Life in the USA
Pet Ownership and Care
Americans love pets, especially dogs and cats. Facilities for pets--pet stores, veterinarians, pet grooming and boarding facilities--are easy to find in every community. Some communities even have pet cemeteries.
Stray Animals. America has a large problem with stray dogs and cats. Organizations like the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) take in stray animals and offer them up for adoption. Many times these organizations have to destroy animals because they don't have enough room, so if you're thinking of adopting a pet, do it right away; you might be saving an animal's life. The animal will either be free or you will have to pay a small fee for it.
Buying a Pet. Pure-bred animals are available at much higher prices than strays. Many animals, especially dogs, are bred in huge numbers in “puppy-mills” and then sold to pet shops. Often these dogs can be unhealthy and not worth the high price tag. People who see them in pet shop windows fall in love with them and only later realize that they have serious health problems. To find a healthy dog, do some research and deal directly with reputable dog breeders who are members of the American Kennel Club.
Animal Behavior. Cats are fairly independent, though if you let your cat roam outside it could be injured or lost, and your neighbors might complain about it getting into fights. Dogs cause more problems. Most communities have leash laws and will fine you if you let your dog run free (especially if you just let him out the door to roam around the neighborhood). You could also be sued if your dog bites someone, or even another dog. In addition, many communities have “pooper-scooper” laws which require you to pick up your dog's waste and dispose of it properly. Take these very sensible laws seriously.
Dog and cat food can be found in most places that sell people food. Your local supermarket will have a special section for pet food and related pet products. It might even have a separate aisle or, in some immense supermarkets, a dog food aisle and a cat food aisle. Discount pet food stores where you buy by the case also exist. Pet food is big business, and many varieties exist, even health pet food.
Veterinarians and animal hospitals are everywhere. Animal protection agencies such as the ASPCA might also provide low cost pet medical care in clinics, though you'll have to wait longer for this. It is a very sensible thing to have you dog or cat spayed (if female) or neutered (if male) because of the tremendous stray animal problem.
If you have to give an animal away, do it properly. Don't just leave it out on the street to suffer. Give it to an animal agency, advertise for a good home for it, or have it destroyed. If you do give an animal to a stranger through an advertisement, be aware that many people take unwanted animals only to sell them for medical experiments. People also steal animals for these purposes, so be careful about your animal's security. The ASPCA or your local animal hospital will have pamphlets on all these subjects. Read them.
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