A hidden crisis, an abundance of opportunity

(They’re safe.) 

Another baby/busy season is well under way, and again we at Animal Help Now are deluged with reminders that even in an age of increasing appreciation for wildlife, the critical work of wildlife rehabilitation remains woefully under-appreciated, under-supported, and underfunded. 

You’re a young raccoon in the State of New York (not that you’d call it that), and you’re out for the night with your mom and sibs, learning to find food. You come upon a roaring river, but there’s no water. Just a lot of lights and dark masses zooming by. Mom is being extremely cautious in getting you across. She waits and waits, and then she goes. But – no! – she shrieks and is violently taken by a dark mass that roars by so close you could touch it. You see her far away. She is struggling to move. She’s crying. You and your sisters go to her even though it’s not safe. But the dark masses keep coming and they strike. They strike your sisters. They strike your mother. And now none of them are moving. Mom is not moving.

She is gone. They are all gone.

You stay close, by the side of the road. The violent masses continue to roar past. You’re filled with fear, you’re dizzy, disoriented. You stay there hoping somehow something will change. You have never felt alone or scared, and now this is all you feel.

At some point the sky lightens and one of the masses slows to a stop. Something scoops you up, bundles you, and then you are carried off on a roar for who knows where, … 

If you’re this raccoon – again, this is just a very small sample of what’s happening around the country and world every day – the chances right now are very good that your life is over, that you may feel a few loving hands, but eventually you’ll hear soft voices, and then you’ll feel a short sharp pain and then your world will end.

Every day right now in New York perfectly healthy orphaned raccoons are killed not by motor vehicles, but by people who are trained to save lives. That’s because the facilities that are equipped to rehabilitate these youngsters – preparing them for life in the wild and then releasing them when they’re ready – are almost all at capacity. They cannot take more animals. And that’s because of (a) human activities result in so many wildlife injuries and deaths and (b) wildlife rehabilitation is under-appreciated, under-supported, and underfunded.

Some people will use the term euthanasia to name the killing of a healthy orphaned raccoon under these circumstances. I won’t. Though it is better to have the animal killed than to release her into the woods to fend for herself.

These are terrible options, and they exist only because wildlife rehabilitation gets short shrift while wildlife agencies focus their attention on the hunting and fishing dollar.

The two babies pictured here? Let’s call them lucky, with an asterisk. And the asterisk is the two loving hands they landed in belong to Diane W. Diane is a former wildlife rehabilitator, and she’s more resourceful and diligent than most of us. 

When Diane ended up with these guys, she accessed AHNow to find help. None of the nearest rehabilitators could help her. They either were full, or they weren’t equipped/trained to accept raccoons. She used our animal filter, selecting Small Mammal, which removes from the results all rehabilitators who don’t accept small mammals and also extends our app’s search radius. Again, everyone she called was either full or, despite being able to accept small mammals, was not equipped/trained to accept raccoons.

Diane had pushed our service pretty close to the limit. What she really needed was a list of all raccoon rehabilitators in the State of New York. (For what it’s worth, transferring raccoons across state lines is illegal in most if not all states.)

Diane did the smart thing and contacted us directly. We want the public to contact us if they need us, but only after they exhaust the excellent self-service options we provide.

We produced and provided Diane with a list of rehabbers in New York that may be willing and able to accept baby raccoons.

Diane found one, and these little ones are now in good hands.

At AHNow we’ll be taking a close look at Diane’s experience as we develop our next generation user interface.

One more thing. Diane’s no longer rehabbing. She is terminally ill. Doctors have given her just a year to live.

We’re hoping Diane, like the little ones she saved here, defies the odds. We are so grateful to her and so many others like her who do or have done their best to leave this world better than they found it.

If you care to help cover the costs of transportation ($200), please click here. (Enter “raccoon” or “Diane” in the Donor Note.) Anything we raise above that amount will either will go toward something to thank Diane for all she has done and continues to do for our wild friends or will be donated at Diane’s direction to support wildlife emergency services.

A fate worse than death, then death

I’ll not soon forget one of my heroes – Jon Stewart, then host of The Daily Show – giggling while airing a video of a skunk or raccoon with her head stuck in a jar of peanut butter or some such.

