Moral obligation toward wild/sick animals


So… I wonder what you guys have to say about this:o

I often find young or injured birds, mostly pigeons in the city. There was a time when I went to extremes taking them on the bus to a faraway shelter where they would give them a chance… that was somewhere else though. Probably I wonder sometimes if I exaggerated… because it was ocstly (bus ticket, and requiring a lot of time (I think it was an hour’s bus ride sometimes if not more).

This just as an introduction. I live somewhere els enow anyway, don’t know of a place nearby where they would take them. For pigeons, often nobody wants to be responsible.
Often though a solutoon was found - once when I found a tiiiiny baby pigeon I got an unofficial number of a guy who takes care of birds… worked out, we met and he took it. Another time somebody else took the bird.

Anyway. Today on the way home, on a rainy day, just finally wanting to get home (can not really offord to get sick. I live from street music and had to play in windy and wet weather today) … I saw a pigeon just lying there, breathing deeply. By a bus stop. I wondered what i should do…
Taking it home is really not an option; I have only one room in which I also sleep and I think it would be a health risk. The number of that giy I didn’t have anymore - because that phone where I had it memorized got stolen. I called some official number where I was told they cannot help me, yes they do know of such a giy but don’t know the number either.

Now the question: How far does my moral responsibility go?

What I did is: Picked it up (protected my hand with a plastic bag) and put it to a more protected place (in the bus shelter that is half-open and has a roof, in case it rains again, under the bench so nobody will step on it, and on a newspaper for some more comfort than the concrete).
Left it there, said a prayer.
Went home.

Any more responsibility? To keep calling around looking for that number (too late to call private now though, past 10.30 pm here)? Am I obligated to go there early tomorrow morning or can I stick with my usual plans (usually I do some things at home in the morning, and walking 15/20 minutes to the cnter and back again is much for my situation right now where I am a little… well lots going on).
How far does my responsibility go? Have I done enough, can I just hope it can at least die in peace (really looked like it might not make it through the night or much longer, unless it got only shocked by the downpour of rain), or hope that somebody will pick it up who knows how to help?

There was a similar situation a while ago with anothe rkind of bird that was near its end, that was near a church and somebody who also wanted to help had told me the priest had said it would not be a sin to leave it there. but this is hearsay so I am not sure… I did talk to the priest later but don’t remembe rif I asked him outright whether or not it was a sin.
I feel sorry for it, on the other hand I feel it may be at least more comforatable now and I may leave it in God’s hands… but somehow it would be helpful to get opinions on this ;))


As a fellow animal lover, I think you’ve gone above and beyond. If I find an injured animal and am able to move it to safety, I’ll do it. I don’t think I’d spend a lot of time looking for someone to take it in, unless it were an endangered or rare species. Unless someone is an expert with wild animals, it can be difficult to keep injured ones alive, especially birds.


Thank you for your reply.

If the bird is dying, I do like the thought of it lying on a dry newspaper under a bench in the bus shelter better than lying just on the bare ground where it can hardly be seen and maybe be stepped on, and not sure whether there will be rain again during the night.
Only that the cats can see it better now too. But that is a risk I decided to take.
Plus it does have the chance that somebody passes by who will know how to help it. If it can be helped at all.

I know I cannot be responsible for everyanimal I pass on the way, but this little thing I am glad I did, and I have started to feel better about not having done even more.

The most important thing probably is that I did not want to harm it in any way.
Ok I must admit for a while I did have the thought that it would be better and easier if it died quickly… also a bit for selfish reasons because I didn’t know what to do and hated the thought of having to leave it suffering maybe… I admit… :=//


Unfortunately, most injured birds and other small animals will die. If you can bring yourself to do it (I can’t) put the animal out of its misery. Otherwise, moving it to a sheltered spot - if you can do so safely - is the next best thing.

I know how you feel - it hurts to see something hurting and not be able to do anything about it. :hug1:


I don’t think the welfare of individual wild animals–especially of common ones–falls under moral obligation. If it did, the obligation would be impossible to fulfill, as we would have to police the entire animal kingdom, trying to stop the food chain from running its natural course. Even if it were possible, we’d kill off more species than we saved, by taking away their food.

That said, there is nothing wrong with feelings of pity for an injured animal. I’d try at least to get it out of the way of foot traffic.


I agree. If you’re a vet or zookeeper and someone is paying you or it’s your job, that’s one thing.

