Animal welfare: A troubling trend –

A PERSON’S four-legged companion can be more than just a pet.

A dog or a cat can become a member of the family. Unfortunately, the news hasn’t been good lately when it comes to pet-friendly family values.

Animal welfare officials report that record numbers of pets have been surrendered to Savannah-area agencies this summer. That’s heartbreaking for people and animals.

A few weeks ago, the Humane Society of Greater Savannah took in 31 pets in a single day. The kennels were at capacity. Meanwhile, the Georgia Animal Rescue and Defense has seen its intake numbers double.

Some pet-owners apparently are feeling the effects of the current economy, officials said.

Pets can have a positive effect on people’s lives. The ability to love unconditionally brings joy. Pets can provide comfort during tough times and, overall, provide good company.

But owning a dog or cat isn’t like acquiring a stuffed animal. Owners must be responsible, especially now.

People should think twice before taking on a pet. Food, medical bills and pet fees at apartments add expenses to already tight budgets.

That said, bad luck happens. If owners find themselves between a pet and a hard place, taking pets to local animal adoption agencies is still hands down the best option.

Discarding a pet, where it faces starvation, injury and death, is cruel. By using adoption agencies, owners give their pets a chance of survival and finding a new home.

Meanwhile, adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue group is an attractive option for someone looking for companionship.

People can spend hundreds — sometimes thousands — of dollars to buy a pet. Adoption costs less and gives the added satisfaction of helping an animal in need. That’s priceless.

The Humane Society even offers Operation New Hope, a program that gives dogs with behavioral issues training before adoption.

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