The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 37 percent of U.S. households own a dog. Many parents choose to add a dog to their family once they feel their children are responsible enough to help care for the dog. Not only does caring for a dog teach children responsibility and respect for animals, but it also helps keep them more active. On average, dog-owning children spend 20 more minutes a day being active than those without a dog. But before you jump right into dog ownership, there are a few factors you might want to consider.

Test the waters:

It’s a good idea to help your child realize the time commitment involved in caring for a dog. As a test before you bring a dog into your home, give your child a stuffed dog and have them care for that stuffed animal for a week or two. You can set guidelines for how long they should be feeding, walking, playing, and cleaning up after the dog. Set a timer and have your child do nothing else during that time (no computers, phones, video games, etc.) By using this experiment, you should be able to see if your child is serious about getting a dog.

Find the right fit:

There are literally millions of dogs in animal shelters just waiting to be adopted. Contrary to popular belief, not all shelter dogs are mutts; close to 30 percent are purebreds. If you choose a mixed breed dog, talk to shelter workers and find out the personalities and energy levels of each dog. Animal shelter employees are trained to help “match make” to find the right fit for your family. If you do opt for a purebred, make sure you do your research and pick the breed that will work well with your family. Lisa Peterson, spokesperson for the American Kennel Club, has these suggestions:

For on-the-go families:

* Border Collie. These dogs are athletic and beautiful and since they’re a herding breed, they will keep up with a fast-paced kid.

* Labrador Retriever. The Lab is the most popular dog in the U.S., probably because of its love for the outdoors and gentle-yet-playful personality.

For homebodies:

* Bulldog. Even though bulldogs have a rough expression, most bulldogs love kids. Their easygoing attitude makes them the perfect pet to have indoors.

* Pug. Pugs are playful, loving, and eager to please. Pugs enjoy constant human companionship and require minimal exercise each day.

For allergy sufferers:

* Portuguese Water Dog. President Obama has made this breed popular. This breed is very loyal and they require a vigorous daily exercise routine.

* Maltese. This breed is known for being the most well-mannered of the little dogs. Their brave and playful disposition make them great for families with young kids.

* Poodle. Poodles have exceptional intelligence and are very athletic, though they are high maintenance in that daily walks are a must.

For small spaces:

* Yorkshire Terrier. Toy breeds are ideal for apartments. Yorkies have a big personality in a small package.

Remember that although you may be getting the dog “for your kids,” you will be the person who is responsible for your dog’s care and training. It’s unrealistic to expect a child to have sole responsibility for the care of a family dog. Teaching a dog the rules of the house and helping him be a good companion is too overwhelming a task for a young child. You must be prepared and willing to be the dog’s primary caregiver. Not only do dogs need basic things like food, water, and shelter, they also need to be played with, exercised, and trained on a consistent basis.

Dogs & Kids: Think “Safety First” at all times:

Dog safety education begins with you. Children do not understand that all dogs have the potential of biting someone. Do not encourage your children to approach strange dogs without the owner’s permission. Also, even with your own family’s dog, children should be taught to leave the dog alone when he is eating and sleeping.

With these tips, you’ll be able to raise a happy family with a canine as part of your pack!


June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Monthand to celebrate Animal Shelter Assistance Program will be offering the following discounts through the month of June:

* Two cats or kittens for the price of one: $65.

* A single cat or kitten will be available for $35.

Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) can be reached at 683-3368 or visit their Web site at ASAP is located at the Santa Barbara Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road (just beyond the Humane Society). Regular business hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Sundays.

“Cat Nips” Program

More than 6,000 cats and kittens wind up in area shelters every year. Many don’t make it out. The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society (SMVHS), in a collaborative partnership with Santa Barbara County Animal Services and San Luis Obispo County Animal Services, has launched the “Cat Nips” Program to reduce the number of unwanted litters this spring. For a limited time, the SMVHS Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic is offering cat spay/neuter surgeries for the low price of $20 per cat for the first 200 cats to sign up.

Santa Barbara County Animal Services took in more than 3,400 cats and kittens last year. Last spring, the Santa Maria Animal Center was inundated with litters forcing them to house more than 400 kittens in foster care. Similarly, San Luis Obispo County took in 2,300 stray cats and kittens. “It is unacceptable for us as a community to tolerate the tragedy of unwanted litters flooding area shelters. The problem is preventable and the solution is affordable. Help spread the word and encourage everyone to have their cats spayed and neutered as soon as possible,” said Jill Tucker, SMVHS executive director.

Appointments can be made by calling 349-3435. Cat surgeries at the regular price of $60 for females and $45 for males are still available to any member of the public regardless of where they live. Services are provided by appointment only and the spay/neuter clinic is now open six days per week.

The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society wishes to express their sincerest gratitude to Santa Barbara County Animal Services and San Luis Obispo County Animal Services for their partnership in subsidizing these efforts. Working collaboratively, these public and private agencies are striving to ensure affordable spay/neuter services are available to the local community.

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Looking for a loyal companion through good times and bad? Little Gabe, a shelter favorite, is shy, quiet, sweet, and loving. At 3 years old, the 11 pound guy is pretty much a lap dog who also enjoys basking in the sun. He chooses his canine friends carefully, and would do best in an all-adult household. Come to the shelter to meet Gabe. He’s waiting for his forever home with you! This beautiful photo is courtesy of Kristen Hehnke Film & Photography

Come visit Gabe at the Santa Barbara County Shelter/K-9 PALS, 5473 Overpass Road or learn more about him by calling (805) 681-4369 or at


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