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Website of the Week — Pets in America


Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.

This week, it's an Internet site for people who have pets or just want to learn more about how we Americans relate to our companion animals. It's an virtual exhibit based on a traveling museum exhibition organized by the University of South Carolina's McKissick Museum.

GRIER: "The Pets in America website includes a virtual version of the exhibition with selected objects. It also includes a really nice activity area for children that has puzzles and coloring pages that can be downloaded. And it also includes photo albums that give visitors an opportunity to look at a lot of historical images of Americans with their pet animals."

Katherine Grier is the curator of the exhibit and author of a companion book, also titled "Pets in America." Pets are often associated with children, and have long been seen as a way of teaching kids responsibility. But changing demographics in the United States mean pet-keeping households today are more typically adult:

GRIER: "And in that case, pets get a level of attention and expenditure that they would not otherwise. People have money to spend. They develop deep emotional attachment. Some people have said, oh they're substitute children. And in some cases they may be, but I also think it's just another kind of companionate relationship."

The online exhibit focuses on pets in America, but Katherine Grier says people pretty much everywhere enjoy the company of companion animals.

GRIER: "People have said - I have had people say to me — that pet-keeping is only something that rich, western countries do. And in fact that's not the case. Local circumstances and the kinds of animals that are available and changing cultural values all lead to differences in pet-keeping, but it does seem to be a practice that's almost universal."

The Pets in America traveling exhibit is currently (through August 6) on display at the Indiana State Museum. But if you can't visit in person, check it out online at petsinamerica.org, or get the link from our site, voanews.com.

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