Debate Over How Much A Pet’s Life Is Worth

Dog and Cat

Warning: This story may disturb some readers.

The story of Adam, a kitten, being set on fire and nearly burned to death by two teenage girls has been making headlines all over the nation. This tiny kitten was saved when a boy and his friend heard the girls laughing and saw the cat.

Adam is now at an animal hospital in California where he has undergone two operations and will need several more. He is being watched over constantly, and it will most likely take several months for Adam’s exposed areas of his body to be covered.

The surgeries and care alone for Adam will total from $20,000 to $30,000. Money is being raised by Forgotten Felines, and the veterinary surgeon, Lisa Alexander, has been operating pro bono.

Many people in the local neighborhood are angered over the attention and donations that Adam has been getting. They say that there was less attention and outrage over when a 16-year-old boy was killed in the community last year. Some question the decision to keep the cat alive at considerable expense instead of putting it out of its misery. They think the money could be better spent elsewhere.

“The mentality here is: They can put up a reward for a burned cat, but they can’t put up a reward for a kid who got killed,” said Shawna Shaffer, the apartment manager who called for help after the kitten was brought to her office.

Others voice that this fight to save a cat shows compassion and brings a community together. They say that children need to see this example of kindness and selflessness, so they too can have these qualities.

Reader comments regarding Adam’s story and the money spent on his care and operations from a Chicago Tribune blog:

Comment #1:

Unfortunately, attacks on animals are usually the start of violent behavior for some individuals. These two girls need psychiatric treatment before they move onto hurting a person.

The article does say that the veterinarian is donating her services, so perhaps the bill won’t reach that $30,000 price. I feel that people are free to donate their money to whatever suits them. If they want to save a cat, that’s their choice.

Comment #2:

It would be easy to make the assumption that perhaps those funds would best be spent on humane education, making that poor kitten’s life speak in an honorable and effective manner. However, the only sort of education program that is consistently effective in teaching young people is through core values mandated in the home and reinforced through social/ cultural expectations.

That said, if the community can rally around this creature and create that social norm so obviously lacking in the perpetrators (whomever that may be), then the money spent is worth every penny.

Animal abuse is reprehensible and a logical gateway activity- with the potential to escalate to the subjugation of humans. Perhaps it is not too far fetched to focus on stopping the violence where it may begin, before it impacts humanity directly?

As humans, we have an obligation to take care of our own as well as those creatures whose lives we impact negatively. How we choose to do this is at our own discretion. In a perfect world, a balance should be achieved because there will always be extremes on either side of a given cause.

Comment #3:

This story breaks my heart, but it is unfathomable to me why so much money is being spent to keep this poor creature alive. That poor kitten has already gone through enough pain and suffering, plus, the money used to fund these operations could certainly be used a little more wisely. It reminds me a little of the outpouring of sympathy and dollars for animals trapped in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, when millions of people were stranded and homeless. I guess it just makes better news?

Comment #4:

Is not fair for people to judge the motivations/legitimacy of those who are giving money toward a fund to take care of the cat. If those folks feel a reward fund should be established for the capture of the person who killed this boy, nobody is stopping them from doing this themselves.

I hear constantly how money spent towards preventing cruelty/neglect of animals would be better spent on some other, non-animal related causes and I am completely sick of this line of reasoning. The fact is, animal protection causes are as worthy to receive charitable donations as any other, and are in fact, shockingly under-supported when compared with other types of organizations. People who feel that other worthwhile causes are are more deserving of support should look at the NonProfit Times annual list of biggest charities. Historically, there are only one or two animal related organizations in the top 100 list, and those are usually in the bottom 10%.

Furthermore, a society which protects animals and treats them humanely is one in which humans are much more likely to be protected and treated humanely. Thus, a common goal (the alleviation of suffering, protection of the weak and voiceless) is shared between animal protection groups and many other, non-animal organizations and causes.

Comment #5:

It’s sad that kids would find entertainment in torturing a kitten like that. But a $30,000 vet bill is way, way over & above what a cat’s life is worth. Euthanize the poor kitten & donate the money to Habitat for Humanity or some other worthwhile cause, for pete’s sake! Even donate it to the Humane Society, but don’t spend that much on a single cat!

Comment #6:

For any situation where a wrongful act or an injury occurs, there are complex societal, cultural, and moral norms at play. How much attention a teen’s slaying gets over setting a kitten ablaze has no bearing on the value of life.

