Beyond the Basics of Responsible Pet Ownership

Bober shares his thoughts on the importance of responsible pet ownership before you get a pet with the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).

Pets – furry, scaly, feathery, or otherwise – inhabit approximately 80 million U.S. homes. They are the source, and recipients, of a lot of love and affection. Responsible Pet Ownership Month has long emphasized the importance of veterinary and grooming care, pet-proofing your house, healthy diets, and more for maximizing the human-animal bond and your pet’s wellbeing.

However, responsible pet ownership doesn’t begin the moment your pet arrives at your home. Considering whether to adopt a companion animal long-term begins months or weeks before. Your pet may continue to have this effect even after you relinquish it.

The considerations you should make before taking a pet into your home

Finding the right companion animal is the most important consideration for a potential pet owner. It is not an easy task. You must consider your home’s size, your family’s size, allergies, finances, and home restrictions. Are your children or your home at risk of being injured by a high-energy dog? Is your living space large enough to accommodate a large dog, and do you have space for cat litter? If you have a pet that requires less direct care, such as a fish or snake, you should consider floor and counter space as well as any restrictions your home owner association may have.

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In addition to finances, there are other factors to consider. Cats and dogs cost more than $2,200 per year to care for, according to a recent study. Even if you can’t bring Fido home right now, that’s okay! Wait until you are financially able to support a companion animal before getting another pet.

Going to the right source is also crucial to finding the right pet. Recent research from the American Pet Products Association found that one-third of Americans own a cat or dog rescued from a shelter or rescue organization. Four percent of dog owners buy their pets from a store, and one-fifth go directly to a breeder. Cat owners find their pets on the street about one-third of the time. It is common for fish to be purchased from specialty or pet stores, for birds to be taken in, purchased, or given by family and friends, and for reptiles to be found as strays or obtained from pet stores.

Each of these sources has its own benefits. Your preferences determine where you should find your pet – there is no best source. In order to ensure the welfare of animals under care, caretakers must put animal welfare above profit. A pet that fits your situation is what matters most.

Pet ownership considerations

After you’ve found the perfect pet, it’s time to take care of it. Your pet may need vaccinations depending on its health. The importance of proper food, water, and housing cannot be overstated. Training and socialization are crucial for dogs and other pets.

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In addition to taking care of your pet, you should also take care of yourself. Handwashing and basic sanitation can prevent most animal-transmitted illnesses, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Tracking your pet is very important. In a recent press release, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association recommended collars with contact information and microchips. (Don’t worry, microchipping is virtually painless for pets.) Microchipping is affordable and ensures that rescues and shelters can quickly return your pet if you lose it. Most pets are chipped before they arrive at your home – this is one way to differentiate legitimate breeders from unethical ones.

It may not be appropriate for everyone or every pet to have a microchip. Nevertheless, millions of pet owners can keep track of their pets using this method.

Making sure your pet has a future without you

Sadly, not all human-animal bonds last a lifetime. You should not let your pet out into the wild if you are unable to properly care for it. Responsible pet ownership and care involves being aware of invasive species – such as fish or snakes that are not native to an environment. As an alternative to releasing potentially invasive species into the wild, pet stores often offer surrender programs for pets that can be adopted out to rescues, shelters, friends, or family.

Companion animals may outlive their owners in the case of some long-lived species. Plan for your pet’s future care in advance to avoid confusion and difficult decisions.

That’s all there is to it!

That’s all there is to it! Be a responsible pet owner before, during, and – if necessary – after your pet’s care is on your shoulders. The right pet should be chosen, cared for at home, and then, if necessary, placed in the best home afterward.

Mike Bober is the President and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. PIJAC is the educational, advocacy, and legislative voice of the responsible pet trade.

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