Lucky & Unlucky Pets

Pets can be expensive. The Tibetan Mastiff […] has an average purchase price of $3,000, while the Portuguese water dog costs $2,500, and the Black Russian Terrier goes for $2,000. This, combined with the yearly cost of ownership—up to $1,843 on average for dogs and $1,035 for cats, according to the ASPCA—indicates most pet owners are truly dedicated to their animal’s survival and happiness.

[Approximately] 79.7 million [U.S.] households own a pet, [or] 65% of [all] homes. [More than 40%] own more than one pet; [t]here are 77.8 million dogs [nationwide] and 85.8 million cats, according to the Humane Society. [Roughly] 34% of dogs are purchased from a breeder, 4% from pet stores, 37% are adopted from shelters, 6% are taken in as strays, and 20% come from friends or relatives. Only 3% of cats come from breeders, 2% from pet stores, 45% […] from shelters, 25% […] taken in as strays, and 25% come from friends or relatives.

What happens to homeless animals? There are 13,600 community animal shelters across the United States. [Around] 7.3 million animals enter these shelters each year (3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats); 3 million of these animals are euthanized [annually], and 4.3 million are adopted [out] or returned to their owners. With so many animals needing our love, why are we paying the big bucks for these breeds when we can adopt an animal that is going to be euthanized?

We have all read about the medical reasons to have a pet. WebMD tells us that pets are natural mood enhancers; only a few minutes with a dog [or] cat, or [time spent] watching fish swim, makes us feel less anxious. […] Petting and playing with an animal increases levels of serotonin and dopamine […], and these transmitters help reduce not only depression, but stress, [as well]. [Additionally], researchers have found that when children grow up in a home with a dog or cat, they are 33% less likely to develop allergies, and the same is true for kids who live on a farm with large animals.

So maybe pets are the miracle drug we have all been waiting for!

We know about the medical reasons for a pet, but what about the psychological advantages? The American Psychological Association [recently] published a study done at Miami University of Ohio and St. Louis University [in which researchers] concluded people with pets were closer to other important people in their lives and received more support from these people, not less.

[In other words], pets complement other forms of social support, […] indicating no evidence that relationships with pets came at the expense of relationships with other people. Also, owning a pet can teach children valuable life lessons; [k]ids with dogs have a higher level of empathy and self-esteem, and learning to take care of an animal teaches the value of routine and good habits. Being outside in a public setting with your animal increases social interaction, because pets are great icebreakers and can help ease people out of social isolation and shyness.

September is full of days honoring pets—National Pet Memorial Day and National Hug-Your-Hound Day are [both on the 11th this year, and] Puppy Mill Awareness Day and Responsible Dog Ownership Day both fall on [the 17th]—[b]ut there is no celebration for the 3 million animals America euthanizes each year. It falls back on all of us to have the heart to help defenseless animals that can’t speak for themselves. For anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of their pet and felt that unconditional love looking back, we cannot continue letting animal shelters go underfunded and undermanned.

All of us need to reach deep into our pockets to help these shelters find homes for these innocent animals, and, if we don’t have the dollars to help, we should be volunteering to feed, walk, bathe and play with these ignored animals at the shelters. Donate or volunteer at the American Humane Association, the ASPCA, the Humane Society or the Best Friends Animal Society, where you can help save animals who are the victims of animal cruelty or natural disasters. […]

Taxpayers pay $2 billion annually to round up, house and dispose of homeless animals. Many of us go out and spend thousands of dollars to buy an expensive animal, while millions of others are being put to sleep because no one has stepped up to give them a home. Those of us with pets know they provide therapeutic benefits for many of life’s invisible scars. Our pets help us socially and emotionally. The unconditional love pets give us transcends work issues, family conflicts and death. Animals don’t care about the color of your skin, whether you can read or not, or if you are missing a limb.

So not only during […] Responsible Dog Ownership Day [should] we honor our best friends, but we should also be taking this time to help those animals less fortunate than the ones in our own home. Helping […] animals in need is the core of our decency. Donate to animal shelters and organizations to help care for these innocent animals. Volunteer at your local shelter to help the animals cope with being alone. No one wants to be alone, and your simple act of kindness can go a long way for animals that have no one to care for them.

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