Pet Owners Tap Hotline

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A pet care hotline set up by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to offer owners advice and the chance to buy pet care products over the telephone, received 40,000 callers in the first year of operation, the organization announced last week.

"We're quite pleased with the response to the service," said Patricia Jones, spokeswoman for the ASPCA, New York. "We've now got a lot of information about pet ownership in the U.S. We're beginning to see concern about fairly new pet issues like nutrition and arthritis."

Callers to the free service, called Ani-Med, are greeted by a recording by ASPCA president Roger Caras. They are asked to leave their name and address to receive $5 worth of coupons from participating pet care companies.

Respondents can then access about 125 pre-recorded topics on cats and dogs, ranging from pet anxiety to backyard dangers to bad breath. At the end of the message, which lasts about four minutes, a sponsor is mentioned.

Participating companies include Friskies Petcare Co., A&M Products, Schering-Plough Animal Health, NutraMax, PE AgGen, Invisible Fencing and Pet Assure. A portion of the proceeds from these sponsors is given to the ASPCA to alleviate the suffering of animals.

For emergencies, the information line offers a link to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, IL.

About 60 percent of callers are willing to leave their name and address, according to the ASPCA. More than 62 percent of callers are women, with most calls coming from the East Coast, 31 percent; the West, 27 percent; the South, 24 percent; and the Midwest, 18 percent.

TeleCare Inc., Manhasset, NY, which is handling the Ani-Med promotions on behalf of the ASPCA, also drops a pamphlet outlining the service to its 400,000 members. Ads for the program appear in Animal Watch, the ASPCA member magazine, as well as Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy, Cats and Kittens and Pet Life. Posters advertising the service are sent to veterinary clinics and animal shelters.

"Not only are we reaching current pet owners with these magazines but we're reaching out to animal shelters across the country where people come in and adopt pets," said Carl Fergo, president of Telecare.

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