My family and I are volunteers at a local animal shelter. We walk dogs or, if they are puppies, play with them and socialize them. Occasionally, we will foster dogs looking for a home. Dogs are always happy to see you because they know that you will be kind to them. This shelter has a large pet cemetery, including a statue of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
I’ve always wondered if this could be counted as a work of mercy, since these animals have been abused, neglected, and abandoned. Or are works of mercy reserved only for humans? After all, animals are God’s creations too, are they not?
Don’t know the “official” teaching, but just a hunch/opinion. One can be cruel to humans or animals. One can be kind/merciful to humans or animals. Even when we eat animals, there are cruel vs humane ways of killing them. It’s in the intention/attitude of the heart. But I have no idea if the Church says, “Yes, that’s an official work of mercy.”
Actually, I think the idea of good stewardship extends to all of creation, even the environment. Abuse is just plain bad, no matter who or what the “victim” is.
Just don’t place animals or the environment “above” or “equal to” humans. For example, we can euthanize an animal, but not a human, because humans are created in God’s image and it would be murder. We can eat animals, but not humans, etc.