Comedy is personal, and one person’s funny is another’s unfunny. I don’t blame a satirical genius for occasionally taking the easy slapstick laugh. And gods know we don’t need to reinforce the stereotype that vegans are humorless.

The stuck skunk came to mind when a friend told me yesterday that her landlord in animal-loving Boulder, Colorado, had hired a “pest control” operator to kill rats who had moved into her house after high waters displaced them from their homes along an irrigation ditch. (For what it’s worth, even among humane wildlife control operators you’ll find a few that are OK killing rats.)

This operator arrived ill equipped for the job. His snap traps were too small for rats, but they were all he had, he said, so he put one out anyway. The next day, the trap was gone. The rat was found days later in a wall some distance away, his head stuck in the trap, having succumbed to death from starvation or thirst or internal injuries after what was likely unspeakable pain and suffering. Everybody fights to live.

To its credit, the City of Boulder on its web page on “safe and effective rat control” encourages the public to provide oversight on operators: “Ensure that you understand the principles for effective trapping and don’t assume that a pest control service will use these techniques unless you require it when you hire them.”

We support the City’s advice on minimizing conflicts with rats, but we are at odds with their quick-to-kill approach. Rats are not to blame for taking advantage of the favorable living conditions provided for them in the human environment. We disparage rats and pigeons, but perhaps we need to be mindful of the adage that those characteristics we most despise in others we also see in ourselves.

Our species makes a mess of things, so is it any wonder we attract animals who thrive in messes? Is it any wonder the skunk gets her head stuck in a recklessly discarded peanut butter jar?

This year Animal Help Now debuted its wildlife conflict service, which enables anyone anywhere to get humane advice (and, in many areas, assistance) for dealing with “nuisance” wildlife. This isn’t about cash. (We’re a nonprofit.) It’s about taking responsibility. It’s about taking care of those most impacted by the havoc we’re wreaking on the world.

Ethics: Killing One Animal to Save Another

A big ethical issue in rehab is the killing of one animal to support the rehabilitation of another.

As far as I can tell, not a lot of people are talking about this, but I think it’s something each of us has to at least acknowledge, if not reckon with.

A classic example is raptor rehab. Although I’ve been behind the scenes in one acclaimed raptor rehab center, I don’t know much about day-in, day-out practice of helping prepare raptors for their introduction to life in the wild, or their return thereto. I do know that live animals are used in rehab in teaching young raptors to hunt.

Baby quails for sale.

For a human who values one animal life as much as another, this of course presents an ethical dilemma.

This dilemma likely will be influenced by whether or not one values ecosystems, in that placing high value on healthy ecosystems may make it easier for one to justify the taking of one life to support another.

Of course, one doesn’t simply value ecosystems or not value ecosystems. One might value an ecosystem that is rare and endangered over an ecosystem that is more common and not endangered. One might value an ecosystem that is relatively pristine (such as a remote Brazilian rainforest) over an ecosystem that is characterized by human activities and impacts (such as a Chicago suburb).

If one places no value on ecosystems, is it a slam dunk to decide whether to kill one animal to save another? No quail shall be bred to be fed alive or dead to a raptor. Perhaps it is.

There’s also the issue of whether to value the educational and inspirational aspects of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation? If the story of a successful rehabilitation of an orphaned raptor educates and inspires, say, a group of schoolchildren, what if any value does this inspiration hold?

And what may it hold? Increasing appreciation for and attention to wildlife rehabilitation may well result in the development of technologies and approaches that minimize the “need” for the use of live animals in learning-to-hunt situations. It’s readily apparent that the development of cell-cultured animal flesh will eventually save lives in the everyday rehabilitation of omnivores and scavengers.

I rely, perhaps too heavily, on the adage that human-created problems often defy elegant solutions. Nutria. The killing of “unwanted” dogs and cats in shelters. Climate change. Examples abound.

To be sure, what’s under discussion here is not whether or not to save a bunny from a hawk attack. What’s under discussion is whether or not to save a hawk who has been hit by a car. Few animal rights people would say, don’t save the hawk, but few too would be willing to put a live quail in an aviary as part of the hawk’s rehab effort.

To be more accurate, what’s under discussion here is the need to confront and come to terms with unpleasant truths. In the absence of elegant solutions, what is important first and foremost is that those who care enough to explore the ethical implications of carnivore (and probably omnivore) rehab recognize that there’s no one pure ethical stance.

