Even the most well-intentioned owners might make choices that could hurt their pets. Animal NGOs are now enlisting the help of volunteers who counsel people on responsible pet care. N. S. Pravallika, Humane Education Officer at Blue Cross Hyderabad says the top mistake pet-owners make is not vaccinating the animal. “Most of them take them to the vet when the pet is sick, but not for annual vaccines, deworming and tick/flea treatments”, she observes, adding that neglecting to bathe, groom or brush them also leads to poor health. She finds that neglected pets were often those that were ‘gifted’ to unprepared owners. “Animals are sentient beings that are not to be gifted – having a pet is a responsibility”, she says.

Karthick M, a senior associate with a leading software company, campaigns against the breeding and sale of animals, and volunteers as a certified Humane Educator in Blue Cross, Chennai. He believes that pet ownership also involves spending quality time with the animal. “Play with your pets everyday”, he says. “Tying dogs or confining them throughout the day increases frustration, boredom and aggression. It is definitely animal cruelty”. He advises the owners he meets to also teach their children about compassionate behaviour to pets. He finds that one of the dangers to pets is brutal training. “Training your dog shouldn’t be a cruel or unpleasant experience. We don’t need to shock or hit them, when we know that positive reinforcement is the key to building a lifelong bond of trust. And basic obedience training is more than sufficient. Don’t approach trainers who use cruel methods”.

He urges owners to be careful about the quality of nutrition provided to their pets. “Avoid toxic foods like onion, garlic, caffeine, chocolate and salty or sugary foods. Most importantly, human medicines are not suitable for animals”.

Pravallika signs off with advice on what not to get as pets, as keeping these species in domestic settings is by itself inhumane - “Wild animals, exotic species and birds should not be got as pets as they suffer terribly in domestic settings. It is best to stick to dogs, cats and other domestic animals”. (For further feedback, email to metropetpassion@gmail.com with your city and number)