Thinking about the Unthinkable

March 31, 2011 by  

In New York State, 71% of rescue groups have been turned away by at least one shelter, and that shelter then turned around and killed the very animals the group offered to save. This scenario happens roughly 70 times per day, every day, in NYS shelters. Today, the total number of animals killed who rescue groups were willing to save hit 20,000 since the ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, the Maddies Fund-funded Mayor’s Alliance, and their pro-killing allies succeeded in defeating Oreo’s Law last year. 20,000 animals who will never again sleep, or play, or bark, or meow, or purr, or love, or be loved because they are gone forever.

It is not easy to conceptualize 20,000 lost lives. Studies, in fact, show that when we see one animal or one person in need, we feel an incredible amount of empathy and pain. But as that number goes up, our empathy actually goes down. No one knows why. Perhaps it is our brain’s defense mechanism to allow us to cope with horror and still be able to go on about our daily lives. If we could actually feel the pain of a genocide in Darfur or the slaughter that goes on in shelters every day, the pain would be so great we’d be paralyzed by it. Perhaps it is because as the numbers go up, we no longer see names and faces but statistics. In other words, we do not see “Baby” or “Justice” or “Patrick,” but just numbers: 20,000. Perhaps it is because when the numbers are high, it becomes “common” and therefore less foreign; a case of custom reconciling us to what would otherwise be seen as an atrocity. As hard as it is to conceptualize, as hard as it is to feel the pain when the number is that high, we have to try. When we stop seeing it for the bloody, inexcusable, unforgivable horror that it is, we lose a bit of our humanity.

Each paw below represents one animal killed despite a rescue alternative in New York State. As you scroll through them, let your eye fall on each one. And as it does, imagine where that animal would be right now if Oreo’s Law had passed. The first one might be sleeping on a bed. The second one might be walking through the neighborhood. The third one might be playing with the fourth one in the park. The fifth one might be crouched low, ears back, ready to pounce on a leaf in a garden. The sixth one might be sitting by a window watching the rain. The seventh one might be stretched out on a swath of sunlight across the floor. They eighth one might be sitting at attention near the dining room table, hoping for a scrap. The ninth one might be retrieving a ball. The tenth one might be playing with a piece of string. And on and on and on 19,990 more times, until we reach the number killed to date despite a rescue alternative shelters simply refused to accept.

The animals aren’t doing those things because they are dead, their lifeless bodies rotting in a landfill somewhere. They aren’t, because though rescue groups were willing and able to save them, the shelter said “no.” They aren’t, because a law to force shelters to say “yes” was tabled thanks to opposition by the ASPCA, Best Friends, and the Maddie’s Fund-funded Mayor’s Alliance. They aren’t, because despite letters, e-mails, and telephone calls in support from thousands of animal lovers, three people with money and power said, “No”: Ed Sayres of the ASPCA, Jane Hoffman of the Mayor’s Alliance, and Gregory Castle of Best Friends.

 

TX Humane Legislation Group Opposes Humane Legislation

March 29, 2011 by  

What’s in a name? The Texas Humane Legislation Network reveals not much, as an organization supposedly dedicated to “humane legislation” comes out in opposition to one of the most significant animal protection bills ever introduced in the state.

As No Kill advocates rejoice and thousands upon thousands of animal lovers throughout Texas flood their legislators with calls of support for the Texas Companion Animal Protection Act which would ban the gas chamber, end convenience killing, mandate collaboration with rescue organizations, and much more, the THLN just released their statement of opposition because they were not consulted on the bill.

Calling for shelters to continue gassing animals, to continue killing in the face of a rescue alternative, and more, THLN’s position reveals sour grapes, stunning hubris, and a serious case of misplaced priorities. Advocates should demand a basis for their opposition and ask THLN the following pointed questions:

  1. Do you support the gas chamber which CAPA would ban?
  2. Do you support convenience killing (killing despite empty cages) which CAPA would ban?
  3. Do you support retribution killing (killing despite a rescue alternative) which CAPA would ban?
  4. Do you support killing unweaned kittens and puppies despite a foster care option which CAPA would ban?
  5. Do you support killing animals based on arbitrary criteria such as breed, age, and color which CAPA would ban?

Because these, and others, are the long overdue changes that Texas CAPA would mandate. And the animals of Texas—and the people of Texas who love them—deserve shelters that save lives, not needlessly end them. They deserve shelters that follow the simple common sense steps in CAPA that most people would be shocked to learn are not already standard operating procedures at the shelters they fund through their tax and philanthropic dollars.

We have known how to end the killing now for over a decade. And that model is succeeding throughout the country. The fact that the THLN is not up to date on what those issues are does not mean that animals should continue to be gassed until they figure it out. Moreover, if they have not done so in a decade, there is little chance they will get up to speed over the next two years.* In reality, what they desire is a two-year delay, not to study the issue, but to have us sit on our hands while they mobilize the very agencies that the bill seeks to regulate into opposition or while they, like the ASPCA in New York, offer a watered down Trojan horse of a bill.

Texas CAPA seeks implementation of the programs and services that allowed Austin, Texas to save 92% of dogs and cats. If the THLN was true to its mission, they would have paid attention to what was going on in Austin—the exciting, cutting edge developments that the No Kill movement has brought to the field of animal protection—and would thus embrace H.B. 3450. But they are not interested. While Austin was building a bridge to a life-affirming future for shelter animals, THLN was busy protecting those digging trenches to the past. At Dallas Animal Services last May, every single employee stood by while a cat stuck in a wall was allowed to slowly die of dehydration and starvation. When a THLN chapter president asked a member of the Dallas Animal Control Advisory Commission which is supposed to provide oversight of the shelter how long Commissioners knew the cat was stuck in the wall before the cat died to learn why they did nothing, she was fired from THLN for simply asking the question. In other words, while they shield those who sat idly by while a cat starved to death, they fight those who want to save cats.

Shelter killing is the leading cause of death for healthy animals in Texas. If THLN wanted to truly help animals, they would be working as feverishly as No Kill advocates to see that the lifesaving protocols that have proven so successful in Austin and elsewhere become standard operating procedure in shelters throughout the state. But they are not sincere. Once again, another supposed animal protection organization serves as an advocate for people at killing shelters, rather than what their mission is supposed to be—working to save the lives of the animals at those shelters.