The slaying of a teenager is heartbreaking and tragic. The torture of a defenseless kitten is heartbreaking and tragic too. Though there is a correlation with respect to escalation from abusive behavior towards non-human victims growing into abuse towards human victims, these are entirely separate tragic incidents and should remain so in terms of scope.

Why the high level of public outcry over the torture of a kitten in comparison to the slaying of the teenager (or over genocide in Africa, for that matter)? The public at large is far more desensitized where human-to-human violence and injury is concerned; sadly, it has become an almost constant element in the news. It is so prevalent, society feels overwhelmed and somewhat helpless.

Why do people respond to the kitten tragedy? They feel they “can” do something.

The important thing is for people not to stop trying to DO something. Go ahead, send $ for the kitten. But maybe folks can also become more socially involved in their community, in programs for schools and parks; do something to combat human rights abuses at home and the world over.

That being said, the question of how much a life is worth, human or kitten, has no one, true answer and must necessarily go unanswered.

Other Source: San Francisco Chronicle

(Thanks Amanda)

31 Responses to “Debate Over How Much A Pet’s Life Is Worth”

  1. Jenny says:

    And to be honest, these girls need to spend some time in jail regardless of how old they may be. What awful children. I would be so ashamed of them if they were mine. I wonder what the parents are like.

    I see nothing wrong with the donations and think the vet is doing a wonderful thing. Poor animal.

  2. Lynne says:

    I can understand both sides of this. And both of those girls need some serious, long term psychological counseling.

  3. Sharon says:

    It sounds like what happened to the cat was a symptom of what is wrong with the community. Unfortunately the global village is doing a terrible job of raising children in this country. They are not taught any respect for life or what is the right thing to do. It’s not that far of a trip from killing an animal to killing a person. The community needs to heal itself.

  4. KitKat says:

    When the well-known racehorse Barbaro was finally put down last year, there were plans to have him buried at Churchhill Downs with a full-blown ceremony as a tribute to his spirit, tenacity and will to live. I don’t know what finally happened, as I stopped following the story. What I do remember is that the morning show hosts of a top radio station in Montreal where I live spent about an hour joking about how the attention and care given to Barbaro put us all to shame, and that the horse should have been slaughtered and his body parts sent to the Third World for consumption by the less fortunate. The commentators went on and on about how misguided the owners and volunteers were to have put this kind of effort into a horse when the money could have been spent elsewhere. The joking and nasty remarks were horrible and I remember that the commentators were obliged to make a full retraction and offer an on-air apology the next day. Many of us in the community were so disturbed by what was said - animal lovers or not, that we have boycotted the radio station ever since.

    There are many people out there who have little or no regard for animals, and never stop to consider how or what they contribute. I agree with Sharon - the way we are living and the way the general population is raising children leaves alot to be desired. The Barbaro story and the pro-bono work being performed in California for this little kitten may seem extreme to some, but to me it shows that some of us still do care.

  5. KarlaSanDiego says:

    and why no mention of the sick little girls who tortured this kitten? who will most likely continue to do barbaric things to animals in the future?

  6. Jenny Bark says:

    This is so sick and so are those girls. They need help & jail time & their parents should be made to get help. They learned to be this cruel from somewhere. People still have the right to spend their money how they want. Whey didn’t the neighborhood collect mony for the poor boy who was killed or the police? We all should be talking about the great boys who stopped this and their parents who raised them instead of the money. If I was the police I would be checking on other animal abuse in that neighborhood, like maybe dog fighting.

  7. CGP says:

    It’s amazing that people protest spending $$$ on animals yet will spend exorbitant amounts on clothes, accessories, and sports without question. We pay professional athletes megabucks for tossing balls around, and our soldiers receive a pittance in comparison. The woman mentioned in the article is free to start a reward fund for the killing of that teenager (a terrible tragedy) if she so desires. Yes, a reward fund should be established for that youngster, but this is not an “either or” situation. I just think pet people are more caring, more vocal, and are willing to spend the $$$ when it’s necessary. No one is forcing anyone to contribute to any reward fund - human or animal.

  8. Stefani says:

    Humans did this to the cat. Humans are right to try to help the cat now, if we can. It’s our karmic duty as a society for raising such cruel, psychologically disturbed children.

  9. shibadiva says:

    Kudos to those who raised the funds, and for the veterinarian who is working pro bono to help little Adam.

