A First Hand Look Inside PETA’s Kill Room

February 10, 2015 by  

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“I know from first hand experience that the PETA leadership has no problem lying. I was told regularly to not enter animals into the log, or to euthanize off site in order to prevent animals from even entering the building. I was told regularly to greatly overestimate the weight of animals whose euthanasia we recorded in order to account for what would have otherwise been missing ‘blue juice’ (the chemical used to euthanize), because that allowed us to euthanize animals off the books. I was told regularly to say whatever I had to say in order to get people to surrender animals to me, lying was not only acceptable, it was encouraged… Contrary to what PETA maintains, the majority of animals it takes in are not beyond hope, in my experience many would be considered highly adoptable by a shelter, the ‘better off dead’ line is one that is dragged out in order to excuse what they do–and it’s a lie.”

After her revelations about the extent of PETA’s killing in a blog hit the movement like a shock wave yesterday, a former PETA employee does a follow up interview with The Huffington Post. In it, she describes what really went on behind the closed door of PETA’s headquarters including theft of animals, lying to people in order to kill their animals, lying about animals being “unadoptable,” falsifying drug records in order to kill animals “off book,” and submitting false information to officials about the numbers of animals they kill. All of it, she says, was at the direction of Ingrid Newkirk: “It was what she told us to do — it was standard operating procedure.”

She describes picking up a litter of healthy puppies from someone who thought that PETA was going to find them a home: “What was referred to as the ‘shelter’ was a large, empty storage closet across from our office. The only other holding facility we had was in the warehouse, where the animals were euthanized. And when I did use the room across from my office as a holding area for animals, Ingrid would ask why I hadn’t already euthanized them: one time nailing me to the wall because the litter of puppies I’d placed in there for a night had pooped everywhere; I was told to euthanize the puppies immediately.” The puppies were killed.

The original blog is here: http://bit.ly/1KGBzMx

 

The follow up interview is here: http://huff.to/1CSqUyY

Granted, this employee worked at PETA over a decade ago, but as the Huffington Post writer indicates, “If you worked for PETA, you were expected to kill adoptable animals. And, as I reported in a long series of articles, everything suggests that the picture painted fifteen years ago is an accurate portrait of PETA today.”

I, too, have interviewed other PETA employees and the picture they paint of the PETA is similar to the PETA during this former employee’s tenure.

The most current facts we know about PETA confirm this, too. Case in point:

Just a few months ago, PETA stole Maya, a happy and healthy dog, from her home and killed her: http://bit.ly/1pGUQcj

 

They continue to support the killing of every pit bull in every shelter: http://bit.ly/ZAnrvQ

 

They continue to believe community cats are better dead than fed: http://bit.ly/1Eux7Sm

 

They continue to kill over 90% of animals they impound: http://bit.ly/16zGHVq (96% of cats in 2014)

 

They’ve killed puppies and kittens, despite the fact that they themselves admitted they were healthy: http://bit.ly/1bdIqes And other employees confirm that they continue to do so.

Photo: The current kill room at PETA’s headquarters. The room is euphemistically called the “exam room” by PETA leadership. No exam is done for purposes of placement or, if they are sick, treatment. No animal who enters the exam room ever comes out alive. As another employee told me, “They would take the animals into that room and they would be euthanized… A litter of kittens, sometimes a mother with kittens… they were put in that room and once you went in that room, you never came out.”

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Weighing the Evidence

February 1, 2015 by  

PETA’s Killing, Cognitive Dissonance, and What We Owe Animals

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Photo: a puppy killed by PETA being handled by an official in a hazmat suit and another is behind him. PETA promised to find the puppies a home, described the puppies as “adorable” and “perfect,” and immediately put them to death in the back of a van, a donor funded slaughterhouse on wheels. Their bodies, along with dozens of others PETA killed, were found in a supermarket dumpster. Learn more at www.whyPETAkills.org

This week, over 4 million people have seen my Facebook posts. Yesterday’s post about PETA’s killing of 2,324 of the 2,626 dogs and cats they impounded in 2014 and only adopting out 39 (1% of the animals) has been seen by over 1 million people alone. And given the comments, it is clear that this is news to many people, even though it has been going on for years, even though they openly fight shelter reform efforts, defend abusive shelters, have called for the killing of every pit bull in every shelter, for the round up and killing of community cats, and have put to death 31,250 animals over the last 12 years, including healthy puppies and kittens after promising to find them homes and animals they have stolen for the purpose of killing. You can find links to the evidence below. But because this is news to a lot of people given what PETA pretends to be, my reporting on it often leads to confusion, with people unsure of whom to believe, as if the right or wrong position comes down to personalities, rather than the objective facts and  the outcomes for animals resulting from them.

I understand that what those facts are telling us are in direct contravention to what most people think PETA represents. Many people believe, and the media often portrays, PETA as a “radical animal rights” group, and therefore some people have a difficult time assimilating all the evidence that proves otherwise—that, in fact, PETA actively harms thousands of animals every year by injecting them with a fatal dose of poison and even seeks animals out for this very purpose. When I first learned about this news two decades ago as a PETA volunteer, I, too, was stunned. But my response was markedly different than that of many PETA supporters who come onto my page. I researched the evidence, weighed it against my values, and determined that I could no longer, in good conscience, continue to support a group that—despite their public persona—undermined, rather than furthered, the cause I believed in.  Unfortunately, not everyone who claims to care about animals is inclined to do the same. There are some people who are so heavily associated with the PETA brand—animal activists whose Facebook pages are filled with PETA links, whose cars are covered with PETA bumper stickers, and whose friends and family associate them with being an ardent PETA supporter—that when they read information that proves that PETA does not, in fact, represent what they thought it did, feel that their entire identity is under attack, and they lash out, shooting the messenger—me—and grant PETA absolution to keep on killing, thereby defending the very harm to animals that caused them to start supporting PETA in the first place. It’s bewildering how casually and capriciously such people surrender the values they claim to believe in and the lives of defenseless animals for the benefit of an institution they lionize.

After years of fighting to expose the truth about PETA, I have learned that such individuals are often beyond reach. Rare is the person from this category that I am ever able to convince because the truth is not conducive to their needs. But as for the others who are struggling to overcome the cognitive dissonance between what PETA is believed to be and what the facts prove it actually is, I implore you to take a little time to follow the links I provide that prove that what I am saying is true. They link to information reported to the Commonwealth of Virginia by PETA itself, or to letters written or statements made by PETA’s President Ingrid Newkirk herself admitting that they kill healthy animals, arguing that all pit bulls and free-living cats should be killed, and statements in which she has made it clear that she believes animals want to die and to kill them is to give them, in her words, “a gift.” Read these links, and you’ll discover that in fact what you presumed PETA stood for is wrong. Then decide for yourself whether or not PETA is behaving in a manner that you want to support, that reflects your values and will result in the sort of outcomes you, as someone claiming to love animals, want to see. Whatever you decide, and given what is at stake, the very least you owe the animals is an open mind, and the few minutes it takes to scrutinize the evidence for yourself.