Legislation which forces the implementation of the No Kill Equation is the end goal of this movement. Taking away the discretion that allows shelters to kill in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives is the only way we can actually fix the problem of shelter killing which animal protection groups like THLN have been claiming for decades they want to do. Now, when the proven means to actually achieve that goal have been discovered, and the opportunity to codify those changes into law and save thousands of animals every year as a result is at hand, they sing a very different tune. Slow down, wait, we need consensus, not now, and how dare you move forward without our approval.

A new generation of activists in Texas have moved beyond the piecemeal, stymieing gradualism of the past—a past represented by groups like THLN who have become cheerleaders and advocates of the very institutions they should be fighting on behalf of animals. The rules are changing, the leaders are changing, and as thousands of animal loving Texans champion our cause, tomorrow looks very bright indeed. Welcome to the future, THLN. Now join the cause, or get out of our way. The animals need us now, and we aren’t about to slow down for you.

———–

* Because the Texas legislature meets every other year, animals would continue to be needless gassed to death for at least two more years if THLN gets its way.

If you support the law, sign the petition in favor of CAPA by clicking here.

End “Convenience Killing” in Texas

March 25, 2011 by  

A call to action! Groundbreaking legislation has been introduced in Texas. The Texas Companion Animal Protection Act, would, among other things:

  • Ban the gas chamber;
  • Make it illegal for shelters to kill animals if rescue groups are willing to save them;
  • End “convenience killing” (killing when there are empty cages); and,
  • Require shelters to be truthful about how many animals they kill.

The law is based on model legislation of the same name from the No Kill Advocacy Center and mandates the programs and services which have ended the killing in communities nationwide. Versions of CAPA have been passed in California and Delaware.

It is expected to face opposition from shelters who do not want public scrutiny and the large, national allies who protect and defend them.

Texas animal lovers should contact members of the Texas House of Representatives Public Health Committee and urge a “Yes” vote. To do so, click here.

To learn more about the Texas CAPA, including what you can do, click here.

The Great Abortion Non-Debate

March 23, 2011 by  

This essay first appeared in Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart & Soul of America’s Animal Shelters. To learn more and/or purchase a copy, click here.

 

All across the United States, feral cat groups, rescue groups, and No Kill shelters are spaying and neutering animals, with the ultimate goal of reducing shelter intakes and killing. In fact, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter is a core program of the No Kill Equation. Spay/neuter leads to fewer animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives. Other than leaving them alone, no-cost neutering for feral cats through a program of Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) is the key to keeping them out of shelters and reducing their numbers humanely.

The vast majority of these organizations, however, also spay pregnant females. In the process, the kittens or puppies are killed. So far, few have questioned the ethics of doing so. But that doesn’t mean that as a movement we shouldn’t. Those groups that have questioned it, and are uncomfortable with the practice, still defend doing so. According to the spay/neuter coordinator of one of the nation’s largest rescue organizations:

Trapping a feral mama and kittens later can be a challenge. People who use our low-cost program might not bring in the mama cat again and her kittens for spay/neuter. And we know that a cat can become pregnant again while nursing.

The coordinator went on to say that even without this problem, the ethics of spaying pregnant animals is a question better suited for the future: “When we save the already born animals, spaying pregnant animals will become unethical because the kittens or puppies will be guaranteed a home.”

As to the first excuse, the underpinning of the No Kill philosophy is that we would never end life when that life is not suffering, and—in light of the sanctuary and hospice care movements—even that latter principle is subject to debate. A pregnant animal should be offered sanctuary in a foster home, where she can give birth, raise and wean her litter, before she—and they—are adopted into loving homes (or, in the case of a feral mom, spayed and released back to her habitat). That is the only proper and ethical thing to do.

To accept the second rationalization, we have to believe that we can’t save them all. But we can, given that pet overpopulation is a myth: With 17 million Americans looking for three million available shelter animals, the calculus isn’t even close. Moreover, these are kittens and puppies, the most “adoptable” of animals.

We also have to believe that allowing these animals to live somehow displaces those already alive, a nexus that is tenuous, at best. In other words, the mere fact that a litter of kittens is born and homes are found does not mean an identical litter of kittens at the local shelter will be killed because of it. Such cause and effect can never be determined and, in fact, does not exist. Lack of homes is not why shelters kill puppies or kittens.

As I wrote in Redemption,

There are many reasons why shelters kill animals at this point in time, but pet overpopulation is not one of them. In the case of a small percentage of animals, the animals may be hopelessly sick or injured, or the dogs are so vicious that placing them would put adoptive families at risk.* Aside from this relatively small number of cases … shelters also kill for less merciful reasons.

They kill because they make the animals sick through sloppy cleaning and poor handling. They kill because they do not want to care for sick animals. They kill because they do not effectively use the Internet and the media to promote their pets. They kill because they think volunteers are more trouble than they are worth, even though those volunteers would help to eliminate the “need” for killing. They kill because they don’t want a foster care program. They kill because they are only open for adoption when people are at work and families have their children in school. They kill because they discourage visitors with their poor customer service. They kill because they do not help people overcome problems that can lead to increased impounds. They kill because they refuse to work with rescue groups. They kill because they haven’t embraced TNR for feral cats. They kill because they won’t socialize feral kittens. They kill because they don’t walk the dogs, which makes the dogs so highly stressed that they become “cage crazy.” They then kill them for being “cage crazy.” They kill because their shoddy tests allow them to claim the animals are “unadoptable.” They kill because their draconian laws empower them to kill.

Some kill because they are steeped in a culture of defeatism, or because they are under the thumb of regressive health or police department oversight. But they still kill. They never say, “we kill because we have accepted killing in lieu of having to put in place foster care, pet retention, volunteer, TNR, public relations, and other programs.” In short, they kill because they have failed to do what is necessary to stop killing.

Moreover, even while No Kill Advocates encourage spay/neuter, even while humane groups promote it, even while high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter is a central tenet of the No Kill Equation, this effort is a means to an end. It is not the goal itself. The goal is not “no more animals being born.” The goal is, and has always been, “no more animals being killed” (or, in the case of puppy mills, abused). Killing animals to prevent killing is not only a logical absurdity, it is patently unethical.

No matter what rationale is used to justify the killing, it can never be reconciled with the No Kill philosophy. In fact, proponents of “catch and kill” sheltering use “practical” arguments in favor of ending life all the time, such as “Killing dogs and cats is necessary because there are too many animals and not enough homes” or “Feral cats suffer on the streets and therefore killing is the compassionate option.” These are all arguments based on a calculus of life and death, the number of homes and the number of animals in shelters, and potential suffering. While such arguments are easy to dismiss because the calculus is all wrong, they are nonetheless arguments that advance expediency, over what is the right—and therefore, moral—thing to do.

