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Should You Buy Your Kids a Pet?

Things to Think About Before Bringing Home a New Pet

Almost every child begs his or her parents for a newpet at some point in their lives. Whether it’s a dog, cat, rodent, or reptile of some sort, children want a pet they can call their own. The decision to bring a newpet into the home should not be taken lightly. Parents need to ask themselves how much responsibility they, themselves, are willing to take on in taking care of the animal.

If the child(ren) are expected to be the primary caregivers of the pet, the child(ren)’s ages should be taken into consideration. A local vet or SPCA staff member can help determine at what agechildren are able to fully care for their pets. Parents also need to consider what will happen if children do not live up to their end of the bargain. Will you get rid of the animal? How? Overcrowded animal shelter? Ad in the paper?

Many people do not consider the full cost of a pet beyond what they pat at a pet store. When I got my dog two years ago (free from a neighbor), she was a small puppy. I knew I would need to get her to the vet for shots, a checkup, flea medication, a dog license, and, eventually spaying. But after I had her for a couple of weeks, some neighborhood kids came over to play, and one of them stepped on her paw. Broken toes. Unexpected $250 vet bill. Some breeds are also prone to genetic disabilities that require extensive surgery or medication. Hip dysplasia and heart conditions are common problems that require professional care.

Should the kids do extra chores to help “pay” for the expected and unexpected expenses? Daily care of the newpet should be considered. Who will clean accidents in the carpet? Change the litter boxes or cages? Feed and walk Fluffy? Families with more than one child could make a chart for these chores, but parents should monitor these activities closely.

Another thing to consider before bringing home a pet is the stability of your residence. Too many innocent animals are left behind when their families have to move. Do you own or rent? If you rent, can you have pets? (Be sure to notify your landlord before bringing Fido home. Most landlords will still require a non-refundable pet deposit even if they are ok with it.) Do you have a yard for a dog to run around?

One last bit of advice is that, when choosing a pet, the child should be a part of the decision-making process. Bringing a pethome as a surprise can sometimes backfire if the pet isn’t good with kids or if the child doesn’t bond with the pet. Taking the child(ren) to the pet store, kennel, or animal rescue center will help to ensure that the relationship between the animal and all members of the family are conducive to a healthy and happy home.

Owning a pet is a major decision that should be completely thought through prior to beginning your search for the perfectpet (once you look into its eyes you won’t be able to say “no.”) So think it through, discuss it with your spouse, kids or just with yourself if you are single. And, as Bob Barker says, “Please help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

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