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Moms Talk: Should Kids Have Pets?

Parents, weigh in with your opinion in our online conversation.

Is a dog a kid's best friend?  Maybe, but it may not be the best friend of parents, who have to pay for its food and vet bills, and find time in their already-overstretched schedules to walk it.

Some families opt for a lower-maintenance pet, like a hamster or frog. But they're also less cuddly and kids can't really play with them.

Have you decided to get your kids a pet?  What kind, and why? And do they have to share in taking care of it?

Scott K April 27, 2011 at 12:04 PM
Short answer (opinion): Yes. Now the details. Not always. Age and/or temperament of the child, home situation, and type of pet are all huge factors. My wife and I love dogs. Medium-to-large sized dogs. Do we have them in the house currently? No. When our oldest was, say, 6 months old, we had two older dogs (16 year-old shepherd mix and a 15-year-old pin mix.) The older dog was a loving and protective animal. We were sitting in our living room with the baby between us, laying on the dog as she usually did. She reached out in play, apparently grabbed some fur in the wrong place and the dog yelped and bit her on the head. It was more of a nip, but it drew blood and freaked us out beyond belief. Lesson learned with nothing more than some freaked out parents and a crying baby. But we both realized then and there that it could have been much worse. We were lucky. Now this dog had been with us for five years and with my wife for longer than that. She had never been anything but loving to the baby to that point. Honestly, I think the dog reflexively wheeled her head around and caught the baby with her tooth accidentally (there was only one wound, nothing to indicate she bit down.) But her being a dog with no means to communicate intent forced us to segregate BOTH dogs from the baby (and subsequently babies) for the rest of their lives. We continued to love and play with them but their lives were never the same. The right pet at the right time for the right child.
Tricia Williams April 27, 2011 at 12:53 PM
My kids are young adults now and we did have pets when they were growing up. Hamsters, guinea pig, goldfish and finally a dog. While our kids loved all of the various animals, the bottom line is that they are more work for the parents. Feeding, cleaning, caring, buying food, routine health care, etc. sometimes necessarily fall on parents because kids can't do this. Of course having a pet is great for kids depending on the age of your child, type of pet, other family obligations, etc. It is a big decision and one that should not be made lightly.
Kathy Ruhnke April 27, 2011 at 02:06 PM
I say yes, but with the caveats Scott mentioned. We now have a cat and a dog and I think they add a great deal to my daughter's life. As long as parents accept that they will be doing the lion's share of caring for the pet (and I do), then it's all good. When my daughter was born, we just had two cats. The older one, who was always sickly, was getting on in years and one day began leaving "presents" all around the house. The vet gave us a few suggestions and - believe me - we tried them all. Nothing worked and since my daughter was then a toddler who crawled everywhere, we decided we couldn't take the risk of her eating cat poop.We found a new home for the cat which was hard, but we felt, necessary. Last fall, we adopted a four year old retired racing greyhound from the rescue organization Greyhounds Only. My husband had wanted a greyhound since he was a teenager, and now was the right time. We had a house, the daughter was old enough to learn how to act responsibly with a dog, and we added an enclosed fence. We all completed a required child safety class as part of the thorough screening Greyhounds Only does for all applicants. It was my daughter who actually chose the dog when we went up to the kennel, and she chose the perfect one! His name, Rowdy, belies his very mellow, sweet personality.

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