Millions of people share their homes and lives with dogs, cats, and other beloved companion animals. The bond between these animals and their human guardians is so strong that whenever there is an emergency that calls for the evacuation of an area, PETA affiliates around the world receive tons of calls from people who are being forced by their government officials to desert their companion animals. Even elderly residents often choose to suffer for days in order to safeguard animals they consider to be members of their families.
Other animals, however, aren't as lucky to have such devoted people taking care of them. There are dogs who spend their entire lives outdoors at the end of a chain, forced to endure all weather extremes and unable to get the exercise they need. These dogs become frustrated and are prone to attacking humans. Chaining dogs is such a safety hazard that it was recently restricted in the state of California, and similar legislation has been passed or is being considered in other parts of the globe.
Some people not only neglect but downright abuse their companion animals. The cruelty rarely stops there: Researchers have found that an animal abuser's next target is often a spouse or child. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation lists animal abuse as one of three symptoms that predict the development of a psychopath.
Before you decide to make a companion animal a part of your family, carefully assess whether you can take on the responsibility. Will you be able to feed and play with your new companion and take him or her to a veterinarian when necessary? Does your home have enough space to accommodate a companion animal?
It's not a good idea to force this responsibility on other people by giving them animals as gifts. Even if they really want a companion animal, they might not be able to take care of one, so it's best to give non-animal gifts instead.
If you are ready to welcome a companion animal into your home, make a point of adopting one from an animal shelter or pound. There are millions of animals without a home, and buying from breeders and pet stores contributes to the overpopulation problem. Animals also have more babies (and have babies more often) than humans do, so have your companion animal spayed or neutered as soon as possible.
For more ideas on how to take care of companion animals, please visit HelpingAnimals.com.