PETA, which is considered to be the highest-profile animal rights group in the United States, kills about 2,000 dogs and cats each year at its animal shelter. Many employees of the organization have also been charged with animal cruelty in recent years, leading some supporters to question the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
A decade ago, it was commonplace for shelters to euthanize many cats and dogs that were not adopted, although a no-kill movement has quickly spread across the country. PETA, it seems, has been left behind.
In 2011, 96% of the animals that entered PETA’s facility exited out the back after they were killed. During the same year, just 24 dogs and cats were adopted, according to state records. The Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater makes routine visits to the facility to pick up remains. Between pick-ups, bodies are stored in a large walk-in freezer that cost $9,370, which was paid for with donations from animal lovers who likely had no idea their donations were used to end the lives of animals. Over the last eleven years, PETA has killed close to 30,000 dogs, cats and other domestic animals, Huffington Post reported.
There is no definition as to what is considered a no-kill animal shelter, although it is usually considered a facility where at least 90% of cats and dogs are put up for adoption.
According to PETA’s own figures, it has killed more animals than 80% of the animal control shelters in all of Virginia. In 2003, the Norfolk, Virginia SPCA found homes for 73% of its animals, while the Virginia Beach SPCA adopted out 66% of its animals. The same year, PETA adopted out just 14%. Since 1998, PETA’s kill rate has only gone higher. In 2005, it adopted out less than 7% of the animals it took in, a ratio worse than almost every pound in the United States.
Along with killing the animals that PETA takes in, the organization has also in recent years billed itself as a “killer for hire” to pounds throughout Virginia, offering to do the pounds’ killings for them in a “gentler” way. In a statement, PETA said it provides euthanasia services to prevent animals “from being shot with a .22 behind a shed or gassed in windowless metal boxes” and that it believes that “euthanasia is a kindness for dogs and cats who are born into a world that does not want them.” Euthanasia is not performed only the sick, elderly or feral animals but also puppies, kittens and healthy animals.
PETA says that animals it rescues are in such bad condition due to neglect and mistreatment that they are “better off dead” than living with abusive people or on the streets.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Daphna Nachminovitch” author_title=”PETA vice president for cruelty investigations”]
It’s nice for people who’ve never worked in a shelter to have this idealistic view that every animal can be saved. They don’t see what awful physical and emotional pain these poor dogs and cats suffer.
Nachminovitch said that animals killed by PETA are given an intravenous shot from a certified euthanasia technician, calling the practice a “humane exit from a world that’s treated them like garbage.”
Over the last three decades, PETA has run public campaigns that target corporations over their treatment of animals, including Ringling Brothers over the treatment of circus elephants, McDonald’s over its treatment of chickens and General Motors over its use of test crash pigs. They also have a well-known annual campaign called “We’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur.”
In recent years, it has become PETA that is protested, particularly by supporters of no-kill shelters. Nathan J. Winograd, a leading no-kill activist, is one of the most vocal opponents of PETA, criticizing the organization for its “long and sordid tradition of undermining the movement to end shelter killing.”
PETA’s website claims that no-kill animal shelters are slowly killing animals, leaving them in substandard and crowded conditions for weeks or years. The organization instead prefers to kill animals almost immediately upon impounding to prevent “cruel” or drawn-out deaths that it says are inevitable, with no attempt to re-home or adopt the animals.
Kate Hurley, director of shelter medicine at the University of California, Davis, told the New York Times that she agreed with PETA when she first heard about the no-kill movement nearly two decades ago, believing that the no-kill approach was nice but unachievable and that these shelters only accepted animals with a high chance of being adopted while pushing the castoff animals on other shelters to euthanize.
She said she has since changed her mind after several research projects on feline upper respiratory infection found that increasing cage sizes reduced treatment costs and improved adoption rates in shelters.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Dr. Kate Kurley” author_title=”Director of shelter medicine at the University of California, Davis”]
The pieces for no-kill are in place. We just need to spread the word and make sure shelters have the resources and know-how.
In 2005, two PETA employees were charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty each after authorities found the pair dumping the bodies of eighteen animals they had picked up from a North Carolina shelter into a dumpster. Thirteen more dead animals were discovered in a van registered to PETA, NBC News reported.
In this case, investigators staked out the garbage bin where animals had been dumped in the past. At the time, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said the workers were picking up animals that would be taken to PETA headquarters for euthanization. Animal control officers and veterinarians, however, said the PETA workers had promised to find good homes for the animals, not kill them.
Veterinarian Patrick Proctor said authorities found a female cat and her two healthy kittens among the dead animals. He said he gave the “healthy” and “adoptable” animals to PETA from Ahoskie Animal Hospital to find them homes, although they were killed within minutes in the back of a van using a PETA field killing kit, which was found by police, San Francisco Gate reported.
PETA issued apologies after these criminal acts, although the apologies were limited to the dumping of the animals’ bodies in someone else’s dumpster, not for the killing of adoptable, healthy puppies and kittens.
David Harrell, who manages the store where the bodies were dumped, received a letter from PETA’s Newkirk apologizing and offering money “for any expenses that you may have incurred in dealing with the body disposal or related matters,” according to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.
Harrell also said that the dumping that occurred on June 15, 2005 was not an isolated incident and he had found dead animals on a regular basis in dumpsters over at least eighteen months.
While it receives about $35 million in annual revenues, PETA appears to make little if any attempt to find homes for animals. The organization has no adoption promotion, adoption floor or hours at its headquarters, although it is registered with the State of Virginia as a humane society and animal shelter.
Inspection reports by the Virginia Department of Agriculture say the PETA facility “does not contain sufficient animal enclosures to routinely house the number of animals annually reported as taken into custody,” adding that the shelter is not accessible to the public or “engaged in efforts to facilitate the adoption of animals taken into custody.”
