Monday, October 6, 2008

Irresponsible Authorities

I just read a story on the Seattle Times website, entitled "Exotic Pets and Young Kids A No-No," which is extolling the dangers of having nontraditional pets in homes with children under five years of age. On first blush this is a reasonable topic, especially as the article further explains that hedgehogs and lizards often carry bacteria such as salmonella, and many young children will kiss their pets or put their hands in their mouth after playing with them. Fair enough, parents should be extra vigilant if they have these types of pets, it is good to know about the possible dangers if for no other reason than reference should Junior come up with a mysterious case of diarrhea.

However, these doctors went way too far with the last line in the article - "Those who already have the pets are encouraged to contact their veterinarians about specific risks and possible new homes for the animals." WAY to extol responsibility, people - scare the snot out of parents, and then tell them that they should get rid of their pets to protect their children. How about simply asking parents to be aware of the risks and avoid bringing these pets into a household with young children? Exotic pets have few enough good homes as it is, so scaring a parent who does provide a good home into giving up their lizards is going to do NO good whatsoever.

And to make things worse, one of the pets on the "exotic and nontraditional" list? Hamsters. If hamsters aren't a traditional childhood pet, I don't know what is - I had hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs growing up, in addition to cats and a pair of parakeets who belonged to my mother.

It makes me so angry to see authorities spreading fear and hyping up minimal dangers, and then implying that the only way to protect your child is to get rid of your beloved pets. That does NOT protect your child, it simply teaches them that pets are disposable and furthermore removes another "dirty" part of life that is important for developing immune systems. There are enough scaredy-cat parents out there trying to coat the world in hypoallergenic germicidal Nerf already, the last thing we need is for doctors adding to the frenzy.

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