Even if you don't have a soft spot for animals, you should care that a potential animal abuse case is investigated.

Life in Ashland is pretty good for most house pets, farm animals and wildlife. People here tend to adopt a homeless pet instead of buying one from a breeder. We have more organic family farms in our area than factory farms. Wildlife habitat is abundant, and by and large, people around here seem to genuinely care about animals. That's something in which to be proud.

But as they say, pride goes before a fall. There have been recent reports in neighboring cities of animal cruelty. Some of these victims have been brought to Best Friends Animal Hospital in Talent for emergency medical treatment. Although the staff frequently deals with seriously injured animals, the brutality they have seen lately reduced many of them to tears.

Even if you don't have a soft spot for animals, you should care that a potential animal abuse case is investigated. Countless studies by experts in the fields of psychology, sociology and criminology have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty.

The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children. Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of other forms of violence, including child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.

What can you do to prevent animal abuse? Here are four ways to make a difference:

If you see an animal being abused, report it. Call 9-1-1 if an animal's life is in immediate danger; otherwise, start with a call to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department at 541-774-6800.

In Oregon, animal abuse is a crime punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Get to know and look out for the animals in your neighborhood. By being aware, you're more likely to notice abuse. Endangered animals can't speak up for themselves, so we have to do it for them.

Support your local animal shelter, humane society, spay/neuter group or a multi-species animal haven. If you can't afford to donate, volunteer. Your help can be just as valuable. Sanctuary One, the nonprofit care farm in the Applegate Valley where I work, provides a safe, loving home for abused and neglected animals. Our staff and volunteers work to ensure that these animals get the medical attention and therapy they need to regain their physical and mental health.

Most important, you can prevent animal abuse by being a good role model. If you have house pets or farm animals, always show them the love and good care they deserve. Also, talk to youngsters about how to treat animals with respect. If you need help, make an appointment for a fun and educational tour of Sanctuary One. We love teaching people of all ages how to be kind to animals.

Sanctuary One Executive Director Robert Casserly moved to Ashland in 2001 with his family and was manager of Friends of the Animal Shelter for five years. He co-founded Sanctuary One in 2007 along with Ashland businessman Lloyd Matthew Haines and former resident Linda Champlin. He has a master's in management degree from Southern Oregon University.