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Get educated before getting that cute puppy or kitten

Web site developed by U of G prof helps prepare people for pet ownership
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The average price of keeping a dog for a year is $3,000. For a cat it’s $1,800. So you might want to give it some thought before you get one.

Jason Coe, an associate professor at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College, has developed a web site to help you do just that.

It’s called www.beforeyougetapet.com and offers education, information and various interactive elements that will help you make an informed decision.

“Our goal is not to scare people away from pet ownership,” says Coe, “there’s a lot of value and we celebrate those relationships. “It is really just about trying to help people make sure that they’re informed and their expectations are where they need to be going into this relationship.”

Depending on the level of care, a cat or dog that lives 10 to 20 years could be a $20,000 to $60,000 commitment, he says, using figures supplied by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, so it makes sense to be informed before you commit.

That’s where the web site comes in.

“There’s two prongs to the site. One is to raise awareness. What are the things you need to be considering now that you are moving into this relationship with this pet? Also, it’s a valuable resource for people who might already be pet owners.”

Pet ownership can be an emotional decision for many, but some practical thought and research is also needed.

“People give thought to acquiring an animal, but they don’t necessarily go out and seek advice or information,” Coe says. “People don’t know what they don’t know.”

The web site was developed in combination with a recent study Coe led focused on the issue of pet overpopulation, pet relinquishment and positive pet behaviour training.

“We discovered that there wasn’t a lot of research out there, particularly in a Canadian content,” Coe says.

Having informed and educated pet owners is better for everyone, including the animals.

“Pets are 10 times more likely to be surrendered or relinquished if they don’t meet expectations,” Coe says.

If we can help people manage those expectations better, it means for better success in the long run, he says.

The site is also a place for Coe and his colleagues to share what they are learning through their research.