Of Opossum “Drops” and Less Obvious Affronts

The ridiculous, cruel and anachronistic opossum “drop” in Andrews, North Carolina, went ahead last night as planned (video).

Our hearts go out to the little one who was abused as this sad public “tradition” continued.

In his or her honor, I’ll humbly suggest we all think hard about how our own behaviors – our private “traditions”, perhaps – might harm others.

Is our own entertainment truly cruelty free? Any circus involving animals is not. Nor is any zoo or aquarium. Any movie involving actual animals likely was unpleasant for them; many have been downright cruel or indeed deadly.

Four film titles (Milo and Otis, Snowy River, Flicka and OldBoy)
A tiny sampling of movies in which animals either died or were abused during production.

The food that sustains us? Are we eating in a way that causes the least harm, to both animals and to the planet?

Chickens and fish suffer tremendously.
Food production on an industrial scale leaves no room for animal welfare. After living short, miserable lives, chickens may be scalded alive during slaughter. The fish in this scene are mostly alive. They were crushed as they were pulled in massive nets from their homes, and then this worker carelessly steps on them as they suffocate to death.

Our household products? Are we still buying products “tested” on animals? They’re certainly still being produced!

Products that test on animals, and a few animal test images
New and Improved? What we need is a new and improved ethic toward animals. We humans pride ourselves on our scientific accomplishments, but we continue to kill animals to meet some archaic regulation ostensibly protecting humans. From laundry soap to cotton swabs, our purchases matter!

Our investments? Are we supporting companies that exploit natural resources?

Are we cutting back on plastics? Even just a little?

In a room full of antagonists (say, NYE revelers), the persecuted protagonist (opossum) is easy to spot and easy to sympathize with.

Profound change starts with the more difficult recognition of when we ourselves are causing problems. And profound change can be gradual. A little less meat in our diets. A reusable drink container. A little more attention paid to our animal companion…

We have a whole year to stop the next opossum “drop”. Imagine all the other positive changes we can make during that time!

Helping Wildlife During Hurricane Michael and Beyond

With Hurricane Michael hammering the Florida Panhandle and surrounding areas, we’re facing yet another harsh reminder of the fragility of life. We know you join Animal Help Now in our hopes that those in the hurricane’s path can make it to safety and ensure that their dependents do, too.

Sadly, we were reminded just last month that many animals are simply left to die, including not only dogs and cats, and fishes in aquariums, but also and on a much, much larger scale, pigs and chickens and other “food” animals, whose anonymity dooms them.

As to wild animals and wild places, even with their millions of years of evolutionary toughening-up, many can offer no contest to the violence of today’s storms.

Great Blue Heron killed in Hurricane Harvey.
Many shorebirds seeking shelter in local wetlands, like this great blue heron, were devastated by storm surge in Hurricane Harvey (Port Aransas, TX). Many of those who were found alive and rescued were taken to the Texas Sealife Center for medical attention and rehabilitation. Photo: Tim Tristan.

Rescued green sea turtles.
Green sea turtles transported to the Texas Sealife Center in Corpus Christi after Hurricane Harvey. More than 50 sea turtles were housed and cared for at the facility. Photo: Tim Tristan.

The climate is changing, and the impacts are larger and coming at us faster than almost anyone predicted. As the International Panel on Climate Change reported last week, we need to act now, as in now, as in right now. Today.

As to today: at Animal Help Now, we recognize the huge role that human food systems play in climate change. Choosing to eat lower on the food chain is perhaps the single most important thing a person can do each day to positively impact the climate. When we farm to feed humans directly instead of farming to feed cows and pigs and chickens to then feed to humans, we use less fossil fuel and we require less farmland. I can almost hear a rainforest saying, Thank you.

Inundated factory farm.
Millions of chickens and thousands of pigs suffered terribly and died during Hurricane Florence. This is about as close as cameras are allowed. Photo: USA Today.

What’s that, coral reef? Plant-based diets also benefit coral reefs, not only from a global warming perspective, but also by rejecting factory fishing and its concomitant destruction of marine biodiversity.

Discarded fishing line and nets alone are reason enough for Animal Help Now to exist.

