Grant, Baby Sydney, and Harry want to know... Are you a responsible pet owner?
Pets are a big part of our family's life. We current share our home with three: Grant the American Staffordshire Terrier, Harry the Belgian Malinois, and Kit the big tabby cat. All three are neutered, and Kit is an indoor only cat.
A few weeks ago I was letting Grant and Harry out our back door that opens into our fenced yard to do their business. I was following behind when I heard a scuffle by the bushes. I was shocked to see Harry climbing into the bushes, and I thought was a shaggy black dog standing behind them. I ran towards them wondering how this dog got into my fenced yard. Then I realized that it was an enormous cat wearing a red collar. My yelling distracted Harry into turning his attention towards me, and the cat escaped under the gate, dashing across the very busy street.
This could have ended very badly. Would my dogs have hurt the cat had they caught him if I wasn't standing there? Would the cat have caused damage to my dogs? Scratched eyes can be a very painful injury for a dog, and can also be very expensive to treat medically. Is this cat vaccinated for rabies? Fortunately, my dogs are. What if the cat wanders into another yard with a dog more determined to hurt it? What if the cat gets hit by a car? What if the cat contracts a fatal communicable disease? The cat has an owner that must love it, as he looked well fed and was wearing a collar. But, why were they allowing their cat to be in situations where he could be injured or killed, or where he could injure or damage the property of other citizens?
But, my pet isn't hurting anything!
This is what people seem to think. But the reality is that pets can spread potentially dangerous diseases and parasites to humans, children in particular. Loose dogs and cats deposit feces in areas that children play, potentially causing illness. Free-roaming cats also effect the environment. Research has shown that cats may have impacted the extinctions of bird species more than anything short of habitat destruction. Cats also outnumber and compete with natural predators, potentially causing an upset of the delicate balance of nature. Free roaming cats and dogs can injure humans, other pets, and property, as well.
How can I be a responsible pet owner?
The most obvious solution is to always supervise your pet. Don't allow them to be a nuisance. Keep your pets restrained on your property not only for their own protection, but also to avoid having them damage the belongings of other people, fight with other pets, or be struck by vehicles. Don't allow your dog to invade the space of other dogs being walked by their owners, as not every dog wants to "say hi." Have your pets spayed or neutered, and kept up to date on appropriate vaccines for your pet's lifestyle. And don't forget to feed a quality diet and exercise your pet's body and mind.
Pets are an awesome addition to a family. The companionship and unconditional love that they provide is unmatched. But, pets can also become a nuisance if they are allowed to do so. Do what is best for your pets and your neighborhood by being a responsible pet owner.