As pet owners, we consider our pets to be important members of our family and we try to do everything possible to keep them healthy and happy. We recognize that pet ownership is both a privilege and a responsibility, and we cannot simply tend to our pets when it’s convenient for us. We recognize that our pets need love, care, and devotion in order to survive well, and we are willing to provide these things to them, especially since they so willingly provide us with unconditional love in return. But what exactly does being a responsible pet owner mean?

In honor of Responsible Pet Owner month, we have outlined five key responsibilities that come with being a pet owner:

  1. Make every effort to incorporate your pet into your family. Domesticated pets, and especially dogs, need human companionship in order to live happy, fulfilling lives. Many of our pets are traditionally pack animals, and suffer if they feel they are not fully incorporated into the family.
  1. Find out what household items can potentially harm your pet, and pet-proof your house. You may think that your cleaning products are secure under your sink, but the truth is that pets are curious and persistent. It may not take a lot of effort for them to find and ingest something toxic. This includes certain food items.
  1. Provide proper health care to your pet. Your pet cannot communicate to you when they feel funny or are in pain and are actually quite expert at hiding their discomfort. This means that they can be suffering for quite some time before you realize it–unless you make sure they receive regular veterinary check-ups. Veterinarians are specially trained to look for signs of good health and for signs of health issues and can help you address problems before they become worse.
  1. Spay or neuter your pet. Some pet owners feel bad about spaying or neutering their pet, but the truth is that this routine surgery can actually contribute to a healthier, happier and longer life. Spayed and neutered pets are also less likely to encounter undesirable behavior issues.
  1. Make sure your pet has identification. ID tags are important to help identify lost pets so they can be returned to their owners. You may also want to consider getting your pet microchipped as a backup in case their collar and ID tag fall off.