By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Affairs and Alliances
For many years I oversaw large-scale pet adoption programs at animal shelters. It was not unusual for an adopter midway through the process to say, “It is harder to adopt a pet than it is to adopt a child!” While a bit exaggerated, such remarks do contain an element of truth. Shelters and rescue groups tend to ask lots of questions. They are not trying pry unnecessarily, but only want to make sure the match is as perfect as possible.
The decision to adopt a pet should be taken very seriously. All too often adopters enter into the decision without carefully considering the gravity of the responsibility they are assuming. Like a Las Vegas drive-through wedding to someone whose name you can’t exactly recall, making an impulse decision to take on a pet can carry regret! That tiny, adorable puppy who grows up to be the size of a reindeer may not be the best fit for a studio apartment. And, the cute little kitten may not know the difference between her scratching post and your silk draperies.
The key message here? Understand what it means to be a responsible pet parent before the adoption. February is Responsible Pet Ownership month, which we thought was a perfect time to highlight what makes a good pet parent. Compare the list below with your guardianship of your furry friend.
Safe Shelter: Unlike our human children, our pets never really grow up. They count on us to make the best decisions on their behalf throughout their lives. Given a choice between staying in your yard or bolting down a busy street, they will too often choose the latter. Since our pets don’t always know what’s best for them, we must constantly remind them. A secure enclosure is a must. Even the well-trained pet will occasionally succumb to temptation. So, fence your yard with an electronic containment system and train your pets as to the boundaries to give them freedom and keep them safe. And, provide adequate shelter from the weather, preferably inside your home.
Training: A well-trained pet is a happy pet. All too often, pet owners expect their pets to arrive pre-programmed to live up to owner expectations. That
rarely NEVER happens. Pets must be properly trained to understand what is expected. Teach them the parameters of proper behavior and you will find that they are usually quite eager to please! Employ the services of a professional trainer and use the many training and behavioral enrichment products on the market. Problem behaviors such as excessive barking, chewing and leg-lifting can be fixed. Training is a big part of the formula for a happy pet, a happy pet owner and happy neighbors!
Nutrition: Make sure that your pet is fed the right food for his species, age, size and condition. A proper diet along with regular exercise (sound familiar?) will help keep your best friends healthy for years to come. A premium diet and readily available, fresh water are essential components of responsible pet ownership. And, did you know that pets, especially cats, prefer flowing water? Check out our full line of Drinkwell fountains!
Veterinary Care: Your pet should visit his veterinarian for an annual check-up for routine preventative care. Vaccinations, parasite control and other preventative medicine are critical. And, your veterinarian will give your pet a thorough exam and should catch most health problems in their earliest stages. Establishing a strong relationship with your pet’s health care professionals will ensure peace of mind when things are great AND when things go wrong.
There is one final ingredient necessary for true responsible pet ownership. It is perhaps the most essential ingredient: love. Love your pets and meet all their basic physical and behavioral needs. They will provide a lifetime of unconditional love and unwavering gratitude in return.
What can you do today to become an even more responsible pet owner? Leave your response in the comment section below to be entered to win a Lickety Stik 3-pack!
Jim Tedford serves as PetSafe’s Director of Animal Affairs and Alliances. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.