Philosophically, advancing a practical over an ethical argument has long been the safe haven for those who want to justify untoward practices. Even accepting the sincerity of the claim, even if the practical calculus was correct, saving life that is not suffering is a timeless and absolute principle upon which responsible animal advocates must tailor their practices. Every action they take must be subservient to preserving life. More often, however, the practical calculus is wrong and at least historically, has been used to excuse atrocities.**

Indeed, the underpinning of the No Kill movement is that it goes beyond what is commonly assumed to be a practical necessity. It is, first and foremost, a movement of beliefs, of morality and ethics, of what our vision of compassion is now and for the future. Our success is a result of our philosophy dictating our actions and thereby prompting us to do better; to embrace more progressive, life-affirming methods of sheltering. Before many of us felt comfortable with the answer to questions of whether or not feral cats suffered on the street and whether or not No Kill was possible, we had already rejected mass killing. We had rejected practical explanations based on a “too many animals, not enough homes” calculus, or that a humane death was preferable to potential future suffering. Early in our advocacy, even if we did not know the practical alternative to killing in shelters, we knew that killing was wrong and we rejected it.

No Kill is, at its core, about the rights of, and responsibilities we have to individual animals. This tenet is summarized by one of the Guiding Principles of the U.S. No Kill Declaration:

Every animal in a shelter receives individual consideration, regardless of how many animals a shelter takes in, or whether such animals are healthy, underaged, elderly, sick, injured, traumatized, or feral.

But are No Kill and feral cat advocates living up to this principle? Our attitudes and practices regarding pregnant animals reveal a glaring contradiction. When we spay pregnant animals and the unborn kittens and puppies die, the fact that they are not yet born does not relieve our responsibility toward assuring their right to live. When we abort kittens and puppies, we are literally killing puppies and kittens.

If the kittens or puppies are viable, they must be individually killed, usually through an injection of sodium pentobarbital. Even when they are not, however, when a mother is spayed, the kittens or puppies die from anoxia (oxygen deprivation) due to lack of blood supply from the uterus once the vessels are clamped. They suffocate.

The hope is that they would be under anesthesia, just like the mother, so they would not be “aware.” However, since they are more resistant to anoxia than adults, they could theoretically start to recover from the anesthesia before they died. Granted, the recovery may last only a second or two; perhaps even a fraction of a second. Or it might not happen at all. But in the end, it does not really matter. Once dead, no one is aware of being dead—that is true by definition and is not the reason the act of killing is unethical. Killing robs an individual of their life, regardless of whether or not they are able to conceive of it beforehand. It is a violation of their most basic right.

In addition, unlike the human context, the issue is not clouded by cases of rape or incest, and there is no question about the mother’s choice because a dog or cat cannot consent. Literally speaking, we are trapping a mother against her will, cutting her open, and killing her offspring, and we claim to do so for her and their own good.

For a movement founded on the rights of the individual, ending the lives of unborn puppies and kittens is indefensible. Indeed, the more widespread No Kill becomes, the more we will find significant ethical dilemmas within our own practices and beliefs. Dilemmas that will challenge some of our deeply held convictions, which we may find—if we address them honestly—are still rooted in traditional apologia: killing for space, killing to prevent possible future suffering, killing as a population management tool: the unethical practices we thought we rejected when we challenged the status quo with our No Kill ideals. We have certainly come a long way as a movement, but we still have a long way to go.

—————

* This killing is also being challenged by sanctuaries and hospice care groups, a movement that is also growing in scale and scope and which all compassionate people must embrace.

** For example, revisionist historians claim that, “Thomas Jefferson had slaves because he was a victim of his own time.” Many of Jefferson’s contemporaries, however, refused to participate in slavery on ethical grounds. But Jefferson did not, even as his words on the Declaration of Independence clearly illustrate he knew better. Even if everyone owned slaves and abolitionist viewpoints did not exist, however, the notion that owning slaves is wrong could be morally deduced from our shared human experience. So we should not excuse Jefferson’s conduct. Likewise, as No Kill advocates, we should obviously know and do better than condone the killing of unborn puppies and kittens based on “practical” arguments. Ethics will always trump the practical and the two are seldom so inexorably linked that an untoward action must follow some fixed practical imperative.

All American Vegan

March 23, 2011 by  

I am pleased to announce that the distributor just gave my wife and I the official release date for our forthcoming book, All American Vegan. The news couldn’t have come at a better time. With the recent release of PETA’s annual killing statistics, we have once again watched the fear-mongering that follows regarding what some menacingly refer to as the “vegan” agenda. Were one to associate this “agenda” with the vision laid out by PETA, there would, indeed, be much to fear. For those who think, as PETA proclaims, that the goal is to end our relationship with companion animals and that killing animals is consistent with veganism, we share your concern. But, thankfully, that is not what it means to be vegan.

For a moment, forget the labels. Forget the groups. And imagine a world where you continue to eat pizza and hamburgers, cakes and pies, milkshakes and ice creams. These foods look the same as what you eat now. They taste the same. They give you the nutrition you need. And you do not need to forsake the ease and convenience by which you get them. The only difference is that the ingredients that make up these foods are from plants, not animals, and no one is killed. Nothing changes, except no one dies. The slaughterhouses are closed. The factory farms are all closed. But there is an abundance of delicious things to eat. Is that really such a disturbing vision?

Given the same taste, texture, look, and availability, given that the way you eat then will be indistinguishable from what you eat now, you would not miss the “old days” because you’ll have a readily available alternative. In fact, the means to achieve these foods is technologically possible today. Yet in many cases and for a variety of reasons, these foods are not being produced, nor are they widely available. All American Vegan uncovers why, as well as how we can overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of the production and widespread distribution of them.

With over 90 delicious recipes, nearly 200 illustrations, lots of jokes, and no vegetables, All American Vegan is veganism for the rest of us. Available December 1, wherever books are sold.

Learn more by clicking here.

The Butcher of Norfolk (5th Edition)

March 16, 2011 by  

The numbers are finally in. In 2010, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) impounded 1,553 cats. They killed 1,507 and found homes for only 28. Another 9 were transferred to killing shelters and their fates are unknown. That’s a 97% rate of killing. In 2010, they took in 792 dogs and put 693 to death. They found homes for only 16, with 54 sent to killing shelters and their fates are unknown. That is, at best, an 88% rate of killing.

