Make a New Year's pledge to be advocate for animals

PETS AT HOME

January 01, 1994|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

Is this a nation of pet lovers? As in the fable of the blind men describing an elephant, your answer probably depends on which piece of the puzzle you hold.

If you're thinking about the pet-supplies industry, the answer is yes. Billions are spent annually on both routine items and exotic novelties.

If you're thinking about shelters, the answer is no. For too many people, animals are just another part of our throwaway society, to be kept as long as they amuse and to be discarded when the charm wears off.

The veterinary industry provides a mixed answer. More people than ever before are willing to pay for high-tech, high-end veterinary procedures, but others can't even be bothered to take their cat or dog in for annual vaccinations.

Is this a nation of pet lovers? It probably could be, with more effort on the part of those definitely in the pet-lover camp.

For my New Year's resolutions, I'm pledging to try harder to help the animals not in my house. I no longer believe it's enough for pet lovers to take proper care of their own animals. Therefore, here are a few things to consider in the new year:

For your animals:

* Make sure your pets have up-to-date ID. The majority of all stray dogs and almost all stray cats are never reunited with their families. While some people have their pets tattooed and can't wait to have them "microchipped," a simple collar and tag will help a lost pet.

* Schedule preventive veterinary care for your pets, including vaccinations and parasite treatments. Protect them from common cancers by having them spayed or neutered.

* Realize that shelter, food and water aren't enough. Spend time with your pets and bring them into your life. Walk your dogs, cuddle your cats and make sure every pet gets at least a few minutes of your undivided attention every day.

For the good of all pets:

* Be a good neighbor. Pick up after your pets on walks, don't let your animals roam and don't allow midnight barking sessions. Socialize and train your dogs to be model canine citizens.

* Encourage spaying and neutering. Genetic and temperament problems plague many purebreds because of poor breeding, and many animals, both purebred and mixed, die because of the shortage of decent homes. If you're shy about speaking up, get fliers on spaying and neutering from your local humane society and hand them out.

* Report abuse and cruelty, as much for us all as for the animals. Children who grow up in a climate of violence stand a good chance of becoming abusive to both animals and people. Help authorities to intercede and you're helping break the cycle.

* Contribute to your local humane society by donating time, money, goods or services. You don't have to work in the shelter to help. Can you talk to schoolchildren about pet care? Work at fund-raisers? Donate old equipment?

* Help people solve their pet problems. Maybe you could pick up food for a house-bound senior's pet, recommend a book or behaviorist for someone wrestling with a problem, or teach a friend how to keep a pet's nails short.

* Promote adoptions from shelters or small, non-profit adoption groups. Wonderful purebred and random-bred animals of all ages are always available.

* Lobby for better laws. Educate yourself about animal issues and let your opinions be heard. Write letters to your local paper, and write or call your elected representatives.

This year, be more than a pet lover: Be an advocate. It has never been more important. If you don't, who will?

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