Tips for House Hunting as a Pet Owner

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I will never forget how nervous I was the day Solas, my late German shepherd mix, and I headed out to meet the landlord of a studio apartment that I was hoping to rent. The apartment was at the back of the landlord’s home and he and his wife were hesitant to rent to a tenant with a dog. I convinced them to meet my dog before turning us down.

Solas had been bathed and was wearing a cute bandana when we walked up to the landlord’s door. I also brought along her Canine Good Citizen certificate and references from my veterinarian. She made a great impression and we got the apartment. In fact, Solas and the landlord’s granddaughter became great buddies.

Not all tenants with pets fare so well. In an American Humane survey of 93 shelters, “landlord won’t allow pets” was the fourth most common reason pets were surrendered to shelters. And according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), finding and keeping rental housing lead to the surrender of half a million pets to shelters each year. While the rental housing industry claims to be pet-friendly, HSUS representatives say that it is discriminating about the types of pets allowed. Often there are weight limits or breed restrictions when it comes to renting with dogs.

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How to Make Ocean-Friendly Choices for Your Saltwater Aquarium

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Nearly all fish living in saltwater aquarium tanks began their lives thousands of miles away on warm tropical reefs, according to For the Fishes (FTF), a nonprofit working to protect the future of reefs and wildlife. Many of these fragile fish die before reaching aquariums from poisoning, the stress of captivity or the inhumane practices used in handling and transport to the pet store.

“Most people have no idea that the saltwater fish they are buying for their aquarium were captured in the wild,” said Rene Umberger founder and executive director of FTF and a consultant to the HSUS and Humane Society International on coral reef wildlife issues. “Aquarium hobbyists automatically assume that they are buying fish that were bred in captivity.”


Image credit: Thinkstock

According to FTF, only 2 percent of fish species kept in saltwater tanks can be bred in captivity. The other 98 percent are among the most trafficked animals in the world. They are captured on reefs depleted and degraded from overfishing and cyanide use and exposed to ill treatment leading to prolonged suffering and premature death. On many tropical reefs, methods of wild capture include the illegal use of cyanide as a stunning agent, puncturing of organs, spine cutting and starvation prior to transport.

 “It’s almost impossible to breed saltwater fish, which is why there are fewer than 60 species that are commercially available out of the 2,500 marine fish species that the U.S. currently imports for the aquarium industry,” Umberger said.

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Do Our Pets Really Benefit from Supplements? Here’s What the Experts Have to Say

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Our late Rottweiler mix, Lucy, was diagnosed with chronic hip dysplasia when she was only 4 years old. After researching ways to help her I learned that joint supplements containing the ingredients chondroitin and glucosamine seem to help some dogs with joint issues. Following a discussion with my veterinarian, I started Lucy on two pills a day. I don’t know if they helped her, but she joined us on walks and hikes until we finally lost her at age 15.


Joint supplements containing the ingredients chondroitin and glucosamine seem to help Lucy who had chronic hip dysplasia. 

Now we think that our 10-year-old border collie mix, Jason, is showing signs of arthritis. Once the vet confirms this, we’ll ask if we should put him on the same supplements we used for Lucy? We’re not alone in considering the use of pet supplements. According to market researcher Packaged Facts, projected retail sales for pet supplements and nutraceutical treats in the U.S. are expected to grow through 2017, to an estimated $1.6 billion.

The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) describes pet supplements as products that are intended to complement the diet and help support and maintain a normal biological function. Products range from multivitamins for overall health to targeted formulas that claim to alleviate joint problems or canine cognitive dysfunction.

Do Our Pets Really Benefit From the Addition of Supplements in Their Diets?

The most commonly used pet supplements are multivitamins, joint supplements and fatty acids. Veterinary experts agree that glucosamine/chondroitin supplements if they are of good quality, may have modest benefits in some animals with arthritis. And fish oil supplements may be beneficial for pets with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease and cancer. However, even these common supplements have potential side effects and are not right for every dog and cat with these conditions. As for multivitamin supplements, veterinary experts say that pets do not need these unless they are on a nutritionally unbalanced diet.

“A healthy dog and cat on a well-regulated commercial pet food that has been carefully designed by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist will be getting all the vitamins and minerals they need,” said Laura Eirmann, a veterinary nutritionist at Oradell Animal Hospital. Complete and balanced pet foods are made to give pets the right amount of nutrients and adding more could be harmful to your pet Eirmann said. For example, giving too much calcium to a large breed puppy can lead to skeletal diseases.

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Why You Should Never Release Pets Into the Wild

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While it’s illegal to release non-native species into the wild, many pet owners who no longer want their pets will turn them loose. Releasing unwanted pets into the wild is both cruel and bad for the environment. Domestic rabbits, ferrets, rats and mice and aquarium fish have all been released to fend for themselves — often leading to either their death or disastrous environmental consequences.

The release of exotic pets in Florida is such a huge problem that the Department of Fish Game and Wildlife created an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day where pet owners can surrender unwanted pets without penalty.

