A Conversation With PETA: They Do Kill 95% Of The Dogs In Their Care, But…

Yesterday, there were two different pieces on RWN that talked about how PETA kills 95% of the animals in its care (here & here).

Here’s the money quote from Van Helsing’s post on this topic,

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) killed 95 percent of the adoptable pets in its care during 2008. Despite years of public outrage over its euthanasia program, the animal rights group kills an average of 5.8 pets every day at its Norfolk, VA headquarters.

According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers.

Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year. Last year, the Center for Consumer Freedom petitioned Virginia’s State Veterinarian to reclassify PETA as a slaughterhouse.

Last night, I received an email from Daphna Nachminovitch, Vice President, Cruelty Investigations Department at PETA, claiming that these posts were inaccurate. Now, I’m NOT a fan of PETA, but I do believe it’s important to get the facts right. So, I went back and forth with Ms. Nachminovitch about this issue.

In the interests of fairness, I’m going to post our emails, in their entirety, so no one can say that there was any selective editing on my part. First off, here’s Ms. Nachminovitch’s initial email,

Dear Right Wing News blogger:

Please allow me to respond to your March 30 post regarding PETA’s 2008 euthanasia statistics. The deceitfully-named Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), to which you link in your post, is a front group for Philip Morris, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, cattle ranchers, and other animal exploiters who kill millions of animals every year, not out of compassion, but out of greed. Not surprisingly then, CCF’s release includes false information, which your blog repeats.

Most of the animals we took in and euthanized were not adoptable, and in fact, were taken in precisely because they were unadoptable. They could hardly be called “pets,” as they had spent their lives on heavy chains or isolated pens, for instance. They were severely unsocialized, having gone mad from confinement or made aggressive. Others were indeed someone’s companions, but they were aged, sick, injured, or dying, and PETA offered them a release from suffering, with no charge to their owners or custodians. We offer our services to many impoverished residents who often can’t afford to provide for their animals even a dignified exit.

PETA handled far more animals than 2,124 in 2008. In fact, we took in more than 10,000 dogs and cats, spaying and neutering all of them at low to no cost. We gave them shots, fixed their wounds and treated their illnesses, and returned them to the community. The figures you cite also do not include the hundreds upon hundreds of dogs and cats whose suffering PETA works to alleviate by providing them with free food when their owners are poor, clean water buckets, sturdy dog houses, straw for winter, and more, or the hundreds of adoptable dogs and cats we will not take in but refer to walk-in animal shelters and adoption centers. Since 2001, PETA’s low- to no-cost spay-and-neuter mobile clinics, SNIP and ABC, have sterilized more than 50,000 animals, preventing hundreds of thousands of animals from being born, neglected, abandoned, abused, or euthanized when no one wanted them.

As long as animals are still be purposely bred and people aren’t spaying and neutering their companions, open-admission animal shelters and organizations like PETA must do society’s dirty work. Euthanasia is not a solution to overpopulation but rather a tragic necessity given the present crisis. PETA is proud to be a “shelter of last resort,” where animals who have no place to go or who are unwanted or suffering are welcomed with love and open arms.

We would love your and anyone’s help to cut down on the number of unwanted, discarded animals in our local area and nationwide. Please, help us end overpopulation by spaying and neutering your animals, never buying animals from breeders or pet shops, and encouraging your readers to do the same.

Sincerely,

Daphna Nachminovitch
Vice President, Cruelty Investigations Department
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Now, I am sure that a significant percentage of the animals that PETA took in were probably very sick or poorly socialized, and therefore, would have been extremely difficult to place. Additionally, as Ms. Nachminovitch noted, that’s not the only work PETA does with animals. Those are mitigating factors worth noting. However, I wanted to get a little more detail on the “false information” in those posts. So, I wrote Ms. Nachminovitch back to confirm,

Daphna

I always try to be accurate on my blog, so let me just ask a few
follow-up questions to make sure I have a good grip on this.

Does PETA euthanize 5.8 pets every day in your Norfolk, VA headquarters?

Is this line correct? “According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes.” If that’s not correct, can you give the correct numbers? Also, do you know how the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services got the
incorrect numbers?

Best wishes

John Hawkins

As you can see, I was trying to get to the heart of the matter: what was incorrect about the posts?

Hi John, thanks for responding. The total number is not in dispute. The 5.8 number is not a daily number, no. And the animals we euthanize are for the most part, sadly, no one’s pets, and certainly are not adoptable. If you wish to list the numbers, that is your right of course, as is expressing your opinion, but it is false to say that PETA killed “adoptable pets,” and it is false to say PETA killed a certain number of animals each day. It is also wrong to hide from your readers the basic fact that the animals we euthanized were generally taken in for that very purpose, so it is certainly no surprise that they were not adopted! If they had been adoptable, we would have referred them elsewhere. If you want more info, see http://blog.peta.org/archives/2009/03/why_we_euthaniz.php. Thanks very much. DN

Obviously, you can’t literally euthanize 5.8 dogs per day (How do you euthanize .8 percent of a dog?) and Ms. Nachminovitch seemed to be confirming that the overall numbers in the piece were correct. Moreover, she also seemed to also be confirming that they did euthanize adoptable pets (And the animals we euthanize are for the most part, sadly, no one’s pets, and certainly are not adoptable.) But, how many were really adoptable and how many were specifically taken in for euthanasia? Does PETA euthanize healthy, adoptable pets?

So, just in case I was misunderstanding, I wrote her back again,

Dapha

I have just two more (I think) questions for you to make sure I’m clear.

Does PETA only take in animals that it intends to euthanize? Does it decline to take in animals that are healthy and adoptable?

Her response was as follows,

When talking with callers who describe healthy and adoptable animals they no longer want, we refer them to the Virginia Beach SPCA, with whom we work closely. On occasion, when people refuse to transport animals there, we will do so for them.

It’s important for your readers to realize that the overpopulation crisis is a societal problem. Animals must be euthanized because people don’t commit to them, buy them on impulse then “get rid” of them, let them have “just one litter,” etc. If you and your readers share truly our upset about the tragic reality of euthanasia (as opposed to looking for an excuse to point the finger at PETA for something that seems tantalizing to you), the answer is easy – never buy or breed, always adopt. Otherwise, shelters will forever be forced to euthanize the animals for whom no good homes exist. It’s simple math.

I hope that answers your questions. I am signing off for the evening so additional ones will have to wait till tomorrow. Please do change the inaccuracies on your page – as I am sure you know, knowingly repeating false information is tantamount to initiating it. If you are committed to accuracy, CCF is not the place to turn to.

This was a bit confusing and seems to conflict with what Ms. Nachminovitch said earlier. In her previous emails, she admitted that they did sometimes euthanize healthy, adoptable pets. However, here she admits that they transport animals like that to the Virginia Beach SPCA at times. So, why are they euthanizing any healthy, adoptable animals at all?

Additionally, she wrote a whole paragraph about overpopulation that seemed to be designed to justify euthanizing healthy, adoptable animals because of overpopulation. Ehr…isn’t that at the heart of the criticism that’s being leveled at them? Moreover, their position is one that is shared by many people who love animals, but there are also plenty of “No kill” shelters out there that don’t euthanize animals. So, it’s not as if PETA doesn’t have a choice: they do and they choose to kill adoptable animals.

In conclusion, after talking with Ms. Nachminovitch, it does seem to me that she did cite some mitigating factors and it’s worth noting that even though PETA does kill 95% of the dogs in its care, some of them were taken in specifically for the purposes of euthanasia and others may have been very difficult to adopt out.

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