Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Families Who Move Should Also Take Along Their Pets

DEAR ABBY: I'm responding to the letter from "Petless in Maryland" (10/13), who moved without her dog, cat and goldfish, but wants to encourage her son's love of animals. Your advice was spot-on, but there is a deeper issue that was not addressed. By moving and leaving their pets behind, she has taught her son that animals are "disposable." An animal is a commitment for life, not an object to be disposed of once one's lifestyle changes. A pet is a member of the family, the same as a child or other family member.

"Petless" should have kept looking until they found an affordable place where they could keep their pets. The shelters are full of pets who have been abandoned by their families due to moves, divorces, etc.

"Petless" cannot afford the fees to keep a pet -- but I'm willing to bet that she can afford a cell phone, cable TV, etc. She missed a chance to teach her son how to be a responsible pet owner, and how to honor the commitment that was made to those pets. What a shame. -- RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER, READING, PA.

DEAR RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER: Your point is well-taken, and some readers did agree with you. However, not knowing the woman's circumstances, I am unwilling to judge her. Other readers did reach out to offer ways to encourage "Toby" to love animals and someday become a responsible pet owner. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: There are a lot of options for pet lovers without resources for permanent adoption. "Petless" could contact the local SPCA and other agencies that might be looking for volunteers to have "visits" with pets. There is also a pretty big market for "dog walkers." There is even a market for pet sitters, who do it to make extra money for their families. -- SANDI IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR ABBY: There are rescue groups that have to put some of their adoptable dogs into boarding while they wait for a forever home. These dogs would love an hour or two of "breaking jail" for a walk or a trip to the dog park. A reputable organization would know the personalities of their dogs and be able to steer the mom toward "kid-tested" dogs that would get along great with her son. It would not only be an excellent way to encourage the boy, but also a wonderful thing for the dogs. -- ASHLEY IN SAN MARCOS, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: How about "Petless" contacting a senior center to see which seniors might need assistance with walking their dogs or with cat care? An assisted-living facility could also use this type of help. It would provide "Toby" a chance to share the love of animals, and the elderly residents would welcome such a sweet helper. -- PEGEEN IN RIO RANCHO, NEW MEXICO