  • Here is the data, self-reported by PETA to the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, showing roughly 9 out of 10 animals they seek out are killed by them: http://bit.ly/1LsjPrn
  • Here is an inspection report by the Virginia State Vet showing PETA kills 90% of animals within 24 hours without even trying to find them homes: http://bit.ly/1eHkWlD
  • Here is an OpEd piece written by PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk which appeared in newspapers across the country where PETA says it supports a policy that all pit bulls should be killed in all shelters in America: http://bit.ly/XrvcKf
  • Here is a newspaper article about the 2007 trial of PETA employees after they were found to be rounding up and killing animals in the back of a van after promising to find them homes: http://bit.ly/XCSdI3
  • Here is the news station report of PETA stealing Maya, a “happy and healthy” dog and killing her: http://bit.ly/1EIsEHq
  • Here is the surveillance video of the theft: www.whypetaeuthanizes.org/maya
  • Here is an article where PETA says community cats are better dead than sterilized and fed: http://bit.ly/1Eux7Sm
  • Here is a video made by Shelby County KY shelter volunteers after PETA celebrated when that shelter announced it was going to resume killing after four years as a No Kill shelter: http://vimeo.com/48651351
  • Here is a letter by the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies asking the State Vet to revoke PETA’s ability to take in and kill animals: http://bit.ly/ZgBzfb
  • Here is a petition to the State Vet that the No Kill Advocacy Center wrote asking the same: http://bit.ly/ZK4kjj
  • Here is a letter written by PETA to a Mayor telling him to kill all pit bulls, not to foster animals, and not to work with rescue groups: http://bit.ly/ZAnrvQ
  • Here are photographs of animals PETA has killed: www.whypetaeuthanizes.org/photos/
  • Here is a video where Ingrid Newkirk admits they kill healthy, adoptable animals: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=14568

There’s more. Much more. PETA is letting loose upon the world 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—over 30,000 times—that they are not adverse to using.

P.S. If you do want to learn more about me, I am a former criminal prosecutor, shelter director, animal control officer and currently I run a national non-profit dedicated to ending the systematic killing of animals in U.S. shelters, the NO Kill Advocacy Center. I have been a vegan for 25 years and also run a vegan advocacy website: www.allamericanvegan.com I am also a former PETA volunteer. My story can be found here: http://bit.ly/13qMs4a

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PETA’s Carnage Continues in 2014

January 31, 2015 by  

Submits False Information to the Commonwealth of Virginia

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It is with great sadness and anger that I report to you that PETA’s 2014 statistics, just released yesterday by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS), are as bad as ever. According to VDACS, 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%.

PETA also took in 1,021 dogs of which they killed 788 (a kill rate of 77%). Another 210 were transferred to kill shelters. Like the cats, if they were killed or displaced others who were killed, the dog death rate would also be as high as 98%. Only 23 were adopted.

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How much money did PETA take in last year from unsuspecting donors who helped pay for this mass carnage?  $51,933,001: $50,449,023 in contributions, $627,336 in merchandise sales, and $856,642 in interest and dividends. They finished the year with $4,551,786 more in the bank than they started, after expenses. They did not see fit to use some of that to comprehensively promote animals for adoption or to provide veterinary care for the animals who needed it.

By contrast, the Lynchburg Humane Society, also in Virginia, took in about the same number of animals as PETA but saved 94% and without PETA’s millions. Seagoville Animal Services in Texas took in 1/3 of the numbers (about 700 animals) but only 1/20th of 1% of the amount of money that PETA did, saving 99% of them on a paltry $29,700 budget. In fact, hundreds of cities and towns across America are saving over 90% of the animals and doing so on a fraction of PETA’s wealth.

While PETA claims the animals it takes in and kills are “unadoptable,” this is a lie. It is a lie because employees have admitted it is a lie. They have described 8 week old, 10 week old, and 12 week old healthy kittens and puppies routinely and immediately put to death with no effort to find them homes. It is a lie because they have been caught stealing happy and healthy animals and putting them to death. It is a lie because rescue groups, individuals, and veterinarians have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable and PETA insiders have admitted as much, one former intern reporting that he quit in disgust after witnessing perfectly healthy puppies and kittens in the kill room. It is a lie because PETA refuses to provide its criteria for making the determination as to whether or not an animal is “unadoptable.” It is a lie because according to a state inspector, the PETA facility where the animals are impounded was designed to house animals for no more than 24 hours. It is a lie because Ingrid Newkirk herself admitted as much during a television interview: when asked whether or not PETA kills healthy animals, she responded, “Absolutely.” It is a lie because PETA staff have described the animals they have killed as “healthy,” “adorable” and “perfect.” It is a lie because PETA itself admits it does not believe in “right to life for animals.” And it is a lie because when asked what sort of effort PETA routinely makes to find adoptive homes for animals in its care, PETA had no comment.

Maya (2)
 

In fact, PETA lied in its reporting to VDACS. 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 from 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. Yet in its reporting of Maya to VDACS, she is listed as a “stray.”

Why?

Why does PETA steal animals and then kill them? Why do they systematically put them to death? PETA refuses to answer questions. But employees who have spoken out about PETA’s killing say it is the result of the deeply disturbing version of animal activism promoted by PETA founder and President, Ingrid Newkirk. They explain how employees are made to watch “heart wrenching” films about animal abuse to drill into them the belief that people are incapable of caring for animals and that “PETA was doing what was best for animals” by killing them. PETA tells its employees that people can’t, don’t, and won’t take care of animals, that the lives of animals with people is one of neglect and abuse and that living with dogs and cats violates their rights. PETA also claims that animals cannot live without human care, which is why they do not support letting free-living cats continue to be free-living. The animals are, in short, damned either way and thus killing them is a “gift.” To PETA, animal activism means killing animals and to roughly 2,000 animals every year, that is precisely what is done. Over the last 12 years, 31,250 animals have been poisoned to death by PETA, an atrocity funded by individuals who erroneously believe that their donations will be used to help rather than end the lives of animals.

The records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services are here.

 

When you donate to PETA, you fund these atrocities against animals. Learn more at www.whyPETAkills.org

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Photo: This photo, reportedly taken at PETA of needles filled with sodium pentobarbital (the drug used to kill animals), was sent to me by a former PETA employee whose job it was to kill animals. The needles are primed and ready to kill in what appears to be an assembly line fashion.

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Does PETA Kill Healthy Puppies & Kittens? “Absolutely”

November 9, 2014 by  

On November 6 at the University of Virginia School of Law, I debated PETA’s attorney on the issue: “The Kill Versus No Kill Debate: Which Animal Shelters Are Most Humane?” I argued for a guaranteed right to life for companion animals entering shelters. PETA argued that animals were better off dead. In the interests of full disclosure, I agreed to have the debate videotaped or audiotaped and to make it available to everyone so people could hear for themselves what each side believed and where each side stood on the issue in their own words. PETA refused.

 

As such, over the next several weeks, I am going to post on the fundamental disagreement between PETA, on the one hand, and on the other, myself and what I believe to be the true No Kill and animal rights position.

 

Yesterday, I posted about their call for the mass extermination of pit bulls in shelters. Today, I address PETA’s claim that “no shelter wants to euthanize animals” (including PETA itself, which kills roughly 2,000 animals per year).

 

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Today, an animal entering a shelter in this country has a one in two chance of being killed and in some communities it is as high as 99%, with millions of animals—the vast majority of whom are healthy or treatable—losing their lives every year. The reason for this statistic is as shocking as the statistic itself. In the typical American animal shelter, animals are being killed for two primary reasons: habit and convenience.

They are killed when there are empty cages, within minutes of being walked in the door, without ever being offered for adoption, despite rescue groups ready, willing and able to save them, and despite a whole host of programs and services that would provide those shelters alternatives to killing if only shelters would implement them. Hundreds of American communities with shelters which have embraced these alternatives to killing are now saving between 90% and 99% of the animals proving how unnecessary the killing is and how false the historical excuses used to justify that killing are. Unfortunately, most shelters in this country refuse to follow their lead. Why? Because killing is easy, killing is convenient, and killing has become the default. So why bother with the hard work of implementing alternatives?

To PETA, this is as it should be.

They defend abuse in shelters as long as those shelters are “kill” shelters. They have fought legislation that would have banned convenience killing (when there are empty cages or when qualified rescue groups are willing to save them). They fight efforts to legalize TNR in lieu of killing for community cats. They have told shelters not to foster animals or to work with rescue groups, but to kill those animals instead. And PETA does not just defend the killing that others do, they kill animals themselves.

