Yesterday, the No Kill Advocacy Center, my organization, received a telephone message from a distraught young girl at a local school about a “baby animal” she found on the sidewalk. She told us her mother would not let her bring him home and told her to leave him at school. Upset and hurting, she put the little critter in a pot near some benches and after she got home, called the No Kill Advocacy Center for help saving “Bean.”

We are a legal advocacy organization. Our sole focus is institutional reform of pounds through advocacy, litigation, legislation, and direct assistance. But when the message came through, we went to get him and found Bean, chilled and dehydrated, in the planter. San Francisco is going through a cold spell. Jennifer, my wife, Riley, my daughter, and I spent the night trying to stabilize him, but he died in the early hours of the morning.

Humans have a rare gift: the ability, like no other species on planet earth, to fully control our environment. That ability — and the resulting accomplishments in shelter, medicine, food production, and more — is also a duty. It creates obligations to less technologically-minded Earthlings. Specifically, we have a duty to reduce the enormous amount of suffering of animals regardless of whether or not humans caused it. And yet, not only do we actually harm animals — intentionally and unintentionally in a mind-boggling number of cruel ways — we are often negligent when it is within our power to intervene.

As I buried the little guy this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder about the lesson that young girl’s careless mother could have imparted to her daughter, about empathy, kindness, caring, compassion, love, and duty. Instead, she drove her away from school, leaving her daughter distressed and a young animal in need of care to die in a planter.

Badly done.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here, but please keep your comments temperate. Rather than focus on the actions of the mother, I encourage commenters to do as I do: to take power and comfort in the number of people who will inevitably post about their own experiences helping needy animals and their own bewilderment at anyone who would choose to do otherwise. We are many.

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