Readers' questions are springboards for many topics

PETS AT HOME

November 14, 1992|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

In all the time I've been writing this column, there's no doubt that one question has been asked more than any other: "Don't you get tired of people asking you questions about animals?"

The answer is an almost unconditional "no."

No, I don't mind answering a question about spaying and neutering, when it gives me another opportunity to talk about the positive aspects of the surgery -- like the substantial decrease in cancer risk for both dogs and cats and the elimination of such behavior problems as marking, mounting and roaming.

I could never tire of discussing a simple surgery that helps prevent the death of more than 12 million homeless animals a year while improving the health of the animals that do have homes.

No, I don't mind answering questions about children and pets; in fact, I'm now writing a book full of answers.

Academic studies show what smart parents have known all along: Animals are good for children.

No matter what a child does, an animal will always be there to listen. The non-judgmental attention of a pet can prove a steadying force in a turbulent childhood. Choose the right pet for your child and you're giving one of the best gifts you can.

And, no, I don't mind answering health and behavior questions.

Any question that will improve the lives of a person or pet is worth answering a thousand times -- and some of the questions I get, I have indeed answered a thousand times.

The questions that bug me, though, are the ones where it's apparent an animal's best interests aren't the questioner's concern. Like the requests for stud-service referrals from people who want to breed their pets to raise a little extra cash or because it would be "educational" to have a litter in the house.

When done properly, breeding and raising a litter is expensive and time-consuming. Good breeders carefully consider their matches, screen their animals for genetic and temperament problems -- breeding only the best of the best -- and spend hours socializing the offspring before placing "their babies" in painstakingly selected homes.

Casual breeders perform few if any of these important tasks, and so they contribute heavily to the overpopulation crisis.

It's sometimes not much fun to talk with the casual breeders, but I try to remember that in most cases their views come from a lack of education, not from an unchangeable position of greed or hardheartedness.

In some cases, I'd like to have questioners sent to work in an animal shelter, to witness the grim facts of animal overpopulation. Without that option, I use my answers to encourage them to act responsibly.

Caring, intelligent people don't let their pets reproduce, and they make sure their animals' health, nutrition and psychological needs are met.

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