Reading the SunLight Project piece “Kill or No Kill” about euthanizing dogs and cats in communities throughout Georgia and north Florida may inspire people to save a pet from the animal shelter.

We hope the story does decrease the number of animals euthanized in our communities through adoptions, spaying and neutering and responsible pet ownership.

What we hope the article does not do is inspire a spur-of-the-moment decision to adopt an animal. A pet is a responsibility and the decision to become a pet owner should require serious thought.

Frankly, not everyone needs to own a pet. 

Rash and ill-considered decisions to own a pet are often to blame for the number of dogs and cats in animal shelters.

Some people are just not prepared to own a cat, dog or other pet and as a result animals can be neglected and abused by owners who may acquire the pet without thinking things through.

Pets are a responsibility.

They are living beings and must be treated with care.

The sheer number of animals that have to be sheltered, makes it obvious some people just don’t have what it takes to own and care for a pet.

April is recognized nationally as Animal Cruelty Prevention Month. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers these suggestions for being a responsible pet owner:

• avoid impulsive decisions when selecting a pet;

• select a pet that’s suited to your home and lifestyle;

• keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship;

• commit to the relationship for the life of your pet(s);

• provide appropriate exercise and mental stimulation;

• properly socialize and train your pet;

• recognize that pet ownership requires an investment of time and money;

• make sure your pet receives preventive health care (vaccinations, parasite control, etc.), as well as care for any illnesses or injuries;

• budget for potential emergencies;

• clean up after your pet;

• obey all local ordinances, including licensing, leash requirements and noise control;

• don’t allow your pet to stray or become feral;

• make sure your pet is properly identified (i.e., tags, microchips, or tattoos) and keep its registration up-to-date;

• don’t contribute to the nation’s pet overpopulation problem: Limit your pet’s reproduction through spay/neuter, containment or managed breeding;

• prepare for an emergency or disaster, including assembling an evacuation kit;

• make alternate arrangements if you can no longer provide care for your pet;

• recognize any decline in your pet’s quality of life and make timely decisions in consultation with a veterinarian;

• keep your pet at a healthy weight;

• exercise your pet;

• feed your pet a balanced, nutritious diet;

• have your veterinarian examine your pet at least once a year to make sure your pet is healthy and to help detect problems earlier;

• vaccinate your pet against potentially deadly diseases such as distemper, parvo, panleukopenia and rabies;

• keep your pet free of parasites (fleas, ticks, heartworm, etc.) — consult your veterinarian for the best product for your pet;

• spay/neuter your pet;

• never, ever leave your dog in the car;

• make sure your dog has unlimited access to fresh water;

• make sure your dog has access to shade when outside;

• take walks during the cooler hours of the day;

• when walking, try to stay off of hot surfaces (like asphalt) because it can burn your dog’s paws;

• if you think it’s hot outside, it’s even hotter for your pet — make sure your pet has a means of cooling off;

• keep your dog free of external parasites (fleas, ticks) and heartworms — consult your veterinarian about the best product for your pet; and

• consider clipping or shaving dogs with long coats (talk to your veterinarian first to see if it’s appropriate for your pet), and apply sunscreen to your dog’s skin if she or he has a thin coat.

April is recognized nationally as Animal Cruelty Prevention Month.

Again, we hope “Kill or No Kill” will save animals but we do not want to see the article cause people to adopt pets without weighing the responsibilities.

Shelters are already filled with animals abandoned by people who rushed into pet ownership. Perpetuating a vicious cycle is something most shelters can ill afford and animals should not have to endure.

This Week's Circulars