There is a reason why dogs are called man's best friend.
Canines have a wonderful ability to forgive, love unconditionally and forget any insult that was thrown their way more than 30 seconds ago.
Dogs meet you after a day at work with a vigorously wagging tail and a happy kiss. They will run for a ball long after you have grown tired of throwing it and are always glad to curl up with you after a long day.
And they have feelings.
They are able to sense when you are excited, upset or ill. They have the ability to know if there is something wrong in a household, or even if someone's life is in danger.
But most dogs, indeed most domestic animals, are relatively helpless.
They are given food, having lost their urge to hunt many generations ago.
They are told when to exercise, most times at the end of a leash. Some of them have had their claws removed, so they would not be able to defend themselves from attack from another animal even if they were allowed outside.
Even so, they love their owners and usually are kind and gentle to strangers.
Why, then, do many people insist in mistreating these poor, defenseless animals?
Every week, it seems, we hear of another brutal case of animal neglect or cruelty.
The SPCA has seen the result of many horrid attacks over the years in this province and, in the past few months, volunteers were astounded when a cat was burned and left for dead on the Connaigre Peninsula.
In March, four newborn kittens were left outside a dumpster at the SPCA organization in Grand Falls-Windsorn. All four perished, most likely due to hypothermia brought on by the frigid temperatures of the night before.
Earlier that same month in Dunville, one dog was found dead and another on death's doorstep due to malnutrition. They had been left in the house by their owner for several days.
And recently, news of the death of a small dog allegedly at the hands of an eight-year-old boy wielding a barbeque fork as a weapon shocked many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Government has heard the cries for tougher animal rights legislation in the province and have promised just that.
But that is not enough.
In addition to stiffer fines, for those imbeciles who harm these helpless creatures, we need to change the thinking of those who fail to understand the usefulness of these pets.
Perhaps you have never owned a cat or dog, for example, and have no idea why a person would spend their hard-earned money caring for something that barks at all hours eats and poops, and not much else.
Pet owners have no idea why you feel that way.
Ask any senior citizen who has a pet for companionship, or a visually impaired individual who is lucky enough to own a guide dog.
Animals add greatly to the lives of many and deserve to be treated with respect.
There are exceptions to every rule, though. Those who train dogs to fight or to be destructive are a case in point.
People who chain their animals on a short tether for days at a time in all types of weather, those who have little respect for their neighbours by allowing them to roam free around a community and those who think that beating a pet is a good way to discipline them must be reminded on every possible occasion that they are mistreating their animal.
At the most basic of levels, we can help these animals by taking their owners to task and demanding them treat their pets with respect.
The way some people treat their pets - and other people's - makes you wonder who the animals really are.
Reprinted from the Advertiser, GF-W