There is a lot of research showing that pets can boost both the physical and mental health of humans. The challenge is to understand and commit to the obligations of pet ownership so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
“Owning an animal is a long-term, financially costly commitment,” advises Peggy Bowers, owner of Sundogs Canine Consultation and Training. Bowers suggests asking yourself, “where am I going to be in ten or fifteen years? Am I going to be able to be the caretaker for this animal?” Beyond the initial costs for spay/neuter, vaccines, and initial vet checkups, she mentioned food, monthly preventative medications, tick & flea treatments, bedding, toys, dental care, and others items on the list of expected costs. Maria Simmons, the shelter manager of the Animal Welfare Society of Jefferson County echoed this advice, noting that the most common reason for pet surrenders (a return of the adopted pet to the shelter) is for financial reasons — “People don’t realize the financial commitment. Especially if an animal gets sick, the lab fees, vet fees, and testing fees add up quickly.”
Bowers noted that you may have an additional cost on your insurance or rent, plus boarding, grooming, nail trimming and other expenses depending on your situation and comfort level with doing some of these things yourself.
If you are thinking of adopting a dog, both Bowers and Simmons stressed the importance of being realistic about the breed type as well as your family situation. As Bowers observed, “you can’t just put the dog on the shelf if it’s not the right one.” Simmons posed some specific questions to ask: “Will you be around during the day to care for the dog, can it stay inside, or does it need space outside?” Bowers suggested thinking about how you would plan to exercise the dog and stressed the importance of a sturdy fence if you plan to leave the dog unsupervised in a yard — “invisible fences have a high fail rate and you take a risk every day that the dog could break through and be injured.”
If you are planning to purchase a puppy, Bowers strongly suggested working with local breeders. “You really want an opportunity to meet the dog. And you want to see the mother and the littermates as well.” She stressed that you want to see the operation and “be sure you work with an ethical, responsible breeder.”
The Animal Welfare Society of Jefferson County offers both dogs and cats for adoption. Their website (AWSJC.org) provides information about visiting the shelter, their adoption programs, and donating to support their mission. Sundogs Canine Consultation and Training can be found online at SundogsCCT.com. Both websites have links to helpful resources about pet adoption, care and training.By Staff Contributor