Brown pelican.
Through the unparalleled devastation of Hurricane Harvey, some animals remained resilient. Here, a surviving brown pelican. Photo: Tim Tristan.

Bunnies orphaned during Hurricane Harvey.

But the maelstrom of human misbehavior has much larger consequences, as we are now witnessing in the Gulf.

This week Animal Help Now has been busy ensuring our list of wildlife experts in and around the Florida Panhandle is up to date so we can best serve people who encounter wildlife in need as the storm moves through.

Of course, most area wildlife rehabilitators have rightfully left for higher ground, serving as a final jolting reminder that each of us needs to act today to mitigate the severity of storms of the future. If we don’t, we’ll all soon find ourselves in a constant state of retreat.

Use Animal Help Now (website, iPhone app, Android app) to find assistance right now for injured or distressed wildlife.

High-Tech Wildlife 911

This article was originally published in New Mexico Vegan.

Think fast. Your neighbor’s cat has injured a bird. You’ve managed to scare off the cat, and now it’s just you and the bird, who’s dazed and bleeding slightly.

What do you do?

Many of you know the answer. And not only do you how to get to your local wildlife rehabilitation center, you also have the center’s phone number on speed dial, just in case.

But what if you’re out of town and away from your known resources?

Or what if you’ve encountered an animal that your local center won’t accept – say, an injured bobcat, perhaps?

Animal Help Now is the country’s first wildlife emergency application. It’s available for free on the internet at www.AnimalHelpNow.org (www.AHNow.org, for short) and as both an Android and iPhone app.

Think of Animal Help Now as a high-tech wildlife 911.

Injured Wildlife

You open the app and tap Wildlife Emergency. The app quickly lists the contact information for the nearest wildlife emergency professionals. You tap a phone number, and you’re on your way. It’s that easy.

The list of helpers includes state-licensed wildlife rehabilitators, federally licensed wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife rescues and hotlines, and – in many states, including New Mexico – government agencies that may assist with wildlife emergencies. (If you see orphaned ducklings frantically running along a highway, for instance, you will want a sheriff or state patrol.)

Some of you at this point “get it”. You’ve encountered injured or distressed wildlife, and you know that at that moment nothing is more important than finding the right help right away.

You may be like me, in that animals in need tend to throw themselves into your path. I’ve helped scores of injured and distressed wild animals, especially since moving to Colorado in 1991. Rattlesnakes, pigeons, geese, mice, voles, prairie dogs, … Even a red-tailed hawk.

I used to carry a golf club to euthanize animals whom I could not otherwise help. A snake with a broken spine on a long, hot stretch of eastern Colorado road comes to mind. I didn’t know what else to do.

I actually still carry the club, just in case, but I no longer struggle to find assistance if it is indeed available. I’ve used Animal Help Now dozens of times since we created it. The club? Not once.

It was not just my personal experience that revealed to me the need for an easy-to-use animal emergency app. (And, yes, in its first incarnation and actually up until last year, Animal Help Now could also be used for domestic emergencies – including cats, dogs, cows, chickens and pigs.) My professional experience clearly confirmed the need. As long-time executive director of Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, a now-defunct (but very effective in its time) Colorado-based animal rights organization, I saw day-in and day-out that people who encounter animals in need do not know what to do to help. They just don’t know.

And even my colleagues and I in the RMAD office would often have to do a lot of legwork to help out if people were calling us from outside our Front Range comfort zone.

Some significant anthropogenic threats to wildlife, such as catastrophic climate change and conversion of wildlife habitat to human use, are essentially outside the purview of Animal Help Now. The animals we are able to help are those who people encounter in their day-to-day lives: the bird who hits a window, the baby rabbit injured by the neighbor’s dog, the raccoons by the side of the road whose mother has been killed by a car.

Here are some startling statistics, though we do note that the second and third figures are the subject of significant variation:

  • One billion birds are estimated to be killed in window strikes in the United States each year. A billion is a hard number to imagine, so, as difficult as it may be to believe, a billion a year is 30 fatal window strikes per second.
  • About four times that many are killed by cats and dogs.
  • About a half billion are killed by motor vehicle strikes.

The number of animals injured from these same causes is likely in the billions, as well.

