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Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to spay or neuter my pet even though my pet doesn't go outside?
YES. This is a common question and most often asked by people who have male companion animals. Pet overpopulation is out of control and too many animals are put to death because there are not enough homes. Even if you think that your pets will not get out, somehow they always do, and often come back pregnant or have impregnated another animal. Neutering males is just as important as spaying females. Also, spaying/neutering your companion animal is preventive health care. Unaltered cats and dogs are more likely to develop cancers, diseases, frequent infections and behavior issues (spraying, aggressiveness, roaming, hyperactivity).
How do I go about placing a cat or dog that I can no longer keep?
Please give consideration to finding ways to keep your animal. Placing a dog or cat that is over a year in age is difficult, even when that animal is healthy and well behaved. Placing a sick or elderly animal is extremely difficult. In addition, the animal may have problems adjusting to a new family.
If you have no alternative, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE! Placing pets takes time. If you wait, you may find yourself and your pet in a situation that is not satisfactory.
Make sure your pet has had all her/his shots and has been spayed or neutered.
Contact a humane organization for advice and assistance in finding people who may be interested in adopting your pet. Humane groups can also tell you about breed rescue groups that focus on pure bred cats and dogs. Ask the humane group for information on effective screening of potential adopters.
Never give your pet away to a stranger. Do place a price on the pet to discourage persons with bad motives (dog fighters, research labs, animal abusers). Always ask a lot of questions, such as, where will the pet sleep; have you owned pets before; what happened to them and which veterinarian do you use. Ask the person if you can call their veterinarian to inquire about their care of their past or current pets.
Your veterinarian may allow you to post an ad in his or her office, and will know whether the potential adopter takes good care of his or her pets.
How do I cope with the death of my pet?
Some people find it comforting to adopt another animal right away, while others find they need time to mourn their companion animal. Sometimes having a memorial service for your pet helps. Do not expect your new pet to take the place of your deceased pet. Even if they look alike, each animal is an individual, and will have her or his own personality.
Is it good to let my cat or dog have a litter before getting spayed?
NO. Again, the pet overpopulation problem is staggering. Please do not contribute to it. Having a litter will not improve your pet's health or personality.
What if you can't find homes for the kittens or puppies?
While puppies/kittens are weined off mother contact your local shelter/humane organization for assistance. Spay/Neuter the parents as soon as possible.
How can I help the feral cat colony near my home?
Call VSA so we can help you devise a plan. VSA supports the efforts of those who trap, test, spay or neuter and release the animals into a maintained colony. Feral and stray cats are increasing in numbers in Rhode Island and require a commitment of time and money. Never release an animal if no one will take responsibility for that animal (daily food, water and shelter). Every situation is different. For advice on a specific problem, please contact Volunteer Services for Animals by email.
I have health insurance; why doesn't pet insurance exist?
It does. For a monthly fee you can insure your pet for regular visits and vaccines or just extraordinary expenses. Research online for various companies and rates.
How long do dogs and cats live?
Plan on having your companion animal for about 15 years, but every breed is different. If you let your cat out, you can cut that number in half. Some breeds of dogs are known to develop certain diseases, shortening their life expectancy. Smaller dogs live longer than big dogs.
Where can I find a cat or dog to adopt?
Almost every town has an animal shelter. Call your local police department for the animal shelter contact information.
Try Petfinder.com, a website that lists adoptable animals throughout Rhode Island and this country.
Contact breed rescue organizations if you are looking to adopt a purebred.
What do I do if I've found a stray dog or cat?
Keep the animal safe until help arrives. Call your local animal control officer as well as the animal control officers of the surrounding communities. Sometimes animals that are scared or stray can travel quite a distance before someone helps them. The owners may be looking for the animal, and will call nearby shelters. Also, check the lost and found ads to see if there is an ad for a lost animal matching the description of the animal you have found. Dogs and cats are usually available for adoption 5 days after being turned in to the shelter.
What is the difference between a feral and a stray cat?
A feral cat is born away from a human home and is afraid of humans. A stray cat is a socialized animal that was once part of a human home, but has been abandoned or lost. Often, a stray cat is so frightened it can act like a feral cat. Groups of feral cats often include stray cats who join the group for companionship.
How often do I have to get my pet vaccinated for rabies?
Rabies vaccinations come in one or three year periods. Contact your veterinarian for more information on vaccination schedules. Rhode Island law mandates that dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies. Please do not let your pet's rabies vaccination expire. Annually, in April, local animal control departments hold a low cost rabies clinic at their municipal animal shelter for dogs on leashes and cats and ferrets in carriers. Call the shelter or police department for information.
It's the weekend. My dog got hit by a car, and my veterinarian isn't open. Who do I call?
There are several 24-hour emergency veterinarian clinics located in Rhode Island. Look in the telephone book or online and start calling before you set out. Sometimes, one clinic is overwhelmed with emergencies and will refer you to another nearby veterinarian. Spending a few moments making preliminary calls can save your pet's life. If possible, take another person with you to watch the animal while you drive. Or call VSA's 24/7 helpline at 401-273-0358.
My dog is well trained and I never put a collar or leash on him/her when we go for walks. Someone told me that is really bad. Is it?
Yes. An up-to-date rabies tag, ID tag, collar and leash should always be on your dog when away from your home. If your dog runs off or is chased, people need to know how to reach you. Your dog could travel a long distance and end up in a shelter in another community. Even at home, your dog should have a collar with a rabies tag and ID. Many times, dogs escape out the door when least expected.
Running free, your dog could get hit by a car or picked up by unscrupulous people. Your dog could come in contact with a rabid animal or be lost for so long that freezing and starvation become an issue. Also, Rhode Island law requires dogs and cats to be inoculated against rabies and wear an ID tag. The serial number on the rabies tag helps people identify the animal's owner. ID tags save lives and help bring pets home again.