But really, wild animals (even cute little birds) ARE wild animals, and you need to be careful around injured and sick ones because they may bite you.


Thats what i think as well. if you all have a huge love for aimals, great! God told us to take care of te earth. but i dont think preventing animals from getting hurt is required. Our only responsibility is to NOT torture it for fun or something like that.


Thank you for all your replies.
I could have used them so much many years ago, when I went through so much (probably exaggerated) feelings of responsibility for animals, especially birds.
Tp the point where I felt panic when I saw another injured or young one.
(It helped me to hear/read that young ones are in most cases best left there because the parents still feed them, just maybe put onto a somewhat cat-safe spot…)

I still have that to a degree now, but much better…

I must admit, I did go this morning to see if the bird was still there. It was gone… I hope that either somebody who could help it found it, or maybe the next best thing that it could just die in peace without suffering. (or the very best thing of course that it miraculously got better and flew away ;).)
I only hope nobody took it for dead and thrw it away and it wasn’t yet. But then again, that is then THEIR responsibility, not mine.

And yes, to save all the wild animals… well, that would be a lot… I felt a part of that only trying to save every one I happen to come across… even that can be too much for one person.

There have been discussions here about the difference between moral obligation toward people and toward animals.
That is of course a big difference. Seeing a person dying in the street - noraml to call an ambulance. It isn’t as difficult as trying to find help for a bird either, because other people too know their responsibility.
Another thing when it is not a life-death issue. Passing by somebody sleeping in the street, or passed out drunk. I know it’s another topic, but I just want to add here that exactly or almost during the same time where responsibility for animals was a VERY big problem for me, homeless people were another. I was living in the US at the time, in San Francisco, and there were a lot of them then (I am not sure about now?). There too I often wondered how far my responsibility went. Do I have to get a blanket for every one I see sleeping without a blanket? Do I have to wake up people who are obviously drunk and ask them if they are ok?

It was a very difficult time for me, torn between doing the right thing 8and something feeling good about it, feeling I was doing something good) and almost breaking down because I ended up for example going back late at night just to check WHETHER a certain homeless person was covered up well, because his blanket tended to slip off him during the night, etc…

Very sensitive issues, in a way.


We do not have a moral obligation.


It is good to feel that way about a person as well as an animal. It is not mutually exclusive. To and for me, they are both moral obligations.

It is hard to see anyone or anything suffer and not able to do more than you can. I see you as being a good, compassionate person aspiring to be Christlike.


I generally draw the line at birds, though I will try to do what I can to help a dog or cat, including taking them to a vet if possible.
I would move an injured bird to shelter if available.
You seem to be a much better person than I, very close to St. Francis. You may want to pray for his intercession, to give you wisdom in such matters.
God bless you for your kind heart.


We all feel sympathy for the suffering of animals. But I believe we need to remember nature the way God intended. That wild animals prey upon one another and it is survival of the fittest. That only the stronger live in order that the chain of life not be broken and that the interference of man can cause more harm than good. In the case of a pet, our obligation would be greater since we have taken it upon ourselves to care for them and would have a duty to alleviate suffering. Otherwise, I don’t believe there is any moral obligation.


The anwsers to this post have helped me a lot. :slight_smile:
And praying for the intercession of St. Francis in such situations is w aonderful idea, why haven’t thought of it?
I even j+chose a female form of his name as my confirmation name. :slight_smile:


No, it was never what God intended. Please see Genesis 1. Unfortunately, with the Fall, animals suffer too.It should never be that any suffering, for a person or an animal is how God wants it and is ok.


We can always pray to God and leave it all in His hands, right?
Because He is the Only One Who can really be “responsible” for all of Creation?

There is nothing wrong with praying for the well-being of an animal is there???


I’ll have to think about this some. I can concede God did not wish animals to suffer in a perfect world (prior to the fall,) but the reality of nature and His plan of creation nonetheless allows for the necessity now. Did an animal suffer from being eaten alive by another before the fall? I’d imagine so. At any rate, it’s an interesting thought.

And Kathrin I do not believe there is anything wrong with praying for an animal as the desire to do so comes from charity and empathy within your heart. Didn’t the Church even use to bless animals at the feast of St. Francis?


Still does!


Thanks…I’ve never ever seen it done.


I think it’s done more often at Franciscan parishes, or parishes that used to be Franciscan. As it gets closer to October, check the religion page of the newspaper for announcements.


No, other parishes too like my Jesuit parish.

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