Spring is fast approaching, and thoughts quickly turn to love. Pet owners, do you know where your pet is?

Despite the better judgment of many, it seems that some around here are either unconcerned with their pet's reproductive urges or have the idea that it would be good to show their children "the miracle of birth."However, what that philosophy leads to is a lot of unwanted pets. According to statistics, 7,903 animals were brought into the Utah County Animal Shelter last year, an increase of 1,699 from 1989. Of that number, approximately 4,000 were dogs and 3,600 were cats.

According to Sgt. Rex Murdock, animal regulation coordinator, a large percentage of those statistics are stray animals. The shelter can hold those animals for only three days if the animal is unlicensed, five if licensed, before the animal is put to sleep.

The animals are brought in from the 13 Utah County cities the shelter serves, usually after complaints from neighbors or residents about the animal running loose. The shelter does all it can to find homes for the animals or track down the owners but unfortunately isn't successful most of the time.

However, death doesn't always come so easily for unwanted animals. Sometimes, the circumstances are much more drastic, as in the nauseating sight that greeted me on a trip to a local supermarket last week. On the side of a fairly busy street in my hometown was a sack filled with kittens that had frozen to death.

You hear about such things, but believe me, reality is much more powerful. Someone couldn't be bothered to have the family pet spayed or neutered but instead had to resort to kitten killing.

What could possess such a human being to even think of himself or herself as a pet lover, as he or she probably does? Please, take responsibility for your animals and realize what that responsibility means.

The animal shelter officials are working with local school districts to teach classes on pet owner responsibilities. Such education will help our children, but who will educate us?

This all strikes me as a form of animal abuse that is more sinister than the much-publicized (and rightfully so) animal-testing procedures by various chemical manufacturers. It's sickening.

I'm sorry if this sounds cruel. It probably sounds that way to you. I'm not even a pet owner, being allergic to most of the cat population and not being one for drooling dogs. However, I consider myself to be an animal lover.

Don't get me wrong, there are animal owners I know who make Dr. Doolittle look like Dr. Doonothing, including a close female friend who will take in every stray she finds, feed it and find it a home. She had to take what is now her family's cat away from a pack of adolescent males who were using a stun gun on it.

Such people exist. But the majority just don't love their pets enough to do what's right. A large number of the 7,903 animals brought in to the shelter were probably the product of a union between two pets whose owners couldn't be troubled to pay for a routine medical procedure on their pet.

It sounds flippant, but I mean this - please love your animal enough before your pet loves someone else's.