By Lars Anderson and Lisa Justice
Recently, a pair of animals was left in a cage outside Explorit overnight in the pouring rain. Fortunately, both animals are healthy and, after a trip to the vet, they have been adopted into private homes.
This story could have ended badly because even though Explorit is in an urban area, there are loose dogs, cats and possibly other predators that could have harmed these pets. The event has highlighted — and should remind us all about — the importance of responsible, caring stewardship of our pets, and our environment!
Caring and responsible pet ownership begins with the decision to adopt or purchase a pet, and continues throughout its life. First, know yourself and the needs of the animal you’re considering. For example, dogs need to spend a lot of time with their people. If your lifestyle keeps you out of the house for 12 or more hours a day, a dog may not be the best choice.
Cats are generally more independent, but still do much better with regular and frequent companionship. Cats left outside also can be a real threat to birds and squirrels, and their own lives are at risk in the high-traffic areas around Davis, or any urban community.
Spaying and neutering your pets is one of the best things you can do to protect their health and prevent the birth of unwanted animals. Spaying females can protect them from developing reproductive cancers later in life, and some pet owners have noticed more docile behavior from neutered males. The benefits of spaying and neutering abound for the animal, the owner and future generations.
As for fish and the “homes” and “environments” we provide for them such as aquaria and fish ponds, there are some important stewardship practices that will help protect our aquatic environment. Most of the invasive and environmentally detrimental non-native aquatic animals and plants have been introduced by pet owners who simply dumped their tanks in natural waterways, or released these organisms when they moved or simply got tired of caring for them.
Without the normal constraints found in their native environments (predators, pathogens other more competitive species), they flourish and can drastically impair our aquatic ecosystems. For example, the yearly cost of management of just two exotic plant species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — water hyacinth and Brazilian waterweed — is more than $5 million.
Please consider keeping native species only, and if you have exotic species, contact your local pet store for the best ways to “place” them if you move or no longer want them. Visit www.habitattitude.net for good suggestions about responsible stewardship of your aquatic pets.
Remember that all pets need the same basics that people do to stay healthy: appropriate food and water; safe, warm and clean shelter; regular and stimulating exercise; regular medical care; and affectionate and respectful interaction with you. When you become a pet owner, you make a lifelong commitment to that animal to care for it as a member of your family.
Don’t sign up for this commitment impulsively. If you find that you are unable to properly care for your pet, don’t just abandon it. Contact a shelter or animal rescue organization that can help you find your animal a new forever home.
Explorit’s coming events:
* Explorit’s “Beautiful World: Science and Art” exhibition is open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and from 3 to 6 p.m. every Friday. Admission is $5 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free.
* Summer Science Camp is coming! Registration opens Monday. Camp titles, a full schedule and all the details are available at www.explorit.org.