The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

13 November 2006

Be a responsible pet owner

There are lots of issues around pet ownership, from fouling pavements, consuming unnecessary resources, abandonment and health and safety issues around irresponsible ownership.

The RSPCA, Britain’s biggest organisation promoting animal welfare and campaigning for animal rights, encouragtes people to think before getting a pet, and has a cyberpet game o help young people to explore the issues of pet ownership. They say:

“There are a lot of important things to think about when deciding whether or not to get a pet. Will you be able to afford food and vet's bills? Do you have time to play with it? To help you think about these things, and of course for a bit of fun, why not adopt an RSPCA Cyberpet. Play with it, feed it and watch it grow. If you treat it well, it will grow up to be strong, healthy and happy, but if you don't look after your Cyberpet, the RSPCA will come and take it away from you!”

Find out more at:

Own a virtual pet

There are alternatives to owning a real-life pet. You can get an electronic toy such as a Tamagotchi, which gives you your own pet to feed, walk and look after. You can adopt a virtual pet on-line. You can join a virtual pet community, play games and enter into competitions with other virtual pet owners.

Welcome to the wonderful world of cyberpets. Check out the following website for lots of links into this world:

Best in show…

Have you ever dreamed of having your own quality dogs to raise, feed, groom, train, breed, and show? ShowDog.Com brings this opportunity to you through its one-of-a-kind virtual dog simulation game.

Join hundreds of other kennel owners as you get your own dogs and bitches ready to compete in the show ring. You choose from 163 different breeds; whether it be Great Dane, Beagle, Whippet, or Poodle, there is a breed for you. See them grow from puppy to Champion!

Choose to enter your dogs in all-breed, specialty shows, or both. Each judge has their own standards and preferences regarding a "true" champion. Do you wish to use a handler to show your dog or handle him or her yourself? It is all up to you! How well your kennel performs is up to you and the decisions you make.
You are the breeder, owner, handler, trainer, and groomer of your show dogs. You get to manage and budget the rations of food your dogs receive, how you breed your dogs, which shows you enter, and much, much more.

“ has something for everyone. Whether you've been showing real dogs for years, have never shown a dog in your life, or even have never owned a real animal, this game is fun, challenging, and a unique experience.”

The Virtual Pet Project

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are collecting stories from virtual pet owners around the world. If you are an adult or a child, and have any kind of virtual or digital creature or toy, tell them about your experience with it. These are some of the questions they are interested in:

1. What kinds of things do you and your creature, pet, or doll do together? 

2. Do you feel that you have a special relationship with it? 

3. What do you like (and not like) about it? 

4. What is it like to be a caretaker for a virtual creature, pet, or doll? 

5. How do friends, family members, and live pets react to your toy and to you spending time with it? 

6. Is your creature smart? Does it have feelings? Does it think? How do you know? 

Send your answers by email to

China’s one-dog policy

In Beijing, the authorities have just imposed a one-pet policy. The stated reason for this is to stop the rise of rabies.

The Ministry of Health says the disease is more prevalent than TB and AIDS in terms of fatalities, and second only to the common cold. During the first nine months of 2006, China recorded 2,254 rabies cases, almost all fatal, up 30% from 2005.

Dangerous and large dogs are also banned. Anyone keeping an unlicensed dog will face prosecution, and dog control officials will destroy surplus pets (which will really upset animal rights activists).

Since 2003 the number of registered dogs in Beijing more than tripled to 534,000 while the number of unlicensed dogs is probably several times that figure. "Now that people have money we want to enjoy it. Dogs are part of our life."

Pet Paradise is an exclusive doggie hotel which opened in February 2006. Canines can watch cartoons before their bedtime. Owner Liu Mingli explains, "Chinese dogs are used to having television on at home in the evening." The posh kennel offers 30 private rooms fitted with air-conditioning at a rate of US$10 per night, which is about the same cost as a cheap hotel room. Liu is planning next to build a swimming pool for the dogs.