PETA kills roughly 95% of the thousands of animals they take in and seek out every year while adopting out a paltry 1%, despite revenues of over 30 million dollars a year and millions of animal-loving members. They have killed 29,426 animals in the last 11 years, including healthy puppies like these…

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And this one…

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When PETA representatives have been questioned about this killing, they’ve argued that all of the animals they kill are “unadoptable.” But this claim is a lie for numerous reasons.

Groups and individuals have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable, including this mother cat and kittens…

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PETA insiders have admitted they kill healthy animals. As the spay/neuter van goes out in the morning to sterilize animals, one of its jobs historically has been to pick up puppies and kittens and other healthy animals people surrender to PETA on the way back at the end of the day and then deliver them to this little outbuilding in the parking lot of PETA’s headquarters.

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That building serves only one purpose: to kill animals. They are taken out of the vans and immediately put to death, their bodies stored in the giant walk-in freezer PETA installed for this very purpose. It is a freezer that cost $9,370 and, like the company which incinerates the bodies of PETA’s victims—Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater—was paid for with the donations of animal lovers who could never have imagined that the money they donated to help animals would be used to end their lives instead.

Moreover, PETA staff have described the animals they’ve killed as “perfect” and “adorable.” And PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk herself admitted they kill healthy and treatable animals: when asked whether or not PETA kills “adoptable” animals, she didn’t hesitate, stating, “Absolutely.”

 

Of course, she qualifies it by saying it is only done “when we can’t find them a home” but then she admits to another reporter that they don’t even try to find homes, telling the Virginian-Pilot,

“We are not in the home finding business, although it is certainly true that we do find homes from time to time… Our service is to provide a peaceful and painless death to animals no one wants.”

Which begs the question: how can people want animals if PETA does not advertise them, fails to make them available for adoption, and kills them right away?

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PETA: Kill the Victims

November 8, 2014 by  

On November 6 at the University of Virginia School of Law, I debated PETA’s attorney on the issue: “The Kill Versus No Kill Debate: Which Animal Shelters Are Most Humane?” I argued for a guaranteed right to life for companion animals entering shelters. PETA argued that animals were better off dead. In the interests of full disclosure, I agreed to have the debate videotaped or audiotaped and to make it available to everyone so people could hear for themselves what each side believed and where each side stood on the issue in their own words. PETA refused.

As such, over the next several weeks, I am going to post on the fundamental disagreement between PETA, on the one hand, and on the other, myself and what I believe to be the true No Kill and animal rights position.

First up: pit bulls.

“Most people have no idea that at many animal shelters across the country, any pit bull that comes through the front door doesn’t go out the back door alive. From San Jose to Schenectady, many shelters have enacted policies requiring the automatic destruction of the huge and ever-growing number of ‘pits’ they encounter. This news shocks and outrages the compassionate dog-lover. Here’s another shocker: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the very organization that is trying to get you to denounce the killing of chickens for the table, foxes for fur or frogs for dissection, supports the shelters’ pit-bull policy… People who genuinely care about dogs won’t be affected by a ban on pits.”

That is what PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk once wrote in an OpEd piece that appeared in newspapers across the country. More recently, PETA sent a letter to the Mayor of Williamson County, TN, telling him not to work with rescuers, not to foster sick animals, and to kill every pit bull in the shelter: “PETA also recommends a ban on the adoption/release of dangerous dogs and fighting breeds (commonly known as ‘pit bulls’).”

There is no dog in America more maligned and misrepresented than those classified by shelters as a “pit bull.” There are no shelter dogs more in need of the humane movement’s compassion, in need of a call to arms on their behalf, and in need of what should be the full force of a shelter’s sanctuary and protection. Many shelters and animal protection organizations, however, have determined that these dogs are not worthy of their help. And no one has been more emphatic and unapologetic than Ingrid Newkirk and PETA in promoting this unfair and deadly double standard—along with the idea that that those who care about animals needn’t concern themselves with the fate of these particular dogs. Moreover, recent research shows that shelters misidentify breeds as much as 75 percent of the time. And as used by shelters, law enforcement agencies and even courts, “Pit Bull” is not a breed of dog. It is, according to a leading advocacy organization, “a catch-all term used to describe a continually expanding incoherent group of dogs, including pure-bred dogs and mixed-breed dogs. A ‘Pit Bull’ is any dog an animal control officer, shelter worker, dog trainer, politician, dog owner, police officer, newspaper reporter or anyone else says is a ‘Pit Bull.’” When it comes to dogs we call “pit bulls,” shelters are not only unnecessarily killing them based on meaningless stereotypes, they are killing dogs they mistakenly think fit those stereotypes by the way they look.

PETA’s answer, however, is to  continue killing the victim, as they tried to do when they stated that the dogs abused by Michael Vick should be put to death. Thankfully, the court declined. Instead of being overdosed with barbiturates, put into garbage bags, and then sent to rot in a landfill as PETA suggested, they were given the chance to:

Play with toys

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Experience love

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Get a warm embrace

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Get showered with kindness

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Receive affection

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 Feel safe

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 Experience joy

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In short, the happy endings PETA did not want them to have.

 

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Follow the Money

July 8, 2014 by  

Why I Will Not Be Speaking at the FARM “Animal Rights” Conference

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“The Animal Rights National Conference is devoted to advancing the vision that ‘animals have the right to be free from all forms of human exploitation.’ The Conference does not welcome advocacy of continued exploitation of animals [even] under improved conditions, sometimes labeled as ‘humane’…” –Animal Rights Conference “Safe Space” Policy.

Early last month, I posted on Facebook that I would be speaking at FARM’s upcoming Animal Rights Conference in Los Angeles. In that announcement, I expressed guarded hope that the agreed upon terms of my participation in that conference—that I would be given an hour to share the No Kill philosophy and then show my film—might signal a change of heart by the organizers of that event, away from their historical embrace of people who advocate the killing of companion animals and towards an authentic embrace of a true animal rights philosophy, one that included the rights of companion animals currently being slaughtered by the millions in American shelters.

I am sorry to report that I will not be speaking. Not only was my hope misplaced, but the statement released by conference organizers that it “does not welcome advocacy of continued exploitation of animals [even] under improved conditions, sometimes labeled as ‘humane’” is a lie. The Animal Rights Conference continues to welcome speakers who promote “exploitation” under the guise of “humane” if those animals are dogs, cats, rabbits, and other companion animals. In fact, far beyond mere “exploitation,” the Animal Rights Conference welcomes those who advocate the systematic eradication of companion animals. It allows them to speak, provides them political cover, highlights them, inducts them into its hall of fame, and prohibits other speakers from criticizing them. Far from advancing the rights of companion animals, the Animal Rights Conference is helping ensure their continued slaughter.

FARM is trying to cover its track by claiming that I “added a last minute stipulation that no one proposing a path other than his could speak on the same day he spoke…” Like their “vision,” that is also a lie. It was FARM that broke our agreement—for the second time this conference and the third time is as many conferences. An 11th hour change to the schedule revealed that despite earlier and repeated assurances that I would be given adequate time to share my message (a one hour session by myself), my speaking time was cut and I was told that I would have to co-present with Merritt Clifton, a man who doesn’t believe we can adopt our way out of killing despite hundreds of cities which have proved otherwise, defends shelters that kill despite empty cages when those shelters are run by people he likes, and has made a career out of denigrating dogs commonly referred to as “pit bulls.” In fact, a recent issue of Time magazine includes a hit piece on dogs which prominently features fear mongering by Merritt Clifton.

Rather than present a workshop on how No Kill is an animal rights issue and how it can be—and has been—achieved, I would have to spend what little time was now afforded to me responding to Clifton’s assertions about the dangerousness of “pit bulls,” the inability to achieve No Kill through adoptions, and why empty cages—even if it means killing—is necessary. Only here’s the rub: I was also told I could not criticize him for saying so. And it is why, under these circumstances, I would have never agreed to speak in the first place. I pulled out when they changed the agreed upon terms of my participation, even after they admitted they violated our agreement, not the other way around.

