Prove your love

Published 9:22 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A crackdown in recent weeks by the city’s animal control office has exposed a sad, if unsurprising truth about many of Suffolk’s pet owners: They’re not really very responsible.

Dozens of citations were written during the closing weeks of May for dog owners who could not produce evidence that their dogs had been vaccinated for rabies or who had not bought a city license for their four-legged friends. According to city officials, the crackdown is a result of complaints by residents of certain neighborhoods about dogs being allowed to roam at large, despite the existence of a citywide leash law.

With an animal pound full of stray, lost and unwanted dogs and cats, there’s no good excuse for people in Suffolk to allow their dogs to roam the streets unattended. Too many bad things can happen to the family pet that runs into a road or gets hurt in the woods — or picked up by animal control officers enforcing the newly comprehensive leash law.

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And while owners of dogs that will never roam alone in their neighborhoods might wonder why the city requires them to register and license those animals, the fact is that it’s the law. Even more disturbing, however, is the number of dog owners who don’t get their pets vaccinated against rabies.

Any unvaccinated dog (or cat) that ever comes into contact with a strange animal — while loose in the neighborhood, having escaped his leash, for instance, or even just protecting the yard from a stray cat or that awful, tormenting squirrel — is at risk of contracting a case of rabies.

Such an incident with a vaccinated dog can end in a long quarantine at home, after which the affected dog is no longer considered to be a risk to others. For a dog that has not received a rabies vaccination, the result of a violent encounter with a rabid animal will almost certainly be death, whether by the disease — which is 100 percent fatal in unvaccinated pets — or by animal control officials, whose job it is to protect the rest of Suffolk’s human and pet populations.

People who love their animals take care of them. Proper care starts with protecting those animals from the primary deadly risks that they face. Keeping your pets under your control and making sure they are current on their vaccinations and are licensed by the city are all basic steps toward providing those protections and therefore proving your love.