Thinking of getting a pet? 3 tips to get a furry friend safely and hassle-free

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One of the best ways of easing isolation, loneliness (and craziness) during this pandemic is caring for a pet. If you’re looking to get a dog, cat, bird, fish or any other animal friends, here’s a guide for you:

Things to consider before getting one

Pets are wonderful companions but they’re also a responsibility. You should be certain that you’ll be able to provide a safe environment, attention and care before getting one. Having a pet also entails costs. You’ll need to have regular budget for food and veterinary care. If you want to know if you’re ready, take the Pet Ownership Quiz Challenge especially if you’re intending to get a dog or cat.

Check your home environment. Are pets allowed in your apartment building or condo? Do you have enough space? Is there space where they can roam or get exercise? Don’t forget to check if you or anyone you’re living with has allergies. Pet allergies can be triggered by animal fur, dander, saliva or urine (usually from cats and dogs). These cause asthma, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

If you want to get a pet but your time and resources are limited (or you think you’re not ready), consider fostering. Fostering is volunteering to help shelter an animal who needs a temporary home. This is your chance to experience caring for a pet before getting your own. Go to Winnipeg Humane Society, Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue, Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, or the Manitoba Great Pyrenees Rescue to know more about it and to apply to be a volunteer. Animal-lovers who can’t commit to having a pet in their home can go on a Doggie Date or visit dogs at the Winnipeg Animal Services and give them treats.

Where do I get a pet?

You have several options: You can buy a pet from a store, rescue groups, breeders and private sellers or adopt from a shelter. This will depend on the type of pet you want, your budget and your other personal preferences.

Take extra caution when buying from private sellers, especially those you see on social media. The Better Business Bureau reports that puppy scams are on the rise as fraudsters are taking advantage of lonely animal lovers during the pandemic (Global News). Tell-tale signs of a scam include extremely low prices, use of unsecured payment methods like bitcoin and gift cards, or if they ask more money for additional “expenses” like a temperature-controlled crate, vaccines or insurance.

To ensure that it’s not a scam, you should:

  1. Check the website – Legitimate companies/breeders will have a well-established website that has been online for more than six months. If you’re getting a purebred dog, check the Canadian Kennel Club to confirm if the breeder is listed.
  2. Check the photos – Do a reverse image search by copying and dropping the animal’s photo on Google. It’s a scam when the photo is in other ads, websites, or on stock photo sites.
  3. Ask for references – Legitimate sellers provide references from previous adopters or from those they source their animals from. You can also ask for the name of the vaccinating veterinarian to be sure.
  4. Ask to see it in person – Don’t send your payment before seeing the pet. Scammers use COVID-19 as an excuse not to allow in-person meetings and push buyers to send payment immediately. Once the buyer sends the money, they’ll be left waiting for a pet that will never come. Legitimate sellers should be able to facilitate safe in-person viewing by using masks and physical distancing.

Find out more signs of a reputable seller here: Choosing and caring for a family pet

Caring for your pet

Aside from food, shelter and attention, you will need to maintain your pet’s health and safety. In Manitoba, all dogs and cats over six months should be licensed. You can do this over the phone, in-person, by mail or online. This is renewed annually (or bi-annually for two-year licenses). You can see the fee listing from this link. Failing to license comes with a $250 fine for non-compliance; it also endangers your pet. Animal Services or 311 operators are able to assist licensed pets when they go missing. Moreover, licensing fees fund other services that benefit cats and dogs as well as the community.

Your pets will also need regular veterinary care to prevent them from getting sick. You will need the vet for vaccines, parasite control, dental care and grooming. Vet care can cost a lot. This why some pet owners avail of pet insurance. Know more about veterinary care and pet insurance and weigh your options. It would be good to ask other pet owners for suggestions to arrive at the best decision.
Sources: Choosing and caring for a family pet, Manitoba. gov; Pet Licenses, Animal Services Agency; Puppy sale scams are on the rise amid the pandemic – here’s what to watch out for, Christopher Reynolds, Global News; Pet allergy, Mayo Clinic; and Caring for your animal: Is pet insurance worth the cost? Katie Dangerfield, Global News. Accessed December 21, 2020.

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Community Resources

Read the Responsible Pet Ownership By-Law. This regulates the presence of wild and domesticated animals within the City of Winnipeg, including their activities and the activities of their owners.

Your pets will need warmth in winter too. Read 5 ways to keep your pets safe and comfortable in winter.

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