Pet Adoption

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The appropriate age for kids and dogs???

I recently saw an advertisement looking for pet experts to discuss the appropriate age for a kid to have a dog.  My first reaction was surprise that the advertiser was looking for pet experts to define such parameters rather than child experts, but that would be an issue for another post.

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As a person involved with rescue for years, I would be inclined to say that it's NEVER appropriate for kids to be responsible for the family pets. Sure, they can help clean, feed and play with the pets but would I leave it entirely in their hands??? Hell no! They are kids!! Taking care of a living being is something that only an adult should be responsible for and I think we all know that even adults drop the ball when it comes to responsible pet guardianship.

Of course, there are kids who do a great job with a pet and who are responsible. However, my guess is that the family as a whole is responsible for making guardianship work out.  Adding a new family member is something everyone must be willing to take part in, especially the parents!!

I have heard this story before. A family gets a pet for their 9 year old son because he has been begging for a pet and swears up and down that he will be fully responsible for all aspects of cleaning, feeding, training and walking.  After a few months, once the honeymoon period is over and school starts, the 9 year old is getting tired of having so much responsibility on top of school and extra-curricular activities, so, the kid just stops doing it. The parents nag and complain saying, this is your pet and we don't have time! After a few more weeks the disgusted parent takes the dog to the shelter claiming "no time" to have a pet and then, if the pet is lucky, finds a new home, or if not, dies at the shelter.  Meanwhile, the kid is sad but learns a valuable lesson, pets are disposable if you don't have time. Don't you hate this story?

First off, I'm sure I sound extremely cynical but I have heard this story over and over at the shelter. My question is, who relies on a child to take full responsibility for anything, never mind a living animal? Of course it didn't work out and expectations weren't met. The reality is that getting any pet is a FAMILY responsibility.

Even in the adult world, expecting one person to always do everything for the family pet is unrealistic.  In my home where there are no kids, I am the primary caretaker.  However, my husband helps me!  We share the responsibility as needed. He doesn't throw up his hands and say, this is your responsibility and I will never help you!  We both realize even though I am the animal lover in our family that once the animals are part of our household that we both bear responsibility for their welfare. Taking them back to the shelter is not an option.

Bringing a pet home should be a family decision and unless there are truly extenuating circumstances the pet is there for their entire life even when junior leaves for college.  Don't forget that your "pet" is part of the family.

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