Warning: PETA May Be in Your Neighborhood

January 28, 2015

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Today, this full page ad appeared in The Virginian Pilot, the newspaper of PETA’s hometown. I and other animal lovers paid for it. We will not stand by and allow PETA to get away with “murder.”

The Theft and Killing of Maya

On October 18, 2014, in Parksley, VA, PETA stole Maya, a happy and healthy dog, from her porch while her family was out. They killed her that very day.

According to a spokesman for Maya’s family, PETA came to the trailer park where the family lives, where most of the residents are Spanish speaking with few resources. The PETA representatives befriended the residents. They got to know who lived where and who had dogs. In fact, they sat with the family on the same porch off which they later took Maya. Waiting until the family was away from the home, PETA employees backed their van up to the porch and threw biscuits to Maya, in an attempt to coax her off her property and therefore give PETA the ability to claim she was a stray dog “at large.” But Maya refused to stay off the porch and ran back. Thinking that no one was around, one of the employees—who was later charged with larceny—went onto the property and took Maya.

When the family returned and found their beloved Maya missing, they searched around the neighborhood before checking the video on the surveillance camera. That is when they saw the PETA van on the film and recognized the woman who had come to their house on prior occasions to talk to them about Maya. They called PETA and asked for Maya’s return. According to a family spokesperson, PETA claimed it did not have the dog. When PETA was told that its employees had been filmed taking the dog, they hung up. Shortly afterward, a PETA attorney called and informed the family that Maya was dead. PETA had killed her. She may not be the only one. On the day they stole Maya, other animals went missing as well. Had a surveillance video not been available, the killing of Maya would have remained unknown, as are the fates of the other animals. In the last 11 years, PETA has killed 29,426 animals.

PETA’s Response

In a dishonest attempt at damage control, PETA put out a full page ad in the newspaper. The ad intentionally misleads people about their campaign of extermination against community cats. It says nothing of their theft and killing of Maya. It does not mention the arrests of PETA employees for larceny. It does not mention that this is not the first time PETA employees have been arrested for killing animals. In fact, PETA refuses to answer questions about why they stole and killed Maya. And though PETA takes in thousands of animals a year, only to put the vast majority to death, the ad offered two dogs for adoption, hoping to defray criticism for their killing of thousands of others. Given that they only adopt out 1% of the animals they take in, those two dogs, if indeed they are adopted out rather than killed, will be some of the few spared from the needle.

The No Kill Advocacy Center Response

The No Kill Advocacy Center, has responded by:

My Response

Today, I, and other animal lovers, also responded. We placed this ad in the same newspaper to counter PETA’s misinformation. The people who live near PETA headquarters and whose animals may be at risk should be aware of the danger PETA poses to their beloved animal companions so that they may take precautionary measures, such as not letting their animals go outside unsupervised. They also have a right to know that an organization located within their vicinity is letting loose individuals who not only maniacally believe that killing is a good thing and that the living want to die, but who are legally armed with lethal drugs which they have already proven—29,426 times in the last decade—that they are not adverse to using.

The Response by Others

We are not alone:

When you donate to PETA, you pay to kill animals like Maya and thousands of others every year.

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The Right to Speak Out

January 27, 2015

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A few days ago on my Facebook page, I posted about a Maryland court case that held that a volunteer, rescuer, or any other member of the public cannot be banned from a government shelter simply because he or she has criticized shelter management, complained about the policies and practices of the shelter, or posted information online that officials believe is unflattering to the shelter. We not only have the First Amendment right to speak out, we have a constitutionally protected right to demand that the government correct the wrongs that are identified.

That post has been seen by roughly 200,000 people, been shared over 2,000 times, liked by over 5,000 people and generated nearly 300 comments. Several people have asked the following questions: 1. Does it apply outside of Maryland?, 2. Does it apply to private humane societies or SPCAs?, 3. Does that include the right to take photographs and video in the shelter?, 4. What should you do if your government shelter or government-contracted SPCA violates your First Amendment rights?

Does it apply outside of Maryland?

Yes. The First Amendment is a federal constitutional right and 42 USC 1983, the applicable civil rights statute, is federal law. It applies in all 50 states.

