Why Sterilize?

April 18, 2015 by  

Because people in shelters are killing them.

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Although this graphic cites an article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association for the proposition that an unsterilized male and female cat will yield millions more, the article cited to says no such thing. And it says no such thing because it isn’t true.

I am an advocate for sterilization. It is a core program of the No Kill Equation I champion. And when I ran shelters, we performed a lot of it. In one of those shelters, we did 10,000 surgeries a year, over 80% of which were free. But that doesn’t mean we have to misrepresent and even lie to people about why they should sterilize companion cats and dogs. And that is what a lot of graphics do, even though the perpetuation of such lies can cause severe harm to animals.

For one, “If a male and female cat and their offspring are left to breed on their own,” we do not get over 2,000,000 cats in 10 years. And we do not get over 32,000 cats in seven years. After seven years, the number, according to an analysis by the University of Washington, would most likely yield less than 200 cats. In fact, a mathematician put the number as low as 98. Even that number may be too high, however, when one takes into account the fact that some of the cats will get adopted by people, get sterilized, and/or become indoor-only. Not only does exaggeration undermine the movement’s credibility, but those who hate cats—like nativists who blame them by falsely claiming they are decimating bird populations—use these figures to promote round up and kill campaigns. We arm them with weapons to use against cats when we propagate such bad information.

Second, while perhaps technically accurate, it is grossly misleading to say animals are “less likely to get certain kinds of cancers.” Google “Top 10 reasons to spay/neuter your pet” and you’ll repeatedly find this and other health claims among the top three reasons to sterilize both dogs and cats. It is true that sterilized animals tend to live longer and that females are less likely to get mammary cancer. But, there is a nascent, though growing body of literature that indicates that the risk of other cancer may increase after sterilization, at least in dogs. In fact, the risk of seven of eight kinds of cancer in dogs actually increased with sterilization, though it wasn’t clear if this was the result of sterilized dogs living longer. In one study, however, dogs had a 3.5-fold increase in mast cell cancers, nine-fold increase in hemangiosarcoma, 4.3-fold increase in lymphoma, and 6.5-fold increase in higher incidence of all cancers, with researchers opining that it may be the result of the removal of growth and sex hormones which, among other things, regulate growth, differentiation, survival, and function of many cells involved in homeostasis and immunity.*

Third, while the language of this graphic is tempered (targeted sterilization can reduce the number of cats entering shelters), other graphics are not. They imply—and sometimes claim outright—that we cannot adopt our way out of killing or end the killing in shelters today when we absolutely can. Not only does the data prove it, so does experience. Many communities that are saving over 90% of dogs and cats did it in six months or less and often before a comprehensive sterilization program was in place. We stop shelter killing by reforming the institutions of killing, not eliminating the supply of victims. To reduce every discussion about shelter killing to a failure to sterilize is exactly what the regressive shelter director and the large, national groups which fight No Kill want animal activists to do: point the finger of blame anywhere but on those who are actually doing the killing, and perpetuate the lies they have historically peddled that portray that killing as necessary when it is not. Instead of perpetuating lies which allow those who commit daily violence against animals to continue to do so, we should be demanding that those we pay to care for homeless animals with our tax and philanthropic dollars provide animals with the care, kindness, and a loving home that is their birthright.

So what are the “top three reasons” to sterilize dogs and cats?

Although we can adopt our way out of killing, at the top remains the ongoing danger of death presented by American animal shelters. Today, the single greatest cause of death for healthy animals in the United States is deliberate killing at the local animal shelter. Because, overall, four in 10 animals will be killed if they enter a shelter, and in some communities the risk is as high as 99%, and because stray animals, litters of animals, or homeless animals within a community may end up in their local kill shelter, sterilization is a means of reducing the number of animals entering a shelter, thereby increasing the chances of survival for those who are already there. Moreover, sterilization saves unsocial, free-living community cats who are not candidates for adoption by providing an alternative to killing—Neuter and Release—should they enter a shelter that would otherwise end their lives. It must be emphasized, however, that sterilization, or the “N” part of neuter and release, isn’t the reason those cats exit such shelters alive—the “R” part is. And most shelters won’t do the “R” without first doing the “N,” even if it means taking the life of a self-sufficient animal who should have never entered the shelter in the first place. As such, Neuter and Release gives these animals a get out of jail pass they would otherwise be denied.

