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From  Issue
7 July 2002
Tonight a Kitten Died in My Hands

By Dr. Steve Best - [email protected] 

My peaceful evening of reading was disturbed by a phone call from an acquaintance who found some five-day-old kittens near a trash dump in a parking lot. I implored her to take them immediately to the animal emergency hospital. When she arrived, one was already dead, the vet said the second was in such bad shape she should be euthanized, and the third had a chance to live. I told the woman to bring the third kitten to my house so I could try to save her.

For hours, throughout the long night, I kept her warm and bottle-fed her as best I could. Her eyes were closed, and she was black and white with tiny pink hands, feet, and ears. I thought she might make it. But at 3:30 A.M. she started struggling for breath and uttered heart-wrenching cries that became increasingly less frequent and muted. I never felt so helpless. I wept as I held her quivering body in my hands, knowing her life force was leaving her. She was stilled forever.

I stare at her now in her box, before I go out to bury her, as she lays wrapped in the towels that kept her warm for a short time. I wonder what kind of life we might have shared, how many smiles she would have brought me, and how she would have played in the tall grass with the rest of my feline family.

This kitten was just one of the thousands of unwanted and stray animals of El Paso. Last year, the city euthanized 22,000 abandoned, lost, and unwanted animals. We cannot stand idle while our animal friends cower in fear in the corners of their cages before they are killed and incinerated in assembly-line style. Like in many cities, activists in El Paso have struggled hard to educate the community about the need for spaying and neutering, for proper care and guardianship of our beloved companion animals, to raise funds for improved animal “shelters,” and to move toward a “no-kill” city policy as soon as possible.

We all have a unique opportunity to educate the community and help the suffering animals. National Homeless Animals’ Day is on Saturday, August 17th. Here in El Paso animal welfare and animal rights groups are coming together to mark this event with a candlelight vigil. We will create a chain of 22,000 paper circles to mark the tragic death of each individual life snuffed out. I urge you to organize an event in your own community, to have your city council officially mark the day, to hold a candlelight vigil, to call the media, to publicize the event well, and to encourage your local officials to attend. This is an important occasion to educate the community not only pragmatically about the particulars of animal care – from spaying and neutering to adequate shade and water – but also philosophically. The most important lesson we can convey is that animals have inherent value, that we are partners with animals in the great journey of life and evolution, that we are their guardians not “owners,” and that they are subjects of a life and not human “property.” (see

For more information on National Homeless Animals’ Day, see:

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