The Richmond Times Dispatch published an opinion piece on Sunday written by Daphna Nachminovitch of PETA decrying the no-kill philosophy and maligning organizations such as ours that embrace progressive approaches to saving lives. I have always appreciated the statement of Pat Moynahan that people are welcome to their own opinions but not to their own facts. That statement applies perfectly to the piece written by Ms. Nachminovitch and published by our local newspaper. Ms. Nachminovitch is long on hurling slurs about no-kill organizations and short on providing any statistical support for her claims or factual substantiation for her allegations of causal links. For example, she claims, without any supportive empirical evidence, that "buy one, get one free" promotions result in a greater frequency of returns. If she is referring to fee promotional adoptions with her offensive terminology, then she fails to let the reader know that empirical data from the ASPCA and Maddie’s Fund exists on these programs and it shows that there is, in fact, no higher rate of returns from fee promotional adoptions than any other pet adoptions. Those findings are confirmed by our own careful data analysis and the Richmond SPCA’s experience with fee promotions. What is abundantly clear in the statistics is that these promotions get many more pets adopted than would be otherwise.
Ms. Nachminovitch also states that the proliferation of the no-kill philosophy has resulted in a spike in the number of hoarding cases in the U.S. She provides absolutely no statistical support for her claim that there has been a spike in these cases nor any support for the offensive notion that there is a causal connection between the claimed spike and the spread of the no kill philosophy. She attempts to link our no kill philosophy with a reference to a hoarder case that any of us familiar with these matters can recognize as
Annette Thompson in Goochland. Ms. Nachminovitch conveniently fails to mention that the dreadful conditions that Ms. Thompson’s animals endured were ended through the hard work of several Virginia no-kill organizations including the Richmond SPCA to get her prosecuted for cruelty. In fact, we took into our care and saved the lives of many of the animals that were freed from Ms. Thompson's hoarding situation and PETA did not help with getting her prosecuted nor did they save a single animal. Convenient for her to not mention that. What is deeply offensive is the oft-repeated claim by Nachminovich and PETA that we who subscribe to a no-kill philosophy are a bunch of hoarders who are happy to subject animals to dreadful conditions. It is nasty and irresponsible, and it is untrue.
Ms. Nachminovitch also talks in her opinion piece about the importance of advocating for better laws regarding spaying and neutering and the sale of pets by pet stores. You would never guess from what she says that PETA actually plays no role in seeking to have such legislation be passed by the Virginia General Assembly. We along with the Humane Society of the United States, the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies and the ASPCA have put enormous hours and effort into advocating for such advances in our laws in Virginia and, in fact, we were successful this year in getting a progressive puppy mill bill passed. PETA had absolutely nothing to do with these efforts.
The most salient facts that Ms. Nachminovitch conveniently fails to mention is that the numbers of animals losing their lives in our community has fallen dramatically in the decade since our adoption of a no-kill approach whereas in Norfolk where PETA kills about 90% of the animals entering their facility the numbers of homeless animals dying has not improved in many years. Moreover, PETA’s nearly 90% kill rate for the pets who come into their care compares abysmally with the 34% state-wide rate which is inclusive of both government and private shelters. See, for example, 2012 data reported on VDACS.
Lastly, she falls back on that same old tired refrain that we need to spay and neuter. Well, sure we do. No one, least of all us, is disagreeing with that. But spaying and neutering, while important, is not the be all and end all. We can also save from dying the dogs and cats who already exist and whose only offense is being homeless. We can trust people to help us do that, and we can stop seeing the deaths of animals as an acceptable and in fact desirable answer.
Let's talk for a moment about what Ms. Nachminovitch fails to say in her editorial. Ms. Nachminovitch starts out her editorial with a story about a cat who was brought to PETA elderly, cold, sick and weak and then she says that they did what was best for that cat by taking his life. She never lets us know whether they ever had a veterinarian ascertain what exactly the cat was suffering from and whether it was a treatable condition. She says his condition was "hopeless" but never says how they knew this to be true. If the cat had a treatable condition, then ending his life was unethical and he should have been treated and given a chance at more life. If the condition was not treatable and the cat was suffering, then neither we nor any other responsible no-kill organization would disagree with a euthanasia decision. The suggestion that we would is offensive and the statement that he was turned away by a “local” no-kill shelter is also offensive since it was not this organization and she fails to make clear who it was. PETA and Ms. Nachminovitch constantly claim that the animals whose lives they take by the thousands are all in dreadful and unadoptable conditions but they never answer clearly whether they actually have a veterinarian who authorizes these conclusions. Nor do they explain why they have so many more animals in such horrible condition in Norfolk than do other communities such as ours.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here.