While the No Kill movement is having unparalleled success and with No Kill communities now dotting the American landscape—in California, Nevada, Michigan, Kentucky, New York, Texas, Virginia, and elsewhere—PETA continues to be little more than a slaughterhouse. This is the fifth time I have run this very blog in as many years. This is my fifth plea to stop the Butcher of Norfolk.

The blog I write is about reforming animal sheltering in the United States. It is about ending the systematic killing of animals in these pounds. But this particular blog isn’t about sheltering. This isn’t about the battle between the No Kill philosophy and its eventual conquest over regressive, kill-oriented approaches. This isn’t about a lazy, inept, or uncaring shelter director who fails to hold his or her staff accountable. It isn’t about shelters that kill animals because doing so is easier than putting in place the programs and services to stop it.

This is about something more nefarious. This is about something truly insidious. This is about a bully who seeks out animals to kill. This is about the creation of death squads that actively go into communities with the specific purpose of finding dogs and cats to kill. And this is about a movement that has utterly failed to defend the innocent animals being slaughtered. This blog is about Ingrid Newkirk, the President of PETA. This is about an animal killing, arrogant, disturbed person. And enough is enough.

Over four years ago, I wrote a blog opining that the reason PETA slaughters virtually every animal it seeks out and “impounds” has more to do with Ingrid Newkirk’s dark impulses than with any ideology, philosophy, or belief in overpopulation. This followed a staggering 97% kill rate for animals in 2006, despite millions of animal loving members, a world-wide reach, and a budget of tens of millions of dollars. It followed the killing of 1,942 out of 1,960 cats they impounded. It followed the deaths of 988 out of the 1,030 dogs they impounded. It followed the killing of 50 of the 52 rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals they took in. It followed the killing of the one and only chicken they impounded. That blog earned me a letter from PETA’s attorney threatening litigation for defamation.

Then came the 2007 numbers showing a 91% rate of killing—the killing of 1,815 of the 1,997 animals they impounded. And so I reran the blog. In 2008, I ran the blog once again (it has now been up continuously for over three years) because the slaughter—the needless, senseless, evil slaughter—continued with an equally staggering 96% kill rate. A paltry seven dogs and cats were adopted. A paltry 34 were transferred to an SPCA whose fates are not known. And out of 2,216 dogs and cats impounded, the rest were systematically put to death by PETA.

Killed: 555 of the 584 dogs.

Killed: 1,569 of the 1,589 cats.

Then came 2009: only 8 adoptions, less than 1/2 of 1% of the animals they took in. Killed: 2,301 out of 2,366.

And now 2010. Killed: 1,507 of the 1,553 cats. Killed: 693 of the 792 dogs.

In the last ten years, they have killed over 25,000 animals: that’s roughly 2,500 animals a year every year for the last decade; or over five animals killed by PETA every single day. PETA has argued that all of the animals it kills are “unadoptable.” In fact, PETA’s attorney stated that in his letter threatening a defamation lawsuit if I did not back down. But this claim is a lie. It is a lie because the numbers historically come from the State of Virginia’s reporting form which only asks for data for animals taken into custody “for the purpose of adoption.” It is a lie because PETA refuses to provide its criteria for making that determination. It is a lie because rescue groups and individuals have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable. It is a lie because testimony under oath in court from a veterinarian showed that PETA was given healthy and adoptable animals who were later found dead by PETA’s hands, their bodies unceremoniously thrown away in a supermarket dumpster. And it is a lie because Newkirk herself admitted as much.

In a December 2, 2008 interview with George Stroumboulopoulos of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Stroumboulopoulos asks Newkirk: “Do you euthanize those pets, the adoptable ones, if you get them?” To which Newkirk responds: “If we get them, if we cannot find a home, absolutely.” In short, Newkirk admits that PETA “absolutely” kills savable animals. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.

Why does the animal protection movement tolerate this woman?

No other movement would allow someone to remain in her position without a massive outcry and public condemnation when their actions are so counter, so anathema to their movement’s foremost principles. The child protection movement would not allow someone who kills children to run an organization dedicated to children’s rights. The human rights movement would not allow someone who kills people to run any of their organizations. But the animal rights movement—a movement founded on the principle that animals have a right to life—allows a very public, avowed, shameless animal killer to run an animal rights organization. And with the exception of Friends of Animals, the rest of the nation’s animal rights groups remain deafeningly silent about it.

As if that was not shameful enough, others go further and actually embrace her. The groups which organize the Animal Rights Conference inducted her into their Animal Rights Hall of Fame. Wayne Pacelle and HSUS have allowed her and her pro-killing apologists to give workshops at their national conference, HSUS Expo, to promote PETA’s ghastly vision of killing.

So a notice to all would be animal killers out there. One way to avoid the condemnation by the animal rights/welfare community for your vile actions is to start an animal rights group yourself and use that group as your cover for killing. Because they won’t stand up to you. There will be no campaign to bring you down. They will kowtow to your power and your position. You will become their colleague. Some will look the other way. But others will induct you into their hall of fame. Still others will ask you to present workshops at their national conference.

If history teaches us anything, however, it is that the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to one. The only thing that will stop Newkirk is challenging Newkirk and calling her killing for what it is: the nefarious acts of a disturbed person. Because that’s how history will remember and condemn her, despite the aura of legitimacy her untoward actions now receive from her Board of Directors, the Humane Society of the United States, the groups who promote the Animal Rights Conference, and the other groups which tolerate her leadership position through their silence.

While those who now dare to call Newkirk’s slaughter for what it is may be threatened with litigation, or be attacked in other ways, history will vindicate them, as it always does for those who—despite the personal costs—defend what is right by challenging tyrants. While those who remained silent in the face of these atrocities—the hypocritical leaders of other organizations who take her telephone calls, shake her hand, stand side-by-side with her, and take personal pride in their association with her—will someday have to answer for this complicity, and will face the shame that comes with answering “nothing” when asked what they did to stop Newkirk’s bloody reign at PETA.

Because engrave this in stone: As soon as Newkirk and her pro-killing cultish devotees are gone, PETA will immediately, completely, and without reservation embrace the No Kill philosophy and become one of its leading champions. When that happens; when her actions are thoroughly and completely seen by everyone for what they truly are; when she is condemned and finally, finally, thankfully, finally, we don’t have to hold our breath, clench our teeth, shake with rage, or cry at the thought of what PETA did to those poor animals, we will all be left wondering just what took us so damned long to rise up and stop this villain in our midst.

So here it is again: Round 5. Munchausen by PETA. My opinion.

Munchausen by PETA?

