Herald No-Kill column: A pet can make you happy, healthy

July 24, 2012 

An obvious reason pet companionship is important is the benefit they provide to people with special needs, when they are a trained and certified service animal, such as the guide dogs for the blind. Pets also ease loneliness, act as a stress reducer and provide that unconditional love and affection needed by everyone.

There are immediate benefits that come with having a companion pet as part of your life. Many things can be shared between you and your pet. There is something about the pleasure of playing with or snuggling with your furry family member.

It is known that people who have pets in their lives can have a reduced stress level. The therapeutic effects that come with the basic human need to touch is fulfilled by those who have pets.

Manatee County Animal Services is looking at the possibility of some of our dogs being cared for by those incarcerated in the county jail. There is a potential for long-term changes in the criminal behavior because they have interacted with and created a bond with the dog they are caring for. We believe this is a benefit to both the prison inmate and to the dog, because it provides necessary socialization and the inmate can teach basic commands. The stimulus a pet can provide can boost their mood as well.

Having a pet can help with an exercise program. When the gym seems to get boring, how about taking the dog for a walk or playing with the cat around the house? Pets also help with socialization, not only for themselves, but for you, too. People who walk dogs often stop and talk to each other or visit at a dog park. You also may be able to meet new friends at a pet store or training class.

Pets can add structure and routine to your day. Pets usually require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. No matter what mood you may be in, you will always make sure to feed, exercise and care for your pet.

Older adults and pets are a good match too. Aging well means you have to be able to handle major changes in your life such as retirement, the physical changes that come with age and maybe the loss of a loved one. Pets can play a very important role during these times by helping you find meaning and joy in life. Your children may move away and you may retire from your lifetime career, so caring for a pet can bring you pleasure and boost your optimism.

Being able to keep a social network isn't always easy when you get older. Retirement sometimes can take away close friends

and family members. Pets are always a great way to spark up conversations and meet new people. Some physical challenges are associated with aging and pets may help you take good care of yourself because they encourage playfulness, laughter and exercise, which can help to increase your energy level.

Pets and children are also an important match as they can grow up with each other. Children who grow up with pets learn responsibility and compassion from having pets. Pets are never critical and always loving. Their presence alone can help provide a sense of security for children.

Children and adults benefit from playing with pets. The rewards of training a dog to perform a new trick can teach children the importance of setting a goal and following through with it.

People with pets seem to be more happy and independent than those without pets. It is important to select the type of pet that is best for you. You will benefit the most by having a pet that is compatible with your lifestyle and needs.

If you spend most of your time at home with little outdoor activity, you may enjoy cuddling with a cat or kitten. Being more active, enjoying activities outside the home such as running or walking, a dog might be your right choice.

Families with small children should consider the size and type of pet. Puppies and kittens are usually active, but they are delicate and must be handled with care. Large and rambunctious dogs may accidentally knock small children down. Make sure your pet selection is one that meets the needs and environment of the entire family.

Finally, the commitment is very important. Making a lifetime commitment to a new pet is a decision that should be thought through carefully. Remember that your new pet is relying upon you, for life.

If you never have to look into the eyes of a dog or cat and make a choice, you are lucky. One day, we all would like to be lucky too.

Free and low-cost spay and neuter programs: Call our information line at 941-749-3067.

Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services, writes this weekly column for the Bradenton Herald.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service