With longer daylight hours, pets are going to be out and about, and in the public eye. Most jurisdictions have some sort of dog licensing program or registration. Now is the time to check your dog's registration to see if it is current.

This may seem like a small issue in the big scheme of things, but the funds from pet registrations allow communities to provide animal control services and spaying and neutering programs, and to collect important data.

One year I did not renew my dogs' licenses when they were due. While my wife was in the park with the two of them one evening, an enforcement agent asked her if the dogs' licenses were current. When he found out that they were not, my wife got a summons and had to go to court. A whole lot of family drama could have been avoided had I remembered to fill out a form and send it to town hall with a small fee.

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Question: As a child I had a Labrador and he was the love of my life - after he hit 2 years old, that is. Up until then, he destroyed our home and drove us nuts. My neighbor has a Lab that just had a litter of puppies, and my kids are begging for one. With the summer almost here, I find it hard to say no, as I am a teacher and will have the time now to train a puppy. However, at this point in my life, I just cannot go through what my mother had to do with my childhood Lab. Could you offer any suggestions that would make my life easier before I say "yes" to the puppy?

Answer: Whole books have been written on this subject, so it is very hard to give you a single answer. Here are my two best bits of advice: Treat the puppy with the same patience and acceptance you would a human child. I am not saying the dog is like a human, though. Realize that when a puppy makes a mess or destroys something, it is not trying to be bad. You would not yell or scream at a toddler who spilled something or made a mess when your eyes were averted, and a puppy is just the same in this respect. The point here is to show the dog the same patience and acceptance you would a child. This goes a long way in your opinion of the puppy's behavior.

If the puppy does not have the opportunity to do something wrong, it will never think of it as an option. If the dog takes food off the counter or chews up the couch, then it has gotten rewarded for it and does not understand why you are yelling at it. If the dog does not have the opportunity to eliminate in the house at all, then it will decide for itself that the only option is the area outdoors that you keep bringing it to. Putting away all items forbidden to the puppy or limiting the dog's access to them prevents all sorts of drama. All these problems can be prevented with the use of training crates and gates and just common sense. If you anticipate "bad" behavior and eliminate the dog's chance to engage in it, you have solved the problem before it has even begun.

Q: You wrote about hedgehogs and why they are not legal in some states because not all jurisdictions follow the same definition of a domesticated animal. I like ferrets, and I know they are not legal as pets in New York City and California - yet everybody seems to agree that ferrets are domesticated. So why are they not legal in those areas?

A: You are correct about ferrets being totally domesticated.

Actually, they are more domesticated than cats. A feral cat can live just fine without any help from humans, but no domesticated ferret can survive long without food and shelter provided from humans. Plus, all pet ferrets sold commercially have been neutered or spayed beforehand, so even if they could survive independently from humans, they could not breed or reproduce.

When the lawmakers who decided to prohibit ferrets from New York City and California made the laws for whatever reason, they chose to not follow the scientific definition of what a domesticated animal is. The New York City ban is extremely odd, as a ferret is a perfect pet for a small apartment - being clean, taking up little space and making no sound. They are extremely popular in Tokyo for these reasons.

When a law is on the books, it usually stays a law, even if it does not make any sense. To try to change or challenge it requires more resources and time than most working people have. Therefore, pet keepers have to follow those laws if they live in those jurisdictions.

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