Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 18, 2014

McGroarty: Owners, help your pets become model citizens

Start with a leash, then add a collar and ID for dogs.

By Jean McGroarty
Guest columnist

— Do you consider yourself a good citizen? Law abiding? Courteous toward your neighbors? Working to make your community a better place? Hopefully, the answer is yes.

Now, how about your dog? Granted, he or she doesn’t know the laws, doesn’t always understand boundaries, and probably doesn’t spend time thinking about the community. But that’s your job. Do you know the local ordinances and the common-sense standards of courtesy that apply to how your pet fits into human society? Can you turn your dog into a model citizen?

Start with a leash. Having your dog on a leash or under voice control is a requirement, whether you live in the city or out of town. Leash laws exist in every state. There just isn’t a place where it’s safe to let your dog “run free.” Keeping your pet on a leash lets you have control of where your dog goes, who he or she meets, and how they behave. A leash keeps your dog from bolting into traffic, running into the neighbor’s yard where he’s not welcome, or jumping on that pedestrian on the sidewalk. A leash means safety. It means control. It contributes to your dog’s good citizenship.

Add a collar, and identification. The Kokomo Humane Society receives hundreds of lost dogs each year. If they have current identification, we can return them home right away. And it’s important that the ID be current. If you move or change your phone number, change your identification tag or microchip. Too often, phone numbers are no longer in service, or the owner has moved and not changed the information on the ID tag or in the database. Current identification is a pet’s ticket home. Be careful, too, about the kind of collar you use. Call the Humane Society to ask about safe collars for dogs.

How about vaccinations? It’s state law that your dog must have a current rabies vaccination. Some of these vaccinations are good for three years; others are good for one year. Check with your vet about which vaccination is right for your dog. Common sense dictates that your dog or cat be vaccinated for other diseases. Again, your veterinarian can advise you which shots are necessary for your pets and how often they should be administered. That relationship with your veterinarian is important for maintaining your pet’s health and your peace of mind. Neglecting the health of your pet can cause you heartache later on; make sure your best friend visits the vet as recommended.

Training is a must. If you’re not sure how to train your dog in citizenship, there are behaviorists in our community who would be glad to help get you started. Also, be aware that there are some dogs who just don’t get along with other dogs. If you live with one of those, walk your dog where or when he or she won’t be agitated by another dog. Dogs who don’t like other dogs or who are easily excited to the point of aggression when around other canines should also avoid the local dog parks.

Is your dog or cat a litterer? Are they spayed or neutered? The number of unwanted puppies and kittens that come into the Humane Society each year, especially in the spring and summer, is staggering.

There are more and more options available in the area to make sure that your pet won’t reproduce and add to the pet overpopulation problem. There’s really no excuse NOT to get your pet fixed. Not only will your dog or cat help keep pet population under control, they will be calmer, won’t want to roam so much, and won’t be as likely to get certain cancers as they get older.

Remember, too, that a female in heat is considered a public nuisance if left unattended outside, according to both the city and county ordinances. Why not avoid the problem altogether and get her spayed?

One more thing that’s just common courtesy: clean up after your pet. If your dog does his business in the neighbor’s yard, in the park, on the sidewalk, or anywhere, pick it up. Carry plastic bags with you (bags from the grocery work well), and dispose of the package in an appropriate place. Though there are no local ordinances requiring clean-up after your pet, it’s the right thing to do!

Being a good citizen is positive. It contributes to a good community. It’s up to pet owners, however, to make sure that their dogs and cats are good citizens as well. To find a copy of Kokomo and Howard County animal ordinances, check the Humane Society’s website, www.kokomohumane.org, and click on Animal Control. You can also call your local government offices to find the information you need. For further questions call the Kokomo Humane Society at 765-452-6224, ext. 1. We’ll be glad to help.

Jean McGroarty is the Executive Director of the Kokomo Humane Society. She can be reached by phone at 765-452-6224.