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It's officially the New Year, the time when people look forward to a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning.

We're told that animals have no perception of time but, if they did, what do you think the New Year's resolutions of the companion animals in Flagstaff and Coconino County would look like?

Would they resolve to lose weight, exercise more, or be better companions to their humans? Probably not, but here are some thoughts for your consideration.

When asking the question: What do animals want and need, a great place to start is to put yourself in that animal’s position. If you were a dog or cat, what would you want? It might seem obvious but the following would top the list of most animals.

1. Daily access to nutritious food and clean water

2. A warm, comfortable bed indoors, or appropriate shelter if living out of doors

3. Permission to be yourself and express normal behavior, i.e., walks for dogs and scratching posts for cats

4. Freedom from sickness and injury including regular vet visits; and for the females, freedom from unplanned or unwanted litters of puppies or kittens

5. To feel safe and well cared for.

Most of us consider these basic needs for our pets, but sadly there are large numbers of animals who live on the street, at a shelter, or in deprived living situations who don’t live good lives.

The Five Freedoms, a concept created in 1965 in the United Kingdom, is the basis for the “Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters.” The Five Freedoms are:

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor

2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment

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4. Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind

5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

Detailing the basics for appropriate animal care was a first step toward recognizing our responsibilities as care providers and respecting an animal’s right to a quality life.

What do we owe the animals who live in our community? What kind of an animal shelter should our city and county provide? How much of our tax dollars should be spent on caring for the companion animals? How much are we willing to donate to subsidize those tax dollars? As a community of caring people, these are questions that need to be asked and answered with integrity and compassion.

What can we do as a community of animal lovers to help raise awareness of this issue, to educate our friends and neighbors, and to truly create a better environment for the companion animals who live with us in our homes and in our community? Educate yourself, educate others and then SPEAK UP; otherwise, you can’t be heard.

It says a lot about us as a community when we step up to address these challenges. It says a lot about us in a positive way when we do the right thing. It also says a lot about us if we decide to look the other way and let the status quo remain the norm.

The world at large has changed its thinking as to how animals should be treated. Cities large and small across the nation have made animal welfare a top priority. Isn’t it about time for Flagstaff (and Coconino County) to join this important movement?

We know that the animals don’t have the perspective of time or the language to consider resolutions for the New Year, so can we do this for them? Can we resolve to make 2018 the year that animal welfare really matters to our community and becomes a priority for our city and county officials? Creating a compassionate, humane community is a resolution we can make and keep, for the betterment of us all. And, most importantly, a promise we can make for the sake of the animals.

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Pamela Tharp is a local business owner and serves on the Board of Paw Placement of Northern Arizona.

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