How can I be a better Pet Guardian?
May is Responsible Animal Guardian Month, bringing awareness on how better to take care of our pets. The organization In Defense of Animals suggests shifting terminology, from pet owner (possession of property) to guardian, entrusted with protecting or defending a non-human animal, or of “being legally responsible for… someone who is unable to manage their own affairs” (retrieved from PetFirst). Regardless of the term, those who enter into a role as pet caretakers are required by law to see to the pet’s health and wellbeing (retrieved from Animal Law Update (foxrothschild.com)).
A highlight of this movement encourages a dedication to caring for your pet’s needs – emotional, physical, and health. The ASPCA, in their mission to prevent cruelty to animals, classifies responsible guardians as “legal adults who are fully committed to humane, compassionate, lifelong care for their companion animal(s)” (retrieved from PetFirst). Across their lifetime, will you see to all their psychological, behavioral, and social needs in addition to feeding and loving them?
Pets require – and deserve – our time and attention for grooming and bathing, playtime, feeding, and training. Ensure your schedule allows the time and energy necessary to give positive attention. Training them frees their lives from stress and also prevents destructive or problematic behaviors. Part of being a responsible guardian also includes controlling the population by spaying or neutering. Without the guarantee of a lifelong, caring home, it’s irresponsible to breed, and rescuing animals is far preferable to purchasing from a pet store or breeder.
For those who already have pets in their care, continue to socialize them to encourage their comfort in a variety of situations. This also works to prevent aggressive behaviors due to fear or anxiety. Exercise your pet regularly to support their physical health. Visit the vet with them each year to keep their vaccinations up to date as well as discover any issues early.
Look into pet insurance for assistance with those bigger and unexpected expenses, so you can care for them. Microchipping – and registering with a database – will provide a way to be reconnected with your pet should they become lost.
What happens when you are unable to care for your pet any longer? Look to creating a legal document with your estate planning attorney. This can cover who is entrusted with their care, setting up a trust for ongoing financial responsibilities, and any other preferences you want to outline. See our previous post, How to Choose a Pet Guardian, for our best tips on making the right choice for you and your pet.