I rarely meet anyone who regrets having acquired a pet. They add a lot to our lives.

I rarely meet anyone who regrets having acquired a pet. They add a lot to our lives. Days are brighter and life is better with pets around. The companionship they provide can be the most important thing in a person's life.

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) is promoting this idea in a non-profit public service announcement campaign. Pets Add Life (PAL) is dedicated to promoting the joys and benefits of responsible pet ownership. They have produced YouTube videos, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter page and a blog.

Experts knowledgeable about pet ownership topics are unanimous about the many benefits that pets bring to people's lives as proven by research done in academic settings. Pets are more than good companions and friends, they are also good medicine and can improve a person's well-being in many ways.

Owning a pet has psychological, emotional and physical benefits. Spending time with an animal lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduces stress and lifts depression. Caring for a companion pet provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment and lessens feelings of loneliness and isolation. The increased physical activity of caring for a pet can help strengthen the heart, improve blood circulation, and slow the loss of bone tissue. People who walk 10,000 steps a day are said to live longer, happier lives. Walking a dog is great for getting your daily exercise and having fun at the same time.

Adopting a dog or cat can make you feel like a hero for rescuing them. They know that they are safe and loved…because of you. Adopted pets seem to be extra-grateful and loving to their saviors. The fact is that you may have saved their life. You save two lives…the pet you adopt and another animal who can be rescued because of the space freed up. Sadly, between three and 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States because there are not enough homes.

The social benefits of having a pet are well known. Walking your dog outdoors increases contact with other people. You will get to know your neighbors and their pets. Kids may stop by and visit. You interact with other folks at the dog park. These social contacts have been known to lead to deeper relationships.

You can never be lonely if you have a pet. You will not come home to an empty house…instead, you will have the ecstatic (or in the case of a cat, more reserved) greeting of your companion. Having a dog makes you feel safer, no matter whether it is large or small. Barking is usually sufficient to deter unwanted visitors. Many dogs and cats will wake you in the night if they sense danger because of strange noises or the presence of fire or toxic gases.

If you should decide to acquire a pet, "opt to adopt." This phrase is meant to sensitize prospective pet owners to the perils of adopting from pet stores who charge high fees for adoption of "pure-bred" animals. These stores are selling puppy mill dogs that have been raised in inhumane conditions and are of poor quality. Most chain pet stores these days only have rescue groups offering pets for adoption that have been properly evaluated and cared for.

Adopting a pet should be a carefully thought-out project with all family members involved. The animal should match your style of living. Most shelters and rescue groups have a process of assisting you in finding a dog or cat that fits into your family and lifestyle. There are many purebred dogs in shelters if that is your desire. Mixed breed dogs are a good choice because they've come from a larger and more diverse gene pool and are less apt to carry genetically linked problems.

Anne Divine is a long time member of LAWS and has volunteered at Animal Control for 18 years. She can be reached at: adivine@kc.rr.com.