Responsible Pet Care
What does it mean to be a truly loving and responsible animal owner? Exactly what's involved in responsible pet care? Much like the fox, in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's world-famous novella, The Little Prince; we believe responsible pet ownership involves taking full responsibility for the guardianship of those creatures–the dogs, cats, or other living beings–we bring into our lives. In his confrontation with the prince, the fox told him, "Men have forgotten this truth...But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." Yes, the responsibility can sometimes weigh heavily on our shoulders, but most animal lovers wouldn't change a thing in their relationship with their animal companion(s).
The Privilege of Responsibility
The American Kennel Club, in the online article "Be a Responsible Dog Owner", makes it very clear: "Owning a dog is not just a privilege---it's a responsibility. These animals depend on us for, at a minimum, food and shelter, and deserve much more." The author offers readers a list of "some of the essential ways" a person "can be the best dog owner you can be" (and much of what they say applies to the responsible care of cats and other domesticated beings).
Think first. Don't rush to get an animal companion. Talk to friends and family; make a list of the pros and cons of pet ownership at this time in your life.
Make the commitment. Basically, this is a lifetime commitment. Are you ready, willing and able to take on the responsibilities of animal ownership for the rest of that animal's natural life?
Keep your companion healthy. Your veterinarian is your best ally your pet's physical care. If you've not already got a trusted vet you can turn to, consult our list of vet clinics.
Keep them safe. If possible, have him or her micro-chipped, and ensure the inside (and outside) of your home is both safe and secure.
Be a friend. Like any other friend in your life, your companion loves and depends on you. By regularly scheduling time to play and snuggle together, you return that love to them ten-fold.
Breed responsibly. You've heard it before: it's important to spay or neuter your animal companion. And if you do plan to breed your dog, read the American Kennel Club's Responsible Breeding Steps.
Be respectful of others. Not everyone loves your animal companion as much as you do. Enroll your dog in a training course, "scoop the poop" when walking your dog, and always keep them leashed.
While it may be more complicated to understand what's involved in responsible pet ownership, most of us are very much aware of what it means to bean inattentive, unaware animal owner (usually because of tragic news stories of animal abuse or an obvious act of thoughtlessness on someone else's part).
In fact, in the article "Tips for Responsible Pet Ownership", the website for the city of Lubbock, Texas offers this very visual portrayal of irresponsible pet ownership: "How many times have you gone outside and a dog goes running by without a care in the world? What about the neighbor who lets their animal outside to use everyone's property as their personal restroom?"
Yes, we've all seen similar acts of thoughtlessness; enough to know irresponsible animal care when we see it. But, let's get specific about what's really involved in responsible pet care: attentive and watchful care, a loving, giving nature, and a willingness to play; to have fun alongside your pet. According to the authors of "Tips for Responsible Pet Ownership", this attitude of responsibility and accountability leads responsible pet owners to take the following steps in caring for their animal companion:
Keep an I.D. tag on your pet at all times. Knowing how easily cats (and dogs) can lose their collar and I.D. tag makes it easier to understand the idea behind micro-chipping your companion.
If possible, keep your cat inside. Why? "An outdoor cat's average lifespan is 3 years," note the authors, "an indoor cat's average lifespan is 14 years." Responsible pet care requires that we support our pet's longevity.
Provide veterinary care for your companions(s). "Keep their vaccinations up-to-date and make sure they have annual checkups," advise the authors.
Provide your pet(s) with proper nutrition. And that doesn't mean allowing them to eat table scraps. "Obesity can be as deadly as malnutrition," they caution."Be aware that some foods can be deadly, such as chocolate, and fatty foods can cause pancreatitis."
For more information on pet nutrition, speak to your veterinarian or visit the Pet Nutrition Alliance, where you'll find resources for responsible pet owners like nutritional and food safety guidelines, information on pet food regulations and deciphering pet food labels, feeding guidelines for dogs and cats, and weight management tips.
It's All about Seeing with Our Hearts
Returning to the novella, The Little Prince for our close to this conversation about responsible pet care, we want to share fox's farewell to the Little Prince. "'Goodbye'," said the fox. 'And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'"
Seeing our animal companions through our heart's loving filter allows us to become the best pet owner we can possibly be; it's where responsible pet care begins and ends. When it comes time to say "goodbye" to your beloved animal companion, it's essential to see the situation "rightly" (as fox would say). Your heart will tell you the importance of making the correct end-of-life decisions on their behalf, and may lead you to pick up the phone to call us at 916-348-4000 to speak with us about our pet loss support services. No matter the time of day, know that we will see ourselves as deeply privileged to serve you and your beloved animal companion.
American Kennel Club, "Be a Responsible Dog Owner" and "Responsible Breeding Steps", both accessed 2014
City of Lubbock, "Tips for Responsible Pet Ownership", accessed 2014