Pet owners, step up to the plate

Published 7:42 pm Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Robert and Renee Talley have found dogs wandering on highways from North Carolina to North Suffolk.

Some of the former owners have left their dogs in fields, run over them or left them in abandoned houses to be found by a stranger or die.

Most of the dogs the Talleys have found have been underfed and flea-bitten.

Some have had cancer, one has epilepsy, and another was so badly flea-bitten raw that skin was exposed. One had so many ticks that when they treated him, it looked like they’d spilled pepper on the floor, they said.

With just a little bit of love and care, the Talleys were able to save and extend the lives of many of the animals that have crossed their path.

You don’t have to be an “animal lover” for any of these stories to pull at your heartstrings.

The best luck I ever had with animals was keeping a fish alive for a few years at a time.

After visiting the Talley’s pet sanctuary and seeing many of these animals, it was hard for me to imagine how people could view a living creature as disposable — like yesterday’s trash.

Always the optimist, I naively asked if the animals could have just been lost.

But the Talleys explained they spend hours and days looking for the owners after they find an animal. They contact animal control and neighbors and put posters around the area.

The animals they keep are the ones whose owners don’t contact them.

Whether people have their reasons for dumping the animals — the most likely being time and money — the issue speaks to something else, as well.

It demonstrates people shirking their responsibilities.

All too often, people delegate their responsibilities to others, whether to the school system and daycares, to co-workers, to children and other family members or to absolute strangers.

Pets are a responsibility.

They’re not a pastime you can pick up on a sunny day, like golf.

They’re not immune to being lonely when you’re done playing with them, like a toy.

If you forget to feed or water them, they don’t just get a little brown around the edges, like a plant.

If you throw them out into the wild after years of being domesticated, they won’t survive, like a wild animal.

It’s time for pet owners to step up to the plate.

There are responsible — and humane — options out there if you find yourself unable to maintain a pet.

Ignoring them or dumping them in a stranger’s trashcan isn’t one of them.