It is no wonder that usage of Animal Help Now has doubled nearly every year since we launched. Last year we assisted in an estimated 26,000 emergencies.

Animal Help Now is but one component of the field of wildlife emergency response and treatment. This community includes wildlife rehabilitators and veterinary professionals, and the people who support them, including donors, administrative staff and others. In some areas, the wildlife emergency community it includes in-the-field rescuers and wildlife transporters.

Several parts of the country are served by volunteer-based wildlife hotlines. The Dallas/Fort Worth area has an excellent one, as does (jointly) Missouri and Illinois. Many of the coastal stranding and entanglement hotlines are run by volunteers or government agencies. Animal Help Now lists these helpers to users in those areas. If you use our app on any coast anywhere in the United States, you will be given quick access to whichever marine animal hotlines serve that coastline, just in case your emergency involves a sea turtle, a stranded dolphin or even an oil spill.

Animal Help Now has an added benefit for dispatch operators, animal shelters, vet clinics and other entities that occasionally or frequently field wildlife emergency calls. It is our “referral” functionality, which allows a person in one location to help a person in a different location. So if I’m working for New Mexico Wildlife Center in Los Alamos and I get a call from eastern Arizona for help with an injured coyote, I can use Animal Help Now to point the caller to people in her area who can help.

Animal Help Now is a vegan organization. Our policy states:

Animal Help Now respects and promotes respect for all animals. As such, the organization employs a vegan approach to its messaging and purchasing, including food purchased for meetings and events, and in its receipt of donated goods and services.

But as you know all is not well in the world. And as you also know, even if you haven’t articulated it, human-created problems often defy elegant solutions. (“Elegant” here in the sense of ingenious, clean, simple.)

Just today a person telling me about her use of the app said she felt bad about cutting up mealworms to feed to a Carolina wren she had rescued. I wrote back telling her I feel the same way. And I said it hits even closer to home for me in the case of carnivore rehabilitation.

This is where education and prevention enter the picture. The more we work together to mitigate the threats facing wildlife, the better our world will be.

Animal Help Now has an ambitious education program focused on helping humans be better neighbors to wildlife. For instance, on window strikes, did you know that affixing a bird sticker to a window has virtually no deterrent effect on bird flight behavior? The fix is easy, but it’s not quite that simple. See the Resources page on www.AHNow.org for the full story, and for other useful information, such as how to create your own wildlife rescue kit for your car or home.

This year we also completed the launch of our new functionality that directs people who need help with a wildlife conflict – squirrels in the attic, skunks under the porch, etc. – to humane wildlife professionals who can assist.

I encourage you to download our app (search stores for Animal Help Now) and bookmark our website (www.AHNow.org). Please give us a good review, if you’re so inclined. Check us out on social media. And even though we’re mostly volunteers, please consider a donation. You can claim to have been an early investor in the world’s first wildlife 911 system!

Finally, if you want to work for animals in hands-off ways but you don’t know what to do or where to start, please get in touch with us at Animal Help Now. There are about a thousand things that need to be done.

Watch your step!

— I sicken a little to think of all the insects I kill when traveling in my car. So I’m extra careful when on foot.

This little fellow – the size of a cherry pit – narrowly escaped death when I rushed up the back step yesterday.

I do tend to pay attention to where my feet will fall, but I was extra vigilant in my foot travels the rest of the day.

And what did I see later at a park but my first toad of the year.

Reminds me of what my friend and sometime-mentor Jasper Carlton said about the pace of life, which was to the effect of, “You can’t really experience or be a part of your environment when you’re traveling through it at high speed.”

If it takes a snail to remind me to slow down, that’s just fine.

When millions of years of evolution aren’t enough

Yesterday on my way into Boulder on Highway 36 I noticed a person with a net looking through deep grass off the road’s shoulder. I figured she was looking for an animal of some sort, so I stopped to offer my help.

And there was my friend and fellow advocate, Nicole. And sure enough, she was looking for animals – specifically, ducklings. She had been on that stretch of road earlier in the day and saw a mother with eight or nine babies, walking along the shoulder. By the time she could turn around and get back to where they were, the mother and several of the babies had been hit and killed.

Nicole, at the incident scene.
Nicole, at the incident scene.

