When it comes to responsibility, pet owners come in as many variations as the animals under their care and custody.
News stories largely focus on extremes. Every story about inhumane treatment and neglect is counter-balanced by an outpouring of compassion and offers of generosity.
This is National Pet Week sponsored annually by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The local observance culminates with a Pet Parade at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Cole County Courthouse, which proceeds through the downtown and is followed by pet contests on the Capitol lawn.
Area veterinarians are sponsoring the local observance, which is designed - according to the national group - "to promote responsible pet ownership, celebrate the human-animal bond, and promote public awareness of veterinary medicine."
The operative word is "responsible," which the association defines as "consideration for all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia."
If that sounds like a big job, that's because it is.
Pet ownership requires commitment, which is among the priorities identified by the veterinary association.
Responsible pet ownership, the group says, also includes:
• Selecting a pet that's suited to your home and lifestyle.
• Keeping only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship.
• Committing to the relationship for the life of your pet(s).
• Providing appropriate veterinary care, exercise, training and mental stimulation for your pet.
• Recognizing that pet ownership requires an investment of time and money.
• Making sure your pet is properly identified (i.e., tags, microchips or tattoos) and keeping its registration up to date.
Pet owners also have a responsibility to their neighbors. Owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets and for obeying all local ordinances, including licensing, leash requirements and noise control.
Finally, pet owners have a responsibility to their community. It is irresponsible to dump or kill unwanted animals. Having pets spayed or neutered prevents them from contributing to the overpopulation of unwanted and feral animals.
National Pet Week and Saturday's parade are opportunities for pet owners to showcase their animals, enjoy activities and, most important, model responsibility.