Be a responsible pet owner; 10 tips for dog and cat owners (opinion) |

Be a responsible pet owner; 10 tips for dog and cat owners (opinion)

Niki Congero
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Girls holding a dog
Getty Images |

It’s Responsible Pet Owners Month. Here are 10 things invested guardians should do when caring for animals.

1. Being a responsible pet owner starts before you even get a pet. Make sure you pick a breed that fits with your lifestyle. Do you live in an apartment? If so, I wouldn’t rush out and get a Great Dane. Always consider adopting from a shelter; there are so many animals looking for their forever homes. If you must go with a breeder, make sure they are reputable.

2. Know the cost of owning a pet. Most people don’t truly know the cost of owning a pet. If you own a cat the cost of its first year averages $1,100, while a dog will run you about $1,800. These are conservative numbers and do not account for emergencies or major illness. Pets under the age of 1 years old are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer an unexpected accident or injury than older pets. Get pet medical insurance — check with your veterinarian for a suggestion.

3. Responsible pet owners take their pets’ health seriously, and they bring pets in for annual health exams (or every 6 months for senior pets). Keep up with your pet’s oral health; just like with people, dental health can make a huge difference in overall health. Since February is also Pet Dental Health Month, it is a great time to schedule that teeth cleaning for Fluffy and Fido. Don’t skip your pet’s annual medical exam. It is the only way you can catch problems early, keeping your furry family member as healthy as possible.

4. Feed your pet a healthy, balanced, age-appropriate diet. And don’t overfeed! Obesity is a big problem with pets and can lead to major health issues such as diabetes.

5. Feb. 23 is National Spay Day. Make sure your pet is spayed (female) or neutered (male). Not only are your helping save shelter pets’ lives by not letting your pet reproduce, you are decreasing their odds of getting mammary or testicular cancer as well as other health issues.

6. Keep identification on your pets. Check to see if tags are legible and the phone numbers are current. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a lost animal with tags and a bad phone number. Microchip your pet, too. Collars come off and many times this is the only way a shelter can find owner when they are found.

7. Be prepared. Have a pet first-aid kit accessible at home and in the car when you are traveling The Lake Tahoe Humane Society provides the community with free pet emergency preparedness kits. If you don’t have one, stop by and pick one up.

8. Train your dog. Training is important in preventing behavior problems — unsocialized dogs can become nervous or aggressive around people. I strongly believe in positive-reinforcement training and would urge people interested to call the Lake Tahoe Humane Society for recommendations in trainers that use this method.

9. Set a good example when you are in public with your pet. Clean up after them! Leaving waste annoys other people, it’s unhealthy and it is against the law.

10. Lastly, tell other people about Responsible Pet Owner Month. Encourage your friends to be responsible pet owners, too.

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit, or

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