By Nathan Pfau, Contributing WriterFebruary 10, 2011
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- February is responsible pet owners' month and it's a great time for the pet owners of Fort Rucker to make sure they are doing everything they can to keep healthy pets, according to officials at the Fort Rucker Stray Facility.
There are many things pet owners can do to keep pets healthy, and help keep stray animals out of the animal shelter and off the streets of Fort Rucker, according to Capt. Tiffany Riddle, officer-in-charge of the Fort Rucker veterinary clinic.
Fort Rucker regulations govern owning a pet on post and exist for the safety of both animals and humans. Some regulations include: limiting the number of pets per household to three, requiring that all pets be immunized, having identification, and requiring that all pets be microchipped for tracking purposes, just to name a few.
Regulations, however, aren't the only things to follow when being a responsible pet owner.
"It is highly recommended to spay or neuter your pets because there are way too many unwanted animals," said Riddle.
This is perhaps the most important thing a pet owner can do for his or her pet. Spaying and neutering can prevent tumors and cancers such as uterine cancer in females and testicular cancer in males, according to Riddle. Spaying and neutering also helps keep strain off of the already limited animal shelter facility.
"We have to take animals that are brought in to the shelter, but we don't always have room," said Katie Brewster, an animal health aide for the shelter facility. "The shelter can hold, at most, 11 cats and 11 dogs," she continued.
In the case an animal comes in when the shelter is full, the animal that has been in the facility the longest will be euthanized in order to make room for the new stray animal coming in.
The facility does offer adoptions for the animals being brought in and people are encouraged to adopt since their space and resources are limited. Cost is $81 to adopt, which includes micro-chipping, deworming and defleaing, up-to-date shots, and spaying or neutering for the animal. Spaying and neutering of the animal is mandatory for the adoption and is done by appointment after the animal has been adopted.
Before taking on an adoption, Brewster said people should understand the responsibility of taking a pet into their homes.
"Owning an animal is more than just giving it food every day, you need to make sure you have the time to dedicate to it," She said.
Animals should have adequate shelter, regular check-ups, shown plenty of affection and given plenty of exercise.
"Dogs should be walked at least twice a day." said Brewster. "It doesn't have to be a long walk, just five or 10 minutes at a time."
Another way to keep pets healthy is to make sure they are fed a well-balanced diet.
Riddle said people should not feed pets table food because it can lead to pancreatitis, which is brought on by fatty foods. An animal's nutritional needs are not the same as a human's, therefore, table food does not benefit them like pet food does.
"Overfeeding is just as bad as malnourishment," Riddle said. "Just as one would a child, monitor your pets' intake of food."
Taking care of one's pet also includes regular veterinarian visits.
"You should bring in your animal to the vet clinic at least once a year," said Riddle, "just like we do, they have to come in for a check-up."
She said that although many of the vaccines are switching to three-year vaccines, there are still issues that can "pop up" in between vaccinations.
Pet owners should also take care to make sure their pets are always on a leash, according to regulation. Not only does this control the pet, but can also help prevent the spread of disease by keeping pets from roaming and coming in contact with wild animals, said Riddle.
The responsibility of being a pet owner is almost like that of having a child, but once one makes the commitment, the rewards are worth the work that is put in, according to Brewster.