Remember that animals have feelings, too

Ever since I was a little kid, I knew that you should spay and neuter your pets, even if it was just because Bob Barker told you so at the end of “The Price Is Right.” Objectively, I knew that there were very bad people out there who hurt their pets, but I was sure I’d never run into any of them. Thanks to elementary school presentations and some fairly lame commercials, I’ve always known that you should try to adopt a pet from an animal shelter before perusing through the puppy-mill selection at your local mall pet store.

Despite all this, I’d never really contemplated the fact that we need to be vigilant in caring for animals. However, it recently became abundantly clear that people can’t think of animal-rights issues in the abstract sense.

Last Sunday, I came home from visiting my parents and found a stray dog in my dining room. He was wandering around on 100 South, I was informed, and the girl who had found him had decided to call him Buddy.

Buddy was one of the most well mannered dogs I’ve ever run into. He didn’t bark at people, he didn’t pee on our carpet, he didn’t chew on our furniture. He was a very polite, very friendly dog who was constantly wagging his tail. It became very clear that if he was so well-trained, he must have had owners who took care of him. The only problem was that we didn’t know who they were. Buddy was wearing a collar and a rabies-shot tag, but no identification.

For the 24 hours that we cared for him, we treated Buddy like visiting royalty. At any given moment, there were at least five girls patting his head and squealing baby-talk at him. We fed him turkey cold cuts and other people food dogs probably shouldn’t eat. We even washed his fur in our laundry room sink with Lorel Conditioning Shampoo-because he was worth it. He slept at the foot of my friend’s bed Sunday night and went for a brisk run with her in the park Monday morning.

However, Buddy’s presence made me consider a whole set of unpleasant possibilities. Sitting around the kitchen table, watching as Buddy ambled cheerfully around the room, someone brought up the possibility that Buddy’s owners had dumped him on purpose.

Then someone suggested that maybe Buddy was being abused at home. If so, would we give him back to his owners if we found them? Or would we do a quick 180 and hope they didn’t figure us out-“Oh, did you say your dog was brown? Well, this dog is clearly Autumn Chestnut No. 37. Sorry to have bothered you, sir. Have a nice day.”

When we found Buddy’s owners, all our fears were put to rest. Buddy’s owners were clearly good people-in fact, they’d adopted him after he’d been abused as a puppy.

Many animals in Utah aren’t quite as lucky as Buddy, who had a family that loved him and was looking for him. There are many adoptable animals that are put to sleep every year. While the No More Homeless Pets in Utah Foundation reports a 19 percent decrease in euthanasia and a 56 percent increase in adoptions of dogs and cats, there is still a lot to be done for animals in our community.

According to the Humane Society of Utah, there were 382 investigations of cruelty or abuse of animals last year. Salt Lake County alone accounts for 72 percent of all complaints received regarding animal abuse in Utah.

The Humane Society provides the only full-time certified animal cruelty investigation officers in the state, and they travel tens of thousands of miles each year to respond to reports of animal neglect and abuse. They also perform routine inspections of zoos, kennels, pet stores, animal control shelters and any other facilities where animals are kept. If you think you know of an animal that is being abused, you have a moral obligation to report it. As Anna Sewell wrote in the novel Black Beauty, “We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”

Domesticated animals cannot fend for themselves. Therefore, people must take care of them.

[email protected]