Today’s the day no pet owner wants to face.

I’m putting my dog Lola to sleep today.

But this isn’t a sad column where I eulogize her and talk about how she was 16 years old and was born in Manchester, Tennessee and how she loved hiking, rolling around in smelly things and disemboweling stuffed animals.

Instead I’m gonna remind you that there are so many beautiful, smart and lovable animals that need rescuing right now in Rome. I see people posting on social media every day about wanting a pet and they’ve got their heart set on a particular breed of dog or cat because they like the way it looks or because it’s trendy or because their kid’s birthday is coming up and they want to surprise them.

Getting a pet is a VERY BIG and VERY SERIOUS responsibility. And if you don’t think that, then you don’t need an animal. But if you do want an animal to love and one that will be grateful to be in your home, then I promise you that it’s worth your time visiting Floyd County PAWS before trying to buy a dog or cat from someone or off the internet.

Here’s why. First off, you’ve got nothing to lose. You can simply go see the animals at PAWS at no cost to you. They’re at 99 North Ave. You can get their easily from either North Broad Street or Riverside Parkway. It’s a great facility and the staff there would be glad to show you all the animals they’ve got.

Contrary to popular belief, the animals there aren’t all nasty and feral. You’d be surprised at how many of them are beautiful and friendly and really just want to be loved on. And they aren’t all mutts (even though I think mutts are the smartest and coolest dogs). Many of the dogs at PAWS are pure-bred dogs or mixes that have strong features of breeds you know and love. Unfortunately many dogs and cats are surrendered by families to PAWS. That means that they haven’t been living on the street. They’ve been loved and cared for but for one reason or another needed to be given up.

So you have these wonderful animals who are used to living with a family or used to going on walks or used to laying in a soft bed and suddenly they’ve been abandoned by the humans they know and trust and love.

They need you. They need you more than a cute $900 pure-bred puppy from a puppy mill that’s sitting in a store somewhere. Chances are, that puppy’s gonna get adopted. But the odds aren’t so great for shelter animals simply because people won’t give them a chance.

You’d be surprised at all the amazing dogs and cats at PAWS that somehow don’t have a home yet. There could be a lab or a boxer or a pit or a terrier just perfect for you and your family that’s waiting to be adopted. If you want puppies and kittens, they have those at PAWS too. But there’s also juvenile or adult animals that may be the right age where you don’t need to buy puppy pads and follow them around cleaning up pee and poop on your carpet.

And one of the nice things about adopting shelter animals is that it doesn’t cost as much as buying from a pet store or breeder. Adoption fees are pretty low in comparison and many of the animals are ALREADY fixed and vaccinated.

Here’s an easy checklist to see if you need to be getting a pet in the first place:

1. Do you have the time to spend loving, training and exercising a pet?

2. Do you have the financial resources to make sure an animal as proper medical care (which may include shots, flea meds, veterinary care) as well as its day-to-day needs such as quality food?

3. Are you getting a pet because you truly want to love and care for another living thing that will be COMPLETELY dependent on you?

4. Did you check to see if your apartment allows pets?

If you answered “no” to any of these, then you probably don’t need to be getting an animal.

I want to be clear when I say this because if I’m going to get called judgmental and get hate mail, I want it to be for the right reason: If you keep a dog chained up to a tree in your yard for all its life, left out in the cold and the heat with no love, exercise or stimulation and you think throwing some Old Roy in a dish once a day is all you need to do as a pet owner, then you ABSOLUTELY should not be allowed to have a pet.

I can imagine the comments I’ll get from some readers who say I should shut up and mind my own business. But animals don’t have a voice so someone has to be their voice. They have no say in your decision to buy them because they’re cute when they’re babies but then tire of them and try to “REHOME” them on the Facebook Yardsale page. Someone has to speak up for them.

HOWEVER, if you truly have the desire and the resources to be a responsible pet owner, then there is a world of wonderful possibilities waiting for you at Floyd County PAWS or even neighboring shelters. Go take a look. It can’t hurt. And it might lead to you finding the absolute perfect pet for you and your family. You’ll have saved a life. There’s a special place in heaven for people who rescue animals.

Severo Avila is Features Editor

for the Rome News-Tribune.