A recent study ranked Nebraska as the fifth biggest pet-owning state, with just over 70% of households owning a pet.
Andrea Lindner, corporate contact for Heartland Animal Advocates, was surprised that Nebraska ranked so high, she said.
At the same time, she knows how much Nebraskans love their pets.
“I know from my experience in dealing with people who have companion animals, they’re very devoted to them,” Lindner said. “I know a lot of people who think the world of their pets.”
The study was conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and was updated in 2018.
The study found that Nebraska ranked fifth in the percentage of households with pets after Arkansas, Mississippi, Indiana and West Virginia.
Lindner said there are many benefits to owning a pet.
“There are a number (of benefits). Of course companionship. The support of having a devoted companion who’s with you at all times,” she said. “Companion animals have been proven to be a physical benefit to people. Examples might include helping lower blood pressure for people. There are possible safety reasons.”
Another health benefit of having a pet can be as an exercise partner or motivation to go for a walk or get outdoors, Lindner said.
Having a pet may help fight off feelings of loneliness too, Lindner said.
“They can be very, very important for people who are alone or for seniors who are living alone,” she said. “That can be very beneficial.”
Adopting a pet from an animal shelter may have emotional benefits, too, Lindner said. Knowing that you are providing a good home for a rescue animal can make you feel as though you’re playing an important role in the animal’s life.
Pet ownership does have its downsides, though.
“When one takes a pet, it is a responsibility, another being to take care of,” Lindner said. “The animal is totally dependent on you. Maintaining good care for the animal is a duty.”
This duty isn’t always easy, she said.
“There is an expense, if an animal is ill, for example, veterinary care can be an expense. That’s a very important thing for one to keep in mind. You should have enough money to take care of the animal’s needs,” Lindner said. “It’s something not all people keep in mind when they bring an animal home.”
Having a pet also may bring heartache, she said.
“Losing an animal is very hard, and usually our pets precede us in passing away,” Lindner said. “That’s a very hard thing to go through.”
Despite that, owning a pet is definitely worth it, Lindner said.
“Animals are wonderful,” she said. “They add so much to our lives.”
If someone is considering getting a pet, there are several things he or she should consider first, Lindner said.
“Talk to the people at the shelter and get information from them about things that should be considered,” Lindner said. “Among those are do you have time to give to your pet? Do you have the financial resources to properly care for a pet< Do you have room? Do you have a place that will let you keep a pet?”
Lindner said people also should ask themselves if their living arrangements are stable. If there are possible changes such as a move, a new job or marriage that may take place, one should probably wait before getting a pet.
In some cases, whether to get a pet needs to be a group decision, Lindner said.
“Other members of the family need to be in agreement to bringing an animal into the home,” she said. “Sometimes you may want to consider if there are small children and if they’re able to handle or live alongside an animal.”