A teenaged Marvin Mackie ’63 DVM was working all summer on the family farm at the end of the rail line in Buhl, Idaho, wondering what to do with his life.

“One day I saw a cloud of dust coming down the gravel road. It was the veterinarian and he was going to go save an animal. And the light came on.” Off Mackie went, first to the University of Idaho for his undergraduate degree, and then next door to Washington State University for his doctorate of veterinary medicine.

Mackie ended up in southern California, where he loved the weather and found lots of work. One thing he hated, though, was euthanizing pets.

“After 13 or 14 animals,” he says, “you’re getting ready to give the next dog the shot when he reaches out and licks the back of your hand… And you think, this sucks!”

Mackie says that, by the early 1970s, 19 million small animals were being euthanized every year. “There was a need for everybody involved with small animals to do something about overproduction.”

In 1976, Mackie opened a spay clinic in a suburb of Los Angeles. “When I started doing early-age surgeries, it created a bit of a firestorm,” he says. Until Mackie and a few others came along, spay and neuter procedures weren’t done until animals reached puberty at 6 months or older. But that, he says, meant too many females had “oops” litters.

Researchers backed up the efficacy and safety of early-age spaying. Meanwhile, Mackie developed his “quick spay” technique and began teaching it to other practitioners. Through experience, Mackie figured out how to streamline the entire sterilization process, from scheduling and intake and the procedure itself, to recovery and check out. And because the animals are younger, the procedure and drugs used are simpler, and the recovery process quicker.

The numbers tell the rest of the story: despite an overall increase in total number of pets, the number of euthanizations has dropped to fewer than 3 million per year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Over 5,000 copies of Mackie’s DVD, QuickSpay, have been distributed free to practitioners all over the world in both Spanish and English.