How many T-shirts do you have? Tote bags? Address labels? Photo folios? Calendars? Other trinkets describing the plight of animals that solicit funds? We all know folks who could paper their walls with the labels or die before sending enough mail to deplete their supply. Yet the bottom line, the message, may be missed. Worldwide there is an animal overpopulation problem leaving many unfortunate creatures to die slow, agonizing deaths from starvation or in vicious attacks while desperately struggling to gain a share of food. Abuse occurs in many forms. Some cultures use dogs and cats, even bears and more exotic species, for their presumed aphrodisiac effects. These animals are held in deplorable conditions and often are tortured before death. Dogs and cocks are used by gaming groups for fighting. The list goes on.

Often we go about our daily lives unmindful of the plight of the animals around us. Here in Vermont our harsh winters take their toll on the food supply of our wild animals. The excessive cold and heavy snow leads to frostbite and freezing. Southern climates cause dehydration, heatstroke, burns and blistering. Tsunamis, forest fires, earthquakes and similar catastrophic events destroy habitat for man and beast alike. Have you seen those photos of dogs and cats in need of a home? They are right here in your community and they need your help.

There are no easy solutions. Well-intentioned contributors soothe their consciences by sending money for relief efforts. Others turn a blind eye, ignoring the problems in hopes that others will solve them. Yet, if every individual volunteered to do something -- anything -- much of the suffering could be reduced or even eliminated. Funding your favorite charity can certainly help. Working with legislators to effect change can improve the quality of life for all creatures. Feeding the birds, trapping-neutering-returning feral cats, supporting a shelter, teaching a child to be kind to animals, adopting a homeless animal or finding a home for it, and supporting spay/neuter programs are all ways that you can make a difference.

Help must begin somewhere. Show that you care and let it begin with you.

Pat Jauch is secretary of Caledonia Animal Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 4054, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819; www.caledoniaanimalrescue.com.

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