Pet owners need to be responsible

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It has famously been said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
The identity of the speaker seems to have been lost in the depths of time, but these words hold no less truth for it.
A story in Saturday’s News-Bulletin about the treatment of a dog is a stark reminder that perhaps we have not made the kind of moral progress we had hoped. A 3-year-old shepherd mix was found with a chain wrapped around his neck — a chain that weighed more than half of his own body weight.
The fur was worn down, exposing the skin, and he was thin and dehydrated.
And as sad as this case is, it is not the worst case of animal cruelty, neglect or abuse we have seen here in Valencia County. Not by a long shot.
All too often, animals are found starved to death, living in filthy conditions, maimed and injured beyond repair. And to what end? Do we really live in a community of sadists and savages? Are the pet owners of this county really so heartless or so blind as to let a living creature suffer for no reason?
We don’t believe this is true.
But before you decide to become a pet owner, stop and think about all that it will entail. You are responsible for another life. You have to feed it, give it water, shelter it and above all else, give it love and companionship.
Getting a young child an animal to “teach them responsibility” usually results in an abandoned pet, relegated to the backyard. If your youngster isn’t responsible enough for a pet, you need to make sure you are.
And if you find you aren’t responsible enough or don’t have the resources for at least minimum care and feeding, then you need to hold off on the leap into pet ownership.
Maybe you are a responsible pet owner, but find yourself with fewer and fewer resources. As a kindness to the animal, and yourself, you need to swallow your pride and ask for help. That might mean surrendering your friend to a shelter or rescue group, but isn’t that better than the alternative?
Members of the community also need to be attentive to pets and their needs as well, even if they don’t own an animal. What would have happened if a neighbor had reported the treatment of the chained dog years ago?
No one will ever know for sure, but he wouldn’t have ended up trapped under a stranger’s house, hauled into the shelter and faced with an uncertain future — a future that might be bright if he is able to work through his aggression. Or a darker future that ends his life.