In search of a diagnosis as to why Ingrid Newkirk and PETA seek out animals to kill. And a plea for the movement to stop them so that they won’t continue killing.

In 2006, an official report from People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows that they took in 3,043 animals, of which 1,960 were cats, 1,030 were dogs, 52 were other companion animals, and one was a chicken. Of these, they killed the chicken, killed 1,942 cats, 988 dogs, and 50 classified as “other companion animals.” They found homes for only 2 cats, 8 dogs and 2 of the other companion animals.

By the numbers:

  • PETA killed 1,942 of the 1,960 cats, finding homes for only 2.
  • PETA killed 988 of the 1,030 dogs finding homes for only 8.
  • PETA killed 50 of the 52 other companion animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.), finding homes for only 2.
  • PETA killed the chicken they took in.

That’s a 97% kill rate. (This was based on PETA’s own reporting to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which only requires “recordkeeping and reporting of only those animals taken into custody… for purposes of adoption.”) Despite $30 million in revenues, they found homes for only 12 animals. An additional 21 cats and 25 dogs were transferred to another agency (likely a kill shelter since PETA has a “policy against No Kill shelters.”) The rest were put to death. Why?

I’ve tried to explain it by the simple observation that the founder of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, formerly held a job killing homeless dogs and cats at the Washington Humane Society, a shelter with a consistently poor record for saving lives and the subject of historical public acrimony for its over-reliance on killing. But, in my opinion, there appears to be something more disturbing going on here than Newkirk’s history.

It can’t simply be explained by catch phrases like “they are hypocrites” and “they don’t really care.” Those are terms which No Kill proponents may use to describe Newkirk’s and PETA’s position on killing dogs and cats, but they don’t explain it. Nor is this simply a disagreement between No Kill supporters and traditional “catch and kill” proponents. That is the debate going on with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), where their reputations and donations are being threatened. But with PETA, there appears to be something much more nefarious at play.

While Newkirk tries to shield her actions by wrapping them in the language of opposition to “No Kill,” PETA neither has an animal control contract, nor do they operate as a rescue group. Any effort to offer a lifesaving alternative to killing is dismissed as “no clue” or “warehousing animals” and any dissent by employees or volunteers is allegedly punished by termination or ousting from the group. In talking with an ex-PETA employee, he indicated that during a staff meeting, he was subjected to a PETA video of this kind (No Kill equals hoarding). Having lived in San Francisco during the 1990s when No Kill was in its heyday there and the San Francisco SPCA the nation’s premier shelter, he openly questioned the veracity of the information and was asked to his supervisor’s office and terminated.

Why? The closest analogy or explanation that I have found which appears to fit is the same phenomenon that causes nurses to kill their patients, some offshoot of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (See Attack of the Killer Nurses: A look at a curious phenomenon – nurses who kill their patients, National Review, May 28, 2001). In the typical case, the nurse or caregiver kills the patients with lethal injections. They often claim they act from “compassion for their ailing victims,” because they want “to end their suffering,” and because they and their colleagues are “severely overburdened.” In their minds, they are the heroes and those who try to stop them are turning their backs on their patients.

The corollary to PETA’s language about “Euthanasia: The Compassionate Option,” about “overburdened” shelter workers, and about giving animals what Newkirk calls “the gift of euthanasia,” and how “it was the best gift they’ve ever had,” is eerily similar. In her case, she also believes she is the hero and those who try to stop her are turning their backs on the animals. (She recently blasted a No Kill supporter by stating: “How dare you pretend to help animals and turn your back on those who want an exit from an uncaring world!”) Indeed, Newkirk-through-PETA says that blaming shelters for killing animals is like blaming hospitals for killing patients. Is Newkirk trying to tell us something?

Unfortunately, I have no psychological evaluation to support such a diagnosis, except for similarity of language and the acts themselves: the fact of the killing, the death squads, the indoctrination against No Kill, the hateful denunciation of No Kill, and the proactive efforts to stop communities from trying to embrace No Kill principles.

So what is it? (PETA-apologists have suggested that Newkirk has seen terrible suffering and worries about animals, but this is nothing more than Orwellian double-speak. I was a prosecutor. I’ve seen and handled cases involving torture, child rape, murder, arson of animals, and other acts of unspeakable cruelty. I was also an animal control director in a shelter which investigated and prosecuted horrific crimes against animals. I’ve seen terrible suffering to which is why I want to end it, regardless of whether it comes at the hands of a single abuser or systematically by killing)

We may never know. But what we do know and what I can say is that animal rights and animal welfare groups should reject this point of view and actively campaign against it not only for the dogs and cats PETA will kill in the future and whose interests they theoretically exist to protect, but because it undermines our movement’s credibility when we either ignore the atrocities PETA is committing against animals, or make excuses for it simply because those perpetrating them claim to be part of our movement. Moreover, PETA’s position that animals in shelters do not have a right to live subverts the entire foundation upon which all social justice movements are inherently based.

The right to life is universally acknowledged as a basic or fundamental right. It is basic or fundamental because the enjoyment of the right to life is a necessary condition of the enjoyment of all other rights. A movement cannot be “rights” oriented as PETA claims to be and ignore the fundamental right to life. If an animal is dead, the animal’s rights become irrelevant. Not only does PETA not acknowledge the right to life, they have rejected it saying that they “do not believe in right to life,” as it relates to dogs and cats.

Of more immediate concern, it is the relationship between Americans and their animal companions that can open a door to larger animal rights issues. In their daily interactions with their dogs and cats, people experience an animal’s personality, emotions, and capacity both for great joy and great suffering. They learn empathy for animals. It is not a stretch that someone who is compassionate—and passionate—about their pets would over time and with the right information be sympathetic to animal suffering on farms, in circuses, in research facilities, and elsewhere.

Right now, however, the nation’s largest self-proclaimed “animal rights” group is actively working to ensure that that door is never opened—by actively and proactively arguing that dogs and cats do not have the right to life, and that killing them is an act of kindness. In my opinion: It is beyond ironic. It is beyond hypocritical. It is beyond a betrayal. It is beyond obscene. Regardless of whether you believe in “animal rights” or you don’t; regardless of whether you are a vegetarian or not; regardless of where you stand on animal issues unrelated to animal sheltering, I believe PETA’s position is insane.

