Do you have a child that wants a pet? Are you not sure if he is responsible enough to take care of it? Are you afraid that you’ll get stuck feeding and cleaning up after the animal or giving it away?
It is better to be hesitant than to throw caution to the wind when it comes to live animals. There are countless advertisements online of people giving up their animals because their child won’t take care of it. It is hard on the animal to leave a loving home to go back to a temporary placement. Sadly, rescues have to hold the parent responsible for the animal because minors cannot enter into a contract by themselves. They have to decline an application if the parents of the family are not ready for an animal, despite the fact that their children show signs of being great caretakers.
So how can you tell if your child is ready? It is much easier than you think, but it can be a process. First, talk to your child about it and lay down all the responsibilities of caring for an animal. It has to be fed every day. One way or another, you have to clean up where they went to the bathroom. They also have to be trained to your habits and need a good amount of attention.
If you are still not sure, take your child to the nearest rescue to help out. The decision to get a pet is a big deal and should not be rushed into. Spend the day at the rescue so your child gets a good idea of all the work it is going to take to keep an animal. The rescue will thank you.
By that time, it should be pretty clear if your child is ready for a pet. Did your child eagerly help out with caring for the animals or drag his feet and whine the entire time? Remember, an animal is for life. This decision could make both parties very happy or unhappy, but the animal has a rougher time parting with the family.
Now that the decision process is in the past, you can focus on a more serious matter. The child has proven to be ready for a pet but then he does not keep up the maintenance. If your child has decided not to take care of the animal, do not give the animal away so quickly. It is not the animal's fault that it is not being taken care of and it is time to get serious. Your child entered a verbal contract with you that he would care for the animal if you adopted one. Bring up the point that your child has been put in charge of this animal's life. If the animal doesn't eat, it dies. If its waste is not cleaned up, it can get sick (or make your child sick) and die. You as a parent are not going to let that happen, but giving the animal away has serious consequences. Inform your child that the animal becomes depressed and sincerely misses them when it is returned. A child should respond to that.
But if you really think your child will back out of the contract, have it all down in writing and use it as a reminder. Remember that you are the parent, the enforcer in the house. If you have to give the animal away because your child will not take care of it, make sure there is a serious consequence attached to it. Your child broke a promise and lied to you. He has shown you that he is not responsible enough to make decisions regarding life (food and cleanliness to be precise). Finally, try to find a good home for the animal instead of taking it to the shelter. Many rescues do not take owner surrenders and government shelters are more than likely going to put the animal to sleep immediately.
Getting a pet is a hard decision to make and as a parent if you are not ready to deal with one, then wait to adopt an animal. Rescues would rather place animals in a permanent home that they know will work out. It doesn't mean you hate animals or don't want them to find a good home. You are logical enough to know you are not ready to care for one. It is like having a child; it is possible to have one and not be ready for the responsibility.
If your ultimate decision is not to get a pet, there is no need to think you are depriving your children. Many rescues offer programs where you can walk the dogs or play with the animals on a regular basis. The only downside is animals will be adopted and your children will miss them, but this is a good lesson for children to learn. Sometimes we have to be selfless for the good of something else. Chances are that animal is going to a great home where they will be spoiled as much as a child. Even adult volunteers get possessive of their rescues when they are adopted and go in to say goodbye. Pretty soon, a new cat needing a home will show up that your child will want to play with.
Best of all, it will teach your children kindness towards animals. They may meet a cat that lost his back leg because someone was mean to him (you don't have to go into gory details. Children understand meanness). At younger ages, experiences like that are more inclined to go into the long term memory. When these children get older, they will be mindful of those who treat animals poorly.
If the general public were more informed about how much responsibility goes into caring for an animal, shelters would not be so full of homeless pets.
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