Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in regard to the letter from "On the Fence in Nevada" (Sept. 11) (whose mother-in-law dumped her grandchildren's cat on the side of the road). I work as an animal safety officer for the sheriff's office, and I also volunteer for a local animal nonprofit.

There has been an increase in pet dumping as the economy has worsened. While the information you offered was accurate, there are many other reasons not to abandon an animal.

What "Loretta" did was illegal. It's called animal endangerment, animal abuse or animal abandonment. Because the cat did not belong to her, she could also have been brought up on charges of theft. Such charges can carry heavy fines and jail time.

"On the Fence" should know that there are local organizations that can help her brother-in-law by providing temporary foster care for his pet until he can get back on his feet. Their members are people who will want the cat in their home and who will love it and look after it.

— DAWN IN COLORADO

DEAR DAWN: Thank you for pointing out that what Loretta did was illegal and that there are options for providing care for family pets. Readers were outraged and some went so far as suggesting that Loretta herself be dumped by the side of the road with no food, water or cell phone and left to find her way home. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: That letter made my blood boil! I'm surprised that "Fence" needed to write for advice. She should never have stood silently by and let "Precious" be returned to her abuser. As you said, this was a virtual death sentence for Precious, and it was a miracle that she ended up in a shelter. The mother-in-law who watched the family hunt for the cat day after day has a sadistic streak a mile wide.

Abby, shelters across the nation are already overcrowded as a result of animals surrendered by their families because of the troubled economy. Precious stood little chance of being adopted and I am relieved her family located her.

— FELINE FANCIER, ROYAL OAK, MICH.

DEAR ABBY: I was shocked, appalled and horrified by the letter about Precious. How awful! I can't believe anyone with a conscience could do such a thing to an innocent creature. And to her own son and grandchildren!

How she could watch them search day in and day out, then watch them re-adopt their cat is beyond me. I hope she reads this and knows what a low-life I think she is. "On the Fence" should tell her brother-in-law what happened to keep such a thing from ever happening again.

— HORRIFIED IN ILLINOIS

DEAR ABBY: The family cat being dumped by the side of the road because the mother-in-law no longer wanted to take care of it is beyond inexcusable. It was flat-out mean-spirited. "Ray," his wife and their kids were already experiencing challenging times and Loretta not only created an unnecessary expense but added to the stress on the family.

Pets provide great calm and stability when our lives are in turmoil. If Loretta no longer wanted the responsibility of the pet, why didn't she make other arrangements, like boarding it in a kennel? If I was her husband, I would have left her on the side of the road and brought the cat home. The cat would have provided him with unconditional love, something it appears Loretta is incapable of feeling. What she did shows she doesn't value her relationship with her grandchildren.

— JOHN IN ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.