Are you really ready for a pet?

It takes a pretty low person to abuse a defenseless pet or animal.

April is recognized nationally as Animal Cruelty Prevention Month.

The Valdosta Daily Times has a long legacy of encouraging responsible pet ownership.

Simply put, not everyone needs to own a pet. Pets are not toys. Pets are a responsibility. There are people who are just not prepared to own a cat, dog or other pet and as a result animals can be neglected and abused by owners who may acquire the pet without thinking things through.

Pets are living beings and must be treated with care. Our community is fortunate to have great animal health care providers, rescue groups, a humane society and animal shelter that serve our community at a very high level.

The sheer number of animals that have to be sheltered, makes it obvious some people just don’t have what it takes to own and care for a pet.

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers these suggestions for being a responsible pet owner: — Avoid impulsive decisions when selecting a pet. — Select a pet that’s suited to your home and lifestyle. — Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship.

— Commit to the relationship for the life of your pet(s). — Provide appropriate exercise and mental stimulation. — Properly socialize and train your pet. — Recognize that pet ownership requires an investment of time and money.

— Make sure your pet receives preventive health care (vaccinations, parasite control, etc.), as well as care for any illnesses or injuries.

— Budget for potential emergencies. — Clean up after your pet. — Obey all local ordinances, including licensing, leash requirements and noise control.

— Don’t allow your pet to stray or become feral. — Make sure your pet is properly identified (i.e., tags, microchips, or tattoos) and keep its registration up-to-date.

— Don’t contribute to the nation’s pet overpopulation problem: Limit your pet’s reproduction through spay/neuter, containment or managed breeding.

— Prepare for an emergency or disaster, including assembling an evacuation kit.

— Make alternate arrangements if you can no longer provide care for your pet.

— Recognize any decline in your pet’s quality of life and make timely decisions in consultation with a veterinarian.

— Keep your pet at a healthy weight. — Exercise your pet. — Feed your pet a balanced, nutritious diet. — Have your veterinarian examine your pet at least once a year to make sure your pet is healthy and to help detect problems earlier.

— Vaccinate your pet against potentially deadly diseases such as distemper, parvo, panleukopenia and rabies.

— Keep your pet free of parasites (fleas, ticks, heartworm, etc.) — consult your veterinarian for the best product for your pet.

— Spay/neuter your pet. — Never, ever leave your dog in the car. — Make sure your dog has unlimited access to fresh water.

— Make sure your dog has access to shade when outside.

— Take walks during the cooler hours of the day.

— When walking, try to stay off of hot surfaces (like asphalt) because it can burn your dog’s paws.

— If you think it’s hot outside, it’s even hotter for your pet — make sure your pet has a means of cooling off.

— Consider clipping or shaving dogs with long coats (talk to your veterinarian first to see if it’s appropriate for your pet), and apply sunscreen to your dog’s skin if she or he has a thin coat.

Think about it. Pet ownership may not be for you. Before adopting a pet, make sure you are ready for the responsibility.

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