If people in Dallas blow each others’ brains out over traffic disputes, it shouldn’t be surprising so many of us are so exceptionally cruel to our pets.

But it is.

How about expensive Lhasa apsos left to rot in apartments after the owner has moved out? How about dogs and cats dumped on the streets in “nice” neighborhoods by owners who figure that’s a responsible way of disposing of the animals? How about sick dogs deposited at the vet’s, and then forgotten?

“You wouldn’t believe how many cruelty calls we get,” says a spokesman for the SPCA of Texas.

But I would, for I’ve learned about man’s generosity to his pets firsthand. A former neighbor abandoned her half-dozen cats in our communal backyard. Or how about the abandoned dog, beaten and starved, that showed up on our doorstep one morning?

What’s frustrating is that treatment of pets is one situation where the line between right and wrong is clear. Forget redistricting, budget deficits and high crime rates. Who can defend leaving starving kittens in an empty apartment?

“You’d be surprised at what people will do,” says Sue Brown of Lakewood Animal Hospital, where someone recently left a sick animal, a phony name and a fake address.

The numbers bear Sue out: The city’s animal control department receives 3,000 complaints annually concerning stray dogs and cats, a figure East Dallas shelter supervisor Bob Boykin says doesn’t begin to describe the problem.

At the SPCA, it’s closer to 5,000 calls annually. January, for instance, produced more than 400 callers, with reports including the tale of an Afghan abandoned because his owners no longer had time to brush him properly.

But that’s not even the most heartbreaking item. Consider this: The SPCA runs a lost-pet hotline, and 461 people called in January to report pets they had found. The SPCA located just 60 owners who wanted their lost pets back.

Kind of makes you want to shoot someone, doesn’t it?

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