Education: Making Thoughtful Pet Choices

Lisa Forzley is the humane education manager for the Detroit Zoological Society and oversees the Berman Academy for Humane Education.

The Detroit Zoological Society frequently Photo by Kurt Schwarzreceives calls from people who have purchased an exotic animal such as an iguana or a parrot and have discovered that they are unable or unwilling to provide the specialized – and often expensive – care the animal needs. In 2014, we received 84 phone calls or emails regarding reptiles alone! We hear comments such as, “I didn’t know that a parrot could live to be almost 100 years old” or “I had no idea that an iguana could grow to be more than 5 feet long.”

Unfortunately, the ever-growing exotic pet trade creates situations that significantly compromise the animals’ welfare and result in people turning to the Detroit Zoo for help. Although we wish we could provide sanctuary for all animals in need, we are unable to accept them in nearly all cases.

Making a good pet choice is important – both for you and for the animal you will potentially be bringing into your home. Here are a few questions to get you started before adopting an animal:

  • Am I able to meet the animal’s physical and psychological needs for his or her entire life?
  • Do I have the time and the money needed to properly take care of this animal?
  • Do local ordinances or laws prohibit owning this kind of animal?
  • Will my veterinarian be able to provide his or her medical care?
  • How much am I able to spend on veterinary costs?
  • What will I do if there is a problem?
  • Will this animal get along with animals that are already in my home?

Remember that dogs and cats have changed over several thousand years of living with humans and are the best nonhuman companions for us. Humane societies and rescue organizations are great resources to find a dog or cat for your family. If you’re ready to adopt, join us this weekend at Meet Your Best Friend at the Zoo, one of the nation’s largest off-site companion animal adoption events, where hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens will be available for immediate adoption to loving homes. You can also visit http://www.petfinder.com to find rescue organizations located nearby. They’ll be able to support you in finding the perfect companion animal for your family!

– Lisa Forzley

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