Various strategies are needed locally to curb whatís long been a high population of stray cats and dogs.

A Finney County Humane Society working on the front line to combat the problem has done its best to educate the public and promote responsible pet ownership through various means.

The efforts always include a reminder to not allow pets to run loose.

Whether in the city or rural areas, irresponsible pet owners do indeed contribute to the problem. They let unsterilized pets run off leash, which results in unwanted litters dumped in the city or county, or at the animal shelter.

One attempt to hold residents who contribute to the problem accountable may come courtesy of the Finney County Commission, which has taken up consideration of increased fines for allowing dogs to run loose, along with more specific language on what constitutes a dog at large.

The county commissionís goal would be reining in dogs running around in rural residential areas in particular, rather than on vast farm properties where itís less of an issue.

Commissioners arenít only interested in the unwanted pet population that comes about when dogs run loose, though. Dogs getting into livestock and being involved in vehicle accidents also were considerations.

When it comes to solving the problem ó one that exacts a toll to communities in animal control and related costs ó pet owners simply following local and county leash laws would help. As too many people ignore rules in place, higher fines could deliver a needed deterrent.

At the same time, other initiatives also warrant attention.

Government officials who should be keenly aware of the cost of the unwanted pet population have an obligation to work closely with the local humane society on strategies, especially ongoing attempts to get more dogs and cats spayed and neutered in the city and county.

Such stringent measures as requiring all shelter animals to be sterilized before theyíre released also should be considered.

Pursuit of tougher fines makes sense, but wonít go far enough without more of a commitment to get pets spayed and neutered as a way to fix the nagging, community-wide problem.