I'm looking for some idea of what the community thinks is on topic and what isn't.

For example:

  • On topic questions include pet behavior like training and house breaking.
  • Off topic questions include pet medical problems like dog go run over, put down or bring to vet?
  • 2
    I know this is meta, but this is essentially a list question, and it's already difficult to decide which answer to vote up, since some of them I only partially agree with. I vote to close but would use the current answers to start questions about individual topics being appropriate (e.g. medical, legal advice) – ThomasH Oct 9 '13 at 9:51
  • Just to add, I think this question was very useful in collecting topic suggestions that we can decide on in individual meta questions. I just voted to close to stop people voting and/or answering this one rather than creating the questions about individual topics – ThomasH Oct 9 '13 at 9:53
  • I agree with ThomasH. Let's make some "is such-and-such on topic" questions for the ones where we need to make decisions, and later we should have a single post (tagged faq) that collects the results. – Monica Cellio Oct 9 '13 at 13:14
  • This question was reopened later meta.pets.stackexchange.com/questions/595/… – Zaralynda Apr 7 '14 at 18:09

Unless we have people here who are veterinary professionals or the like, we might want to shy away from a lot of medical advice, especially because it is likely that we won't know the entire medical etc. history of each particular animal. General advice might be fine, depending on if it can be backed up/proved, etc - the last thing I think anyone here wants to do is harm another person's pet!

  • 2
    Medical advice is going to be extremely common I'd hazard to guess. Most people go question asking about their pets for this purpose... – John Cavan Oct 8 '13 at 23:09
  • This is true, but at the same time, if we aren't medical professionals, it can be somewhat dangerous for us to be diagnosing or suggesting things to pet owners. – Ash Oct 8 '13 at 23:13
  • A site like this may attract a few. I tend to agree, but I think the off-topic close rate will be sky high if some advice questions like that are not acceptable. We may want to work it into the FAQ. – John Cavan Oct 8 '13 at 23:34
  • Yeah, it is definitely something that needs to be looked at, for sure - we will likely have to work out guidelines on specifics for this. – Ash Oct 8 '13 at 23:37
  • It might be advisable to work a disclaimer into the tag wiki of a hypothetical medical-advise tag. – psubsee2003 Oct 9 '13 at 0:32
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    Some other sites have the professional-advice-for-personal-considerations problem -- legal, medical, clergy, etc. We can have questions about medical issues (and I think we should), but we cannot give personal, professional advice. – Monica Cellio Oct 9 '13 at 1:22
  • It's not exactly the same situation, but on Cognitive Sciences we have an off-topic reason especially designated for people asking self-help questions (especially those that really require the need for a clinician) and a faq post for those who have questions as to why. You may find that even if we have veterinary professionals, they may feel reluctant to offer advice "sight unseen" anyway, for the important reasons you brought up in your answer. – jonsca Oct 15 '13 at 19:09
  • (commenting here because of a link to your answer from meta.pets.stackexchange.com/questions/318/…) – jonsca Oct 15 '13 at 19:10

As an example of something that should definitely be off topic, but I could see becoming prevalent. I know ads are pretty much a given off-topic item on most of these sites, but we might need to be explicit about "soft" advertising like the following.

"Lost cat in the XYZ neighborhood of Seattle. Please help me find her!"
"Anyone interested in fee puppies? My Dascshund just had a litter!"

  • 2
    Things like this are incredibly localized in space and time, and aren't helpful to the internet at large, and as much as each question that gets answered is going to help the original asker, it is important that they are also applicable to a wider audience, so I definitely agree. – Ash Oct 8 '13 at 23:38

Legal questions regarding pets:

  • Is keeping pet x in jurisdiction y illegal?
  • What permits do I need for pet x?
  • My dog bit someone, am I gonna be sued?

I'd argue most of these are off-topic since legal advice and Internet and all that.

  • 1
    We are not lawyers, etc, etc, etc. :P – Ash Oct 9 '13 at 0:28
  • Perhaps just as important as the legal aspect; legal questions tend not to be generalisable as they are jurisdiction specific. – Jeromy Anglim Oct 9 '13 at 1:16

General medical information should be on-topic, such as:

  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of these three different treatments commonly used for $disease?

  • How often do indoor-only pets contract FIV?

  • $professional_publication had information about a promising new treatment for $condition a year ago; what further work has been done?

  • We suspect food allergies; what alternatives are there to the expensive prescription diet?

  • What is the general prognosis for $diagnosis?

Information like that is already available online (e.g. through VIN), and we also hope to attract veterinary professionals who may have questions of this sort.

On the other hand, questions seeking personal medical advice should be off-topic, such as:

  • Should I subject my elderly pet to surgery for $problem?

  • Should I vaccinate my indoor pet for FIV?

  • If I accidentally skip a dose of $medicine should I just skip it or double up the next one?

  • (Many personal details here, ending with) what should I do?

Taking a cue from other sites that can attract professional-advice questions, we should develop some disclaimer language for the "about" page and help center. See, for example, Mi Yodeya, which does not give professional rabbinic advice.


Thinking about it a bit...

On topic ideas:

  • Feeding
  • Housing
  • Healthy habits
  • Play
  • Behavior concerns (e.g. feeding habits, biting, etc.)
  • Pet companions (e.g. rabbits and guinea pigs)
  • Pet recommendations (more suitability of a type to a person, perhaps)
  • Grooming

Off topic ideas:

  • Breeder/store recommendations
  • Product opinions (fine line, need to avoid opinion)

Marginal for more discussion:

  • Medical concerns, but perhaps with some community oversight to keep it out of the realm of people suggesting home medication and surgery...

I may have a few more as I think about. Photography was easier. :)

  • It seems that many people are leaning towards making medical concerns off topic. I like the list and will upvote if medical concerns were moved to off-topic, or at least put in a section specific for "more discussion needed" – ton.yeung Oct 9 '13 at 0:50
  • I did suggest it as marginal, but I can further subdivide... – John Cavan Oct 9 '13 at 0:51

I suggest that questions about livestock and farm animals (Horses, goats, cows, chickens, waterfowl, etc.) be on topic even if they aren't specifically about "pet" animals despite the name of the site. I think it would really help build the community if ranchers and other general animal-keeping questions could get answered here.

An example of something I'd like to be on-topic that might be controversial: "The egg production from my chickens has dropped off sharply recently. What might cause that and what can I do to fix it?"

Feel free to downvote if you disagree. I'm just testing the waters to see what the community thinks on this topic.

  • 1
    I really don't think that that works here - this is a site specifically for pets, which, well, livestock really are not. – Ash Oct 8 '13 at 23:37
  • 2
    I too don't really think it works. I mean, a horse, for example, could be a bit different if the context is as a riding horse. Livestock, though, is more about farming rather than pet care. – John Cavan Oct 8 '13 at 23:56
  • No matter which animal, if it is considered a pet in the sense of the question itself. I wouldn't consider a question about egg production( as food source) on topic. However, if you are breeding that specific pet, it might be on topic. – Baarn Oct 9 '13 at 0:22
  • While work animals might be considered pets (huskies and malamutes), I don't think many farmers would really look in Pets.SE. This sounds like a great idea for a new SE site, though. I think many agricultural college students and professors could use a site like this, not to mention actual farmers and small "local" sourcing type backyard farms. – ton.yeung Oct 9 '13 at 0:51

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