And despite the fact that PETA’s annual killing of thousands of dogs and cats has been common knowledge among the leaders of our nation’s animal welfare and animal rights groups for years, most of these so-called “leaders” have chosen to look the other way. In fact, HSUS invites Newkirk and her cronies to give presentations at their national animal sheltering conference. Two years ago, Newkirk gave a video presentation on what amounted to why Pit Bulls should be killed and this year, one of her devotees will share PETA’s strategy for how to engage in “damage control” and “public relations spin” when a shelter or community which kills is challenged by No Kill proponents. Why are groups like HSUS supporting her? Do they hate the movement to end the systematic killing of shelter animals which No Kill represents so much that they are willing to embrace a person and organization this zealous in support of the killing of dogs and cats? The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” can’t be it, can it? Is HSUS so threatened by No Kill that they are willing to embrace an organization which appears to be working to undermine their other platforms? With friends like these, the animals truly do not need enemies.

In my opinion, PETA’s position on killing of dogs and cats is irresponsible. But as to the question of why they do it, I am not a psychiatrist and I very much doubt that Newkirk and her followers will submit to a psychological evaluation. As a result, I am afraid I have no clear answer, though my personal opinion leans toward Newkirk suffering from the mental illness of Munchausen by Proxy. And if I am correct, she will never stop killing until she is forced to.

PETA’s Board of Directors, PETA employees, other animal welfare groups, and animal rights activists need to stop drinking the Ingrid Newkirk Kool-Aid. They must stop making excuses for the killing of animals. They need to openly reject views that need to be explained in the pages of the Journal of Psychiatry. And, if they are to protect the thousands of animals whose lives are at future risk from PETA, they must work to remove the political cover provided by her association with PETA which allows Ingrid Newkirk to continue to act on what I believe are deeply disturbing impulses that result in animals being killed.

[The data on PETA's killing rates comes from the Virginia Department of Agriculture. All agencies in Virginia, where PETA is located, are required to report annually. You can download a copy of their 2010 statistics by clicking here.]

Learn more:

The Butcher Who Cried “Hoarder”

Said the Killing Apologist to the Killer

Who Loves PETA?

Please note: The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the writer and no one else, nor any agency or organization. The author is an attorney and notes that the communications are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Any attempt to infringe on that right, whether actual or threatened, will be considered a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

100,000…

March 15, 2011 by  

My first book, Redemption, has crossed the threshold. There are now over 100,000 copies in circulation worldwide.

Get yours today by clicking here.

An e-book version is coming soon for your Kindle, iPad, Nook, or other book reader.

Bear Witness to the Ugly Truth

March 14, 2011 by  

Although officials from the Town of Hempstead claim the video is several years old, it doesn’t matter: the person heard chanting in the video and holding up a middle finger to the camera, the then-supervisor, is now the facility director. Watch the video. Watch lazy and inept animal control officers laughing, making obscene gestures, and goofing off. Then watch as a very frightened cat is brought into the room, hung from the neck with a catchpole (which should NEVER be used on cats) and while he struggles to escape, listen to their chants of “kill the kitty, kill the kitty.”

Rescuers and animal advocates are trying to reform the Town of Hempstead pound. Despite a $7.5 million dollar budget and an intake less than 3,500 animals every year, the shelter is a den of neglect, abuse, and needless killing. I reached out to the Town supervisor. I reached out to each and every commissioner on the Town Board. I even followed up by telephone. [You can read my letter, on behalf of the No Kill Advocacy Center, by clicking here.] But instead of embracing innovative, life-affirming policies, instead of firing those responsible for the neglect, abuse, and killing, instead of replacing a cruel 19th century model of animal control with one befitting the values of Americans in the 21st, they have circled the wagons and given a green light to further abuse. They have also ended their relationship with rescuers trying to save animals scheduled to be killed.

This is in New York State, where if Oreo’s Law had passed, the shelter would no longer be able to “kill the kitty, kill the kitty” if a rescue group offered to save him. But Oreo’s Law is not in place. It was killed by the ASPCA. It was killed by Jane Hoffman of the Maddie’s-funded Mayor’s Alliance of New York City. It was killed by Laura Allen of the Animal Law Coalition. It was killed by Best Friends Animal Society. And it was killed by the silence of the Humane Society of the United States.

And so they can continue to chant “kill the kitty, kill the kitty” while rescue groups are turned away; betrayed by those who were supposed to be the animals’ protectors. Betrayed by the sick and twisted shelter staff who neglect and abuse animals in their care, and chant with sadistic joy at the traumatizing and then brutal killing of a helpless creature fighting a losing battle for his life.

Watch the video and do not look away. Because the killing is being done in your name and it is being paid for with your tax dollars. This is YOUR animal shelter; the one that blames YOU for the killing. And they will keep on neglecting and abusing animals in their care. They will keep killing them needlessly. Until we fight back and force them to stop. Until we become political, waging campaigns to end the tyranny of heartless bureaucrats who sit on the Town Board or City Council and remove them from office. Until we legislate shelter reform, removing the discretion that allows shelter directors to kill animals needlessly. Until we stand up not just to our enemies, but to our so-called “friends” who either side with them or fight our efforts to reform such.

Watch the video. And remember it next time anyone who speaks the truth about our ugly, dysfunction, broken, and cruel animal “shelter” system is called “crazy” by the ASPCA, “shrill” by HSUS, “divisive” by Best Friends Animal Society, and accused of “bash and trash” by Maddie’s Fund. Remember it the next time the ASPCA says “we don’t need a law because we already have rescues access in New York State;” the next time HSUS says we do not need to regulate shelters because we all want the same things; the next time Maddie’s Fund holds Jane Hoffman of the NYC Mayor’s Alliance (who along with Ed Sayres was the primary architect of the defeat of Oreo’s Law last year) up as a lodestar of the movement; the next time Best Friends says we need to give shelters more discretion not to work with rescuers who they say are the ones who can’t be trusted.

Remember this the next time you get a glossy “shut up and give us money” mailer from any of the large, national groups who would dare stand in the way of our trying to end this kind of cruel, sadistic killing in our nation’s pounds.

YesBiscuit has the backstory by clicking here.

Update: According to the local newspaper, the director has since been “reassigned” out of animal control. While that is welcome news, it does not mean the animals are now safe. Nor does it negate the need for Oreo’s Law and other legislative reform. Animals deserve protection regardless of who is running the pound. We need to remove the discretion that allows pound directors to avoid doing what is in the best interest of animals and kill them needlessly. Learn more by clicking here.

