by John M. Simpson.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights organization well-known for attention-grabbing tactics, often inserts itself into a wide variety of issues to promote its views. In the past several days, PETA complained about performer Big Boi wearing a fur coat during the Super Bowl; complained that the character “Little Bo Peep” will be portrayed with a shepherd’s crook in the animated feature Toy Story 4; and insisted that wildlife art be displayed on President Trump’s Wall (if it is ever built).
One thing PETA hasn’t recently said much about (if anything) is the rate at which it euthanizes (i.e., kills) animals in the “animal shelter” that it operates in Norfolk, Virginia. Because that facility is regulated by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), PETA must report annually to VDACS the numbers of animals that were taken in and what became of them. The publicly available report maintained by VDACS on PETA for 2018 is revealing. Of the 2,512 animals that were in PETA’s custody in 2018, PETA euthanized 1,798 of them. This is a euthanization rate of 72%. These numbers are quite different than the experience among other facilities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VDACS report for 2018 on all agencies combined indicates that 235,705 animals were taken in statewide but only 27,528 were euthanized — rate of 12%.
The VDACS numbers on dogs and cats specifically are just as disturbing. PETA took in 2,425 dogs and cats in 2018 and put 1,771 of them down, for a euthanization rate of 73%. However, statewide, facilities euthanized 26,907 of the 225,879 dogs and cats that were in their custody, for a rate of 12%.
In the eight-year period from 2011 through 2018, PETA’s euthanizations have paralleled the numbers for 2018:
Source: VDACS. During this period, the statewide volume of euthanizations has been significantly lower:
For the entire period (2011-2018), VDACS records show that PETA took custody of 17,448 dogs and cats and put 14,151 of them down — an 81% death rate. In contrast, during this same period, of the 1,879,847 total dogs and cats in facilities statewide, 23% of them were euthanized (424,712).
PETA has been criticized in the past for the frequency with which it dispatches animals, including the infamous case of Maya. Maya was a pet Chihuahua who was taken from her home by two individuals associated with PETA and poisoned before the 5-day holding period required by state law had expired. The owners of the dog sued, and, while PETA denied the allegations, it reportedly, among other things, paid $49,000 to settle the case.
PETA attempts to defend its euthanization practices with non-responsive references to its spay and neutering program and with the argument that some of the animals that come to the PETA facility have been rejected by other shelters and have serious illnesses. However, PETA doesn’t address the statewide numbers reported by VDACS or explain why the PETA euthanization rate is so different than the rate in other shelters.