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Responsible Pet Owner month
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
February is Responsible Pet Owners Month. Zoos around the country have a very vested interest in the public choosing pets wisely because the unwanted exotic pets usually end up at our gates. Pythons, iguanas and scarlet macaws look like great and exciting companions, but they can come with a hidden cost and that cost is often paid by the animal.
Responsible pet ownership starts with understanding good choices for pets. You need to do your homework and know that you can provide for the needs and lifetime of your pet. Last week I took guinea pigs on my morning television spot at WWL-TV and talked about their nutritional needs. Guinea pigs require a cup of fresh greens high in Vitamin C every day (bell pepper, cilantro, parsley, orange wedges…) and they need free choice Timothy Hay. (Another note: please don’t buy guinea pig chow with bird seeds and colored items in them) Most guinea pig owners that I talk to are surprised that they eat those things and have never given their animals those important food items. Guinea pigs do make great pets for the right owners, but owners should understand their needs and personalities.
Zoo staff cringe when guests tell us they have iguanas (they grow to be five feet long) or Burmese pythons (they can grow to be 18 feet in length!). Macaws may be clever, but they live up to 70 years and they are endangered in the wild. Don’t even consider monkeys or big cats. They are illegal and are unpredictable, can be aggressive and have diseases that can be transferable to humans.
You can be a responsible pet owner by following these guidelines:
- Do your homework. How long does it live? What kind of personality does it have? What will it eat? Does it need a lot of space? What kind of exercise does it need?
- Try to get your pet from a shelter or rescue group. There are too many unwanted animals looking for a good home.
- Spay and neuter. No more unwanted cute puppies or kittens need to be born.
- Take your pets to the veterinarian annually. They need to see a doctor just like humans do.
- Leave the exotic animals to the zoos! You can come see them here at the Audubon Zoo anytime you like.