    Kudos to anyone in the community who is making a similar effort when there are human tragedies.

    One does not preclude the other. It is possible to do both.

    Sad for the hollow, twisted souls who would get so incensed over such charitable giving, and for those who would make light of the value of all life.

  10. Trudy Jackson says:

    I think the parents and the girls should pay some for this. It was their fault, and it’s sick and twisted.

  11. NH says:

    Truday, I’m with you. Why aren’t those girls and their parents paying for what they did to the cat? Those kids need a swift kick in the a$$! What a shameful bunch of idiots. This is our future? God help us!

  12. wescott20 says:

    True justice would be if those evil girls who set the kitten on fire were thrown in prison and given the death penalty, which should then be carried out swiftly without wasting tax money on appeals for those vicious little criminals. That’s what would happen if our justice system was worth a damn. And the people who are complaining and begrudging the kitten the financial support he’s getting need to shut their mouths…it’s their community that raised those vile little b**ches, the least they can do is allow the society to make amends of some sort by healing that kitten and making sure he has a good life from now on.

  13. Marilyn S says:

    the parents and the girls should be sued for all the medical costs at the very least. Aren’t parents legally responsible for the acts of their minor children? If these sick monsters were my children I’d be VERY tempted to have a retroactive abortion.

  14. elizabeth says:

    Those who decry the effort and money spent to save this kitten are very short sighted. They should be made to understand that this is exactly how new treatments and life saving therapies that benefit all of us often come about. In addition to his role as a poster child for animal cruelty, this poor baby kitten, whether he makes it or not, (and I pray he does) will have contributed much to veterinary science on how to treat shock, egregious burns, and infections. (Just as Barbaro’s valiant, if ultimately losing, fight contributed so much to knowledge on treating broken bones and their attendant problems.)

    Many of the most important and lasting human medical therapies have also come from experiences and experiments in treating trauma victims and war casualties.

    I predict Adam the kitten will be long remembered as will Mike Vick’s poor dogs.

  15. straybaby says:

    Marilyn S says:
    July 20th, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    i do believe the parents are responsible. wouldn’t this be considered “destruction of property”?

  16. bengals says:

    I totally agree regarding parents being held responsible… they have GOT TO BE RESPONSIBLE for their children’s actions….they are the one’s who brought them into this world and raised them, and it’s about time this country starts making parents responsible…then MAYBE they’ll start teaching their kids about compassion, caring, working hard, and down right respect for life.
    Poor little Adam, I pray he makes it and has nothing but wonderful things happen for him after this ordeal.
    Kudo’s to the vet and everyone who has contributed to his recovery…and screw all of those who criticize it.

  17. Katie says:

    I can see both sides of this. And, I think the parents need to be held responsible for their child’s actions. The girls have some psychological problems that need to be addressed. If they could do this to an animal and get a thrill from it, makes one question what they might do to a human. I don’t think the neighborhood understands or wants to understand there is a very serious underlying problem.

    I’m glad the kitty is being help and hoping for a full recovery.


  18. wescott20 says:

    And the ironic thing is…when people claim an animal’s life isn’t worth much, it is actually those people who aren’t worth much. Such people have nothing to contribute to society except lack of compassion and indifference to cruelty. The animal is worth more, in my eyes, than those kinds of people.

    What people need to remember is that there is evil in this world…intrinsic evil, and those girls who burned the kitten are an example. Therapy will not help them or make a difference in their behavior or characters…they should be dealt with punitively and severely and the authorities should ensure that no human or animal will ever be victimized by these girls again.

  19. molly says:

    I can’t even imagine how sick these girls are, they most definately need to be locked up, someone should set them on fire. And the parents should be made to pay all medical expenses for the poor kitty. Evil. People can do what they want with thier money. It’s up to people to help animals since they can’t work and pay thier own bills. Im sorry about the boy who had been compared to the cat, but one thing really has nothing to do with the other. Those girls should be sent to jail and get what they deserve there. Like I said, they really deserve to be set on fire.

  20. catmom5 says:

    I agree that the girls must be held accountable for what they have done. Teenagers are certainly old enough to know right from wrong, and setting fire to a kitten is wrong. I don’t know what the answer is ~ I, too, believe that only very disturbed and emotionally sick individuals could do such a horrific thing. I also agree that the girls and their parents should be responsible for the cost of the medical care for the kitten.