Does it apply to private humane societies or SPCAs?

Keeping in mind that the protections of the First Amendment protect against government intrusion, so long as they receive funding to provide a government function (i.e., animal control contract), Sec. 1983 has been held to apply to both government shelters and private SPCAs. Allen vs. Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 488 F.Supp.2nd 450 (MD Penn 2007); Brunette vs. Humane Society of Ventura County, 294 F.3d 1205 (9th Cir. 2002); and Snead vs. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 929 A.2d 1169 (Pa.Sup.Ct. 2007).

Does that include the right to take photographs and video in the shelter?

Yes. Banning photography and video in public areas of the shelter limits free speech. See Animal Legal Defense Fund vs. Otter, 2014 WL 4388158*10 (D. Idaho 2014). The taking of a photograph or video is “included with the First Amendment’s guarantee of speech and press rights as a corollary of the right to disseminate the resulting recording.” ACLU vs. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583, 597 (7th Cir. 2012). As the ACLU has correctly argued, “Videotaping and capturing images of poor shelter conditions or neglected animals are indistinguishable from ‘commenting’ or ‘speaking out’ on such conditions.” Volunteers, rescuers, and members of the public have a right to document things they believe are improper. They also can take photographs and videotape to assist in finding animals homes.

What should you do if your government shelter or government-contracted SPCA violates your First Amendment rights?

Find legal representation by contacting your state ACLU office, Legal Aid office, and utilizing the attorney referral program of your state bar association. If you live in Southern California, the No Kill Advocacy Center may be able to find an attorney on your behalf.

If you choose not to pursue this legally, you can seek to reform the shelter through political advocacy. Click here for 14 free step-by-step guides to do so.

Photo: A very skinny mama dog and her puppies rescued from a local pound, courtesy of Eileen McFall of Central California Pets Alive. Mama was scheduled to be killed by the pound, but is now under a veterinarian’s care and both she and the puppies are safe. Criticizing the shelter for threatening to do so cannot be used to prevent you from saving dogs like this.

For further Reading:

Section 1983 to the Rescue

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Florida CAPA

January 23, 2015

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The Florida Companion Animal Protection Act would make it illegal for shelters to kill animals if there are empty cages or kennels, if animals can share a cage or kennel with another animal, if a foster home is available, if a rescue group is willing to take the animal, if an animal can be transferred to another shelter, if the animal can be sterilized and released, and more.

Similar laws in other states save tens of thousands of animals every year, have reduced killing statewide by 78%, and have cut millions of dollars in wasteful spending.

Such a law is not only necessary, reasonable and an effective means of saving lives, its passage would also bring Florida’s sheltering procedures more in line with the humane, progressive values of the American public.

For a copy of the bill, click here.

 

If you live outside of Florida, bring CAPA to your state. Click here for a copy of the model law.

 

Click here for a guide on how to get it introduced in your state.

Photo: In California, a similar law saves over 46,000 animals a year who would have been killed in years past, saving taxpayers $1.8 million in the costs of killing. Instead of ending up in landfills or turned into ash, these animals are chasing balls, sleeping in the sun, curling up on laps, loving and being loved in return. CAPA saves lives.

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Oswald Finds His Sparkle

January 18, 2015

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This is Oswald, tuckered out after a long day, sleeping with his favorite blue bunny. We got Oswald from a rescue group that pulled him from a very high kill shelter in the Central Valley of California. He was found on the streets, very thin and sickly, developed Giardia and kennel cough in the shelter, had a prolapsed eye, was depressed, and ultimately put on the kill list. In years past, Oswald would have been killed. This particular shelter had a policy of refusing to work with rescue groups. No animals scheduled to be killed ever went to rescue. But in California, we succeeded in passing legislation to make that illegal. Shelters are not permitted to kill animals if rescue groups are willing to save them. Today, that shelter transfers about 4,000 animals a year and altogether, an additional 46,000 animals are finding homes statewide who shelters would have killed in years past.

