PETA released a self-serving and misleading press release over the weekend. The clear rationale for the release was to get out ahead of the required annual filings of animal statistics with an explanation in the form of a distraction intended to mislead.
Every releasing agency in Virginia that takes in and adopts out, or otherwise disposes of, companion animals is required to file its statistics annually. This year, those statistics had to be filed with the State Veterinarians Office by February 29. The headline of PETA’s release in anticipation of that filing, and the Freedom of Information requests it is bound to provoke, wailed about how their figures show that animal neglect and lack of vet care is due to "low income owners" and is at crisis levels. So nice of them to blame it all on low income pet guardians, or “owners” in PETA’s parlance.
The body of the hysterical sounding release talks about how PETA euthanized "1,502 elderly, feral, sick, dying, aggressive, and otherwise unadoptable animals free of charge." (I guess we are supposed to be grateful that they killed all those animals for free.) Thus, PETA by its own admission has killed for another year animals that are elderly, feral and sick. Presumably, none of these animals was dying from conditions that could not be treated, since PETA also refers to other animals as "dying." There is no reason whatsoever to kill a dog or cat simply because he or she is
elderly. The Richmond SPCA adopts elderly animals to good homes with great regularity. And, if an animal is sick, but not untreatably terminal, then an organization with the enormous wealth of PETA should be treating and saving that animal not killing him or her. Feral cats should never be taken into a shelter to be killed but should be allowed to live out their normal lives in their natural environment with the benefits of trap, neuter and return programs. This principle is now widely accepted by all progressive organizations in our field including all of the national organizations except PETA.
Interestingly, the release also touts the 545 adoptable animals that, according to PETA, were placed in permanent homes or transferred to shelters "with high foot traffic for adoption" (whatever that means). Since the actual filing is not yet publicly available, we do not know how many of that number were actually adopted out by PETA and how many went to some other organization where it is unclear if the animal was adopted or killed there. PETA will only transfer animals to organizations that take the lives of healthy and/or treatable companion animals, and so we cannot be sure of the fate of the animals who were transferred by them elsewhere.
PETA is and has long been an organization that has lost its moral and ethical moorings. They clearly are concerned about the public’s growing recognition of their massive record of killing at their Norfolk facility and recognize that the passage of the bill last session of the General Assembly requiring private animal shelters to have a purpose of adoption will necessitate a change in their practices. A year ago, they would have never taken such pains to explain their numbers and claim to have saved even a handful of lives through adoption and/or transfer. It is obvious that those of us who have brought this unethical pattern of killing behavior to light have had an effect. But, as of yet, there is no indication that PETA has changed its underlying philosophies. In fact, their release reveals what we have long suspected – PETA believes that people of low income are responsible for animal neglect and abuse and should not have pets. We beg to differ. People of low income, like every other group of people, can provide wonderful and loving homes.
There are individuals in every socio-economic group that are not responsible pet guardians, but they are a minority, and there is no basis for believing that there is a greater preponderance of them among people of low income. We need to find the way to help those of modest means with the expenses of veterinary care for their pets, which the Richmond SPCA does through its Susan M. Markel Veterinary Hospital.
Moreover, there is no truth to PETA’s hysterical statements that there is a crisis with regard to the care of companion animals, in Tidewater Virginia or anywhere else in this state. PETA’s release offers no statistics because the real numbers do not support their claims. In fact, over the last decade, an increasing number of animals are being cared for and saved by no-kill private animal shelters and fewer by public (city and county) shelters. And, the euthanasia rates across the state, for both private shelters and for all types of shelters, have declined dramatically. No one should be satisfied until we are saving every healthy and treatable animal state wide, but we can say with confidence that progressive philosophies have us on the right course and the loss of life is getting less each year. If you would like to see the real statistics reflecting the changes over the last decade, they are attached. Download Statewide animal statistics.
PETA needs to do one of two things – either join the modern world and focus on lifesaving rather than killing or get out of the business of sheltering companion animals. Either way, stop manufacturing a crisis and blaming people who do not deserve it.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.