Paws up for SD pet owners

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 1, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

NORTHERN HILLS — South Dakotans really love their pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association released its U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, which ranked South Dakota third for pet ownership with more than 65 percent of households owning a pet.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest veterinary medical organizations. Every five years the association conducts this survey, which breaks down pet ownership by state. The most recent results that were released was based off of 2011 statistics.

The survey revealed that pet ownership in South Dakota ranked third only to Vermont, where 70.8 of households owned a pet, and New Mexico, where 67.6 percent of households owned a pet. Following South Dakota in the top pet-owning states are Oregon, Maine, Washington, Arkansas, West Virginia, Idaho, and Wyoming. The District of Columbia came in last for pet ownership with 21.9 percent of households owning pets.

South Dakota didn’t rank in the top for dog ownership, but it was ranked fourth in cat ownership with 39.1 percent of households owning cats in 2011. The District of Columbia again received the lowest rank in both dog and cat ownership with 13.1 percent of households owning dogs, and 11.6 percent of households owning cats.

Dr. Douglas G. Aspros, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, said that the report reveals a lot of information about pet ownership across the country.

“One of the most important parameters that we look at is how well pet owners are doing at keeping their pets healthy,” Aspros said.

According to the survey, many households have not adequately kept up with veterinary visits for their pets. The percentage of households that made no trips to the veterinarian increased 8 percent for dog owners and an overwhelming 24 percent for cat owners.

“Pet owners across the country need to remember to bring their pets into the veterinarian — at least once a year — to maintain optimal health,” said Aspros.

Dog-owning households that visited the veterinarian at least once in 2011 was down 1.7 percent from 2006, while the decrease for cat owners was down 13.5 percent from 2006.

In 2012 alone, the Western Hills Humane Society in Spearfish received 156 dog surrenders and 184 cat surrenders, many due to poor health and expensive veterinary bills.

“People do surrender them because they can’t afford their health,” said Shar Bergum, director of the Western Hills Humane Society. “We can’t afford all the vet bills either, and sometimes they are quite expensive.”

There are 10 dogs and about 40 cats at the shelter right now. That is a low number for cats, as Bergum said the shelter usually averages 60 cats at a given time.

Bergum said that if people surrender unhealthy or sick pets, treating those animals sometimes cost as much as $600.

“The biggest thing is they’re not spayed or neutered,” said Bergum.

She added that it costs nearly $200 for the Western Hills Humane Society to spay or neuter the animal. Over 150 cats and dogs were spayed or neutered in 2012.

Last year, the local humane society also received surrendered rabbits, rats, ferrets, and guinea pigs, as well as numerous animals that were impounded. A few ducks were grounded due to snow and impounded at the shelter. Since the ducks needed water to migrate, they were sent to the Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary just outside of town where they took off in flight a couple weeks later.  

The staff at Western Hills Humane Society found homes for many of the animals they cared for. Dog and puppy adoptions were at 234 for 2012. Cat and kitten adoptions were at 307, and area residents also adopted several small animals like rabbits and ferrets.

The Western Hills Humane Society is a nonprofit, no-kill shelter that relies on donations and fundraisers to remain in operation.

“We take any kind of donations — cat carriers, dishes of odd sizes,” Bergum said. “We send them home with people who adopt.”  

The shelter is in need of rope chew toys and different sized chew bones. Volunteers are also needed to walk dogs, play with kittens, clean litter boxes, feed animals, and clean dog kennels.

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