Monday, March 2, 2015

Responsible Pet Owners

We talk about being a “Responsible Pet Owner”.  Even though there is not a definitive explanation of what it means, we are certain of one thing.  When we have a pet, we have assumed total responsibility for its care. 

Personally, I feel that caring for a pet is not unlike nurturing a small child.  I am the guardian of its well-being, entrusted to care for all its needs whether physical or emotional.  It is a responsibility one should never undertake impulsively, and without due consideration of the many factors involved in having a pet.  Not being prepared can, ultimately, be disastrous for the animal.  By answering a few questions before obtaining any pet, a great deal of angst and heartache can be avoided.

Do I know what kind of pet is right for me?  By being honest with regard to the lifestyle both you and your family have, it will help determine the type, breed, size, etc. of an animal that will fit perfectly in it.  Review your current living conditions and determine if the animal is appropriate in size and energy.  If you rent, many landlords will not allow pets.  Be sure to check out any restrictions before adopting.  If you have, or are expecting, a baby consider whether or not you will have enough time available to attend to all the pet’s needs, too.  If there is already a pet present, determine if it will share its home with another animal.

Am I ready to make a long-term commitment?  Depending on the animal desired, a 10 to 20 year commitment may not be an unusual length of time required to care for it.  If circumstances change, such as moving, consider if you will still be able to care for your pet.

Can I afford to care for my pet?  Caring for a dog, depending on its size, is estimated to cost about $340 to $635 per year for food, toys, vaccinations, and an annual visit to the vet.  Cats and small mammals are estimated to cost less.  If the animal gets sick or injured, has special dietary needs or takes medication those costs can increase drastically.  In addition, while pet insurance assists with unforeseen medical issues and emergencies, it adds to the yearly costs.  Long-haired, difficult to groom animals may require frequent trips to a grooming facility. 

Will I be able to spend quality time with my pet?  Dogs thrive on exercise and companionship.  Cats are healthiest and happiest when treated to play sessions with their human guardians.  Both, when constantly unattended, can develop behavioral problems.  If work demands frequent travel, or if on most days and evenings you are not home due to other commitments, consider a pet that requires little human interaction.

Am I willing to train my pet?  One of the most common reasons that people return pets to shelters is that they are experiencing behavior difficulties.  Training not only strengthens the bond between pet and guardian, but also helps avoid many of those behavior problems.  Learning basic commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘come’ can potentially save a dog’s life.  There is an abundance of materials available to read with regard to training both cats and dogs.  In addition, shelters, veterinary offices, and rescues usually have a list of trainers who can assist in the process.  Having a pet requires time and commitment to teach it to become an enjoyable member of the family and community.

Am I willing to provide for my pets safety?  Whether it is keeping a pet away from toxic foods, plants and substances, or ensuring that outside spaces are secure, you need to be certain that the home environment is safe for the animal.  It is also imperative for the pet’s safety that they have some form of identification such as a collar and tags, tattoo or microchip, to assist in identifying them in case they become lost or stolen.  In inclement weather, adequate protection from the elements guarantees no harm comes to the animal.  Regular vet visits and vaccinations safeguard a pet against disease and illness. 

Your pet is not a possession, but a living, breathing entity.  By obtaining a pet, you have tacitly agreed to provide adequate nutrition, mental and physical exercise, medical care, shelter, and companionship, to ensure its safety and well-being.  If you are prepared to become a “Responsible Pet Owner”, then the life shared with your pet will be a richly rewarding one for everyone!


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