Legislating Doublespeak

March 13, 2011 by  

Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs), making the truth less unpleasant, without denying its nature. It may also be deployed as intentional ambiguity, or reversal of meaning (for example, naming a state of war “peace”). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth, producing a communication bypass. (Wikipedia)

The Humane Society of the United States did not support the Hayden Law in California. In fact, they opposed it, parroting killing shelter arguments that legislation designed to save the lives of animals by incentivizing adoptions, mandating collaboration between shelters and non-profit rescue organizations, and requiring shelters to scan for microchips, among other things, would actually result in more killing.

The Humane Society of the United States did not support shelter reform in San Francisco when the Commission on Animal Control and Welfare took up the issue of forcing shelters to save the lives of animals local “shelters” were determined to kill. In testimony presented to the Commission, HSUS argued that shelters should not be regulated and that they thus have a right to kill animals even in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives they simply refuse to implement. And, despite the fact that San Francisco shelters take in 1/5th the per capita rate of animals than communities like Washoe County which are No Kill, HSUS argued that “shelters” can’t save more lives because of “pet overpopulation” in San Francisco, calling No Kill, along with the ASPCA, a “radical” idea.

The Humane Society of the United States did not support Oreo’s Law, despite the fact that 71% of rescue organizations have been turned away from at least one New York State shelter and those shelters then killed the very animals they offered to save, roughly 25,000 each and every year.

The Humane Society of the United States did not support the No Kill Advocacy Center’s litigation effort to save “feral” cats in Los Angeles systematically being put to death arguing that “we do not feel we have enough time or the right folks available to undertake this project and complete it to our satisfaction,” even though they were only asked for a simple amicus brief, which could have consisted of 2-3 pages.

The Humane Society of the United States did not join the chorus of opposition to killing in the Chesterfield County, South Carolina pound, where evidence shows that Sheriff’s deputies are killing cats by beating them with pipes and using the dogs for target practice. Indeed, in the past, when evidence of widespread abuse and killing surfaces at “shelters,” HSUS has come to their defense: As they did, for example, in King County, Washington where employees routinely neglect and, in some cases, abuse animals in their custody. As they did in Hammond, Louisiana, where employees massacred every single animal in the shelter because of a mild coronavirus in a few dogs. As they did in defense of Austin’s regressive pound director, joining the ASPCA, in a chorus of support for policies which would have been a death sentence for animals, until very recently after the regressive director was removed. As they did in Miami-Dade where cats were heard screaming while being cruelly put to death.

But despite the fact that HSUS does not work hard for laws that save animals or to reform local shelters does not mean they do not work hard at all. In fact, they are doing so right now. HSUS is hard at work on a new shelter law in California. They have thrown their full weight of support behind it, and they are lobbying others to support it as well. The law is AB 1279 and it will not save a single life. The law will not improve conditions in shelters one iota. And no animal will benefit from it. In fact, it isn’t designed for the animals at all. It has one purpose: to excuse and exonerate those who harm them.

AB 1279 changes California’s animal shelter laws to replace the word “pound” to “animal shelter,” “poundkeeper” to “animal shelter director,” and “destroy” to “humanely euthanize.” In other words, it legislates doublespeak and codifies euphemisms that are designed to obscure the gravity of what we are doing to animals as a society, and thus make the task of killing easier.

Webster’s dictionary defines euthanasia as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.” Using the term “euthanasia” when a shelter refuses to implement common-sense alternatives to killing is misleading and incorrect. The killing in these cases has nothing to do with the animals being “hopelessly sick or injured,” it is not an individual calculus as to the condition of one dog, cat, rabbit, or guinea pig, and it is not merciful when applied to savable animals. Nor is it always “humane” as anyone who has witnessed the killing of animals in a shelter can attest. With some animals, there is often fear, disorientation, nausea and many times even a struggle. A dog who is skittish, for example, is made even more fearful by the smells and surroundings of an animal shelter. He doesn’t understand why he is there and away from the only family he has ever loved.

To kill this dog, he may have to be “catch-poled,” a device that wraps a hard-wire noose around the dog’s neck. He struggles to free himself from the grip, only to result in more fear and pain when he realizes he cannot. The dog often urinates and defecates on himself, unsure of what is occurring. Often the head is held hard to the ground or against the wall so that another staff member can enter the kennel and inject him with a sedative.

While the catch-pole is left tied around the neck, the dog struggles to maintain his balance, dragging the pole, until he slumps to the ground. Slowly—fearful, soiled in his own waste, confused—he tries to stand, but his legs give way. He is frightened by the people around him. He does not understand what is happening. He goes limp and then unconscious. That is when staff administers the fatal dose.

“Euphemisms are misnomers used to disguise or cloak identity of ugly facts,” wrote one commentator. To which the noted writer Albert Camus replied, “The truth is the truth, and denying it mocks the cause both of humanity and of morality.” But that is exactly the purpose of HSUS’ new Doublespeak Law. And that is why killing shelters in California enthusiastically support it. In fact, another chief sponsor of AB 1279 is the director of the San Diego Humane Society who was forced to end his systematic violation of the Hayden Law’s rescue access provision after rescuers hired an attorney and threatened litigation.

Rather than hold these “shelters” accountable, the Humane Society of the United States is asking the public to legislate the euphemisms they use to avoid it. Worse, HSUS is asking the public to celebrate them. For the last several years, HSUS has promoted a campaign they call “National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week” which occurs the first full week in November. According to HSUS, which describes itself as the nation’s “strongest advocate” for shelters, we owe a debt of gratitude to the “dedicated people” who work at them. They claim that leadership and staff at every one of these agencies “have a passion for and are dedicated to the mutual goal of saving animals’ lives.” They tell us, “We are all on the same side,” “We all want the same thing,” “We are all animal lovers,” and criticism of shelters and staff is unfair and callous because “No one wants to kill.” That is why groups like HSUS can boldly publish, without the slightest hint of sarcasm or irony, a picture of a puppy—a young, healthy, perfectly adoptable puppy—put to death with the accompanying caption: “This dog was one of the lucky ones who died in a humane shelter… Here caring shelter workers administer a fatal injection.”

Tell that to the cats beaten with pipes by shelter staff or the dogs being used as target practice in Chesterfield. Tell that to the “feral” cats being systematically put to death in L.A. which HSUS has “no time” to help. Tell that to the animals being put to death in San Francisco for being “too playful,” “too fat,” “too old,” and “unaltered” that could have been saved by shelter reform legislation HSUS opposed. Tell that to the dog allowed to bleed out in a kennel in King County, Washington or the cat who was so large for his cage, he could barely move but was left in that position for days. Tell that to the animals being systematically put to death throughout California because shelters refuse to do offsite adoptions, don’t match lost with found pets, and/or keep many of the cages intentionally empty to reduce their workload, because they have the ability to simply kill the animals instead. And tell that to the animal lovers who have to watch this happen while HSUS takes on the role of cheerleader and asks the nation’s most populous state to codify the lies and misdeeds of those shelters.

