Pet Ownership & Responsibilities
Where should I get a pet?
There are many factors to consider when accepting the responsibility of pet guardianship. The choice of pet may be dictated by the environment you intend to house the pet, the type of family members or other pets in the household, certain allergic reactions to pet dander, and the lifestyle of the guardian(s).
The most socially responsible, benevolent place to obtain a pet is from the local animal shelter. These pets have been abandoned, surrendered or picked up off the street by animal control officers. The majority of these unwanted creatures are an excellent choice for a pet. Unfortunately, millions must be euthanized due to overcrowding. The overabundance of homeless domestic pets is the direct result of irresponsible breeding or simple ignorance regarding the ability of pets to breed at an early age. In our housecall practice we have learned that many, many pet owners feel it is their right to breed their pet. For each puppy or kitten born through home breeding another shelter pet is displaced from a potential home.
The next best place to obtain a pet is through a reputable rescue organization. Hundreds of dedicated organizations and intrepid individuals rescue unwanted pets from shelters as well as any unsafe or inhumane situation. These organizations work with area veterinarians and foster parents to house these pets and tend to their medical needs. These organizations are non-profit and operate through donations or are completely self-funded. A reputable rescue group will scrutinize any potential new owner and possibly the home before adoption. They will provide medical and personality information as well as recommendations for care. They may even have you sign a contract.
Another potential source of pet is from the stray population in your neighborhood. This method is probably the most common way to acquire a new family member. Our family seemed to always have a new pet when it simply showed up at the door. Most of the time these pets are in need of medical attention and should be examined as soon as possible to prevent any communicable disease from spread to humans or other pets in the household. They should be checked for a microchip at the veterinary facility. There may be other identifiers such as a tatoo or collar. Check the local shelter or missing posters in your neighborhood.
The next best source of pet if one desires a specific breed is through a reputable breeder. These people operate a business and are licensed to do so. Their reputation can be investigated through previous customers or through established organizations like the AKC (American Kennel Club). Certain breeds are known for specific medical disorders that can be avoided through proper breeding and certification of the parents through veterinarians. Most breeders are very conscientious and very knowledgeable about their breed. The recommendations of breeders regarding the feeding, vaccination and other care may or may not be medically sound. Always confer with a veterinarian.
The next best source of a pet is from a neighbor pet’s litter. While you are providing a home to an animal who has been the least exposed to disease, you are supporting a the practice of home breeding previously discouraged above. Watch out for potential inbreeding with this source.
The least desirable way to obtain a pet is through a retail establishment. The most common source of these young pets is through a massive breeding operation, ie, “puppy mill”, usually somewhere in the Midwest. These animals are bred and housed in less than optimum, crowded conditions and very often arrive with significant disease or parasitic infestation. These pets are usually an impulse buy and many times little consideration is given to the appropriateness of the particular pet. Purchase of pets from retail establishments is only supporting the mass commerce of living beings for profit and should be avoided.
What is humane housing for cats?
Cats require very little to maintain themselves as evidenced by the tremendous wild urban population living ‘off the land’. In the confines of a home the cat needs a clean litter box, food and water. Protection from violence inflicted by other animals or humans. A scratching post, cat toys and a clean bed are nice additions. And that’s about it. What is inhumane? Unsanitary? What would be considered to be overcrowded conditions? One cat per 400 square feet is a good rule of thumb. There should be one litter box per cat plus one extra box. Any number of cats in excess of these guidelines will usually cause foul conditions for pets and people. For example, the average home of 1500 square feet should house no more than 4 indoor cats. I have had clients with 5 cats. Most of these homes have an unmistakable aroma. But some manage to disperse the waste products successfully and retain a pleasing air with the aid of tasteful potpourri. In general it is my opinion, more than 5 cats in the average 3 bedroom home may breed unsanitary conditions for the cats and humans alike. If one keeps a quantity of pets in one’s home it is one’s responsibility to keep the home sanitary for the health of all concerned. Ask your friends if they detect an odor of urine; you may no longer be able to tell. There are extreme examples of animal collection. The housecall veterinarian will inevitably be called to a home where the conditions are unhealthful for mammals. We will attempt to tactfully point out unhealthy situations without laying blame. Not everyone has the ability to identify a problem when their intention of helping local homeless pets obscures the unsanitary conditions that are detrimental to their intention. Rarely have I identified a lingering problem of intercat aggression Usually the hierarchy is sorted out by the cats.
What is humane housing for dogs?
Humane conditions for a dog include the basics: proper nutrition, safe housing, plenty of exercise. Love and affection is ideal. Is it necessary? Dogs can survive without it. Will it extend the life of dog and owner? Probably. Each family sets their own boundaries as to where the pet and the human will coexist. Some prefer a strictly backyard dog. On the other end of the spectrum, some folks cuddle up over or under the covers, ie., no boundaries exist (you know who you are). There is no right or wrong unless the conditions are detrimental to the health of the inhabitants. The safe housing for a dog refers to conditions that prefer the safety of the dog. Namely, this involves the lack of predator-prey relationships between the dog and the indigenous wild animals. Dangerous animals in the house include other dogs that seek to do battle to settle a dispute. Most dogs nip during playtime. If the dogs are consistently drawing blood, this is an unsafe environment. If dogs are causing damage to each other, they need to live in separate homes.
What is animal abuse?
Dangerous humans are those who are ignorant and/or negligent with regards to pet custodianship. Sometimes in order to understand humane conditions, inhumane conditions must be identified. 1. Tying or chaining a dog in the yard all day is inhumane 2. Beating a dog is inhumane 3. Not noticing the dog is being sucked dry by fleas is inhumane. 4. Not attending to a wound for more than 24 hours is inhumane 5. Locking dogs in a filthy, cramped space is inhumane. 6. Allowing any deteriorating disease to linger without treatment is inhumane. Chances are, dear reader, if you are reading this, you responsible enough to understand the described inhumanity. You would, however, be surprised to hear there are many pet owners who allow these conditions to occur. Turn not a blind eye toward those who would mistreat animals.