Despite all the talk, sent to attendees and speakers alike, that the Animal Rights Conference is a “safe space” for animals where talk of “exploitation” would not be tolerated, attendees will be treated to two speakers who believe that “pit bulls” should be executed, that shelter dogs are dangerous to adopt, and that No Kill is impossible. In the case of speaker Ingrid Newkirk, attendees will hear from a woman who has trained her staff and volunteers to seek out over 2,000 animals annually, including healthy kittens and puppies, in order to inject over 90% of them with a fatal dose of poison. Newkirk believes that animals want to die and should be killed, that killing them is a “gift,” and shelters should continue killing, despite readily available lifesaving alternatives. This is not a “safe space” for animals as they claim. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is to condone and encourage people who wish to school others in how to actively harm animals and deny them their most basic and fundamental rights, chief among them, their right to live.

Why are they doing this? Why invite me to speak, agree to conditions, and then break that agreement not once, but twice, at the last minute? Follow the money. PETA is a “Gold Sponsor” of the Animal Rights Conference and despite all the talk of ethics and “safe space,” FARM, the conference organizer, appears willing to sell out companion animals to the highest bidder.

This week, if you wish to find several people who represent the anti-thesis of what an animal rights movement should stand for, look no further than the “Animal Rights Conference.” And that is why one person who will not be found there is me.

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Protests Welcome!

February 4, 2014 by  

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As many of you know, I used to volunteer with PETA. As a young vegan living in the Northeast, one night each week, I would stuff envelopes and put packets together for them. I loved animals. And therefore, I loved PETA. Today, I still love animals. In fact I’ve dedicated my life to saving them. Which is why—as a former shelter director, the head of a national organization focused on ending the systematic killing of animals in shelters, and the author of a book on PETA—I’ve come to be one of their fiercest critics.

It started when I was still a volunteer. One day, my roommate, a former PETA employee, found a dog in need of a home. We called him Ray. As volunteers, I asked her why we didn’t just take Ray—a young, happy, healthy dog—to PETA. Surely, PETA, with its millions of dollars and millions of animal loving members, would find him a home. But she said “No,” because PETA would just kill him. Spit take!

That is when I did what anyone who truly loves animals would have done, I walked away from them. I’ve since come to learn that they kill over 90% of the animals they take it in, including healthy puppies and kittens, that they have called for the killing of all “pit bulls” in shelters, that they advocate the round up and killing of healthy community cats, oppose shelter reform, do not advocate right to life for animals, and kill animals after promising to find them homes. I love animals, including dogs and cats, so I cannot support an organization dedicated to killing them based on the belief that “pets” are “slaves,” that life is suffering, that animals are better off dead and therefore to kill them is a “gift,” as PETA founder and President Ingrid Newkirk believes. My article discussing their anti-animal views and actions in in the Huffington Post has over a quarter of a million Facebook “likes,” 90,000 shares, and one million page views.

Working to expose the disturbing truth about what PETA really is, I am frequently the subject of character assassination by PETA supporters and many of the people who like my Facebook page have told me they have heard from some of them, especially “Mary” and “Julie,” both of who not only deliberately lie about who I am and what I believe, but are part of a larger group of No Kill opponents intent on tearing me down, including those who have threatened to kill my dog and “behead” me for the “crime” of advocating right to life for animals in shelters. (“Julie” in fact wrote an article called “Nathan Winograd Should Be Beheaded.”) Now, “Julie” and her acolytes are threatening to protest at the Minneapolis screening of Redemption, a film based on my book of the same name about the No Kill revolution in America. The first ever screening in Minneapolis will be a red carpet event, includes an after party with some of the people who appear in the film, and is open to the public.

I actually welcome the protest and here’s why.

When people see them protesting and then see the film, the disconnect between what the PETA supporters claim and what I advocate will be obvious. The film is an inspirational, uplifting portrayal of what we can accomplish when we reject killing and implement common sense alternatives, about the tremendous lifesaving change that follows when shelters believe in the community and trust in the power of compassion. It is above love, which is why I am screening it nationwide as part of my 2014 “No Kill is Love” tour. Everyone who sees it will instantly dismiss the protesters and see them for who they really are and what they really stand for. How do I know? Because past is prologue. Here are just three examples. A shelter director who heard horrible things about me and my approach (similar to the kinds of lies Julie uses to defend killing) came to hear me speak. Afterward, she sent me this email:

I spent four years working at a humane society… I was a caregiver and euthanasia technician. Sixty-four animals have died at the end of my needle. When I was killing animals, I stepped outside of myself and was a different person. I held it together all but one time.

 

While killing a mother and her five two-day old children, I broke down. At the time I did not know what set me off. I had always been in control of my emotions and remained focused. Now I can look back and realize I lost it because I let myself feel what I was doing.

 

Until hearing you speak, I never blamed myself for what I did. I played it off as doing what my manager had told me to do and it was how I played my part in animal welfare. I believed that these animals martyred themselves for the movement. That their deaths were not in vain because it would… lead to the end of suffering. How very wrong I was…

 

As a shelter director now, did some of your comments piss me off? Absolutely… But I got what you were saying… I want to believe I am this progressive person, but my life’s passion was based on an old model that did nothing but fail.

 

Will I ever go back to being the person I was at [my old humane society]? No, I just cannot.

 

I want to let you know you opened me up to a new train of thought. One I am dedicated to sharing with my community.

 

Thank you.

The second email came from a new shelter director who recently took over a troubled municipal kill shelter in California and attended a conference put on by a group of regressive shelter directors that run killing shelters and have historically viewed the No Kill movement as both a threat to their hegemony and the status quo they ardently defend. A speaker they hired called me a “terrorist” and urged shelter directors to be on guard because I was “everywhere.” This shelter director subsequently heard I was giving a seminar near her community and came to hear me speak in order to learn about her “enemy” and prepare herself. She sat in the back row so she could sneak out if things got uncomfortable. Instead of sneaking out, she called me afterward to say that far from being uncomfortable, she was riveted by my message and wanted to make No Kill happen in her own community. We’ve been communicating ever since, her shelter has since seen significant drops in killing utilizing the approach I advocate, and she now wants to host a screening of Redemption in her city.

And, finally, after a presentation in Toronto, I received this email:

Recently I attended your appearance in Toronto. I’ll be honest I went because my friend, a fellow rescuer and shelter worker, made me. Before that I was offended by the statement you made about pet overpopulation being a myth. If people protested you in Toronto I would have been there.

 

Unlike the OSPCA and under the pressure of my friend I felt that if you had any useful information that could help with saving animals I should attend. I was blown away. I owe you an apology. You are right and I feel like fool for buying into the idea that we can’t save all these animals. I never supported killing shelter animals, but I never saw the fault in the way shelters are run.

 

Thank you for coming to Toronto. I picked up a copy of Redemption and it’s a book I can’t put down.

Whenever PETA or its devotees attack me by name, the number of followers on my Facebook page spikes. In fact, it has grown by over 15,000 people in just the last few weeks as “Julie” has been emailing rescuers all over the country asking them not to see the film. Instead, these people read what I have to say and the majority agree with me for the simple reason that most people love animals and will not abide their needless slaughter as the PETA supporters do because the PETA supporters, in fact, don’t love animals.* Instead, they love PETA and the identity (and in some cases, the paycheck) it gives them. Their protests show their true colors—a blind, out of touch, misanthropic and cultish devotion to killing—which further drives people into the arms of the No Kill movement. Every time they attack me, the forces in favor of killing animals weaken and the No Kill movement gets stronger.

In short, protesters welcome.

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In truth, they do not. Killing is not an act of kindness. It is not an act of love. It is an act of violence. And those that perpetuate it, promote it or defend it do not love animals because there is no way to twist and torture the word “love” to encompass poisoning or gassing animals to death.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

A Dog is a Boy

October 15, 2013 by  

Pit Bull resting

Photo: A dog, rightly or wrongly, labeled a “pit bull.” These dogs have no rights, according to Ingrid Newkirk and PETA. Not only can they be killed, Newkirk proclaims, they should be killed.

