We have been asked recently what makes a responsible owner, and though the full answer is beyond the scope of this column, and open to much debate, I thought I would highlight a few areas.
Owning any animal, from a stick insect to a horse, takes some degree of responsibility, and thus should never be under taken lightly. Owning a pet means you are responsible for their welfare for their entire lives. Do you have the time, space and the finances to care for a new member of the family who is completely dependent on you for their needs? Have you researched what their needs will be as they get older, and how long they will be around for? Cats and dogs like us live longer than they used to, we have several cats on our books that are in their late teens and early twenties. Clearly there is a huge difference between being responsible for a mouse versus a dog, but the same thought process must apply to both.
Broadly speaking this means that both the physical health and mental wellbeing of each pet needs to be thought through carefully. The Animal Welfare act of 2007 means that the owner of a pet is legally responsible for the welfare needs of their animal. This briefly includes the need for a suitable place to live with a suitable diet where they can exhibit normal behaviours, also the right for animals to be housed with or without others as appropriate and to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
The physical health is usually straightforward in a young animal. Are they bright and happy, eating and playful? There are preventative treatments that can be carried out, in the form of vaccination, worming, teeth cleaning and grooming which can stop diseases from occurring. These combined with prompt veterinary attention when your animal becomes unwell, all display a responsible level of care for their physical health.
Touching on mental welfare briefly, are your pet’s needs being met? Are they being mentally stimulated on a daily basis, either on their daily walks, in their feeding methods or at times of play? A bored or stressed animal often manifests in destructive behaviour, either of their surroundings or themselves.
The RSPCA website has some good basic tips on many animals’ needs if you are thinking about getting a pet. Owning any pet can be extremely rewarding but like anything that is worth having can involve a lot of time and effort.
Always remember if you have any concerns about your pet, please contact your vet.