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On March 7, the front page of The News featured a story about the dogs rescued from a Miller Avenue home. As I flipped through the rest of the paper, a disturbing irony caught my attention.

Next to the article, "Public's support amazed SPCA staffers" was another much smaller story, "Girl testifies her mother fatally beat 3-year-old." As chapter president of Hear My Voice -- Protecting Our Nation's Children, I found this disheartening.

Rochester police said the boy was beaten to death with a breadboard by his grandmother for taking food out of the refrigerator. He had been burned with cigarettes for previous attempts to steal food. She used to tie him with a rope to keep him out of the kitchen.

How hungry must this child have been to risk being burned and beaten in order to eat? Rochester police stated it was one of the worst cases of child abuse they had ever seen. Yet it did not make the front page.

Have we become so callous, so desensitized to human suffering, that starving dogs are more newsworthy than the murder of a child? Has it become just another child-abuse story that fails to stir any outrage?

The media showed us photographs of these poor dogs with their bones sticking out of their skin. If we could put faces to these burned, battered children, would they cease to be meaningless statistics? Would their tragedies become real to us?

The SPCA staff said they were amazed by the emotions of the callers: "People crying, wanting to help, wanting to foster the animals, saying the dog owner deserves jail for the rest of his life."

I was glad to see the community's response to the plight of these helpless animals. But it makes me wonder at the seeming lack of response to the plight of helpless children.

Five children in the United States die every day at the hands of their parents or caretakers and more than 18,000 are permanently physically disabled each year.

There are many ways we can help. Support legislation such as the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which attempts to facilitate adoption of these children. Join one of the many organizations seeking to improve Child Protective Services and enact tougher laws to protect kids. Support budgets that provide for more caseworkers to investigate and follow reports. Become a court-appointed special advocate or a foster parent.

Change only happens when we care enough to act.

Andrea Caruso, R. N. Niagara Falls

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