Routine inspections also found very few if any animals housed in the facility, despite the fact that PETA impounded thousands each year. “90% were euthanized within the first 24 hours of custody,” the Virginia Department of Agriculture inspector said.
PETA has been asked repeatedly by reporters how people can adopt the animals they impound when they do not promote or show animals for adoption and instead choose to kill them. PETA has declined comment.
This large budget is enough to care for all of the animals in the state, according to PETA detractors, although PETA seems to prefer spending its donations on campaigns that attack the use of animals for medical research, individuals who choose to eat meat, and women who wear fur.
In 1991, PETA killed 14 roosters and 18 rabbits that it “rescued” from a research facility. At the time, then-PETA Chairman Alex Pacheco told the Washington Times that the PETA animal shelter had no room, saying, “We just don’t have the money.”
One group does use its money to spread the no-kill movement with great success. Maddie’s Fund, a foundation based in the San Francisco Bay Area with a $300 million endowment, was started in 1999 by Cheryl and David Duffield. The organization has financed shelter care medical training programs with the idea that healthy animals are cheaper to shelter and have a higher chance of being adopted.
Every year, Maddie’s Fund sponsors an adoption weekend in several U.S. cities. During one weekend in New York last year, 3,104 cats and dogs were adopted. Maddie’s Fund pays shelters an incentive of $500 for adopted dogs and cats under 7, $1,000 for each animal over seven that is adopted and $2,000 each for animals over seven with a medical problem.
The organization spent about $3 million to subsidize the adoptions in an effort to show shelters that ugly, old or sick animals should not be discarded and that the no-kill approach can work.
A former PETA employee also told a reporter that guardians who could no longer care for their pets came to PETA headquarters to turn over their animals with the belief they would get adopted, although the animals went directly to their death. The former employee related a story of a man who had grown too old to care for his pet rabbit. He arrived at PETA headquarters and supplied the animal’s cage, bed, toys and vet records, leaving distraught but reassured that the animal would be given a home.
PETA employees also say that the organization sets traps throughout the community to capture not only stray animals but pets, with volunteers and employees whose job is merely to “round up” animals, sometimes from their owner’s yard. One volunteer reportedly brought in hundreds of cats that had tags with their owner’s information, all of which were loaded into a storage shed to await euthanasia.
In 2012, PETA became involved with Florida laws, helping to defeat SB 1320, a law that would have clarified that non-lethal programs in the state to neuter and release feral cats instead of killing them are legal in the state. While shelters and health departments across the country now embrace the trap-neuter-release program to deal with feral and stray cats in communities, PETA remains an opponent of this alternative to killing.
The organization also stepped in to fight local animal rescuers and block a neuter and return program proposed in Newport News. Volunteer feral cat colony managers like Cat Rescue Inc. in Newport News attempted to stop a pilot program in the city that would get rid of feral cats through euthanasia. PETA said euthanizing the animals is the best option as most people do not have the desire to care for the cats, which would end up dying horribly anyway.
PETA argues that healthy feral cats should be killed and it has urged its supporters to do so. The PETA website says “the most compassionate choice is to euthanize feral cats. You can ask your veterinarian to do this, or if your local shelter uses an injection of sodium pentobarbital, take the cats there.”
PETA is now the last major animal advocacy group in the United States that opposes the trap-neuter-release method to control feral cats as well as no-kill shelters, according to Animal People.
PETA has also come out strongly against pit bulls as a breed, supporting both a ban on breeding pit bulls and shelter euthanasia policies for the breed. Newkirk said in 2005 that “those who would argue against a breeding ban and the shelter euthanasia policy for pit bulls are naive.”
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Ingrid Newkirk” author_title=”PETA President”]
From California to New York, many shelters have enacted policies requiring the automatic destruction of the huge and ever-growing number of ‘pits’ they encounter. Here’s another shocker: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the very organization that is trying to get you to denounce the killing of chickens for the table, foxes for fur or frogs for dissection, supports the shelters’ Pit Bull policy, albeit with reluctance.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has also come out against Just One Day, a nationwide campaign that occurs annually on June 11. The Animal Ark and No Kill Advocacy Center asks shelters across the United States to try alternatives to euthanizing animals to stop killing healthy and adoptable animals.
In 2013, about 1,200 organizations participated in the event by photographing and marketing the animals in their care, reaching out to rescue groups, holding adoption events, staying open late and asking their communities to clear their shelters through adoption. In 2012, the effort resulted in nearly 9,000 adoptions across the country.
PETA, which kills more than 90% of the animals it takes in, posted an editorial against the Just One Day campaign last year, calling it “smoke and mirrors” and telling those who participated that they needed to “wake up.”
Some argue that PETA has always had roots in killing animals, pointing to statements made by Newkirk. A 2003 New Yorker report of PETA president Ingrid Newkirk included her story of how she got involved in animal rights after she brought stray kittens to a shelter, which put them down. She went to work for an animal shelter in the 1970s and said, “I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself,” saying that she killed thousands of animals because she could not tolerate letting the animals being abused by the other workers.
Newkirk also told the New Yorker that the world would be better without people. She said that she had herself sterilized because she is opposed to having children, saying, “Having a purebred human baby is like having a purebred dog; it’s nothing but vanity, human vanity.”
Also that year, Newkirk blasted the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat when a terrorist blew up a donkey while trying to kill people. Many would argue that PETA’s practices are greatly at odds with its perception by the public as an animal rights group, as it is in the practice of euthanizing animals that are healthy and adoptable with little attempt to find adoptive homes.
What do you think about PETA?