“A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Like no other, this pronouncement by Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), appeared to lay down the gauntlet, an inviolate line in the sand that animals deserve the kinds of legal rights we recognize for people. In other words, if you would not eat a boy, you should not eat a pig. If you would not poison a boy, you should not poison a rat. If you would not abuse a boy, you should not abuse a dog.

Now, science has vindicated Newkirk’s pronouncement, at least as it relates to dogs. In “Dogs Are People, Too” from the New York Times, Dr. Gregory Berns writes, “The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child.” So if a dog is a boy, as Newkirk says and science proves, why is it wrong to kill a boy, but according to PETA, not wrong to kill a dog?

Indeed, PETA has killed healthy and treatable dogs, defends the killing of healthy and treatable dogs, and has pursued policies that increase the number of healthy and treatable dogs killed by others. Roughly nine out of 10 dogs who enter PETA’s facility go out the back door in garbage bags. Why the hypocrisy? In my latest Huffington Post article, I explore why.

Read “A Dog is a Boy, Except When PETA Kills Him” by clicking here.

Please note: This is not a criticism against legal rights for dogs. To the contrary, I agree with Dr. Berns on this issue and he vindicates Newkirk’s pronouncement that a “dog is a boy” deserving of legal rights given the neuroscientific evidence of sentience. It is a criticism with Newkirk’s hypocritical view that dogs have rights only until they enter animal shelters or PETA headquarters and then they no longer do (i.e., they can be killed with impunity). In other words, it is a criticism that the most basic right which every human being cherishes above all others and without which no other rights can be guaranteed—the right to life—is not, as it should be, ground zero in the struggle for animal rights, but rather a fundamental principle which many “animal rights activists” carelessly, casually, and cruelly disregard. In fact, many individuals and groups that self-identify (falsely, it turns out) as “animal rights” do not actually believe in the rights of animals and that includes Newkirk, PETA, and their supporters.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Breaking Ranks: The Evolution of Dr. Kate Hurley

May 24, 2013 by  

And what it means for the future of animal sheltering

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If the attitudes and beliefs of Dr. Kate Hurley, the director of the U.C. Davis Shelter Medicine Program, are any indication, the kill-oriented sheltering movement is in trouble. I just finished watching Hurley’s video “New Approaches to Community Cats” where she tells shelter directors to stop taking in and killing cats regardless of whether they are friendly or “feral,” where she tells them that as it relates to scared cats, there is simply no such thing as “humane euthanasia,” where she blasts the viewpoint that “open admission is better,” and where she says that killing is not a necessity; it is, first and foremost, a choice. As a long-time critic of the historically regressive and reactionary views championed by Dr. Hurley, I found myself applauding what appears to be—at least on the issue of cats—a complete turn-around in Dr. Hurley’s message and beliefs.

While she gets some things wrong (starting with the title that these approaches are “new” rather than something she ignored and fought against for well over a decade), the video was a breath of fresh air and an important contribution to the movement because of who she was and is, a key barometer of things to come, and one more nail in the coffin of the “catch and kill” paradigm of animal sheltering she used to epitomize.

To understand just how far Dr. Hurley has come and, more importantly, what it says about the future of animal sheltering, it is important to look at where she started: because this champion of No Kill cat sheltering, this shelter adviser who now speaks to shelter directors and tells them, in no uncertain terms, if you want to stop killing cats, all you have to do is stop killing cats, was once public enemy number four to the No Kill movement nationally, right behind Ingrid Newkirk, Wayne Pacelle and Ed Sayres. But not anymore. Dr. Hurley has broken ranks.

A Rehabilitated “Cereal” Killer

For the past decade and until very recently, Dr. Kate Hurley made a career out of two things: 1. Killing a lot of animals and 2. Encouraging others to kill a lot of animals. In 2008, Dr. Hurley went to Reno, Nevada to derail the No Kill initiative then in its infancy by telling government officials that killing was the right thing to do. She proposed changing the term killing “for space” to “community overpopulation index” in order to take the onus off of the shelter and its then-regressive policies and point the finger of blame elsewhere. That term went over big with the (thankfully now former) director at animal control who had a policy of keeping 75% of cages intentionally empty even while threatening to kill animals “for space.” To Hurley, the killing didn’t have anything to do with the fact that 75% of the cages sat empty; it was the public’s fault because of its “community overpopulation index.” Ignoring her advice, the shelter director was pressured into retirement, the community embraced the No Kill Equation and in 2012, had a 94% rate of lifesaving.

San Francisco did not fare as well. In 2009, Dr. Hurley successfully helped to derail a No Kill campaign in that city, testifying that its achievement wasn’t possible because of “pet overpopulation.” Hurley further claimed that No Kill “lead[s] to overcrowding, poor record-keeping, widespread disease and behavior problems.” As a result, Hurley concluded that a No Kill policy “virtually guarantees they will torture and kill thousands of animals.” To make her point, Dr. Hurley showed San Francisco Animal Welfare Commission members slides of messy cereal box aisles in a supermarket to “show” what happens when you put too many animals/cereal boxes on a shelf while arguing that, we have to “respect our animals just like we respect our cereal.” She also used the analogy to impart the apparent importance of limiting consumer choice. While showing shelves jammed with cereal boxes, she explained why offering people too many choices resulted in no sales at all (although I think Kellogg’s would take umbrage at her point). To Hurley, if you have too many animals/cereal boxes, you should just throw some of them away. Of course, Dr. Hurley’s presentation ignored that throwing away cereal is not the same as throwing away the lives of animals; one is alive, the other isn’t. You don’t have to kill cereal before doing so.

But suggesting that you throw out the animals based on a bizarre analogy is not only unethical, it was predicated on a factually incorrect and incoherent premise: the false belief in pet overpopulation in San Francisco. As Hurley was well aware, San Francisco animal control was impounding less than 6,000 dogs and cats annually. That’s 7.5 dogs and cats for every 1,000 human residents, about half the national average and ten times less than successful No Kill communities. By contrast, Reno was taking in 39 per 1,000—five times the rate of San Francisco. It also took in almost three times the actual total number: 16,000 per year without killing healthy or treatable animals. In fact, communities impounding over 70 animals per 1,000—ten times the rate of San Francisco—had save rates in excess of 90%. In other words, San Francisco could conceivably take in ten times the rate of animals it was impounding animals and still not resort to killing. Even the San Francisco SPCA (which ironically asked Dr. Hurley to testify) admitted this by their very actions. At the same time they claimed they could not save more animals because of pet overpopulation, they were also claiming that they had no choice but to import thousands of animals from outside the City every year to meet adoption demand because of a shortage of animals within San Francisco.

But arguing the necessity of killing despite readily available lifesaving alternatives is not the worst of Dr. Hurley’s past. Not only did she herself round up and kill animals, putting even healthy “feral” cats to death with no holding period of any kind when she was a was an animal control officer, she was also hired by HSUS to “clean up” an overcrowded Las Vegas shelter and to Hurley, that meant killing roughly 1,000 animals and encouraging the shelter to continue to kill them after a paltry 72 hours as a matter of policy, taking the lives of precious animals and turning them into a pile of ash.

In New Jersey, after hearing Kate Hurley speak, the former director of the Animal Welfare Association of New Jersey followed her advice by reducing the number of cages in the cat adoption room by half. When a new director abandoned the approach and began following the No Kill Equation model of sheltering, cat adoptions nearly doubled and the agency became the most successful adoption agency in the entire state of New Jersey.