Like so many thoroughfares, Highway 36, which links the Colorado cities of Denver and Boulder, becomes a gauntlet of death for wildlife each spring and summer.

No safe wildlife crossings are to be found, and those who attempt to cross must navigate 4-6 lanes of incessant traffic. Even birds and foxes and other nimble animals who have adapted to high speed vehicles are likely to die when faced with the reckless driver traveling 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.

At this time of year especially I try not to schedule anything that absolutely positively requires me to be on time. This allows me to keep my eyes open for anyone who has been injured or is trapped along a median, and to stop and try to help when needed.

The Young Housewife poem, William Carlos Williams
This incident brought to mind this poem, for its indictment of silent violence. [Emphasis added for effect.]
I’m not virtue signaling. I don’t relish this in the least. I hate that animals who have evolved over millions of years – even dinosaurs, for Christ’s sake – are getting violently injured and killed by the millions on our roads each year. I hate that their deaths are barely noticed, if noticed at all, by their killers and by passersby. I hate that the person who hits a deer is more concerned about the damage to their vehicle than the pain, the death, the injury they caused, or the fact that the mom or dad or sibling or friend who went out that morning will never be seen again, leaving at best an emptiness that humans can and should understand – and at worst dependent young, robbed of their birthright and sentenced to a frightening and protracted death.

I hate that humans have normalized being in a hurry and that our own evolution has led to an insane separation from nature and an all-costs pursuit of comfort and convenience.

duckling survivor
One of the four survivors, safely away from the road.

Millions of years of evolution will not prepare a vulnerable animal for an encounter with an uncaring human.

Nicole was able to save four of the ducklings, delivering them into the good hands of a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. Because she cares so deeply, she had returned that afternoon to see if she could find any others who may have survived. After a thorough search, she was packing up when I arrived. She hadn’t found any more ducklings, but she wasn’t leaving empty handed, as she’d picked up some recyclables, likely tossed from vehicles by uncaring humans.

Here’s to you, Nicole, and to all with wide and welcoming circles of compassion. You are this planet’s hope.

Notes
If you encounter a wild animal who needs your help or if you have a “conflict” with wildlife at home or work, use Animal Help Now to find the nearest assistance.
It’s always smart to have a box or carrier of some sort in your vehicle. Click here to see what Animal Help Now recommends for a full rescue kit.
To support Animal Help Now’s work, please visit www.AHNow.org/donate.php.

 

Facebook cheats, and animals pay the price

UPDATE (3/31/18)

Until Google develops a better system of communicating to Android app users about the various ways that apps interact with a user’s list of contacts, Animal Help Now is pulling its “Add Helper to Contacts” functionality from its Android app. We are doing this because a few of our users have expressed concerns about Animal Help Now invading their privacy.

This, despite the fact that Animal Help Now cannot access their contact lists. All we can do is add a helper to their contacts – at their behest.

** The pre-digital analogy: Animal Help Now tells you about a wildlife rehabilitator. You ask, do you have their card? We hand it to you. **

We are saddened that governments, for-profit corporations and even some non-profit corporations have violated the public trust, that public trust in general is evidently eroding as we move further into the 21st Century and that these dynamics together are making the world even more dangerous for the most vulnerable in our society, including our animal friends.

** The pre-digital, post-truth analogy: Animal Help Now tells you about a wildlife rehabilitator. You say, I’d ask for their card, but then you’d insist on seeing my Rolodex. **

It’s enough to drive us mad.

Here is the letter we are submitting to Google (purveyor of Android) in response to this debacle:

Our nonprofit organization helps people with wildlife emergencies find the nearest professional help. We recently added a feature that allows users to add a wildlife emergency professional’s contact information to their contacts.
We are now hearing from the public that they will not download our app because Google is telling them we need “Access” to their contacts and they do not trust that we will not violate this access. If Google were to make it very clear that the access we need is “write only” and that we cannot see the users’ contacts, we likely would not be losing users and users’ trust.
Further, if Google were to allow a person to download the app while exempting the contact access, this would also solve the problem.
As it is, the existing solution is untenable and, unfortunately, in this age of distrust, indefensible. One must, as has been said, avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

ORIGINAL BLOG POST (3/30/18)

Animal Help Now received an email today from Mike M, who wrote: I like your app, but I won’t be using it any longer or recommending it because the latest upgrade wants to access my contacts. Respect user privacy.

