When I was a teenager, I heard a story, which I resort to whenever I feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the challenges facing us in making this world a better place. The story has evolved over time from its original. But the essence is this:
Early one morning, I was walking along the shore after a storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, I noticed another man standing, gazing at something in the sand. He then stooped and flung the object beyond the breaking surf.
As I walked toward him, I could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up a starfish and throw it into the sea. I called out, “Good morning. May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The man looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. They will die unless I throw them back into the water.”
I replied, “But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach! You’re only one man. I’m afraid you won’t be able to make much of a difference.”
The man bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled, and said, “I made a difference to that one!”
Silently, I sought and picked up a still-living star, spinning it far out into the wave. “I understand,” I said, “call me another thrower.” Only then I allowed myself to think, He is not alone any longer.
(Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley. Mariner Books, 1979.)
Perhaps no one person can save the world, but they can save a life . . . or two. And just think how much we can accomplish collectively. If you’re moved by some of the stories in my latest book, and want to support the goals of the people profiled and the animals connected with these projects, I invite you to explore the following:
On helping victims of domestic violence:
If you suspect someone is a victim or you are a victim of domestic violence, please don’t stay silent. There is help. Contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at https://www.thehotline.org or call 800-799-7233.
To promote animal housing at domestic violence shelters:
Contact your local domestic violence safe house and urge them to open their doors to the nonhuman members of the family.
For resources on the link between animal abuse, child abuse, and other forms of violence that you can share with your local safe house, visit the National Link Coalition at: http://nationallinkcoalition.org.
RedRover offers Domestic Violence Safe Housing grants. https://redrover.org/resource/safe-housing-grant-recipients/
For legal help on domestic violence and animal cruelty, visit the Animal Legal Defense Fund at https://aldf.org/article/animal -cruelty-and-domestic-violence/.
On reporting animal abuse:
If you suspect someone is neglecting and abusing animals, please speak up. Chances are, no one else will. The best thing you can do is report cruelty to your local law enforcement agency, humane organization, animal control agency, or taxpayer-funded animal shelter.
You can report to all of them. Don’t hesitate to call 911 (or your local emergency number, if outside of the USA), if needed. The more the police departments hear callers concerned about animal abuse, the more likely they will consider modeling the New York Police Department and take the lead in animal abuse investigations in their jurisdictions.
If your area lacks the proper animal protection agency, and your local police authorities are not equipped to deal with animal cruelty cases, you can also email or call the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for advice and assistance. If an animal is in a life-threatening situation and help is not quickly forthcoming from local agencies, call PETA. They will help. On their websites, all three organizations provide guidance on how to document animal abuse to support your case.
On helping the homeless with animals:
Since the homeless often feel isolated, talk to a homeless person. Start with something like, “May I pet your dog?” Say something nice about the dog and let the conversation proceed naturally. Do not judge, just listen. Ask what would help them get through the day? Do they need dog food, water, a meal? Let him/her know that Feeding Pets of the Homeless is a call away if the animal gets ill or injured.
Their phone number is: 775-841-7463.
Their website is: https://www.petsofthehomeless.org.
- You can also volunteer to recruit a few donation sites for Feeding Pets of the Homeless.
- Ask your veterinary hospital to become a donation site or to hold a wellness clinic that Feeding Pets of the Homeless will sponsor.
- Consider hosting a pet food drive at your school, church, or business and donate the proceeds to one of Feeding Pets of the Homeless pet food providers. Contact Pets of the Homeless for help to make your event successful.
- You can also visit your local homeless communities and let them know of the resources available to them from Feeding Pets of the Homeless, such as emergency veterinary care for their animals and pet food provider sites where they can get donated pet food.
On preparing for disasters:
Visit the ASPCA webpage for tips to prepare for and protect your own critters during emergencies. It will help guide you on preparing emergency supplies and traveling kits. See https://www.aspca.org /pet-care/general-pet-care/disaster-preparedness.
On helping animals caught in the Syrian war:
Consider donating to the Syrian Association for Rescuing Animals (SARA). Thousands of animals are currently being poisoned, abused, and/or are starving to death because of the atrocities inflicted upon them by war. SARA is the only known animal protection society still left in Syria. SARA’s focus is on adoption, anticruelty and animal rescue, education and advocacy, and spay and neuter clinics. You can support their efforts by visiting their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SARA-Syrian -Association-for-Rescuing-Animals-780093548765982/
On helping James Guiliani:
James Giuliani’s Keno’s Animal Sanctuary has resources on animal adoption and is always looking for volunteers: https://www.kenosanimalsanctuary.com
On helping the animals at Rowdy Girl Sanctuary:
Rowdy Girl Sanctuary is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit their website: https://rowdygirlsanctuary.org
On reducing farm animal suffering:
The single most effective thing any one of us can do is cut back on eating animals and animal products or consider stopping altogether. As a wise person put it, we vote with our forks three times a day. By simply changing one plate of food for another, you can help protect yourself from a stroke, reverse climate change, prevent a pandemic, and save thousands of animals from a miserable life and a horrendous death. It is something so small that will have a large effect.
You can start small. Join the Meatless Monday campaigns and urge your schools and businesses to offer more plant- based meals. Find local groups who swap plant-based recipes or start your own group. For a guide to meat-free meals, visit HSUS at https://www.humanesociety.org/all-our-fights/humane-eating.
PETA has awesome, easy recipes https://www.peta.org/recipes/
Other things you can do to help animals:
Replace down with down-alternative for your next winter coat. Support organizations that promote effective human-biology- based testing methods, like human organs-on-a-chip, for medical research.
Please don’t give your money to visit small, roadside zoos or circuses. They are notoriously bad for animals. Look for circuses, like Cirque du Soleil, that don’t involve animals and that showcase fantastic human feats.
Also, please don’t buy animals from pet stores, breeders, or puppy mills. There are too many animals in desperate need of homes. Adopt a rescue animal instead.
Visit your local animal shelter or humane society to adopt an animal.
Lastly, cherish your critters! Their love is irreplaceable.