Moreover, continued promotion and availability of high-volume, low-cost sterilization is a means to help a community reach stasis in its shelters where adoptions equal intakes, making the achievement of No Kill even easier. This is important because the lower the intake, the easier it is for even unmotivated, ineffective, and uncaring directors (in short, your average kill shelter director) to achieve No Kill. Moreover, if sterilization allows a community to drop intakes significantly enough so that local demand for animals can no longer be met, the community can begin importing animals from high-kill rate jurisdictions, saving those lives, too, as some shelters in No Kill communities are currently doing. Until all communities become No Kill, this is yet another means of reducing and preventing shelter killing and saving more lives.

Second, regardless of why animals are being killed, they are being killed and, as long as they are being killed, adopting from a shelter or rescue is an ethical imperative. Millions of animals are killed annually because they enter shelters which have yet to replace killing with available, humane, life-affirming alternatives. Until we force them to do so through political advocacy, legislation, and by ensuring that such facilities are taken over by true animals lovers averse to needless killing, adoption saves these animals from those who would choose to kill them out of habit and convenience.

Third, there is the open question as to whether surgically sterilizing animals has increased the demand for them by eliminating behaviors associated with sexual reproduction that humans may find frustrating, such as temperament issues, roaming, spraying, and howling. More people adopting animals means less animals being killed at regressive shelters.

In short, people should sterilize their animals because people in shelters are killing them. That’s a sufficient reason. We do not need to mislead people with trumped up statistics and hyperbole to do so; statistics which are then used by unscrupulous people—such as nativists and regressive shelter directors—to defend their unscrupulous behavior.


* This, of course, begs the question of whether we should be supporting alternatives to surgical removal of ovaries or testes, such as vasectomies and tubal ligations so that growth and sex hormones can remain intact. With this post, however, I wanted to focus narrowly on what we tell people as a movement and what is, in fact, the state of the evidence for those claims. As to cancer, it may be that sterilized dogs live longer and therefore you are more likely to see a rise in the detection and treatment for cancer. One of the studies shows that even though sterilized dogs did get cancer more often, it didn’t lower their lifespan and, in fact, sterilized dogs lived longer. The other study found the opposite so there may be a link between sterilization and cancer.


The problem is that both the studies I cited have their limitations. What we really need is a study that doesn’t use past records or surveys to answer a new question, but one that follows the health of dogs over the course of their lives with this particular question in mind. There is such a study being conducted with Golden Retrievers from puppyhood on, but it just got underway. They picked Goldens because one analysis shows that 60% of them will die of cancer. It should be noted, however, that it will be years before it gives us any answers. And, as always, the people who live with these dogs and have chosen to allow researchers to track the health of their dogs over their lives might indicate bias in favor of better care.

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As Progress is Made, The Status Quo Grows Desperate

April 15, 2015 by  

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A community cat. Groups like VACA fight efforts to save them through TNR and promote efforts that empower animal control officers to round them up and kill them. Thankfully, legislators are listening less and less.

Why do some commonsense legislative efforts to protect animals in shelters fail? Because the groups that legislators often turn to for guidance—the shelters themselves and their state associations—betray the animals in order to defend the status quo. Thankfully, that is changing.

The Virginia Animal Control Association (VACA), for example, opposed and fought against a bill that required private shelters in Virginia to try and find homes for animals, rather than just kill them out of convenience. They called the requirement that shelters try adopting out animals before killing them “government overreach.” Thankfully, the legislature did not agree and overwhelming approved the bill (95 to 2 in the House and 35 to 1 in the Senate), which the governor signed. At the same time, VACA supported a bill which would have empowered animal control officers to round up community cats on private property and then kill them. Thankfully, the legislature did not agree and defeated the bill. VACA also fought efforts to mandate more transparency in shelters, saying that it would lead to high “paper costs” regardless of whether it would protect animals and their families. They fought efforts to protect community cats by allowing TNR in lieu of round up and kill. They took no position on legislation which would have created an animal cruelty conviction database that would have allowed rescuers and others to know if someone trying to adopt animals had been convicted of cruelty. Like in other states, the legislative and regulatory efforts to protect animals in Virginia from animal cruelty, convenience killing, trap and kill, and by mandating transparency and accountability found shelters and their lobbying group on the wrong side of almost every issue.