Finally, Hurley and her team were responsible for an increase in the number of cats killed in Wisconsin’s Dane County Humane Society in 2007, after the shelter eviscerated the foster care program and made the decision to keep every other cat cage empty (thereby cutting capacity in half and resulting in the killing of cats already on the adoption floor)—all at Dr. Hurley’s suggestion. One by one, the cats occupying those cages were taken off the adoption floor and injected with an overdose of poison, their lifeless bodies thrown in the trash like Hurley’s cereal boxes.

Until her recent conversion, Dr. Hurley epitomized everything that is wrong with animal sheltering in America; which explains why shelter directors, national organizations which defended kill shelters, and killing apologists who worship at the altar of these organizations have historically loved Hurley. A darling of HSUS, she ignored alternatives to killing, she ignored data and experience, she betrayed the animals in deference to her killing colleagues, she likened those trying to end killing to those with a mental illness who torture animals, killing animals herself and causing countless others to lose their lives as well. In short, when animals lovers tried to reform their local shelters, Dr. Hurley was the draconian shelter director’s go-to “expert” and she obliged: going from community to community to defend the killing. She could not sink any lower.

But then out of the ashes rose a different Dr. Hurley.

The Phoenix Rises

Today, Dr. Hurley tells shelter directors that the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. More diplomatically, Hurley asks shelter directors to look at their goals, see what they’re doing, and ask themselves, “How is that working out for you?” And the conclusion Hurley says is inescapable: It is not working out—most especially for the cats. In short, she is now telling shelter directors that everything she once told them to do was wrong.

Hurley now tells shelter directors that taking in (and killing) cats does not resolve citizen complaints, it does not reflect the community’s concerns or values, it does not help reunite lost cats with their families, it does not help cats find new homes, it does not end suffering (in fact, it perpetuates and intensifies it), it does not mitigate harm or reduce the number of cats, and it is not cost-effective, all the traditional excuses for why animal shelters do so.” The bottom line,” says Hurley, “[is that] traditional sheltering is not an effective tool to eliminate or protect community cat populations.”

Moreover, she says, “Using a tool [intake and killing at shelters] that’s mismatched to the job is hurting cats, shelters, and communities, and distracting us from finding real solutions.” In short, taking in cats to kill shelters is wrong. Killing cats is wrong. And moreover, it is a choice. According to Hurley, if you take killing off the table, you’ll be forced to find innovative and creative solutions to end the killing. If you want to stop killing, Hurley asks, “How about we just stop?”

Without waiting for an answer, she goes on to debunk the myth that “open admission” shelters are either necessary or better and says, as it relates to cats, the idea should be abandoned. If you cannot take in a cat without killing, she says, “just say no” to taking in the cat. Finally, she says that as it relates to cats who are unsocial to humans (cats we call “feral”), “humane euthanasia” does not exist. It is—she says—nothing less than “torture.”

Instead of killing, Hurley tells shelter directors that at the same time they are embracing offsite adoptions, reducing adoption fees, putting in place comprehensive adoption programs, neutering and releasing, and providing better medical and behavioral care for cats (in other words, the No Kill Equation), they should be leaving stray cats alone, regardless of whether they are friendly or “feral” because life on the streets is more humane than death in the shelter. In fact, Hurley says, the great outdoors is great. The likelihood of being reunited with their families is greater for cats if they are allowed to remain where they are rather than being admitted to the shelter. In one study, explains Hurley, cats were 13 times more likely to be returned home by non-shelter means (such as returning home on their own) than by a call or visit to a shelter. And another study found that people are up to three times more likely to adopt cats as neighborhood strays versus adopting from a shelter. At the same time, the risk of death for street cats in communities has been found to extremely low, with outdoor cats living roughly the same lifespan as indoor pet cats. In other words, the risk of death is lower and the chance of adoption higher for cats on the streets than cats in the shelter. In a study of over 100,000 alley cats, less than one percent of those cats were suffering from debilitating conditions.

While the crowd to which Dr. Hurley made these statements was not large (there were only a handful or two of people in the room), they were the right people: shelter directors. These are the very people who hold the power over life and death; the people who can continue killing cats or choose to stop doing so.

Room to Grow

There’s no question that Dr. Hurley has now become a great advocate for cats facing execution in shelters. Her journey from “catch and kill” defender to No Kill cat advocate is astonishing both in scope and breadth. But there’s still plenty of room for growth; the most important area being that Dr. Hurley has yet to recognize that a shelter can be open admission and No Kill. In other words, it isn’t a question, as Dr. Hurley implies, of a shelter closing its doors to cats or saving their lives by refusing to admit and then kill them (although if that were the choice, I agree with her). When it comes to friendly cats, we can keep the doors open and save their lives. As the head of the shelter medicine program at U.C. Davis, as a person who professes an expertise in sheltering and by her own admission was wrong about so much else, it is disappointing to hear her talk as though she is entirely unaware of the experiences of the now well over 130 open admission shelters posting save rates between 90 and 99% for cats. Their approach and the methodology they employ to achieve these results represent the cutting edge of her field, and there is a moral as well as professional obligation to be informed about their success and how it was achieved, especially since she is putting herself in the position as a professed expert to those looking to her for guidance.

Moreover, she continues to use the word “euthanasia,” the catch and kill crowd’s favorite misnomer and one that allows them to mask the ugly reality of feline genocide from the American public. Her use of the word cannot be logically reconciled with her own admission that it doesn’t exist and that, especially as it relates to “feral” cats, it is nothing less than—in her own word—“torture.” In fact, she acknowledges that, saying that the only reason she still uses the word is to extend respect for the “motivations” of those doing the killing. And it is at this point in the video that we realize that Dr. Hurley has yet to evolve into an understanding or acceptance of the truly tragic state of our national sheltering system, rife as it is with cruelty, neglect and uncaring. To make her point, she asks by a show of hands how many of those in attendance do not love cats. I found myself wincing. (I also found myself wincing when she made a joke of her old beliefs that cost so many animals their lives; the situation called for somber reflection, not levity.)

Of course, no one is going to raise their hand to such a question. Who would dare admit to being uncaring about cats in a room full of people whose job it is to care about cats? But while their lack of a show of hands may say one thing, the facts tell a different story. If you were to ask the same question to staff members at the pound in Davidson County, North Carolina—people who like to put cats and kittens in the gas chamber with raccoons in order to sadistically watch them fight before turning on the gas, laughing while they do it—they would not raise their hands, either. If you were to ask the same question to staff members at the pound in Memphis, Tennessee, where animals are intentionally starved to death and often abused, they would not raise their hands, either. And if you take Hurley’s realizations to their logical conclusion—killing is a choice, killing is not humane, killing is torture—then those who choose to do it cannot be said to love cats by definition as the two are mutually irreconcilable. Killing a cat is not an act of love; it is an act of violence.

Regardless of whether she ever realizes that fact by taking the obvious, irrefutable, and inevitable logical step that flows from her “new” approaches—that people who kill cats do not love cats because killing is a choice—she does not have to take that step in order to come to that same conclusion. The data, the experience, in other words, the truth, is already out there. Although the animal protection movement has long perpetuated the fiction that our nation’s shelters provide a humane and compassionate safety net of care for our nation’s homeless animals, the facts tell a very different, very tragic, story.

In truth, the first time many companion animals experience neglect or abuse is when they enter a shelter. As the movement to end shelter killing has grown in size and sophistication, the networking made possible through the internet and social media has allowed animal lovers to connect the dots between individual cases of animal cruelty and neglect in shelters nationwide. These incidents reveal a distinct pattern. Animal abuse at local shelters is not an isolated anomaly caused by “a few bad apples.” The stunning number and severity of these cases nationwide lead to one disturbing and inescapable conclusion: our shelters are in crisis.

Frequently overseen by ineffective and incompetent directors who fail to hold their staff accountable to the most basic standards of humane care, animal shelters in this country are not the safe havens they should and can be. Instead, they are often poorly managed houses of horror, places where animals are denied basic medical care, food, water, socialization and are then killed, sometimes cruelly.

