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Are We Meeting Our Pets’ Needs?

I think it’s part of our American culture to love the idea of having a pet. Whether it’s a dog or cat or a pocket pet, many of us enjoy our lives more when we share it with a companion animal.

Dog Sports provide an outlet for energy.
Dog Sports provide an outlet for energy.

There is another side to the equation. And that is how is our companion is enjoying their life with us. Animals have needs. The essentials are shelter, food and water. But even more so, particularly in the case of dogs, our companions need time and attention and some freedom  as well.

Rio enjoying some freedom.
Rio enjoying some freedom.

I recent spoke with a dog owner who was complaining about her dog. The owner kept telling me how the 8 month old pup was hyper, wild and unruly. After some questioning, I realized the dog was confined to its crate for at least 18 hours a day. The pup was crated to sleep at night, to avoid destruction during the day and to keep her away from the children in the afternoon  and evenings. While the dog does get a few walks, this type of confinement is cruel and unreasonable. Not surprisingly, the pup has learned to relieve herself in the crate because she is kept in it too long.

The owner claims to love this dog. She says, “We are going to make it work.”. I can tell you, at least right now, this arrangement isn’t working for the dog. And it isn’t really working for the owner who comes home to a dirty dog and a dirty crate.

Some crate time is OK. 18 hours a day is not OK>
Some crate time is OK. 18 hours a day is not OK.

Having an animal is a responsibility. Pets take time, energy and a commitment from us to keep them safe,  happy, and healthy. It isn’t always convenient to meet the needs of our pets, but it is or should be, a requirement for sharing our lives with an animal. In the sheltering world, we often talk about the 5 freedoms. They are:

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

    Rusty using his natural instincts.
    Rusty using his natural instincts.

Take a minute and think about the relationship you have with your pets. Are you meeting these requirements? It’s only fair to hold ourselves to a reasonable standard of animal welfare.

Dogs enjoying each other!
Dogs enjoying each other!


Cecelia Sumner, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA

Animal Behavior Manager,

Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County




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