Ironically, VACA goes on to chastise shelter reformers for having the audacity—as citizens in a democracy, as taxpayers who fund their salaries, and as animal lovers whose values these agencies are supposed to represent—to “second guess” and try to “undermine” their decisions to kill. Introducing legislation, filing petitions for rulemaking with regulatory agencies, and participating in the democratic process is called “bullying” and “troubling.” What’s next, they ask, “Threats to [shelter workers] and their families?… Not as far-fetched as one might imagine.”

Actually, it is far-fetched and a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. They are the ones who commit violence towards animals by injecting them with lethal drugs. We’re trying to stop the violence through the same peaceful, democratic means embraced by every other movement for social improvement in history: legislation. To equate engagement in the legislative process as one step removed from the inciting of violence and to malign people who do so as “extremists” serves only to reveal how desperate they have become. When you can’t argue with the message, shoot the messenger. And when the messenger is merely calling for an end to systematic violence against animals and the implementation of humane, life affirming alternatives most citizens would be stunned to learn are not already standard operating procedure at our nation’s animal shelters, fear mongering about the nature of that agenda serves only to further reveal their own extremism, thereby eroding their credibility and with it, their influence among our elected representatives.

Their desperation is evidence of our progress.

To learn why groups like VACA are no friend to animals in shelters and no friend to animal lovers, click here.


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A Blessing & A Burden

April 9, 2015 by  


My dog of 14 years before he died. Pickles was deeply loved and is sorely missed. For the last year of his life, he was paralyzed. In addition to daily pain management, I had to carry him up and down the stairs and everywhere else. We made it a point to always have him in the same room with us so he knew how much we loved and wanted him around. When his pain became unmanageable and he was in the end stages of his disease, we said goodbye and ended his suffering. Picturing him on the floor of the vet’s office still drives me to tears. You can read about my life with him by clicking here.

Last year, I received a call from someone whose dog was near the end of his life. She told me that he was a 16-year-old dog who had nerve damage and no ability to use his back legs or hind quarters. For about a year, she took him for walks in a doggy wheelchair, but he no longer had the strength. She explained that she couldn’t leave the house for long periods because he couldn’t be left alone; she hadn’t gone on a vacation in years. Every other week, he became blocked and she had to help him defecate, an ordeal that kept her up all night with him and caused him pain. But most days, she said, he just relieved himself without control. Sounding embarrassed, she told me her house smelled like pee. But… he had a good appetite, had more good days than bad, and was genuinely excited and happy to see her. He still had the spark. The day when he no longer did would come, she knew; when there would be lots of bad days and he would he no longer find comfort in her gaze or caress. Is that when you know for sure it is time, she asked me?

More recently, another person told me of her 23 year old cat losing a battle with kidney failure. The cat was nearly blind and had suffered a stroke. Her person explained that she still had quality of life, was still eating and drinking and using the litterbox but that she was getting weaker. She said she had other kitty family members pass away naturally in her home before, and called it “heart wrenchingly horrible.” Is humane euthanasia, she wanted to know, truly humane?

This week, someone asked me a similar question. Her cat was also suffering from kidney disease and the daily sub-q fluids were not giving her the boost that they used to. Nonetheless, she still purred when she was being caressed and seemed to take genuine pleasure in being held. Should she opt for “euthanasia” when the time came, she asked?

Those who follow my work know that I am an unrelenting critic of shelter killing, that my efforts are focused on working to expose the myths and misperceptions upon which the systematic and needless killing of millions of healthy and treatable animals every year now rest, chief among them the myth that killing is kindness. I have worked for decades to expose that what happens to healthy and treatable animals behind closed doors in our nation’s animal shelters in no way bears a resemblance to the favored euphemism the animal sheltering industry uses to describe it – “euthanasia,” a word the dictionary defines as “the act of killing hopelessly sick or injured animals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.” And I wonder if it is because of these efforts I am so often consulted on end of life issues by people who share my love of animals and want to make sure than in opting to take the lives of their beloved animal companions when the very end is near, they haven’t likewise been misled to believe that this sort of killing is also morally justified when it is not. The most I can offer when asked about such issues is to share my own experiences and struggles with the choice as it pertains to my own animals, struggles which time and again have ended with me opting to end their life.

As an adult, I have shared my life with many, many animals who have since left this world. In each case, it was always my hope that they would die peacefully, in their sleep, at home in my arms or that of one of my family members, but that has never happened. Although a few people have shared their experiences of letting their animals die naturally and did not regret it, describing it as “peaceful,” that has not been our experience. Each and every time, when death was near, suffering was evident, and we were never able to justify letting them continue to experience it. They were leaving the world, nothing was going to change that, and there was simply no reason we could think of to allow them to go on suffering to no greater end. For as one palliative care veterinarian once told us in what is the understatement of the year, “Dying is hard work.”

In my family, when one of our animals is dying, we do all we can to care for them for as long as possible after treatment has failed, including fluids, hand feeding, and pain killers. When they are truly dying, we wait for a combination of symptoms that demonstrate to us that the end is very near: not eating, incontinence, and no longer seeking or enjoying the comfort of me, my wife, and my kids.

And in those final moments when it became clear to me and my wife that our animal was in the last days or hours of life, and only when we could be fairly certain that a near death was inevitable, we have opted to take their lives. I wrote about one such time, about my experiences with one of those cats, Gina, and the struggle of not knowing what the right thing to do was. I wrote it in hope that it was a help and a comfort to others facing similar difficult and sad times. As I look back now, I believe I did the right thing.

I don’t begin to pretend to have all the answers here. And I am loathe to make blanket, definitive statements. With animals, we have the possibility of ending their suffering in a way the law, in most places, does not allow for humans. As such, we bear a tremendous responsibility; one that experience has taught me to regard as both a blessing and a burden.

For further reading:

For the Love of Dog

What is True Euthanasia?


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Rejecting Arbitrary Labels That Enable Great Harm

April 6, 2015 by  

A Guest Article on Death of a Million Trees by my wife and I.

Every day, my wife and I go for a walk with our dog in an Oakland Hills park. The entire path is lined with trees, creating habitat for animals, and an idyllic, shady trail for running, hiking or dog walking We pass literally thousands upon thousands of trees that the City of Oakland plans to begin cutting down this summer, leaving behind up to half a million stumps which will then be soaked in chemicals that will poison wildlife and the people and the dogs who visit this park. These chemicals are made by Monsanto and Dow and have been proven to cause severe birth defects when tested on poor animals including rats born with their brains outside their skulls. They are toxic to birds and aquatic species, and cause damage to the kidneys, liver and the blood of dogs. And yet the plan is being proposed by people who call themselves environmentalists.

Environmentalists, however, don’t advocate for the clear cutting of healthy forests. They don’t advocate for the spreading of tens of thousands of gallons of cancer causing chemicals in public lands. They don’t seek to decimate and poison the habitat upon which wildlife depends. And in a world just beginning to understand and experience the cataclysmic results of climate change, they don’t seek to cut down as many as half a million carbon sequestering trees.

When an agenda has means and ends that are identical to timber and chemical companies, when it is based on methods which the environmental movement was formed to fight against, and when it calls for clearcutting trees and pouring poison on the stumps, you can call such a plan many things: foolish, short-sighted, dangerous, tragic, heart-wrenching, and cruel, but the one thing you can’t call it is environmentalism.

Why are they doing it? They claim the trees do not belong here because they are “non-native,” a false, short-sighted, arbitrarily label that ignores the one constant of life on Earth: change.

My wife and I were asked to write a guest article for Death of a Million Trees, the website of a true environmentalist who is working to stop this and other equally stunning plans to destroy healthy forests in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read, “Rejecting Arbitrary Labels That Enable Great Harm: Fighting the Oakland, UC Berkeley & East Bay Regional Park District’s War on Nature,” by clicking here.


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Bunnies have rights, too

April 5, 2015 by  


Bunnies are sweet, good-natured,* cuddly, vegan animals. And yet not only are they horrifically abused to test consumer goods (you can avoid supporting such cruelty by looking for the “cruelty-free” label), but they are treated like pariahs in shelters that are already awful to the dogs and cats they claim to care about. Some states which have holding periods for dogs and cats have none for bunnies, allowing shelters to kill them right away with no attempt to rehome them. Even the No Kill movement has largely ignored bunnies. You won’t hear about saving bunnies on the websites of many No Kill advocates. They have resisted calls to add bunnies to statistics when calculating overall community save rates. Many shelters that are saving over 95% of dogs and cats either have no safety net at all for bunnies—turning them away—or they kill them in large numbers but still call themselves No Kill. Even some bunny advocates do them a disservice by choosing death at the pound, rather than have them adopted out to homes with children (buying into the same misanthropy that dog and cat rescuers rejected a decade ago). And now Whole Foods wants people to start eating them. They are trying to create a market for rabbit meat where one does not (and should not) exist.


As we work to create a society where animals are cherished and protected, let’s not leave a single bunny behind. Hoppy Easter!

* Even the grouchy ones deserve love and have the same rights, too.


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Banning the Retail Sale of Dogs & Cats

April 3, 2015 by  


A Federal Judge in Rhode Island has upheld a local law that bans the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores. Pet stores in the city are now only allowed to adopt out rescued animals from shelters and rescue groups with which they partner. The law was passed based on concerns about the treatment of dogs in puppy mills and in order to increase the number of rescued animals in need of homes who find them. It also strikes to the heart of so much animal suffering: their commodification. When there is profit to be made on the backs of animals, history shows that those backs are often strained and broken.

Specifically, the law makes it “unlawful for any person to display, offer for sale, deliver, barter, auction, give away, transfer, or sell any live dog or cat” in a commercial establishment. But it allows pet stores to provide “space and appropriate care for animals owned by a city animal shelter or animal control agency, humane society, or non-profit rescue organization and maintain those animals at the pet store retail business or other commercial establishment for the purpose of public adoption.”

A pet store which bought its dogs from commercial breeders in other states sued and lost. The decision is here.

See also how shelter killing itself benefits puppy mills by clicking here. The combination of this kind of legislation and shelter reform would go a long way to protecting animals and saving more lives.


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Section 1983 to the Rescue

April 2, 2015 by  

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Complaining about inhumane conditions, abuses, or violations of law at shelters is a constitutionally protected right. As a volunteer, rescuer, or any other member of the public, you not only have the First Amendment right to speak out against abuses and violations of law committed by a government shelter, you have a constitutionally protected right to demand that the government correct the wrongs that are identified.

You also have a right to take photos at the shelter. You have a right to take video. You can criticize them on social media. It is illegal for them to make you sign a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of volunteering. And it applies to private SPCAs and humane societies if they have an animal control contract.

The No Kill Advocacy Center has a new, fully revised guide to protecting the legal rights of rescuers and shelter volunteers. It includes a sample letter to public officials, FAQs, how to find an attorney, and more. As always, it is available for FREE.

To download “Section 1983 to the Rescue,” click here.


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Houston does NOT have 1.2 million stray dogs

April 1, 2015 by  

“[T]he inner workings of a shelter are more complex than they may appear from the outside.” – Excerpt from a 2012 statement released by the HSUS Companion Animal Division defending the widespread practice among shelters of killing animals even when there are empty, available cages.


For many decades, shelters and their allies at national organizations made bold claims about the necessity of shelter killing without providing any hard evidence to back up their assertions. Why? They didn’t need to. Their successful portrayal of sheltering as an industry beyond the laymen’s understanding and requiring special “expertise” meant that few dared to challenge their authority or the validity of their claims. Animal lovers, adverse to working in facilities that kill animals and therefore lacking firsthand experience to the contrary, were misled into believing these rationalizations because they falsely believed these groups were trustworthy, knowledgeable of the most up-to-date sheltering protocols, dedicated to innovation, and committed to the cause of animal protection. As a result, shelters directors and their allies at national organizations were, until very recently, never asked to provide evidence beyond the anecdotal and circular logic (shelter killing is necessary because otherwise shelters wouldn’t be killing) to prove the authenticity of their claims. Tragically, as the No Kill movement increasingly exposes the facile nature of their self-professed expertise, in some cases the audacity of their claims have become even more pronounced, not less, with some shelters and shelter killing apologists making claims about pet overpopulation that even quick back of an envelope calculations reveal to be not just false, but utterly absurd.

Under continued scrutiny for its high rates of killing, leadership at the Houston pound has repeatedly claimed that they must kill animals due to an overpopulation problem so severe, that there are 1.2 million stray animals wandering the streets of Houston. Putting aside the fact that the number of dogs and cats on the streets doesn’t mean the shelter has to kill animals in the shelter, how can that possibly be true? If it was, that would be one stray animal for every two people in Houston or 2,000 per square mile, an absurdity. Such a claim defies experience and credulity, but that hasn’t stopped the city from making it or newspapers from printing it.

After the city made the claim, this figure has been reprinted over and over in the Houston media with jaw dropping headlines: “Houston’s 1.2 million stray dog problem,” “One million stray dogs in Houston,” and “Houston’s dirty, furry secret.” But a reporter finally did the math and called the figure “ridiculous” in an article, “Houston’s problem is not 1.2 million stray dogs”: “if Houston really had 1.2 million stray dogs, many neighborhoods would look like the migration scene from ‘Lion King’. There would be an army of dogs, 100 across and 100 deep, pouring down…”

So if millions of animals roaming the streets aren’t Houston’s problem because there aren’t that many, what is? The problem with Houston is Houston leadership. By pessimistically portraying the problem of shelter killing as inevitable and insurmountable, lies such as these have historically enabled the atrocity of shelter killing in Houston and other communities across the nation whose shelters are staffed by leadership more interested in excuse making than embracing solutions to bring the killing to an end. Thankfully, this article pokes holes in that thinking. And that is a step toward public realization that Houston is not “unique” or beyond the same sort of transformation that has allowed community after community to save the vast majority of animals once the leadership at their shelters commits to change: www.saving90.org

Read the article by clicking here. (If it requires a subscription, it has been reposted here.)


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An Epic Failure of Oversight in Virginia

March 26, 2015 by  

Celebration & Sober Reflection on the Passage of SB 1381 (& What You Can Do)


Photo: A shelter is a refuge. But for the vast majority of cats rounded up or otherwise impounded by PETA, the only thing PETA staff offer them is an overdose of poison to satisfy Ingrid Newkirk’s dark impulses. In 2014, PETA took in 1,605 cats and killed 1,536 (a kill rate of 96%). They transferred another 43 to kill shelters. If they were killed or displaced others who were killed, that would put the cat kill rate as high as 98%. They found homes for only 16, an adoption rate of 1%.

This week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed SB 1381, a law which requires shelters in Virginia to be “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes.” In other words, SB 1381 does what the public already thinks shelters do and what the dictionary says they do, even though PETA, which is located in Virginia, does not. In fact, the bill was introduced in a response to PETA—which is licensed in Virginia as a shelter—killing over 90% of the animals, with little to no effort to find them homes and their stealing Maya, a happy and healthy dog, from her porch while her family was out and killing her that very day. Since its passage, we’ve also found out that they killed five other animals that day, including two kittens and a six month old puppy, also in violation of state law.

Despite PETA’s intense lobbying effort to derail the vote which became known among legislators as the “anti-PETA killing bill,” despite PETA hiring a professional lobbyist with donor funds to kill it, despite manipulating their supporters to urge its defeat by lying to them, the votes were not even close: 95 to 2 in the House and 35 to 1 in the Senate. Not only does the outcome prove that participating in the political process—as thousands of Virginians did by writing, email and telephoning their Delegates urging a “yes” vote—can have a profound impact, but it shows that PETA has lost all credibility with the Virginia legislature and the governor who signed it into law.

Not only was a law just passed to protect animals from PETA, but the bill also forced PETA to further reveal its true colors: that an organization claiming to represent the “ethical treatment of animals” would hire a lobbyist at donor expense to defeat an important piece of animal protection legislation demonstrates once again that PETA is not committed to furthering the rights of animals, but rather, to actively subverting them, as more and more people are finding out.

In fact, the Governor’s signing of the bill comes just days after the State of Delaware, through the head of one of its agencies, wrote a letter to PETA asking them to stop lying about their shelter standards law. In 2010, Delaware legislators unanimously passed the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA), an important piece of animal protection legislation based on a model law authored by my organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center. By eliminating the ability of shelters to kill animals out of habit and convenience, the law has been wildly successful, reducing killing in Delaware shelters by nearly 80%.

Despite its success in Delaware and other places, PETA has vilified this law, saying that it has been a disaster there, forcing shelters to turn animals away. As I have long argued, none of it is true. In keeping with their many efforts over the years to derail laws nationwide which protect shelter animals, PETA has even written public officials in other communities debating the implementation of CAPA-like laws, urging them to reject such laws which they misrepresent and malign. In short, they do what they have always done: they lie.

Thankfully, the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare (OAW) has recently weighed in to respond to PETA’s misrepresentations, chastising PETA for lying. The OAW is a state agency that oversees implementation of Delaware’s shelters, including CAPA, through the Department of Health and Social Services. In their response to PETA, they write that what PETA is claiming “is simply not true. PETA does not have local representation in Delaware and is obviously not familiar with our sheltering system.” They also go on to explain the incredible success of the law, how it has saved countless lives, and prevented emotional heartbreak for the families and caretakers and rescuers of those animals.

From that standpoint, the passage of SB 1381 is incredibly good news. However, we fought for the bill not to simply force PETA to reveal its true colors, but to actually save lives, and if history is any indication, our next battle is getting the agency in charge of enforcing this new law to actually do so.

Given that PETA has always admitted it does not operate a shelter for the purpose of finding homes, given that the evidence is clear they do not, and given that Ingrid Newkirk once stated, unapologetically, “We are not in the home finding business, although it is certainly true that we do find homes from time to time for the kind of animals people are looking for. Our service is to provide a peaceful and painless death to animals…. ”, VDACS has no choice but to remove their shelter designation and eliminate PETA’s ability to round up animals and to purchase the lethal drugs used to poison them. That is, it has no choice if it is committed to doing its job. But so far, it has refused to do so.

For Maya, PETA’s crime resulted in her death. For her family, it has led to immense heartbreak. Maya lived with a nine-year-old girl who, according to the family’s spokesperson, was utterly devastated by her killing. But the agencies which are supposed to protect dogs like Maya and the people who love them have turned a blind eye. Although two PETA employees were arrested and charged with larceny by the Accomack County sheriff, the Commonwealth attorney refused to prosecute. Despite video evidence that they stole Maya and an admission that they killed her, the prosecutor claimed he could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite clear evidence that PETA has violated the law on multiple occasions, the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) refuses to pull PETA’s “shelter” license. It chose to fine it $500, a mere fraction of the $52 million it took in last year. Despite calls for investigations by state senators, county attorneys, national organizations, and the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies which believes PETA to be operating to “the detriment of animals in the Commonwealth;” despite violating the law, lying to people, stealing pets, and killing them; despite the Virginia legislature and governor speaking with one, nearly unanimous, voice that they want PETA’s killing to stop, PETA continues operating as before, killing thousands of defenseless animals with virtual impunity.

Ironically, it is the very double standard between humans and non-humans that most people erroneously believe PETA exists to overcome that has allowed PETA to get away with the harms they have inflicted. And it is the false perception that they exist to protect, rather than imperil animals (which is what they actually do) which causes reluctance on the part of public officials tasked with oversight.

