Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 18, 2013

Another View: Animal neglect of any kind unacceptable

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — According to the Humane Society of the United States, Americans own about 78.2 million dogs and 86.4 million cats. Add to that number another 9.2 million horses, and the U.S. has 173.8 million of these four-legged pets.

That’s a lot of pets that require a lot of money for proper care.

On average, dog owners spend $248 on veterinary care per dog annually, while cat owners spend slightly less at $219. That adds up to more than $38 billion a year just for vet care — that doesn’t include food, leashes and other essentials.

Horse care can add up even more quickly — especially when hay reached $5 per bale this past summer — with farrier, vet, grain and boarding costs.

What is sad is that there are people who own pets who can’t provide the necessary care they require. The animals often pay the price.

Such appears to be the case with a Coopersville farm that the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department had to investigate after a dead horse was spotted in the muck of a soggy pasture surrounded by other too-thin horses. Pictures of the conditions at the farm, and of the animals, made many of us cringe.

Nearly everyone enters the world of pet ownership with the best of intentions.

Unfortunately, circumstances sometimes change.

People lose jobs, they experience other unexpected expenses - and all of a sudden they’re in a bind. So what happens? They start cutting back on their pet expenses - cheaper food, canceled vet appointments and so on.

If it’s a short-term solution, that might be OK. But if longer-term problems exist, more decisive action must be taken.

Unfortunately, in the case of the horse farm, some animals had to be euthanized. No charges resulted from this case, but changes are being monitored at the farm.

Too often law enforcement officials don’t have the strength of the law on their side when it comes to animal hoarding, neglect or abuse. Proposed legislation in Lansing could help strengthen laws regarding animal care — one would create an animal abuse registry, another would increase penalties for certain animal abuse crimes.

There should be stronger laws that might deter people from neglecting, hoarding or abusing animals, and we applaud legislators for considering bills that would help do this.

Likewise, if people are unable to properly care for their pets, they should contact local authorities and ask them for help. They will often find the help, or at least a better situation for the animals.

Pets can’t speak for themselves, so we must do it for them.

Grand Haven Tribune