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New York City is devastated. Hundreds of people lost their homes in a catastrophic fire in Queens. New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and other states are on their knees. It is a cataclysm. Yet it is a puppy, tortured so brutally that it beggars belief, that causes jaws to slacken today.

It’s not that these events are comparable. Indeed, that is just the point. The misery caused by the storm Sandy is staggering and of incalculable depth. But it was a natural event. Nothing could have been done to change the hurricane’s direction or to make it vanish. We respond with open hearts to such disasters, but we are at the mercy of nature.

Not so with the Jack Russell terrier that some person took the time to set on fire on Buffalo’s East Side. That was a choice. It was as unnatural and horrifying an event as we care to think about today, and it demands a response.

If humans are at the mercy of nature, dogs are at the mercy of humans, and whatever depraved human did this shattered the pact that makes us worthy as caretakers. The storm is shocking; this is sickening.

The puppy is suffering from third-degree burns that cover much of his body. The animal, which may have been doused with an accelerant, was spotted in the 200 block of Herman Street, on fire. He was still burning when firefighters responded to a 911 call. They wrapped him in a blanket and handed him off to animal control officers, who took him to the Buffalo Small Animal Hospital.

The veterinarian treating the puppy is encouraged by his progress so far, but third-degree burns can be deadly, and the next several days are critical to his recovery. Even then, a complete recovery may not be possible, so severe are his injuries.

Police have many responsibilities in Buffalo and it would be easy to make the case that they have more important matters to attend to than finding the individual who is responsible for this. Police need to find him, anyway. This is a crime that shocks the conscience, and one that demands a full investigation, and then full accountability.

The puppy is being given antibiotics and pain medication and is being kept hydrated while staff members monitor his response to treatment. Anyone who has paid a veterinary bill for a severe medical problem knows that this treatment is going to be expensive.

The cost of this care is being borne by the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter. It is seeking donations to help cover what is likely to be a large bill. Those who want to donate can do so online at www.bflocityshelter.petfinder.com. Checks can also be mailed to: Friends of the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, Attn: Donations, 380 N. Oak St., Buffalo, N.Y. 14203.

And anyone who has information about this crime should tell the police.