Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why help animals? OR Shouldn't we help people first?

One discussion that I sometimes have with others involve the question: why should we help animals when there are so many people who are in need? This was not the topic of a recent discussion, but one that I have been thinking a lot more about since I started my (dream) job at The Humane Society of Indianapolis.

First, I believe that as humans, we have a responsibility to care for our earth, which includes animals. Excessive hunting and fishing can harm a delicate ecosystem, which is ultimately, critical for humans.

Beyond the biological reason of maintaining healthy wildlife, I think humans also have a responsibility to dogs and cats because we have domesticated them. A quote from a story called the Little Prince drives this point home: “Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.

For my own enjoyment, I am glad that cats and dogs (and other animals) have been domesticated. I think they are wonderful companions; however, it is upsetting that as people, we have neglected to maintain an appropriate population that would negate the need to euthanize millions of animals each year.

Furthermore, we can help enrich the lives of people if we work towards helping animals. Animals who do therapy work can ease the physical and emotional pain of hospital patients, can be an unbiased and patient reading partner, or can help boost a person's self esteem. People who live alone can also benefit from a furry, four-legged companion as company. Animals can feel like family members!

For some, helping animals is their own way of giving back to those who seem to truly appreciate their good deeds. People have the ability (and sometimes the desire) to deceive others - and it can be hard to trust another person who says they are or appears to be in need. Animals tend to be a bit more straight forward in their non-verbal communication. Even those animals who are not friendly seem to appreciate the help they receive. As an example, I used to feed a colony of feral cats at my parent's house - the cats never let us pet them, but they came back day for the food and shelter we provided them and our family became very attached to the rag-tag group of cats.

For others, being an animal friend means helping right the wrongs that other people have done. Anyone in animal rescue knows that sometimes people can be cruel to animals through no apparent reason but to inflict pain and overpower someone vulnerable.

As a final point, I think that it is really important for every person to have an area that they are passionate about helping. Volunteering adds another dimension to an individual, and it is my belief that we should dedicate ourselves to a cause which will inspire the greatest push towards action. Fortunately, we as people are an exceptionally diverse group; we have people who care for the elderly, for children, for the disadvantaged, for the homeless, and of course, for the animals.

I certainly do not diminish the importance of helping people - I simply find that my talents and interests best serve animals, and I think animal welfare is an important cause that needs our attention.