A “shelter” is a refuge, a haven. As long as they are killing savable animals, they are properly classified as pounds, places befitting the 19th century name they were given, given that they are still practicing a 19th century style of animal control. Indeed, if we are going to waste time making semantic changes in law which will have no lifesaving impact, let’s do it in a more truthful way. I, for one, choose “slaughterhouse.” But given that all legislation involves compromise, I will join the kitty in this comic and settle for “death camps”:

Pride and Prejudice in Shelter Reform

March 5, 2011 by  

Ms. Elizabeth Bennet reading from Black’s Law Dictionary?

There is a word in the English language that you can go your whole life and never hear used in speech or in contemporary writing. The word is “practicable.” It is a throwback, the kind of word you might read in a Jane Austen novel: “Why my dear Miss Bennet, that sounds positively diverting, but is it practicable?”

It literally means capable of being done or reasonable, but there are so many alternatives to it—reasonable, feasible, practical—that no one uses it anymore. That is, no one outside the law. It survives today in the jurisprudence of this nation. You will find it in law where it has only one meaning: you do not have to do this if you don’t want to. Its singular purpose is to mollify opposition by enacting reform, but then providing a loophole big enough to drive the proverbial Mack truck straight through it.

When you read legislation and you see that dastardly word, you will know that the legislator is not serious about reform. You will know that the bill is meant to ride popular sentiment on an issue but not upset the powerful interests who are vested in the status quo. So you can have legislation, for example, that is called the “Climate Change Prevention Act.” It might have policy statements that sound ambitious: “Whereas, today climate change is threatening to destroy economies, cause species extinction, and result in irreversible harm to the planet and all living things.” It might then put the blame on use of non-renewable sources of energy. And then, in what sounds very promising in today’s political climate, it might “mandate that utilities must purchase 50% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015.” And you might think that this is something you can get behind. You will vote for this and vote for the legislator who introduced it. But wait, you search the text of the law, and there it is, one tiny word, the kiss of death that potentially renders the whole thing a paper tiger. It goes on to say, “if practicable.” In other words, if it isn’t too much trouble. And it always certainly is. Or we wouldn’t need a law to force them to do so in the first place.

The word “practicable” is a wink, a nod, a slight head tilt to special interests by legislators that no one really expects change, that those the law pretends to regulate will be able to continue doing what they have always done as long as they make the claim that following the law is not “practicable.” By then, the public will be mollified, they will go on to something else, be distracted by the next call to arms, and forget that the status quo has not been changed.

I’ve written elsewhere about the ASPCA’s Trojan Horse bill meant as an alternative to Oreo’s Law true right of rescue access. I’ve written how it gives the power to killing shelters to determine whether a rescue group is fit to save animals, how it says non-profit rescue groups are presumed guilty of wrongdoing, how shelters do not have to work with rescuers outside their own county, and how they have wide latitude to kill animals, such as a whining puppy, by claiming those animals are in “psychological pain” and therefore not subject to rescue.

But while the ASPCA may be trying to sabotage Oreo’s Law with fake reform, they knew we were watching, so they loaded their gift of a lump of coal with other provisions, with lots of shiny wrapping designed to entice people into supporting it. The Trojan Horse pretends to be a more comprehensive shelter reform bill, like the Hayden Law or the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act, by including three new “requirements” for shelters, and through a campaign of distortion to label it “better than Oreo’s Law.” But is it?

According to the ASPCA and its supporters, the Trojan Horse bill will require shelters to make better efforts to return lost animals home. This is accomplished by requiring shelters to keep lost and found reports, scan for microchips and other means of identification, compare information on found animals with lost reports, and post the information on the internet to help people find their animals. It provides animals with veterinary care, shelter, food and water during the state mandated holding period. You would think shelters would do this anyway, but we know better. And it cleans up language about which animals can be killed immediately by changing current law which allows shelters to kill animals right away if they are “unfit for any useful purpose” to those animals “suffering irremediable physical or psychological pain” or to “alleviate a contagious, deadly health condition.”

Of course, these changes raise the issue of motive: Why didn’t they introduce these things before? And why did they choose to put them into a controversial law? The answer, of course, is that they didn’t care enough to do so and here, it serves a more useful purpose. They are looking to bait and switch. But that aside, the provisions, as expected, are riddled with loopholes.

I’ve written before that the term “psychological pain” is capable of wide interpretation. A puppy who whines can be said to be in “psychological pain” and thus put to death, even when non-profit rescue organizations are willing and able to save him. And puppies whine all the time because, quite simply, that is what puppies do. In addition, a shelter could claim that URI in the shelter is a non-rehabilitatable condition that is “contagious” and “deadly” and thus kill kittens with colds, even though a bit of time and space, and perhaps a course of antibiotics, is all it takes to cure them. (This is what shelters in California did after the Hayden Law was passed. In the absence of a strict definition, they also claimed animals with conjunctivitis were “irremediably suffering,” as were animals with diarrhea.)

But it gets worse. In fact, shelters do not have to do any of the things the bill says they do. Why? That dastardly loophole: “practicable.” At the same time that the ASPCA Trojan Horse says shelters should post information on found animals to the internet to help people find their lost pets, it turns around and gives them an out:

“The notice required by this paragraph may be made by means other than the internet if use of the internet is impracticable.”

While the bill claims it requires posting of photographs, this is also so only “if practicable.”

When dealing with shelter directors who find killing easier than doing what it takes to stop it, it is never practicable. For example, the New York City pound system recently stopped matching lost with found animals by eliminating the staff responsible for that duty. Would they have to start if the ASPCA bill passes? They would not. Since they do not have staff to do so, it would not be “practicable.” If a shelter does not have a website or a digital camera, how can they post photographs of stray animals to the internet? It would not be “practicable.” The status quo will remain the status quo.

We can’t allow the continued killing of 25,000 animals because of the intractable pride of the ASPCA which is trying to save face for their killing of an abused dog. And we accept their Trojan Horse of a bill only at great prejudice to our lifesaving efforts. What New York animals, rescuers, and animal lovers need is true rescue access. They need posting to the internet, veterinary care, and transparency not when someone says it is “practicable,” but as a matter of right. In short, they need real shelter reform.

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