Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not Man's Best Friend

I am disappointed to learn that only $1million out of the $136million of the funds donated to charities through Leona Helmsley’s charitable trust went to animal groups. It seems whenever a huge sum of money is left to animal groups, the person leaving the money is deemed insane or their intentions questioned and the money is quickly redirected towards other causes. An example of this is when tobacco heiress, Doris Duke, left money to support the arts and for the prevention of cruelty to animas and children, the trustees decided since she said “animals or children” not “animals and children,” to just give the money to children.

In 2003, Mrs. Helmsley drafted a mission statement to establish goals for how her multimillion dollar trust would disburse her assets after her death. She wanted the money to go towards helping indigent people and to provide care for dogs. A year later she deleted the first goal and devoted the trust primarily to the welfare of dogs, but added “and other such charitable activities as the trustees shall determine.” In February, judge, Troy K. Webber of Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan ruled, “the trustees may apply trust funds for such charitable purposes and in such amounts as they may, in their sole discretion, determine.”

It is wonderful that money went towards hospitals, who got a huge chunk, programs for homeless individuals and poverty, but only a mere million was distributed among ten different animal charities which include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animas and several groups that train guide dogs for the blind. This is clearly not what Mrs. Helmsley intended. I think she would be happier if the money was divided evenly.

Overall, the animal welfare sector is underfunded. Hundreds of animals are unitized everyday at shelters due to lack of resources. Would it not be great if we could prolong the lives of these animals, therefore giving them a greater chance of being adopted and having a good life? Also, wildlife preservation groups play a crucial role in protecting life on Earth through the preservation of plants, animals and the natural communities that sustain their existence. They help to ensure that many species of life will be around for our grandchildren to see and they won’t have to just read about them in books, like they read about the dinosaurs. A few groups who can use the money to make a tremendous impact are the Wildlife Conservation Society, who manages the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks led by their flagship the Bronx Zoo, the World Wildlife Fund, who is working hard to save the polar bears and the National Wildlife Federation.

What we need to realize is that our survival as humans are closely linked to the survival of other life forms on Earth. To ignore that fact and to deny compassion for those of the animal kingdom is counterproductive to our survival as a speicies.

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