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Responsibilities of Pet Ownership
It's Important To Do Your Homework First. Here's Help
What percentage of American households are also homes to pets? A little over 60%. That comes out to about 70 million American houses with pets in residence. Perhaps you’re thinking about making it 70 million and 1.
It's a hard number to track, though, because in most states, only dogs and ferrets have to be registered, but it's safe to say that pets live in a majority of American homes, and for good reasons; they provide companionship, protection and unconditional love. A lot of folks enjoy other benefits such as the beauty and tranquility of an aquarium, or simply the fascination of relating to another species.
If you're thinking that your household would be enriched by the addition of a pet, you're probably right. But before you run out pet shopping, all the members of the household should do some serious thinking about a number of issues.
Are pets allowed where you live? Condo or homeowners association or landlord rules may regulate the species and size of pets, or prohibit them outright. Or, if you're planning to own certain pets, such as pygmy goats, pot-bellied pigs, or exotic birds such as peacocks, guinea fowl or other poultry, make sure your property is properly zoned.
You'll have to choose an animal that no one is allergic to or afraid of, and one that everyone will respect and care for properly. It will have to be an animal that all of you will be willing to prepare meals for, clean up after, and socialize with.
THERE ARE THREE BIG LIES IN THIS WORLD
● The check is in the mail.
● I’ll start my diet tomorrow.
● “Please, Mommy, I’ll take care of it, I promise.”
Parents, don’t fall for that last one. It's the oldest trick in the book, and there probably isn't a kid hoping for a pet that hasn't used it.
The hard fact is that the novelty of having a pet will wear off quickly, especially in this era of electronic devices and social media, and the kids will soon be off on what to them are exciting new adventures.
Foremost in your mind should be the eventuality that when you bring an animal into your home, you're the one who will be responsible for its health and well being.
Be prepared for the realization that sometimes that means putting the animal's needs before your own.
And you've got to be prepared to make a commitment in time and money to be able to properly care for your pet.
Prepare to pay for special foods, health care, housing, environmental enrichment options in the form of toys and treats, and other supplies such as leashes, feed dishes and what every pet household needs...stain and odor removers.
If you select a social animal, such as a dog, cat, rodent or bird, it will need for you to do more than feed and water it. Dog's are especially needy in this area.
A well adjusted dog is one that enjoys his owner's attention. That means long walks, playtime, grooming sessions and, whenever possible, accompanying you on errands or other short trips.
You should be prepared to spend quality time with it on a daily basis, engaged in personal contact activities.
In addition to your personal attention, your pet will need a proper diet, housing, exercise and medical care. Veterinarians will be happy to discuss their fees and recommended schedules for inoculations, parasite checks, physicals, spaying/neutering, and other health matters.
When you've decided what species of pet you want, visit different stores that sell pet supplies and try to determine if the staff is knowledgeable, if the store is well-stocked, and if the food, treats and health supplies are fresh. You can look for expiration dates on consumables and you can determine the costs for housing, accessories, treats, toys, and health & grooming items.
Do a lot of research about the pet you select. Talk to a vet, pet store personnel, shelter workers, trainers, groomers and other professionals who can help you establish realistic expectations about your pet.
Use caution when considering information you find on the Internet. There's a lot of good material and a lot of bad material to be had. Personally, I prefer objective, science-based sites that end in dot-org, dot-gov or dot-edu.
● AVMA.org (The American Veterinary Medical Association) and there are others such as the Amercan Animal Hospital Association that typically have pet owner sections on their web sites.
Most states have their own veterinary medical associations and many of them have web pages for pet owners.
● USDA.gov (The United States Department of Agriculture). If you visit this site, select the APHIS tab. That stands for Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service and it offers a wealth of information. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is another good site.
● VET.Tufts.edu/ is the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. There are other vet schools, too (such as Cornell), that have pages for pet owners.
Manufacturers of pet foods, toys, treats and other supplies also have web sites with some good information. Just keep in mind that their info is frequently spun to their advantage, but the science is usually pretty reliable.
You'll sometimes find conflictinginformation from reliable sources because animal husbandry is not always an exact science. Until we can talk with the animals, there will always be areas that are subject to interpretation, experience and various training protocols. When that happens, I search several sources and hopefully come up with a consensus.
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When you've determined what type of pet you want, consider making shelters and rescue groups your first stop.
There are rescue groups for various species' of animals and, in some cases, specific breeds within a given species.
And, before you even pick your pet up, have an appointment set up with a veterinarian for an examination.
Regardless of the assurances of the providers of the animal, you should make sure it's healthy before you bring it into your home, especially if you have other animals.
Be realistic. An animal that appears healthy to a layperson may not necessarily be healthy.
We're not trained or experienced in recognizing symptoms in animals, and often times even the vet must do diagnostic studies to confirm the animal’s state of health.
A number of studies have demonstrated that pets provide tangible health benefits to their human families. They've been credited with many things, from helping to reduce blood pressure to building self esteem in individuals who question their own worth.
To enhance the quality of life around the old homestead, there's nothing like a pet; especially one that's been carefully researched, approved, and chosen by all members of the household.