For those of us who have brought a new four-legged family member into our home over the holidays, it is our responsibility to make sure that our pets are safe and to keep them that way.

Do not leave this responsibility solely to your children, even though when they were begging you for a pet they promised they'd do everything: "I'll walk the dog;" "I'll change the litter;" "I'll do the dishes forever."

Don't depend on the kids to do much, as far as caretaking goes. That means that you will have the job of puppy/kitten proofing your home. You will be the one to make sure that there is nothing on the floors that your pet could ingest. Paper clips, safety pins, leftover chocolate candy are just a few of the items that can be lethal to your pet.

It will be up to you to make sure there's an ID collar on your pets at all times. This tag is a lifesaver: it's your pet's ticket home should he or she ever get lost. There are also microchips available (about the size of a grain of rice) that can be inserted between your best furry friend's shoulder blades to help them return to you if they get lost. You also can have an informational tattoo drawn on a dog's ear or any visible place on Rover's body. That way if your pet winds up in a shelter he or she will be more readily identified and returned to you more quickly.

It will be up to you to keep your dog on a leash when walking outside. I am sure you have seen animals walking without a leash This is not only wrong, it's frightening, because regardless of how well behaved a dog is it easily can be distracted. In a split second, your dog could run after a car or another dog and be killed. All because of human error. It's so easy to prevent this tragedy. Keep your dog leashed.

There are so many things you can do to protect your pets: make sure they have fresh food and water and lots of love, bring them inside during cold weather, make sure not to give bad guys the opportunity to steal them or taunt them.

It's up to you. Remember: they're family now. Treat them accordingly. *

Battles is a lifelong animal lover. Her own menagerie includes four dogs, and five cats - all strays.She has produced and hosted many shows for the Pennsylvania SPCA and other area shelters. Her motto is: "Be a hero, adopt a pet."