    Bless those who are trying to keep the wee one alive. I hope he makes it! I simply cannot imagine how terrifying and painful it must have been for him.

    For those who say that we shouldn’t help an animal because help was not given a human, I say that it isn’t an either/or situation. We should do both!

  21. Klaus Hergeschimmer says:

    The whole line of “all that money being wasted on a cat” is symptomatic of a world where apathy and denial about global warming never hits them personally until we now see virtually undeniable evidence that it is happening. The same can be said about people who are saying that animal lovers are making too much hay about Adam the kitten. There are numerous studies that show that people who are sadistic towards animals, later move on to hurting humans. I think the people who are angry about the teenager that was murdered in their neighborhood being mad about Adam the kitten getting all this attention and help in recovering should consider that the kindness being showed the kitten is a model for their community that should be inspirtional. If they are so outraged about the murder in their neighborhood, then what are they personally doing to try to bring attention to it. It is easy to criticize the attention that Adam the kitten is getting from the media and public, but what have those critics done personally to try to bring attention to the murdered teenager they are talking about.

    I am elated that Adam the Kitten is doing fine, and if people want to donate their time and money they can do that. I’m frankly fed up with the anthropocentric platitudes in some of the postings regarding the value of
    Adam the kitten being saved. I LOVE ADAM THE KITTEN -ANY QUESTIONS!

  22. pat says:

    i don’t see what there is to debate here. the human garbage that perpetrated this crime should be set to work immediately to pay for this little animal’s medical expenses in their entirety. by this i mean every waking moment not spent in school should be spent working off this debt… these monsters should be kept busy at all times to prevent them from thinking up and carrying out other vicious crimes. since volunteers have come forward to pay these expenses, then the money taken from the girls should be put into a fund to treat other animals that fall victim to torture. as to the unfortunate teenager who was murdered in the same community, i don’t understand what is preventing the people who are complaining about the care shown for this kitten from organizing a fund to defray the expenses his family incurred. more importantly, they need to take a good look at this community where cruelty and violence seem to be part of everyday life, and work to stamp that out. stop whining about the attention given to this defensless kitten, get off your butts and fix your community!

  23. Mrs. P. says:

    My husband and I are fostering one of these abused animals. We’ve had him for over a year and hope they’ll let us keep him. Kids torched this poor dog and everyone says put it down. We should spend our time and money on “more important charities.” No matter where you spend your money, someone out there will tell you what you should have done. It’s your money and spend it where you will. The shelter gave us this dog and called him “Burnie.” Our cat, Calvin, became best friends with him, so we call him Hobbes. He was a victim of gang violence and we love him. He’s a living thing. Does it matter what species he is? Are humans more valuable?

  24. pam says:

    certainly not those two tennage girls! if i were them, i’d be worried. karma has a way of sneaking up on you and evening the score…maybe not today, maybe not til years into the future…but you always end up paying for your deeds…karma always wins.

  25. 2CatMOM says:

    If you would like to make a donation on Adam’s behalf - here’s a link to Forgotten Felines.

    Also - there was a little boy who actually rescued the cat a true little hero. FF is taking cards and letters of thanks to give to this child and his mother. They are coming to the shelter to visit Adam next week.

  26. jmuhjacat says:

    Absolutely agree with the comments, especially Wescott20’s. These monsters have already crossed the line and, though in principle I oppose capital punishment, I’ve always said I’d have a tough time opposing it where people like these are concerned. To do this to someone completely innocent and blameless, trusting, loving, and unconditionally loyal, is beyond redemption, I truly believe. These people — and I use the term very loosely — have no souls. They and all like them should be annihilated.

    As for little Adam, I pray he will recover and that his life from now on is nothing but love and comfort — it is what he deserves. It is what ALL cats deserve.

  27. Klaus Hergeschimmer says:

    It is so refreshing to hear the comments regarding the 2 Monsters -Yes, Monsters is the exact word for those two girls -that perpetrated this vicious sadistic act against this sweet little kitten.
    I’ve sent a donation to Forgotten Felines for Adam and I will send more.
    It would be a good thing to also send cards to the little boy, Ceaser, to let him know that seeking help for the kitten is a mark of his humanity and that he’s setting an example for other children in his neighborhood.
    I’m going to keep sending letters to the Sonoma County DA to prosecute those girls to the full extent of the law.

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  29. hm says:

    I say we get to burn the girls~

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