Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, fish, birds - whatever animal you have in your care, it's important to be invested in the pet and ensure their safety and happiness, this is what "responsible ownership" comes down to. Being a parent to a pet is very common, in fact, over half of New Zealand's households is home to at least one pet!
In a report carried out in 2016, it was revealed that cats are the most popular pet in the country with 44% of households being home to at least one cat, followed by dogs at 28%. *
So, how can we do right by these little animals? What exactly does it mean to be a responsible pet owner? Feeding, watering and cleaning your companion is a major part of it, sure, but let's get into it a little more with these 11 points on responsible pet ownership:
Be knowledgeable - Do you know everything there is to know about your pet? To really be able to take care of an animal you'll need all the information you can get, so look into their breed, see what makes them tick or be aware of potential problems with the pet. By doing this, you're preparing yourself and committing to raising the animal to the best of your ability, taking their needs and wants into consideration. You may have some general knowledge on a certain animal, let's say dogs, but not all breeds are the same. For instance, you may have owned a labrador before, and now you have a pug, which requires a different sort of care. It really is worth doing some research on your companion.
Make time for them - It is SO important to make time for your companion. Your pet isn't going to have an enjoyable life if it's lonely and bored. Play with your furry friend whenever you can, make sure they get their exercise and train them! Dogs especially need training time in order to alleviate any behavioural problems that may arise. Training and playing is also the perfect opportunity to bond with your pet.
Nutrition - Being a responsible owner means making sure your pet has a well-balanced diet. Find the right food for your companion, treat them with quality treats and try not to give them too much human food. This will keep them healthy as it ensures they don't get overweight or develop any illnesses caused by harmful foods.
Hygiene - It is up to you to keep on top of your pet's hygiene because unfortunately, our animal friends can't check and solve hygiene problems if they develop. They also can't let you know when something is bothering them so it's a good idea to have a look at your pet's eyes, ears and teeth once in a while, as well as grooming them (or taking them to a professional for a groom).
Clean up after them - Not surprisingly, animals don't like being around their business, so try and keep the pet's toilet area clean. As for dogs on walks, it's essential that owners pick up after their dogs to maintain a clean environment and prevent the spread of diseases.
Update information - We can't stress this point enough!! Being a responsible pet owner means remembering to update information (such as address or phone number) on collars, at the vet, on the microchip registry and any other forms you may have regarding your pet (including on our booking software!). This makes it so much easier for everyone involved if anything should happen to your companion.
Vet Check-ups - Taking your pet to the see the veterinary nurse every once in a while is important so that they can hopefully live a long, healthy life. Not taking your pet to the vet for check-ups may result in the animal suffering from a disease that could have been spotted and prevented at a check-up. You should also be taking your pets for regular vaccinations - your vet will be able to advise how often. Not doing so could put not only your pets at risk of nasty diseases, but others' as well.
Preventative measures - As well as vet check-ups, certain pets may need additional treatments eg. to thwart flees and worms. And another, very important, preventative measure that a pet owner should think about is the desexing of the animal. Having your companion spayed or neutered is usually the best action to take (unless you plan on breeding) for various reasons. You can check out our "Reasons To Spay/Neuter Your Dog" post here for more information regarding desexing and canines.
Travel safely - Ensuring your pet's safety whilst travelling is your responsibility. A carrier is always the best option for small animals on their trip to the vet. If you take your dog out in your car quite often, you should prepare and drive accordingly i.e. ensure they're not loose in the vehicle and able to distract you, strap them in with a travel harness, slow down your speed. Having the dog at the back of your ute with nothing to hold them is not a great idea! Believe it or not, dogs have been seen falling out of the back of these vehicles on more than one occasion in Wanaka - this could seriously hurt them from either the fall itself, or by strangulation if the method of tethering isn't sufficient. "If dogs are transported on the open deck or open trailer of a moving motor vehicle (other than a moped, a motorcycle, or an all-terrain vehicle) on a public road,— i) the dogs must be secured in a way that prevents them from falling or hanging off (for example, secured by a tether or a cage); and ii) if a dog is secured by a tether, the tether must be short enough to prevent the dog’s legs from reaching over the sides of the open deck of the vehicle or open trailer, but long enough to allow the dog to stand or lie down in a natural position," as stated by the MPI Code Of Welfare: Dogs.
Pet proof the home - It's never too late to make changes to your home in order to suit life with your pet. It's best to ensure the house and garden is secure, and keep electrical cords, decorations, small toys and human foods out of the pet's way, for your sake and theirs (they really do chew anything and everything don't they?!)
Teach your children to respect the animal - Children who come into contact with your pets are also your responsibility, so show them how to greet and be around the animal in the proper manner. Making sure that children understand the situation is essential so that they can proceed in playing with the pet safely.
*Statistics taken from the Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016 Report, by The New Zealand Companion Animal Council Inc.
*Direct quote from Section 9: Transportation in the Code Of Welfare for dogs issued under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, by New Zealand Government.