Thurston Pets Project

Responsible pet ownership starts with responsible owners


Every year, 6.5 million dogs, cats, and other former pets are abandoned or lost and enter shelters. But of all these animals, only 3.2 million are adopted and many see shelters again after less than a year of finding a new home.

Deciding to bring a pet into your home should never be taken lightly. It is our duty to provide the love, support and resources they need to live long, healthy, happy lives and this begins before you even bring your pet home.

Starting out

  • Avoid impulsive decisions when deciding to select your pet. We’ve all heard the story of parents running out and buying a Dalmatian after seeing a cute movie only to find out the breed required more attention than they were prepared to invest.
  • Select a breed that is suitable to your home and lifestyle. There are plenty of books or websites dedicated to breeds and their behaviors. At one point in my (Patty's) life, I chose a dog breed that was not only compatible around other dogs, cats and small animals but was less prone to destructive behaviors if left alone.
  • Never, NEVER, give your child a pet as a present or gift. An animal should always be presented as a separate event so kids will learn the significance and responsibility of pet ownership. Christmas and birthdays are the worst times to give an animal as everyone will want to continue their festivities while the new pet member of the family wants attention. While all children are not alike, if your child is under 5 or 6, then it is the parent who will be responsible for taking care of the new pet.
  • Only bring the number and types of pets into your home that you can provide food, water, shelter, health care and, above all, the attention and companionship that they deserve.

Making a commitment to your pet

  • Make a commitment to lifelong care of your pet.
  • Realize that pet ownership requires an investment of both time and money which increases with the number of pets you take in.
  • Make sure that your pet receives annual preventive health care. A rabies vaccine is required by the state.
  • Budget for illnesses, injuries and potential emergencies.
  • Make sure that your pets are properly identified with microchips or tags and keep their registration up to date.
  • Keeping an up-to-date record of your pet’s medical history.

Making a healthy commitment to your pet

  • Training and socializing your pet(s) for their well-being and happiness around other animals and other people as well. Socialization is an important part of training as it helps reduce vet visit anxiety, thus getting your pet faster care with less emotional stress.
  • Clean up after your pet(s). This not only means picking up droppings in the yard, but litter boxes and small animal, bird cages and fish tanks
  • Clean up after your pet(s) if you take them out in public or for walks. Not only is this common sense but it is respectful of everyone else.
  • Follow all local ordinances regarding leash requirements, noise control and licensing.
  • For the safety of your pet, don’t allow your pet to stray.
  • Help control the pet population by having your pet spayed or neutered.
  • If your pet(s) have a decline in quality of life, make sure to discuss with your veterinarian regarding appropriate health options.
  • If you live alone, try to keep a notification of pets along with an emergency contact info card in your wallet or purse as life sometimes throws us a curve ball.
  • Make alternate arrangements for your pet(s) if something were to happen to you. Saddest of all is when people die without having made arrangements for their companions. Often these animals are elderly and do not adapt well to a shelter environment. They may never make it out of the shelter as they are scared or unfriendly and potential adopters pass them by.

Make realistic commitment decisions

  • Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Cats will meow and dogs will bark
  • Animals of every variety need exercise and mental stimulation.
  • You will experience a loss of, what some may call, freedom as you will need to adjust your time to accommodate your new addition to your family. This so-called “loss of freedom” is nothing compared to the joy you will receive in return.
  • Always remember the previous sentence.

Here is a list from our local Animal Resources for local guidance and resources.

We hope this helps as these guidelines have worked for us.

It’s National Pet Appreciation Week. The first week in June is set aside for this proclamation so let’s get out there and start by appreciating our pets all year round, starting now, if you haven’t already.

Thom Donitz and Trish Lynn are neighbors and close friends who share their love of animals and wildlife. Trish and Thom are residents of Tumwater. Contact them at


6 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • KatAshe

    This is an excellent article, and should be saved to read several times before becoming a pet owner.

    Pets aren’t toys. Pets are not disposable. Every summer irresponsible pets owners dump their charges, to go on vacation and not pay for boarding or pet sitters.

    Pets are not children who will grow up and be independent. Pets are a lifetime (their entire life) obligation.

    Good vets are hard to come by, and pretty much as expensive as human doctors. Boarding a pet is not cheap.

    Lastly, when you are prepared to bring a dog or cat into your home, PLEASE DON’T PURCHASE. If you are set on a specific pure breed, there are wonderful breed specific rescues. Public and nonprofit shelters and rescues have beautiful animals waiting for their forever humans. Also please consider an older animal. Their personalities will be set, so there will be no surprises. Also no housebreaking.

    Tuesday, June 4 Report this

  • cappers

    Good article.

    We moved here last year and are shocked to see all the lost pet posts on Nextdoor.

    Mainly for cats.

    Cats are safer and live longer if kept as indoor pets.

    It's not hard to put together an outdoor space that is safe for them ( a catio )

    We made one ourselves with very little money and no complicated carpentry.

    Wednesday, June 5 Report this

  • Snevets

    Please please please if your dog(s) are incessant barkers or don't get along with others leave them at home when you go camping.

    Wednesday, June 5 Report this

  • griffithga

    Thank you for this concise and thorough article about adopting and caring for a pet. We work wholeheartedly to try to adhere to this list of principles and tips for proper caring of these delightful, senstive, and intelligent beings that we bring into our homes. As a dog owner, I would like to reiterate your point about cleaning up after your dog, especially outside your house. We carry disposable bags at all times and pick-up after her. I know many other dog lovers do as well, but we consistently see **** on sidewalks, in frontyards and landscaping. Please respect and care for the public domain as well as other private property owners, not to mention public health and the environment by picking up after your dog.

    Wednesday, June 5 Report this

  • Scndbseman27

    Great article! I wish people would realize that pets are a member of your family until they cross the rainbow bridge. Don't throw them away because they age or get sick like what will happen to all of us one day.

    Wednesday, June 5 Report this

  • Aussie2022

    A lot of good points in this article as I have witnessed several of the points they outlined in the article.

    Thursday, June 6 Report this