So while I celebrate SB 1381’s passage for all it does mean, and I am immensely grateful to Senator Bill Stanley who introduced this bill, to all the legislators who voted for it, and to the Governor who signed it, and while I understand that as we move the pieces on the chess board, we get closer and closer to checkmating PETA out of the killing business, let’s understand where the challenge now lies: with Virginia law enforcement agencies, most notably VDACS. We must realize that getting VDACS to enforce it will likely involve an additional fight and potentially, litigation. Already, VDACS is stalling, claiming—in typically bureaucratic fashion—that it may take two years to issue regulations for SB 1381. And even as PETA now claims it “has always operated to find adoptive homes and will continue to do so as stated in Senate Bill 1381” in direct contravention of all their prior statements and actions before SB 1381 and which begs the question, “why fight it then?”, my faith that VDACS will do the right thing and honor the intent and desire of the people of the Commonwealth, as they spoke in near unanimity through their elected representatives, could hardly be more lacking. The leadership and staff at VDACS has so far proven itself to be typically bureaucratic, tragically indifferent, fundamentally uncaring, and as is so typical of oversight agencies, willing to overlook PETA’s criminal conduct by bending over backward for the entity they are supposed to be regulating.

While VDACS sits on its hands for the next two years, an additional 4,500 animals will be needlessly butchered at the behest of Ingrid Newkirk’s dark and disturbing impulses and the families of the animals they round up and kill across Norfolk and surrounding areas will be left heartbroken. We must not allow PETA to get away with murder.

What You Can Do:

Don’t let VDACS continue to get away with turning a blind eye and foot dragging. Please send a polite, but emphatic, email to both Sandra Adams, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and to Dr. Carolynn Bissett, the State Veterinarian, that you expect them to do their jobs and honor the intent of the legislature and the will of the people. Tell them that PETA kills 90% of the animals it takes in, that it steals people’s animals and puts them to death in violation of state laws and regulations, that it has always maintained it is “not in the home finding business” and has made virtually no effort to do so, and that it has a history of criminal conduct and lying to people in order to acquire and kill animals. As such, it cannot legally be licensed as a private shelter under SB 1381. And while you are at it, tell them that we should not have to wait two years for VDACS to act while PETA kills an additional 4,500 animals.

Dr. Carolynn Bissett: Carolynn.Bissett@vdacs.virginia.gov

Commissioner Sandra Adams: sandy.adams@vdacs.virginia.gov


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Delaware Tells PETA to Stop Lying

March 23, 2015 by  


In 2010, Delaware legislators unanimously passed the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA), an important piece of animal protection legislation based on a model law authored by my organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center. By eliminating the ability of shelters to kill animals out of habit and convenience, the law has been wildly successful, reducing killing in Delaware shelters by nearly 80%.

Despite its success in Delaware and other places, groups like PETA and their pro-killing enablers have vilified this law, saying that it has been a disaster there, forcing shelters to turn animals away. As I have long argued, none of it is true. In keeping with their many efforts over the years to derail laws nationwide which protect shelter animals, PETA has even written public officials in other communities debating the implementation of CAPA-like laws, urging them to reject such laws which they misrepresent and malign. In short, they do what they have always done: they lie.

Thankfully, the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare (OAW) has recently weighed in to respond to PETA’s misrepresentations, chastising PETA for lying. The OAW is a state agency that oversees implementation of Delaware’s shelters, including CAPA, through the Department of Health and Social Services. In their response to PETA, they write that what PETA is claiming “is simply not true. PETA does not have local representation in Delaware and is obviously not familiar with our sheltering system.”

They go on to state that the law “established common-sense statutes to improve the health and wellbeing of animals temporarily housed in shelters,” including “vaccination upon intake,” “veterinary care for sick or injured animals,” and “holding periods to allow owner reunification or transfer.”

It notes the law requires that animals must be held and given to rescue groups rather than killed. And then states that it “has improved the quality of care animals receive in shelters and has saved thousands of animals that would have otherwise been euthanized due to outdated policies and practices. Prior to this law, healthy dogs and cats were euthanized very quickly, sometimes while their owners were looking for them.”

It has also saved community cats: “Cats that free-roamed, either as outdoor pets or managed cat colonies, were indiscriminately rounded up by animal control and euthanized, much to the dismay of pet owners and colony caretakers.” No more.

To read the letter, click here.

Don’t expect PETA to stop lying about it, however. PETA’s mission seems to be that animals are better dead than fed, a campaign of extermination that includes the theft and killing of people’s companion animals, the round up and killing of community cats, the killing of all pit bulls, and the killing of over 90% of animals they take in, including healthy puppies and kittens.

Click here for step by step guides and model language for those who want to bring CAPA to their state.

Photo: A community cat. PETA wants him dead.


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