Press Release


While the choice of a pet can have a more lasting impact on a family than the choice of a stereo or a car, there never has been a "Consumer Reports"-type guide to selecting the right pet...until now. Mary Jane Checchi's Are You the Pet for Me?: Choosing the Right Pet for Your Family (St. Martin's/$5.99/1999) goes far beyond other pet books to prepare parents and children to make a successful decision about getting a pet-- even if that decision is not to get a pet at all. Her book draws on extensive research to provide up-to-date information on common pitfalls, resources and advice for the selection and care of a pet. It shows how making the wrong decision can lead to heartache for a family, especially for children, and abandonment or death for an unwanted animal.

Checchi offers a step-by-step approach to the decision-making process, providing answers to frequently asked questions such as: "Is my family prepared to care for a pet?" "Which pet will best suit our lifestyle and provide the companionship we want?," "How old should my child be before we select a pet?," "Where can we go to get the pet we want?," and "Is it realistic to expect my child to help care for our new pet?"

Are You the Pet for Me? shows how pets can enrich people's lives. They are amusing, affectionate, and a source of comfort. They can provide learning opportunities for school children, and be an anchor and non-judgmental confidant for teens. Parents may be surprised to find that the pets they thought they were buying for their kids often become companions for Mom and Dad.

Checchi advises parents to recognize that a pet will mean more work for them. In 66% of homes with pets -- and there is at least one pet in 55 million American households -- adult females are the primary caretakers. To help parents make an informed decision, Checchi has provided contact information in the book for more than 60 pet care organizations. She lists more than 150 books about all types of pets including more than 80 books for children. She also provides cost and care profiles for each pet category, including space requirements and special needs of different pets.

Selecting the right pet should mean putting old biases aside. Just because Mom grew up with a dog doesn't mean she has time for one now. It means not being swayed by a child's pleas for an iguana because a friend has one. It means considering that any pet, from a fancy rat to a purebred cat, is a part of the family and worthy of serious care and consideration. When a family has unrealistic expectations about a pet, or fails to understand ahead of time the level of effort required to care for a pet, the 'mistake' is most frequently solved by surrendering the animal to a shelter. About ten million pets are euthanized each year in this country. Many of these are neither old, nor sick, nor strays, nor vicious -- they are just not wanted.

Checchi's book advises parents against "pet du jour" purchases. Dalmatiaris became popular when Disney released 101 Dalmatians a few years ago. Ferrets became the pet of choice when Arnold  Schwarzenneger was seen with one in Kindergarten Cop. Hedgehogs are now being promoted. But parents may not know that dalmatians and ferrets are high-maintenance pets, and hedgehogs are not suitable as pets at all. A pet is a personal choice that involves choosing not just the right type and breed, but the individual animal that matches your family. For that reason, Checchi advises that parents take children along to choose a new pet, instead of giving a pet as a surprise birthday or holiday gift. "Think adoption not acquisition when it comes to adding a pet to your family, and you're likely to find joy in the relationship," says Checchi.