And not only do people in shelters work at a place that commits this ultimate form of violence, they have, in fact, been hired to do exactly that. Can we really be surprised when they don’t clean thoroughly, don’t feed the animals, handle them too roughly, neglect and abuse them or simply ignore their cries for help while they slowly starve to death or die of dehydration? How does shoddy cleaning or rough handling or failing to feed the animals compare with putting an animal to death? Because shelter workers understand that they have the power to kill shelter animals, and will in fact kill many of them, every interaction they have with those animals is influenced by the perception that the animals do not matter, that their lives are cheap and expendable and that they are destined for the garbage heap. The killing itself leads to abuse, to neglect, and to more killing. Where there is no respect for life, there is no regard for welfare. And where there is neither respect for life nor a regard for welfare, there are no true animal lovers. Why?

Because truly caring people, people who actually do love animals, either do not apply to work at these agencies or if they do, they do not last. They quit when they realize that their efforts to improve conditions and outcomes are not rewarded, that their fellow employees are not held accountable, that neglect isn’t punished, and in fact, they will be for trying to improve things. And they quit because they don’t want to kill. By design, the traditional sheltering paradigm has made our shelters not only deadly and abusive to animals, but hostile and unwelcoming to people who do care, leaving animals at the mercy of those who don’t but who will always claim, as political expediency requires, that they do.

Will Dr. Hurley evolve to realize this truth as she has others? And having that realization, will she then also realize its corollary: that merely asking for change from shelter directors who do not care—something which the No Kill movement has been doing for years only to find our pleas falling on deaf, defiant ears—does not yield the same change as publicly fighting and legally mandating it do? Will she become as vocal a champion of her new, progressive views as she once was for her regressive ones? Will she speak out in favor of legislation requiring shelter directors to stop killing cats in the same way she once publicly spoke out against those very laws? Will she support the efforts of local No Kill activists who are trying to reform their shelters by publicly speaking out against uncaring shelter directors as she once so vocally spoke out in their defense, crisscrossing the nation to derail the brave and tenacious efforts of No Kill advocates? In the end, will she become as powerful a voice in defense of life as she once was in defense of death? Those of us in the No Kill movement will anxiously watch to see whether this video is a harbinger of even greater things to come, and whether the woman who was once one of our fiercest and most stalwart opponents becomes one of our greatest champions.

The Tide Is Turning

In addition to what the evolution of Dr. Kate Hurley says about Dr. Kate Hurley, it also speaks volumes about the animal protection movement as a whole and where it is now headed. As more and more communities reject killing and embrace No Kill alternatives, as the evidence mounts and the success increases, as the data and experience paint a clear and unambiguous picture that we can end the killing and we can do it today, those who champion killing will find themselves on the wrong side of history, joining the losing side that is already on the wrong side of truth, right, ethics, and the hearts and minds of the American people. How long can the others who have walked in lock-step with Dr. Hurley until her recent conversion continue to ignore the truth by clinging to defunct, regressive ideologies that do nothing but fail, and for the animals, that result in nothing but neglect, abuse, killing, and to borrow Dr. Hurley’s phrase, torture? If Dr. Hurley is any indication, and I believe that she is, the answer is, not much longer.

Does Dr. Hurley’s conversion signal that we are near the tipping point—that moment in the history of our movement when the traction and influence we have been gaining tip the balance of power and momentum in favor of No Kill, away from death and toward ever greater lifesaving? Will others follow Dr. Hurley’s lead and begin abandoning the sinking ship of shelter killing and the traditional excuses and rationalizations which have been used to justify it, leaving those who refuse to evolve in lonely and unsympathetic isolation? Absolutely.

Wayne Pacelle and Ingrid Newkirk, are you listening? Evolve.

Watch her presentation by clicking here.

Download her PowerPoint by clicking here.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Shelter Killing Benefits Puppy Mills

May 14, 2013 by  

Closing down puppy mills_Layout 1_0001

The myth of pet overpopulation is the lie at the heart of shelter killing in America. It is the excuse that every shelter director who kills animals uses to rationalize that killing as a necessity, in spite of the fact that it is unsupported by both the data and the experiences of those communities that have achieved what was once regarded as impossible: an end to their killing of animals. And yet as self-evident as this truth is to me today, there was a time when I, too, believed in pet overpopulation and would have been both stunned and confused to learn that I would someday argue against its existence. Indeed, it is not as though I woke up one day and thought “Hey, I think pet overpopulation is a myth!” Nor did I think that someday I would champion the notion that it was. I did not even set out to prove it. It unfolded as part of my journey in the humane movement and the facts began to compel further analysis. In fact, at one time, I too drank of the pet overpopulation Kool Aid. The dedication of my book, Redemption, says it all:

To my wife, Jennifer. Who believed long before I did.

Once, on a date before we were married, we debated the issue. I insisted that, “There were too many animals and not enough homes” and asked her, “What were shelters supposed to do with them?” She correctly argued that even if it were true, killing animals was still unethical and that as animal activists, it was our job to find alternatives, not to blindly accept that the killing was a fait accompli about which we could do nothing to change. She argued that if we took killing off the table, human ingenuity and human compassion would find a way to make it work. But, more importantly, she asked me how I knew it was true that pet overpopulation was real and that killing animals was therefore inevitable.

How did I know? Because I had heard it repeated a thousand times. Because I took the fact of killing in shelters and then rationalized the reason backward. But I was too embarrassed to admit so. Here I was: a Stanford Law student who wore my 4.0 department GPA, my highest honors in Political Science, my Phi Beta Kappa, and my Summa Cum Laude, as a badge of my smarts and I came face to face with my own sloppy logic and slipshod thinking about the issue. “It just is,” I said (lamely).

But therein began a journey that started in San Francisco, then Tompkins County (NY), then visiting hundreds of shelters across the country only to find animals being killed in the face of alternatives, only to find animals being killed despite empty cages, sometimes banks and banks of them. And so I began reviewing data. I reviewed statistics on animal intakes and studies on available homes. I studied the data reported by over 1,000 shelters nationwide. I reviewed the data from the states that mandate shelter reporting. And the conclusion became not just inescapable, but unassailable: pet overpopulation does not exist not only because the number of homes in America vastly exceed the number of shelter animals in need of a home; but also because my experience creating a No Kill community and now the hundreds of cities and towns which have also done so since prove it. In those communities which have ended the killing, they did so through adoptions and the vast majority did so in six months or less. In my case, it was literally overnight.

And since that time, other studies have not only proved I was right, they show I was conservative. To be sure, millions of animals are being killed in our nation’s shelters every year, and that is nothing short of a national tragedy. But they are not being killed because of the reasons we have been historically given to blame. They are not dying because of a lack of homes. They are dying because of a lack of innovation, a failure to embrace of proven methods of lifesaving. As I state at the end of Redemption, animals are dying in shelters for primarily one reason: because the people in shelters choose to kill them in the face of readily-available lifesaving alternatives.

Yet simply because I say pet overpopulation is a myth, I’m continually accused by champions of shelter killing of having nefarious intent: of being in league with puppy mills and commercial breeders. But understanding that the facts do not support the notion of pet overpopulation and saying so publicly has nothing whatsoever to do with supporting breeding or being in league with puppy or kitten mills. In fact, advocacy for animals requires that we expose the lie that is the primary excuse shelters use to kill for the same reason we should oppose puppy and kitten mills: both harm animals. Puppy mills, like poorly performing shelters, provide minimal to no veterinary care, lack of adequate food and shelter, lack of human socialization, and cause neglect, abuse, and the killing of animals when they are no longer profitable.

