Originally created 10/09/01

Pet owners have responsibilities



Dear Readers: Along with the love and companionship of a pet comes great responsibility. Your time, attention, money and personal space will be needed to help care for a new pet. You must take into consideration the special needs of a pet along with your own abilities and limitations.

Rodale Press and PetSmart have produced a Pet's Bill of Rights that all pet owners and potential pet owners should reflect on. Whenever you adopt a pet, it becomes a member of the family. You should take your responsibility seriously. First of all, Mr. Rodale says that pets have the right to receive social interaction and love from the family. Second, pets have a right to stimulation through new games and experiences. Pets also have the right to regular exercise in order to stay healthy. Besides exercise, pets have the right to have fun.

On a more serious note, Mr. Rodale says that pets have the right to quality health care and a good diet. Pets depend on their owners to feed them what is best for their health. Pets also have the right to be accepted by their families even if they are not prize-winning show dogs or hunters. Pets have the right to receive proper training so they are not dangerous to themselves or others. Along with that, pets have the right to guidance and correction based on 'understanding and compassion, rather than abuse.' Last, pets have the right to live and die with dignity. For more information on the Pet's Bill of Rights or to print a copy for yourself, visit www.petsmart.com.

One of the most important responsibilities of a pet owner is to keep your pet safe from dangerous things around the house. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' National Animal Poison Control Center recommends that you keep pets away from cleaning agents, pesticides and medications. Keep pets away from pest bait, including snail and slug bait, ant and roach traps and mousetraps. Never give animals medicine that is intended for people. Veterinarian Jill Richardson says that even one acetaminophen tablet could be fatal to a cat.

Don't feed your pet onions, chocolate, coffee, alcoholic beverages, salt, avocados, tobacco or spoiled foods. Keep all automotive products away from pets. For more information on pet safety, call, toll-free, (888) 4ANI-HELP.

Your garden can pose problems for your pets. Pets should not roam your lawn and garden after you have applied pesticides or fertilizers. The Professional Lawn Care Association of America advises you wait at least one day or until the sprays have dried or the dust has settled before bringing your pets back to the area. Some common plants and flowers can prove dangerous, even deadly, to many animals. Amaryllis, autumn crocus, azalea, begonia, hydrangea, lily of the valley, oleander, philodendron, poinsettia and rhubarb leaves are among the list of dangerous plants and flowers given by the American Hospital Association. For more information, visit www.healthypet.com.

Even if you don't have a pet, you can exercise kindness and care for animals. Arden Moore, the author of DogSpeak and PetSpeak, has produced a list, 101 Ways to Be Kind to Animals. Suggestions include buying stamps that benefit animals, walking the dogs of elderly friends and neighbors and volunteering to bathe dogs at an animal shelter.

Mr. Moore also suggests erecting a bird feeder or bat house in your back yard, donating old towels and blankets to animal shelters or volunteering at an animal sanctuary. You can get information on these sanctuaries at: www.bestfriends.org. You can also help by donating money to animal rescue organizations and slowing down when you drive to avoid dangerous encounters with animals.

Even the small steps can help improve the lives of pets (and their owners) throughout the nation.

Reach Shirley McIntosh at Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Suite 51, Augusta, GA 30909.