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Old April 27th, 2003, 11:53 PM
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It's important to be a responsible pet owner

It's important to be a responsible pet owner
By Brooky Brown
The Coshocton Tribune

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Guys throwing black trash bags filled with the remains of dead cats and dogs into a truck haunt me. I can't rid my mind of the voice that said our local animal shelter puts down 600 cats and 600 dogs every year.

Why?

Irresponsible pet owners.

This is the disturbing tale told on a video about the Coshocton County Animal Shelter. The video features adorable puppies and kittens and sad-eyed dogs -- and then those trash bags.

Recently, "Animal Planet" showed a dog that had been left out in the cold. It was too weak to stand and had only snow to eat. Another dog had a chain embedded in it's neck.

Only two days after Easter, a news show featured a woman trying to find good homes for rabbits that had been abandoned after being given as Easter gifts to children.

Therein lies some of the reason for pet abuse and neglect -- people unprepared to deal with the responsibility of becoming pet owners.

Very often we choose pets based on emotion. Excitement and warm fuzzies are appropriate feelings toward the new addition we want in our family. But that is only the beginning.

It pays to temper those emotions with research to find the right pet to fit lifestyles and personalities.

The Internet is a good place to start. Using any search engine, one can type in the breed of interest and get information on it's temperament, physical strengths and limitations, whether it is good with children and how much room and attention it needs.

Many of these sites offer evaluations to determine what breeds might be best for an individual.

In the small dog category, the recommendation for me was a West Highland White Terrier, and the Golden Retriever was the breed of choice in the medium-sized category. Abby is a Golden Retriever.

Other considerations like personal finances are important as well. The pet will require regular visits to the vet, spaying or neutering and of course, extra care if it becomes ill.

Abby's first appointment is April 29. On that day, she will get an exam, her second round of puppy shots -- the breeder administered the first series -- and we will no doubt discuss when to have her spayed.

A fervent plea from our shelter is that pet owners get their animals spayed and neutered. This would significantly reduce the number of animals that have to be put down each year, and it's the responsible thing to do.

But it isn't free. For example, spaying or neutering a dog can cost $80 to $125 or more depending on the size and sex of the dog. Responsible pet owners see that their dogs are medically fit and immunized, so this needs to be added into the family budget. The series of puppy shots alone can put a strain on an already tight budget.

And don't forget food. If you have a large dog it can eat like a ravenous, growing teen-ager. While you're training your puppy, you may have to have carpets and rugs cleaned. That also is costly.

In my opinion, responsible pet owners do not leave their dogs unattended, so there shouldn't be a need to replace a chewed sofa or recliner. Many vets now recommend crate-training for dogs. This isn't being mean. The dog considers the crate a safe place and doesn't get into trouble with an angry owner who could become abusive over chewed household items.

Puppies and kitties are cute, but, like babies, they need constant attention. Abby takes naps, but when she's awake she needs, wants and demands my attention. We play and take walks. I work with her on potty training and teaching her boundaries much as I did with my children.

When they had accidents or fell short of my expectations, I didn't throw them out of the house, and we can't do that to our pets either.

Animals are therapeutic, loyal and lots of fun. But if your lifestyle doesn't lend itself to a personal pet right now, consider befriending someone else's. Offer to pet sit, or ask to spend the day with another's dog or cat.

Whatever you do, be responsible so your pet doesn't end up in an animal shelter body bag.
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