How you can tell if your child is ready for a pet:


DO NOT GIVE ANYONE A LIVE ANIMAL AS A GIFT.  I have to get that out of the way.  It doesn’t matter how many times they’ve told you they’d love to have a puppy or a chinchilla.  If they really wanted one—they’d have gotten their act together and gone out and bought one & all the  stuff they needed for that pet.  Give them cash.  It is extremely irresponsible to buy a live animal that you do not intend to take care of yourself.  It is also irresponsible for an animal seller to sell you a pet without asking about who will take care of it—and ask to meet them.

I became a dog groomer  for 2 reasons:  I loved dogs, and I loved art.  You can’t make a dog look good unless you have an aesthetic eye.  I have other interests (hence I call my blog, ‘Disparate Interests’) but  dogs are a huge part of my life.

Why is that?  Brain chemistry is the short answer.  My mother was not a dog person until she met my father. Even then, it took a while for her to become one.  My mother would not let us have a dog until she felt we were mature enough to  feed, walk, and train a dog.  Until that time, though, wee kids probably drove her crazy with out obsession.

We were constantly bringing books home from the library that were either dog stories or on pet care.  We’d ask to visit friends with dogs (and there were not many in our neighborhood, as most of the mothers were of the same mindset as my mother).  I have to  add this little insight:  Tempel Grandin, the noted animal behaviorist/slaughterhouse  designer, who told Dr. Oliver Sacks that she felt like  AN ANTHROPOLOGIST ON MARS, came to talk to  a bunch of dog trainers  a couple of weeks back.  She opened her talk by telling us how she  was promoting her book in a COSTCO, and was shocked by how many households didn’t have  any PETS, ….”not even a gerbil!”.  Please—pet lovers—get your pets out there & talk to families about  what it’s like to live with a pet—and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DONATE BOOKS ON PET CARE TO YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL LIBRARY!

It’s amazing to me  the number of parents who didn’t have pets growing up, thinking  getting their child a pet would be a good idea. Teach him responsibility. The reality is…many  pets die, many pet shops stay in business, and many unethical people breed too many pets to satisfy the demand...

Unless a pet shop specializes in a particular genus, I don’t think  it should be legal to sell pets in petstores.   Most pet store managers—especially the major chain pet stores managers—come from a background in retail management, not animal husbandry or pet care.  I am not saying they don’t like animals. I am sure they do—just not enough to keep them stress free & learn about their care & teach their staffs about their care—so they, in turn, can teach potential pet buyers about their care.

Most people don’t  understand the implications of buying a pet.  Virtually  all birds and many other exotics are wild-caught illegally.  There is just not enough USDA personnel to monitor  animal trafficking.  The rest come from commercial breeders. Yes- many  do quite a good job, but as I’ve pointed out in the past…if they really loved the animals they breed, they’d want to meet the buyers of those animals. They’d refuse sales to people not fully prepared to take care of the animals they breed. But they do not.  They are breeding animals as livestock, and really don’t care.

How do you find a well cared for pet?  You do your research, and posting for information on Craigslist is not research.

I admit…it’s hard to get  good information. If you Google dog care—commercial sites are the ones that come up.  So, Google pet magazine (your city) and that may be a better way to avoid commercial sites—even thought the magazines are for profit.  Many of the writers for those magazines have done the research.

Also, when doing research, don’t Google ‘dog care’, or ‘bird care’. Google the  breed (or dog or cat) or the species (or bird or reptile) and that will get you better information.  Google (dog, cat,bird, snake) book publishers, and then ask your local library if they have the books.  That’s what public libraries are for.  Call local veterinarians and ask if they can refer you to a local hobby breeder.

Being a purebred dog fancier, I know that http://www.AKC.org is a helpful website, and while I believe in  adopting from shelters and rescues, it helps to have  an idea of what the different breeds are like in terms of care and personality.  You can find  pet shelters in your area  by checking out http://www.petfinder.com   It really is an amazing site.

But back to how you can tell if your child is ready for a pet:

1.  He bugs you—virtually every day—for a pet.  Not once  in a while—every day;

2. He wants a pet so much, he brings home books from school or the library about the type of pet he is interested in;

3.  When he is asked to write a paper for school, he writes it on the type of pet he is interested in;

4.  He chooses ‘playdates’ with  friends who have the type of pet he is interested in;

5.   He does his own research and looks for jobs at a pet shop, or a groomer, or with a veterinarian or hobby breeder;

6.  He asks you to take him to animal (dog, cat, bird, herp) club meetings so he can  learn more about pets. &—if you  can’t or won’t, he asks you to meet adults who will escort him to meetings ( http://www.Chicagoherpsociety.org  has mentored many young herpetologists ).

I am afraid I may be preaching to the choir, but the holiday season is starting, &  people won’t be doing any research, and they will be keeping unethical pet breeders in business.   In January, after the holidays, the shelters will start being full of those pets that were given as gifts.

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