Though Oswald was withdrawn and sick, he was pulled by rescue and patched together. When we adopted him, the rescue group told us that he is very friendly, will love us immensely, but that he had lost his sparkle. For the first couple of weeks in our home, Oswald was indeed very friendly, but sometimes leery. He would shrink a bit on approach. He was afraid to walk at night. Every little noise scared him. A trip in the car sometimes made him nervous. If you left the room, he left the room as he did not like to be left alone.

Today, Oswald is a confident, good natured, wild little guy. A drive in the car is as exciting as a walk at night. He loves staring at deer and squirrels and meeting other dogs. His days include walking 3 miles, playing with his blue bunny (which he carries in his mouth even though it is bigger than he is), trying to get our cat, Kenny, to roughhouse with him, running around with two big kids (my wife and I) and two real kids (my daughter and son), zooming around the house from room to room, playing at the park, an afternoon nap by himself in the downstairs bedroom, being genuinely excited to meet anybody and everybody, even the vet, and then, around 9 pm, passing out from exhaustion. And when he passes out, little can wake him. He is like a wet noodle. You can turn him upside down, you can mold him into shapes like clay, and you can carry him like a baby. He feels safe. He feels happy. He feels home.

Oswald has found his sparkle.

Rescue groups save roughly 60,000 animals from California shelters every year. Before the rescue rights law went into effect, it was only 12,000. In other states, too many rescue groups report being turned away by their local shelter and then the shelter killing the very animals they offer to save. You can help save animals like Oswald by making that illegal.

  • For a copy of the legislation, click here.
  • For a guide on how to get legislation introduced and passed, click here.

No Kill Advocacy Center attorneys stand ready to help, click here.

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Long Live Tank

January 15, 2015

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Recently, someone posted a comment on my Facebook page defending the killing of animals by stating that No Kill shelters are ones where dogs and cat sit for years in “tiny cages without any love, companion[ship] or happiness.” She then preceded to defend killing, by asking if that is what I was hoping would happen? Or, in her words, “Is that what you wish [for] all these babies?”

Of course that is not what I am working for. And, of course, that is not what the No Kill movement represents. No Kill does not mean poor care, hostile and abusive treatment, and warehousing animals without the intentional killing. It means modernizing shelter operations so that animals are well cared for and kept moving efficiently and effectively through the shelter and into homes. The No Kill movement puts action behind the words of every shelter’s mission statement: “All life is precious.” No Kill is about valuing animals, which means not only saving their lives but also giving them good quality care. It means vaccination on intake, nutritious food, daily socialization and exercise, fresh clean water, medical care, and a system that finds loving, new homes.

At the open admission No Kill shelter I oversaw, the average length of stay for animals was eight days, we had a return rate of less than two percent, we reduced the disease rate by 90 percent from the prior administration, we reduced the killing rate by 75 percent, no animal ever celebrated an anniversary in the facility, and we saved well over 90 percent of the animals (over 95% using comparative save rate calculations). In short, we brought sheltering into the 21st century. Many other No Kill shelters have similar lengths of stay. The average length of stay at open admission No Kill shelters is roughly 14 days or the length of time a dog or cat might spend at a boarding facility while their family is on vacation.

But what if it was longer? What if it was, as it was for a dog named Tank, three years?

BRONX DOG FINDS FOREVER HOME AFTER 3 LONG YEARS IN SHELTER

While at the shelter, according to this report, Tank was walked every single day by volunteers. He was clearly well cared for. And now he has a home. Of course, I have no idea why it took three years and it is hard for me to imagine a scenario where it should have. But that issue aside, why should Tank have been killed? He was not in a tiny cage without any love, companionship or happiness. He had a personal family of volunteers. And he has a home now. By all indications, a very caring and loving one. Only the most hard-hearted of individuals would call for him to be dead.

By denigrating the movement to end shelter killing as akin to warehousing and abuse, and by ignoring the protocols of shelters which have truly achieved No Kill, these naysayers not only do so to provide political cover for their own killing but in order to embrace a nation of shelters grounded in killing—a defeatist mentality, inherently unethical and antithetical to animal welfare. To imply that No Kill means warehousing, therefore, is a cynicism which has only one purpose: to defend those who fail to save lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting the alternative as even darker.

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