Taking care of pets should be everyone's concern

You've probably seen it before. Maybe you have a neighbor who keeps a dog chained in the backyard, no matter what the weather is like. You worry about the animal. Is it being fed? Does it have shelter? Maybe you're afraid to get involved, so you let it go.

You see a cat in your front yard from time to time. Does anyone own the cat? Maybe you decide to put some food out for it. Is it spayed? You're not sure -- until you find a bunch of kittens living in your crawl space. What do you do?

Someone else will probably take care of it.

The neighbor down the street seems to have way too many cats. How can she care for them all? You're worried that she may be overwhelmed and afraid to ask for help.

Someone else will probably help.

Your child hears kids at school tell of seeing dogs being fought to see who was the toughest. You'd like to get involved, but you're afraid to report the incident.

Unfortunately, someone else doesn't always call in. According to the Humane Society of the United States, most cruelty complaints stem from simple neglect rather than deliberate abuse. The animal control officer's major role is that of an educator -- to teach well-meaning but unknowledgeable pet owners about the proper care of pets.

Sometimes, the owners know how to care for their pets but circumstances in their lives make it difficult. Occasionally, people who live on the edge financially can no longer feed their pets when they lose a job, go through a divorce, have unexpected medical conditions or an increase in their housing costs.

Others who get sick or suffer from a debilitating condition such as depression, paralysis, etc., may forget to feed and water their animals or may be unable to get out of bed to care for them.

If you know someone in one of these situations, the first step may be to simply ask if you can help.

If you don't know the person, you may want to contact your local animal enforcement agency and ask it to check on the animal.

If you live in unincorporated Aiken County, call (803) 642-1537. If you live in the city limits of Aiken, call (803) 642-7620. If you live within North Augusta city limits, call (803) 441-4298. If you have general questions about humane issues, you can always call the Aiken Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at (803) 648-6863 or e-mail spcaofaiken@yahoo.com. Be the someone else who steps in and helps.

GARY WILLOUGHBY IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE AIKEN SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS.