Monday, February 15, 2010

Fetching pet not a chore to take lightly

If you’re going to get a pet for the first time, there are plenty of things to consider. First, it has to be a family decision, says Peggy Bender, community relations and education specialist with Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control. “Is everyone really truly committed, and in agreement? If someone is being talked into it, you’re starting off on a bad foot,” she says.

And you need to consider everything that needs to be done for the pet on a daily basis, and delegate those responsibilities. That includes feeding, walking, brushing, cleaning the litter box, letting the dog out at regular intervals and running the vacuum several times a week.

“Expose all family members to animal hair before acquiring a pet. We get animals turned in here all the time from people who say, ‘My son is allergic,’ ” she says, even from those who had indicated on the adoption form that no one had allergies.

Owners need to consider the lifespan of a pet – some cats and dogs live well into their teens, and birds can live even longer – as well as their own living situation. How busy is your household? If you’ll be moving soon, or getting married, or having a baby, it’s probably better to wait before adding a pet, Bender warns.

“The pet coming into that household needs stability to make it work. Many animals are disrupted by a lot of change,” she says.

Can you afford a pet? Costs include more than just food, treats and toys. Veterinary bills can add up quickly, even for basic preventive care, such as vaccinations, dental cleanings, heartworm pills, etc. Some dogs need regular trips to a professional groomer. Most dogs (and owners) will need a basic obedience class; some classes have fee discounts for shelter dogs, Bender says.

Do your research on potential breeds to get a sense of what behavior you might see, she says, adding that 25 percent of dogs surrendered to Animal Care and Control are purebreds. Don’t make a decision based on dog size alone.

Labs are mouthy as puppies, for example, and hounds like to howl and need room to run around. Terriers love to dig; they also like to chase (and often kill) small animals, or even cats. Herding breeds might nip small children, since that’s how they would herd animals.

In 2009, locals gave up more than 4,700 pets to the Fort Wayne shelter, she says. Meanwhile, adoptions totaled 2,505. The shelter keeps its adoptable animals until they are adopted. “Animals shelters and rescue groups have wonderful animals. …“Just be leery of getting a pet from any source whose only requirement is payment,” she says.

A reputable shelter or rescue group will have a contract and will ask about your knowledge and pet history. It also will offer support and resources if you have problems with your pet after you take it home, she says. Don’t buy pets over the holidays and don’t give a pet as a gift. Instead, offer to pay the adoption fee and let the recipient select their own pet, she suggests.

Animal Care and Control has a “cat buddy” program that allows you to adopt two felines for the price of one. And it has an “old friends” program in which you can adopt a cat or dog that’s age 5 or older for $25. “The animals in a shelter are not usually here because of the animal’s problem, they’re usually here because of circumstances beyond the animal’s control,” such as an owner’s lack of time or money, she says.


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