Companion Animals

Sixty-two percent of all U.S. households - more than 72.9 million total - include one or more companion animals, according to the American Pet Products Association’s 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey. Most often they are dogs and cats, but horses, birds, rabbits, goats, gerbils, snakes, rats, mice, fish, amphibians and other species also share our homes and our lives.

Often companion animals are our best friends, confidants, and help make the family complete. When asked to list the 10 most important individuals in their lives, 7- and 10-year-old children included an average of two pets on their lists. In another survey, 42% of 5-year-old children spontaneously mentioned their pets when asked, "Whom do you turn to when you are feeling sad, angry, happy, or wanting to share a secret?" Pets not only provide love and affection - they may even help keep us well. Recent studies have linked pet ownership to lower blood pressure, reduced stress, less incidence of heart disease, and lower overall health care costs. In short, companion animals make us happier and healthier.

So, it is important to take care of companion animals and protect them from harm. The following materials cover a few of the areas where companion animals can come to harm, how AWI is working to prevent this from happening, and how you can, too.

Acquiring a Companion Animal
In many cases, people who want to share their life with a companion animal buy a puppy who has been bred in a puppy mill, or a bird who has been kidnapped from his or her natural environment or bred under inhumane conditions for the pet bird trade. Click on the links to find out about the problems associated with these two elements of the pet trade, and about better options.

Planned Travel
It is important to attend to companion animal needs - not only when we are at home, but also when we are away. Whatever the species, we have to plan for their care when we travel - whether they come along or stay behind with a pet-sitter. When a family decides to travel with their pets by air, they want to know that the pet will be safe. Click here to learn about some of the issues associated with taking pets on planes.

Emergency Travel
When emergencies or natural disasters strike, most families will not want to leave their companion animals behind and unprotected. It is therefore important to take pets into account as part of the family’s emergency preparedness planning.

Dangers at Home
Not all human guardians take proper care of their animals, engaging in such neglectful behaviors as chaining them for long periods of time.

If a pet is stolen, there is always the chance that he or she is a victim of the shady commercial trade in dogs and cats by Class B dealers In such cases, instead of entering a loving home, the animal may be condemned to a life in an experimental laboratory.

Even the most well-cared-for companion animal, depending on where she or he lives, could become injured or killed in a trap set for wildlife. Learn about the cruelty of steel-jaw leghold traps and the dangers they pose for companion animals as well as wild animals.

Companion Animal Abuse
Sadly, some companion animals - like some people - become victims of terrible abuse at home. Interpersonal Family Violence often spills over into violence against companion animals, as well. Learn what AWI is doing to help law enforcement officials deal with domestic violence against both people and animals.

Companion horses may fall victim to another sort of abuse, when they are transported under inhumane conditions to be callously slaughtered outside the country. This cruel fate may be intentionally hidden from the former owner— whose horse may have been stolen, or who may have sold the horse to a deceptive buyer in hopes of giving them a better home, not a gruesome death. Find out about AWI’s efforts to end transportation of all horses in double-deck trailers, as well as AWI’s efforts to ban the slaughter of American horses.