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Pet sense: Easy steps prevent overpopulation of animals

by Liz Friedenfels

Did you know 10,000 to 15,000 perfectly healthy cats and dogs are euthanized in animal shelters throughout the United States every single day? Did you also know that there are nine incredibly easy steps to reduce the number of animals being euthanized due to lack of space? This information is from "One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter" by Marilee Geyer and Diane Leigh.

dogOne of the easiest ways to save the lives of companion animals is to adopt your next pet from your local animal shelter or rescue group. For every purebred breed, there is a rescue group dedicated to finding homes for the homeless purebreds. All you have to do is enter the breed you are looking for into a search engine such as Google and include the word "rescue" and the state you live in. A wide range of rescue groups should appear. Petfinder.com also is an excellent resource; it allows you to search animal shelters and breed rescue groups for the exact animal you are looking for. By adopting from shelters or rescues, you are reducing the number of animals that are homeless and desperately need a loving, dedicated family.

Dedication is very important to pets. Don't adopt an animal because it's Christmas and you'd like to have a dog for the holidays. Recognize that an animal's life span can be as long as 20 years, and that animal will need food, clean water, love and medical attention.

Be prepared. Adopt an animal that suits your family's personality. If you love to exercise, adopt a dog that enjoys jogging. If you plan to have children, prepare your dog for children in its future.

This is vital: Spay or neuter your pets. The Petco Foundation estimates that for each person born, there are 45 cats and 15 dogs. There is no way to find good homes for all of them. Save the lives of future generations and spay or neuter your pet.

Millions of animals are lost every year and have wonderful families that miss them. To ensure your pet has extra protection, put a visible identification tag on your pet's collar (including cats). Microchipping also is a great way to provide extra security that your pet will find its way home. Many vet clinics and humane societies have the equipment to scan for microchips. Protect your pet, microchip and put identification on it.

Prepare for the worst. In the event that you can no longer care for your companion animal, make sure that there is a trusted family member or friend who will take the responsibility. Have an evacuation plan, including plans for your pet, in case of an emergency. Make sure to include leashes, pet carriers, vet records and current photos of your pet. Hurricane Katrina was disastrous in many ways, but not least of all because so many families lost animal companions and never reunited with them.

Be a positive pet owner. Provide a good example about responsible, dedicated animal care for others to follow.

Support the animals. Volunteer, donate and support local shelters or rescue groups. There are many things you can do as a volunteer: walk dogs, help clean the shelter, be a foster parent.

For more information, pick up a copy of the book "One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter."

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