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Pet Responsibility
Responsible Pet Ownership

Are you thinking about getting a pet? Don't do anything before you read Joyce Fay's advice on being a responsible owner. As someone who photographs the dogs and cats that languish in shelters hoping to be adopted, Joyce knows firsthand what can happen when people take in a pet they are not really prepared for. The most important thing: realistic expectations. "People call me and say, 'I'm looking for a dog that's housebroken and doesn't shed,'" she says. "So I say, 'Have you tried Toys R Us?'"

Here are Joyce's top tips on how to be a responsible pet owner.
    1. Decide whether you can really handle a pet. "This is a very, very long commitment," cautions Joyce. "Think to yourself, 'What am I going to be doing 15 years from now?' Getting a pet is accepting a real responsibility for a living, breathing, feeling animal."

    2. Don't buy from a pet store. "The dogs there are terribly overbred and can have many, many problems, physical and otherwise," Joyce warns. "Every dog has its challenges, but pet stores make it much worse." If you do want a particular breed and want to make sure it's purebred, research reputable breeders carefully.

    3. Go to a shelter, where you'll be giving a dog a chance at life. Still, Joyce says, "Know what you want first. People pick a dog in an instant, but it's a lifetime companion. Do you want to start with a puppy, or a full-grown dog? Give it some real thought before you go to the shelter. And if you're not an experienced dog person, take one along to the shelter with you, someone who can give you advice.

    4. Do your research about the breed and the animal in general. "It's the same as if you were going to buy a car or a computer," says Joyce. "People spend more time researching a car they're going to buy than their dog, but the dog will be with you much longer!"

    5. Get a pet that matches your lifestyle. "Ask yourself what kind of animal suits your lifestyle," Joyce advises. "For example, I live in the West and I have dogs and horses; when I lived in an apartment in New York City, I had a parakeet. Consider your lifestyle. How much are you home? How much are you going to alter your life?"

    6. Once you do take your new pet home, make sure to spay or neuter. Every puppy or kitten born means less room for the ones who are already in shelters.

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Spending quality time every day with your pet is an important part of pet responsibility

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