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Community Extra: Be a real family to your pet, please

Rain had been pouring from the sky for hours when I thought to check on the welfare of a dog whose house I had been at last week. A concerned neighbor called in initially, saying the dog was outside all the time with no doghouse and that it often...

Rain had been pouring from the sky for hours when I thought to check on the welfare of a dog whose house I had been at last week.

A concerned neighbor called in initially, saying the dog was outside all the time with no doghouse and that it often barked and whined for hours at a time. On my first visit to the house I found the dog exactly as reported, chained to a clothesline pole with no shelter.

Fortunately for the dog, that day was dry, slightly overcast and reasonably warm. The dog was safe and comfortable, though the situation clearly would have been illegal had there been inclement weather.

I talked to the owner, who seemed unconcerned. I made a note to myself to follow up on the situation since I had a sneaking suspicion the owner would not make the required changes.

Driving down the alley toward the house I saw what looked like a huge and dirty wet mop in the middle of the yard.

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As I got closer two pleading brown eyes met mine.

The Great Pyrenees was very, very happy to see me. I have to admit that, for a few seconds, I let myself sink into feeling sort of "hero-like" as I opened the door of my animal control van and let her hop in to go for a ride.

Then reality slapped me upside the head and I thought of the suffering this dog and many others in our city needlessly endure.

I am no hero.

This is my job.

It's sad, really, that there is even a need for work like mine. And, with winter coming, many of the neglect complaints will be about animals whose lives are in danger from the cold, rather than about animals, like this one, that are uncomfortable.

Irresponsible pet owners seem to lack compassion, whether it be for animals or for other human beings. The link between abuse and neglect toward animals and similar behavior toward people is well documented.

Dogs who live on chains, or in outdoor kennels 24/7 without attention or exercise are much more likely to bite and to engage in nuisance behaviors -- such as barking -- than are dogs who live in the house with their families.

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I hear outrage and helplessness in the voices of neighbors who call our office to report situations like the one above. Animal neglect and abuse takes its toll on both its animal victims and on concerned human witnesses.

I am pretty certain that if the soaking-wet, shivering, lonely dog I brought to the animal shelter yesterday had access to human thoughts and language, she would have said something like, "Madame, there's been some mistake. I think I accidentally got sent to live with the wrong people. Can you please help me find my real family?"

You can help by doing what is best for your animals: love them, keep them healthy and safe, spay or neuter them, spend time with them and make sure they get enough exercise.

And, if you are looking for a new pet, please consider adopting from the animal shelter.

Be the "real family" that your pet is meant to have.

Carrie Lane is the Animal Shelter lead worker for the Duluth Police Department. The city's animal shelter is located at 2627 Courtland St., phone number is 723-3259. The shelter is open for dropping off, reclaiming and adopting animals between noon and 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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