To Instill a Respect for Animals, Education is Key

Posted by Stephanie Ulmer, Guest Blogger on October 28, 2011

There are many stories and myths. The person that kept their new puppy tied to a tree outside all day without adequate food, water or shelter. The animal guardian who said, after Buster got one of those terrible doggy diseases that could have been held at bay with a simple shot, that they didn’t know they needed to vaccinate him. Or one of the most common ones…”I didn’t neuter Spike because I wanted him to remain a male. I didn’t want him emasculated.” These are simple scenarios that needn’t happen, but they continue to occur because of a lack of education. Some folks really don’t understand that tying up a puppy, failing to vaccinate, and neglecting to spay or neuter a companion animal is wrong. Maybe they had no one to teach them?

Enter a very special educational program instituted by lawmakers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and surrounding Bernalillo County, discussed in the September 2011 issue of Dog Fancy. An innovative program, “dog owners” who break the law for the first time (dog license, leash law infractions, and the like) are being sentenced to attend a Pet Owner Responsibility Class. While some are not happy about the prospect of attending class, many who leave the class afterward are thankful for the opportunity. It helps, too, that attendance is mandatory and that failing to show up for class can lead to a bench warrant, with a fine or jail time. On the positive side, it seems to really make a difference. In the five years that the class has been taught, there has only been one repeat offender. The class covers the animal-control ordinance and proper pet care basics, among other topics. There is also plenty of time for questions and discussion during the four-hour class.

This is an admirable and refreshing approach to getting the word out on how to care for companion animals and what local laws are concerning their basic treatment and care. Instead of just paying a fine, and possibly continuing with their law-breaking ways, guardians have the opportunity to learn why their infraction was unlawful, and best of all, how to correct that behavior. For some people, caring for a companion animal is simple, logical and innate. But for others, that respectful behavior must be learned. And there must be resources where such folks can turn for the valuable information. Maybe other communities will now follow Albuquerque’s lead and establish such classes, especially since it is clear that such education is having a positive effect. It would be easy for city parks and recreation departments to offer an elementary companion animal information class or meeting. Learning doesn’t have to be the result of an infraction. Or the class could be offered as an option when purchasing a companion animal license. There are lots of folks that could benefit, even if they already feel they are doing everything right. Getting more education out there can only be beneficial for the animals.

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