley Pugh,manager of animal protection services at the SSPCA. When reports continued to filter in from veterinarians, Pugh says they knew they had to intercede.
“I’m not sure that it’s a new phenomenon, but we had so many in such a short period of time. I do suspect that it’s something that’s been going on for a while,” she says.
On the farm, the castration of bulls is relatively routine in Saskatchewan (although it’s banned by some countries that consider it inhumane). If a bull hasn’t been surgically castrated, it was probably already castrated as a young calve using elastration. The heavy, small Elastrator Band rings look a little like monocolour Fruit Loops when they’re not being stretched out by the specially sized instrument used to apply them to the animal.
However, horses, pigs and dogs can’t be castrated using elastration.
“The [dogs] brought to the Saskatchewan SPCA have been [from] rural communities. My assumption is that these people use the method for livestock, and think the method works for dogs,” says Judy Currie, registrar at the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association.
Besides the fact that castration by banding causes extreme pain for the dog, there are a few other very good reasons not to try this technique on your pet at home, Currie says.
First, “[Elastration] is supposed to be used on animals that are very young — less than a week old. Dogs don’t get neutered until they’re several months old,” says Currie. If the testicles haven’t fully descended, the whole effort is pointless.
Second, dogs (shockingly!) have a different anatomy than cattle. “Dogs have more tissue around the neck of the scrotum that would need to be clamped up,” Currie explains. In order for banding to be effective, the ring needs to be tight enough to cut off all blood flow to the scrotum and testicles — which doesn’t happen with dogs.
Third, dogs (shockingly!) behave differently than farm animals. This is where the most gruesome consequences of this gruesome event can occur.
“Livestock tend not to groom themselves as dogs do. If there’s a foreign object on their body, dogs will try to get it off — so the dog is licking at it, keeping it wet, potentially inflicting a secondary infection,” Currie says.
In a worst-case scenario, if you attach something that causes him discomfort, your dog will likely try to remove the offending object with his teeth, and end up mutilating his own genitals.
At that point, dogs “would likely need antibiotics and pain control medication. They would likely need to be hospitalized, and they would very likely need surgical intervention to remove the product, or rotting tissue,” says Currie.
Ultimately, it will cost far more to repair the damage done after that type of neutering attempt than it would to get the neutering procedure done by a veterinarian.
“Usually neutering is a day surgery. Surgeries are done in the morning, and dogs spend the afternoon recovering,” says Currie.
Not only should they be prepared for grisly complications and an unhappy pet, owners who put their dogs at risk through home neutering can be charged for violations of The Animal Protection Act or the Criminal Code, Pugh says.
The City of Saskatoon offers a subsidized spay and neuter program for pets in low-income families (SSNP). If you bring your tax returns and pay a fee ($40 per dog; $20 per cat), you’ll get a list of veterinarians that participate in the program, and pretty soon you can consider your pet SSNPed.
And if you don’t qualify for the subsidized program, c’mon — you clearly have enough money to get your pet neutered by a vet. Considering the alternative — which would be that you’re a horrible, moronic human being who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an animal, much less to own one — it’s a small price to pay.