3/19/11

Humane Society International in Japan

"A man holding a dog walks on a street in
Kessennuma City, Miyagi prefecture.
STR/AFP/Getty Images" courtesy hsi.org
There are so many worthy charities you can donate to directly to help ongoing efforts everywhere from Haiti to New Zealand to Japan. The Red Cross, Save the Children, World Vision and more are all working tirelessly to help the people in need in these locations and others. But there is also Humane Society International.

Often in times of tragedy, we think of helping the affected people by getting them food, shelter and water. These are of course, top priorities. But another way to help people is by helping animals in these areas. Many think that the last thing on our minds should be the animals. But the animal population goes hand in hand with what is happening with survivors for many reasons. For one thing, stray animals affected by disaster can become dangerous as they become hungry and often times, ill and starving. By making animal rescue a priority in disaster areas, we're directly keeping human survivors and rescue teams safe and healthy.

Also, let's not forget, animals lead rescuers to humans trapped in rubble. Not simply the rescue dogs that come with teams but animals still located and wandering in the affected areas. We've all seen photos of dogs unwilling to leave their owner's sides, even after the worst case scenario. It's a heartbreaking reminder of the loyalty of domesticated animals.



Last but not least, animals bring hope to humans. They represent love. If in times of horrific disaster, humans find themselves surrounded with wild and suffering animals, morale is sure to be even lower than it already was before. It can make the environment after something like an Earthquake or a tsunami even more terrifying. Even in poverty stricken areas not affected by disaster, caring for animals often gives people hope and joy that they wouldn't otherwise have. I know this because when I was in Romania for a brief time, an entire clan of homeless street boys banded together once to take care of a stray dog who had just given birth to a litter of puppies. I watched these boys who were normally tough as nails affectionately care for this mother dog, naming her "Fatitsa", Romanian for "Little Girl". Their attentions turned, albeit briefly, from survival, drugs and violence, to caring for something even more helpless than themselves. They loved that dog, they were proud of her and they took her with them wherever they went making sure she had food and water, rest and safety. I left the country and have no way of keeping track of Fatitsa and her caretakers, but what I saw was an almost miraculous turn in behaviors all because of compassion for an animal.

What I saw with my own eyes reinforces what so many prison training programs already know, that through the process of caring for and rehabilitating animals, people discover their own humanity and compassion once again, even after their own traumatic life events.

If you have any money left to spare after donating to the Red Cross or other rescue funds, please consider giving to Humane Society International as they work together with other organizations on the ground in Japan. Humans and animals are inevitably intertwined, even if you simply think about it at an ecosystem level, this is a concern that needs to be addressed and you don't have to stop efforts on behalf of people to also help animals.

If you could even spare five or ten dollars in addition to what you are giving to the Red Cross, you can make a BIG difference for these animals and for Japan. Also, Humane Society International accepts PayPal donations. Do you have an extra few "digital" dollars lying around that you might spend on Ebay or Amazon.com? Why not donate it to something that matters SO MUCH. But I know they appreciate checks mailed in as well. And remember, all charitable donations are a tax write-off!!!

I don't work for Humane Society International or have any affiliations with them. But I believe that in times of tragedy, if something is tugging at your heart, especially if you are a blogger or someone with a public voice, no matter how small, you should reach out and share, encouraging others to do the same.

Please, whatever is tugging at your heartstrings in the wake of the many tragedies we have seen in the last few years, PLEASE GIVE. Even if that's in your own community.

You can follow HSI on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on how you can help humans and animals all over the world.

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