Pet Care: A Lifelong Commitment
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2000 You can't dump your wife or husband or children on the side of the road and drive away -- no matter what they've done. So why do people think they can dispose of cats and dogs that way?
Aren't Mittens and Rover just as much a part of the family as the kids?
Unfortunately, some people don't make the same "for better or worse" commitment to their pets. If they did, the nation's 4,000 to 6,000 animal shelters would not be putting 6 million cats and dogs to sleep each year.
Military installations and civilian communities face the same problems with abandoned pets. For its part, DoD intends to help teach people about responsible pet ownership.
"We're hoping to fund a program in the coming fiscal year to develop and distribute educational brochures and pamphlets that will be sent out through veterinarians, pest management, natural resource and morale, welfare and recreation officials," said Alison Dalsimer, a contract natural resource management specialist with DoD's environmental security office. "Ideally, the products will become part of the standard information given to military personnel when they come to a base."
DoD's program will explain what happens to animals abandoned by their owners, Dalsimer said. Many live short, unpleasant lives, and eventually end up killed by predators, disease, cars, or they end up in shelters.
She said it's easy to be a responsible pet owner: Just remember your cat or dog depends on you to provide companionship, healthy food, veterinary care, shelter and safety -- and this commitment lasts for the life of the animal. Healthy cats and dogs can live 10 to 18 years.
Pending DoD's educational efforts, she pointed to tips offered by the Humane Society of the United States. The tips and much more information about pet care on the society's Web site, www.hsus.org:
- Spay or neuter your pet. This will keep him or her healthier and help reduce the problem of overpopulation.
- License your pet according to local laws.
- Attach an ID tag to your pet's collar showing your name, address and telephone number.
- Make your pet an indoor pet. Your cat or dog should live inside with the rest of the family. The American Bird Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of wild birds and their habitats, has launched a campaign to promote humane removal of free-roaming cats from sensitive wildlife areas and to persuade cat owners to keep their cats indoors. For information on Cats Indoors, go to www.abcbirds.org/cats/.
- Keep your cat or dog on a leash or under your control whenever you take him or her outside for exercise. This will protect your pet from cars, other animals, disease and theft, as well as from being a public nuisance.
- Give your pet a nutritious diet, including constant access to clean water.
- Give your pet plenty of exercise.
- Be sure your pet receives proper veterinary care and keep up with the necessary vaccinations, including rabies shots.
- Train your pet patiently and give him or her lots of love and attention.
- Groom your pet often to keep her coat healthy, soft and shiny. Grooming sessions are a wonderful opportunity to bond with your pet.
- Have realistic expectations about your pet. Nobody is perfect. Make a commitment to work through any behavior or health problems that may arise. Don't just get rid of your pet.
- Visit your local animal shelter when it's time to bring a new pet into your life. Adopt one of the many homeless animals that wait for a lifelong responsible home.
Editor's Note: This is one article in a comprehensive special report at http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/cats/.