I can see where Mike is coming from. He went to update his Android app and saw that we now request access to his contacts.

After all, why on earth would the Animal Help Now Android app need access to Mike’s contacts? Before your imagination gets on a plane to Russia, allow me to give you the quick and complete answer.

The Animal Help Now app needs access to Mike’s contacts because we now offer a new feature that allows Mike to save a wildlife rehabilitator’s contact information in his contact list (see image).

Image showing new feature

This does not mean we can see Mike’s contacts. We cannot.

Let me say that again: We cannot see Mike’s contacts.

We added the “Add Helper to Contacts” functionality because we want to make it as easy as possible for Mike and our other users to contact his area wildlife rehabilitators today, tomorrow, anytime.

That’s what we do.

Unfortunately, Android doesn’t give us the opportunity to explain that we are not asking for permission to access our users’ contacts, unless the person downloading the app happens to read the “What’s New” section in our store.

What’s worse, it’s an all-or-nothing thing. If Mike doesn’t want Animal Help Now to be able to his contacts helpers of his choosing, Android won’t let him upgrade his app.

Thankfully, Apple takes a more reasonable approach. The company doesn’t even ask for your permission to let Animal Help Now add a helper to your contacts until you try to do so, and it certainly doesn’t require you to give us this access before downloading our app.

Recent events have heightened privacy concerns. Facebook and so many others have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. As a result, people seem warier than ever about others’ intentions.

But let’s be clear: The difference between Facebook’s interest in your personal data and Animal Help Now’s interest in your personal data is as great as the difference in the two organizations’ revenue. Animal Help Now not only has no interest in your contacts, our privacy policy is clearly written to protect you. We are not here to make money. We are here to serve you and save animal lives.

Watch your step! In 2018 more than ever.

It’s a cold, sunny day, and you’re strolling alone on a sidewalk in an unfamiliar neighborhood in an unfamiliar town. Enjoying the new sights and sounds, you don’t notice the black ice patch until it’s too late. You hear your forearm break as you hit the frozen concrete. You cry out.

The fracture is compound. There’s a new bend just above your wrist. The pain hasn’t yet hit, but you feel sick.

The sound of hurried footsteps offers some relief, as you try to breathe and gather your thoughts.

You look up to see a person quickly approaching. He looks a bit panicked and before you can warn him, he too slips on the ice. Thankfully he isn’t hurt and is quickly back on his feet, but when he sees your injury he gets woozy and takes a knee.

Another person arrives. This one is a bit circumspect. She too kneels next to you, but her countenance is one of calm and concern. She looks you in the eye and asks if you have injured anything other than your arm. Thankfully, you don’t think so.

She then removes her coat and wraps it around your shoulders. She directs her attention to the other person, asks him if he’s OK, tells him to take some deep breaths and then directs him to attend to you while she gets her car.

Now, in case you haven’t guessed, this is a bit of a parable. In the context of Animal Help Now, it can be read rather literally, which is to say if you come upon an emergency, keep your head. But I mean it also in a larger sense.

Person walking with AHNow logo
AHNow: Dispassionate, Considered, Expert.

An argument that the entire world is in a state of emergency is fairly easy to make (wars, famine, ocean plastic, catastrophic climate change, etc.). As to Animal Help Now’s particular corner of the world – the interface between humans and individual wild animals – this argument is easier still. Billions of wild animals are injured or killed in the United States alone every year, from cat and dog attacks, window strikes, vehicle strikes, etc. And as humans continue to leave their mark on the planet, wildlife impacts still do not factor in as they should. Witness this deliberate construction of a bird death trap.

Your broken arm is best addressed through dispassionate, considered, expert care. Helping a bird injured in a window strike is best addressed through dispassionate, considered, expert care. Helping address the myriad and increasing anthropogenic threats to wildlife is best accomplished through dispassionate, considered, expert care.

While concern for others is the font of so many good acts and good efforts, untempered it can lead to incautious and inexpert action.

Which is all simply to say, to those of you who act on your concern for others, please join Animal Help Now in our pledge to do our best in 2018. Watch your step! Those “others” are counting on us like never before.

Happy New Year!