And that is why my organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center, has held workshops on closing down puppy mills and has supported laws banning the sale of commercially bred animals in pet stores. And it is why I believe that regardless of why animals are being killed, they are being killed, and as long as they are, it is incumbent on everyone seeking to bring an animal into their life to either rescue or adopt from a shelter. Adoption and rescue are ethical imperatives. In short, one does not have to believe in or perpetuate the lie of pet overpopulation to want to close down puppy mills. Nor does recognizing that pet overpopulation is a myth somehow grant a license to commercially or purposely breed animals. Before I ever suggested that pet overpopulation did not exist, the puppy mill industry was alive and thriving. Given the lack of concern those who operate such mills show for animals, what does it matter to them if there is pet overpopulation or not? They couldn’t care less what happens to the animals they sell. But I do. In fact, I am opposed to the commodification of animals, of having the law regard them as property to produce, buy and sell. Animals are not property; they are autonomous individuals, individuals who should be given legal rights, chief among them the right to live.

Acknowledging the truth—that both the data and experience disprove the existence of pet overpopulation—does not mean a person therefore subscribes to a whole host of anti-animal positions. Quite the opposite. It means, simply and thankfully, that we do not have to kill the animals entering our shelters under the disproven notion that there are too few homes. There are not; in fact, there are plenty. To save rather than end the lives of half of all animals who currently enter shelters only to die, we do not have to reform the 310,000,000 Americans apologists for shelter killing consider “irresponsible” and to blame for that killing. We just have to reform those who are truly at fault: the 3,000 irresponsible shelter directors who kill when they don’t have to and the four individuals running the national organizations which defend and protect them: Ingrid Newkirk of PETAWayne Pacelle of HSUSMatt Bershadker of the ASPCA and Robin Ganzert of the American Humane Association. U.S. shelters kill not only because killing is easier, but because, historically, they have enjoyed the political cover of pet overpopulation which allowed them to continue doing so, political cover that comes courtesy of the animal protection movement itself.

To save lives, shelters must begin doing a better job of competing for the market share of the abundantly available homes in America, and, just as important, they must begin keeping animals alive long enough for them to get into those homes. And when I realized this for the first time, rather than bury it, ignore it or downplay it, I did what anyone who truly loves animals would have done. I celebrated it. Why? Because it meant that we had the power to end the killing, today. And that is what I wanted to happen because I love animals.

And yet here’s the irony: the very supporters of the very groups who have made these spurious allegations against me are actually the ones who benefit puppy mills, not me. As my colleague Ryan Clinton recently wrote,

By fighting lifesaving shelter reform, PETA and other regressive animal organizations are effectively aiding and abetting the commercial breeding of animals. By arguing that all pit bulls in shelters should be killed, PETA and others are necessarily driving those who aim to adopt a pit bull to breeders who will gladly meet the demand. By killing nearly every animal that comes in its front door (and lobbying against No Kill reforms throughout the country), PETA is, in reality, aiding and abetting the continuation of the large-scale animal-production industry.

He’s right. But there’s actually more to it than that. By fighting shelter reform and both defending and promoting killing—which groups like HSUS, the ASPCA and PETA do—they discourage the adoption of shelter animals. By embracing draconian adoption policies, they drive good homes to breeders and pet stores. When they fight efforts to increase rescue partnerships, they lessen the supply of available shelter/rescue animals, again, driving people into the arms of breeders. Moreover, traditional kill shelters discourage adopters by the very fact that they kill.

Many people do not want to visit a shelter where they have to meet animals who face possible execution. This hit home for me one day when I answered the telephone at the shelter. The person who called asked me when our next offsite adoption was. After I gave her the information, I told her she should come down to the shelter because we had hundreds of animals, compared to the ten or so who would be at the offsite. Not knowing we were No Kill, she replied she could never do so and explained why: she couldn’t bear to see the hundreds of animals who might be killed if she didn’t choose them.

As No Kill advocates, we may not like the fact that people won’t face such a discomforting scenario to save a life, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is true. Kill shelters are disturbing, unsettling places to visit for those who care about animals, not to mention the fact that the more a shelter kills, the more dirty and neglectful it is likely to be, and the more hostile and poor its customer service—all driving the public away from shelters and into the arms of the commercial pet trade.

On the other hand, when we reform shelters, we not only make them safe for animal lovers to work at, but we make them safe for adopters, too. During the height of the San Francisco SPCA’s lifesaving success in the late-1990s, when we had seven offsite adoption venues every day throughout the city in addition to our main shelter, there was not a single store selling dogs left in the city. We had out-competed them and they all went out of the animal selling business. When I was running the Tompkins County SPCA, potential adopters in our community faced two main choices: they could buy a kitten at a pet store for $50 or they could adopt one from us (in the same mall) for $30.

Unlike the pet store, our adoptions included sterilization, vaccinations, a free bag of cat food, a free visit to the veterinarian of the adopter’s choice, a free identification tag, a discount at the local pet supply, free grooming, a free guide to caring for their new kitten, free behavior advice for life, a discount on their next cup of coffee, the satisfaction of knowing they saved a life, and, during Christmas, Santa would deliver the kitten to their door. The pet store eventually approached us about working together by having us do cat adoptions in their store. Instead of selling animals, they began helping us find homes for ours.

The same thing is beginning to happen in central Texas, where No Kill reform efforts in various shelters are reducing the demand for purposely bred animals, as Ryan Clinton further explains:

If more Americans adopt dogs and cats from shelters rather than acquiring them from alternative sources like pet stores and on-line sellers, demand for commercially bred animals will necessarily decline. In fact, we’ve seen this come true in Central Texas: at least one large-scale breeder gave up in the face of increased competition from progressive area animal shelters and turned over his keys to a shelter to find homes for his animals… By saving shelter pets’ lives, No Kill policies and programs eat into commercial breeders’ profits.

If we reform our shelters, this could also be the story of every American community. Widespread No Kill success in our nation’s shelters would not only save the lives of almost four million animals every year, it—combined with legislative efforts to regulate, reform, close down, and eliminate their markets—would drive a dagger to the heart of the puppy and kitten mill industries. And yet HSUS, the ASPCA and PETA fight our efforts to reform shelters.

Worse, groups like HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA act like puppy and kitten mills themselves. True animal lovers embrace the No Kill philosophy because they want to prevent harm to animals, such as their systematic slaughter in shelters. True animal lovers also want to shut down the commercial mill trade in animals because they want to prevent harm to these animals, such as their systematic abuse. That is ethically consistent. But PETA, HSUS, the ASPCA and their defenders ignore or fight reform efforts to stop shelter neglect, abuse, and killing which is the same type of harm that animals face in large-scale, commercial breeding operations for the pet store market.

PETA claims to want to stop puppy mill abuse but will defend the exact conduct if it occurs in a shelter. HSUS claims to want to stop puppy mill abuse but will give awards to shelters that sadistically abuse animals. The ASPCA not only fights shelter reform that would eliminate some of the worst abuses of the draconian shelter system we now have, but sends animals to be killed in those shelters. Neglect is neglect, abuse is abuse, killing is killing regardless of by whose hand that neglect, abuse, and killing is done. To look the other way at one because that neglect, abuse, and killing is done by “friends,” “colleagues,” or simply because the perpetrators call themselves a “humane society” is indefensible.

In the final analysis, it is HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA which benefit puppy and kitten mills and the commercial breeding of animals, not No Kill advocates who refuse to subscribe to the lie of pet overpopulation which enables systematic killing. It is HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA which benefit commercial breeding when they fight efforts to reform shelters and make them safe for animal lovers to both work at and adopt from. It is HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA who act like puppy and kitten mills when they defend abuse and killing in shelters. And by extension, the people who defend these actions by HSUS, ASPCA, and PETA also benefit puppy and kitten mills, in spite of whatever disproven dogma—such as the myth of pet overpopulation—they may cling to in order to defend such a deadly and unethical position.

For further reading:

The Lie at the Heart of the Killing

The Enemy of Your Enemy

What’s In a Name?

Ethical Consistency for True Dog Lovers

Adopting Your Way Out of Killing

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America

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Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

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