The Animal Welfare League is like the red-headed stepchild of local government. We all know it's important, but we tend to ignore it. We have more important issues.

I have been guilty of not wanting to think about how important the AWL is.

But two or three times a week, when I am at the police station gathering information for the police blotter report, I run across items such as: Subject complains a pit bull chased her into her house. Recently, a woman complained to police that a cat was on her porch and refused to leave. I am assuming it was a lion or tiger. (I jest.)

When a community doesn't have any place to take animals that are out of control or simply unwanted, the animals are allowed to run loose or the community becomes outraged because a dog is shot by law enforcement or by a resident. We don't want to deal with animals that have no proper, loving home, like the proverbial red-headed stepchild.

Recently we were shocked and angered by the report of a house that was filled with nearly 40 dogs and more than 100 birds. There is no doubt that residence, located in the middle of one of our smaller communities, was a health hazard. What would we have done without the local Animal Welfare League?

These people are amazing. They did not receive the lion's share of support from our city and county budgets and yet, when it came to providing for these dogs and birds, not only were they sent to places that could provide for them but the local shelter took the $3,000 that had been donated and sent that money along with the dogs and birds to be sure they were fed and cared for properly. That's amazing.

I have sat through more city and county budget hearings than I care to admit and year after year it becomes painfully obvious there just isn't enough money to go around. The conventional thinking is that tax money should be spent to maintain and improve the lives of our two-legged residents more than the four-legged variety or those that can fly.

I am not saying that idea is wrong. I don't want our community to have one less police officer or firefighter than we need.

I think the answer is volunteer support. Many people learned about the dog and bird situation and donated thousands of dollars to help care for these creatures. Wabash College students spent a day at the shelter to help care for the animals. This wasn't punishment, it wasn't some fraternity "stunt;" it was an honest expression of concern.

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TOMORROW WILL mark a historical milestone. Unless enough people in Washington take smart pills, our country will not be able to pay its debts for the first time in more than 200 years. A sad day.

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SEEN ON a church sign: "Autumn leaves, Jesus Doesn't."