Here’s a list of popular pets that people often consider releasing into the wild and why they shouldn’t: 

Ferrets

There’s a common misconception that domesticated ferrets are wild animals and can fend for themselves if turned loose. That’s not true. According to the American Ferret Association, Inc., ferrets were domesticated by humans as early as 63 BCE and shouldn’t be confused with the black-footed wild ferret. If a domesticated ferret is turned loose into the wild he or she will rarely survive more than a few days.

What to do instead: Reach out to a local shelter to see if it will accept and rehome your ferret. The Ferrets Rescue Shelter Directory provides a global list of shelters and rescues dedicated to finding new homes for ferrets.


Image credit: Thinkstock

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Looking to Adopt a Fish? Here’s How to Find Fish in Need of Homes

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You adopted your dog and cat from a local animal shelter and now you would like to add an aquarium to your home. As an animal welfare advocate, you wonder if it’s possible to adopt a fish? The answer is yes but you may have to do a little more research to find fish in need of a home. You’ll also need to decide on the type of aquarium you want to keep.

“Adopting fish is a great idea,” said Ted Colletti, a member of the North Jersey Aquarium Society (NJAS) and author of The Tub Pond Handbook and Aquarium Care of Livebearers. “Fish are animals too. They may not be cuddly like dogs or cats, but they can still feel discomfort and suffer from neglect just like others pets.”

Experts say first-time aquarium hobbyists should focus on freshwater fish. Before rushing out to adopt your fish it’s important that you learn everything you can about the proper care and size and maintenance of tanks. Many clubs like the NJAS hold monthly meetings, welcome beginners and are eager to share their knowledge on fish keeping.

Where to find homeless fish

Petco’s “Think Adoption First” policy extends to fish with some stores offering fish for adoption on an “as available” basis. The fish are surrendered by owners who no longer want them and can be viewed in adoption tanks at the store. There isn’t a formal application process for adopting surrendered fish, instead, adopters are asked to fill out a standard animal care form and are educated on the care of the fish before taking them home.

Some shelters offer fish for adoption

Petfinder.org is a great place to being your search for shelter fish. Choose Scales, Fins & Others from the “Type” drop-down menu. If a specific location doesn’t show fish in need of homes, go to the advanced search box and choose “anywhere.” This will show you fish for adoption nationwide and you can search for shelters within driving distance. Some humane societies and rescue groups will ship fish to adopters.

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Not Every Pet Enjoys Living in a Classroom: Here’s What You Should Know

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Certified Humane Educator Doriane Lucia has fond memories of caring for pets in the classroom. In fact, she credits classroom fish and a caring fifth-grade teacher with fostering her love and compassion for animals.

“This experience was huge for me. I didn’t know years later this would become my life’s mission, but even if it hadn’t, it would still have taught me responsibility,” said Lucia, who received her Master’s degree in Humane Education from Cambridge College in Boston, Mass. and The Institute for Humane Education, and is a member of the Association of Professional Humane Educators.

When the Pet Care Trust began offering Pets in the Classroom grants in 2011, more than 500 teachers nationwide applied. Today, the grant program has issued close to 40,000 grants with an average of 50 students being impacted per grant. The grants are offered to public school, kindergarten through sixth-grade classes, and are intended to support pets or aquariums in the classroom.

A classroom pet can be fun and exciting for schoolchildren, but it also has real educational, leadership and character-building value, according to a 2015 studypublished by the American Humane Association (AHA). According to the AHA study, the most popular classroom pets were fish followed by guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons and leopard geckos. Several teachers who responded to the survey said that they had more than one classroom pet, such as a “rabbit, hamster, fish, two turtles,” “fish and lizards,” and “Beta Fish and Dwarf Frogs.”

Bearded dragons made the list of popular classroom pets in an American Humane Association study.

Image credit: milkfactory via Flickr

How to Take Your Fish Hobby Outdoors

Keeping and breeding tropical fish outdoors in the warmer months is a practice as old as the 100-year-old tropical fish hobby itself, according to experts at the North Jersey Aquarium Society (NJAS). Homeowners interested in breaking into the hobby should start small with tubs on their decks or patios.

Once the tub is in place and the climate is right it’s time to begin introducing plants such as dwarf water lilies, iris cattails, water hyacinth, and pickerels. In June families can start adding white cloud mountain minnows, rosy barbs and zebra fish to the tub. If you want fish to breed in your container include livebearers such as platies and guppies.

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Friendly Fish Make Great Pets

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Pet fish offer a nice alternative for busy households or for families with members who are allergic to dogs or cats. You don’t have to walk, groom or clean up after fish every day. And while it’s true that you can’t pet or cuddle with fish, there are some aquarium buddies who do have friendly and interesting personalities. Some fish learn to recognize their owners, others can be fed by hand and still others entertain families with their fun antics or their habit of rearranging ornaments in the aquarium.

Before rushing out to purchase a fun fish, do some homework just as you would before adding any new pet to the family. When deciding on what type of fish or what size tank you want, consider your living space. The rule of thumb is an inch of fish per gallon, so keep that in mind when choosing a species of fish.

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