I had to take a hiatus from writing while doing some soul-searching after my mother’s death. I’ve been doing lots of research, got lots of writing ideas, got my energy back, started a photography project, a preliminary draft of which will hang in a show in September, attended the premiere of the documentary Redemption in Minneapolis, been on the radio, had “I was there” re-published as a guest blog on Nathan Winograd’s website and in the companion book to Redemption, and been promoting the Atlanta screening of Redemption, which is coming up on August 21. More on all this in subsequent posts. Get your tickets, and I hope to see you on the 21st!
The first post I wrote on this blog was about the televised killing of a dog by a “shelter” in New Mexico, a depraved publicity stunt that echoed a depraved publicity stunt by a “shelter” in California twenty years previously–the one which was recounted in the opening paragraphs of Redemption.
Many people were outraged by Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock’s televised killing of the golden-haired dog (which was apparently the second such stunt for her) and her blaming of the public:
“I’m sure the public is tired of hearing this problem but unfortunately, it is a community problem – it is not a shelter problem, Vesco-Mock said.
It also came out that she’d briefly directed a Georgia shelter, but was fired after a dog was left in a hot animal control vehicle and died.
At the time of the televised killing the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley had a 70% kill rate–significantly higher than the national average of about 50%. Appalling, when you consider that we have known how to achieve 90+% save rates for over 10 years.
The Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley and Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock are in the news again today, this time for doing a free pit bull adoption event for the month of October. According to the news article, the shelter will still use its usual screening procedures, the only difference being that there will be no charge to adopt pit bulls. In addition, the dogs will be neutered already.
Now, I have a natural tendency to be skeptical, and I don’t think that this shelter director suddenly turned into adoption promo queen Bonney Brown, but, could this be progress? Is she really going to do it and do it right? I sure hope so. The fifty-six pit bulls currently at the facility, the other dogs, and the cats and other animals, are depending on progress.
- A lot of people don’t read past the headline of an article, and
- A lot of people have misconceptions about what free and reduced-price adoption promotions are all about.
Free pet adoptions are not aimed at people who otherwise couldn’t afford a pet, and that’s not primarily who they attract. Just as Nordstrom holds special sales only for its best and, presumably, wealthiest customers, just as car dealers and appliance stores and luxury hotels have special promotions, shelters and rescue groups who do free adoptions know that the “free” part is a marketing strategy, not a hand-out.
Free and special price promotions are designed to be attention grabbers. They also serve to focus people on pet adoption not in a “someday when I get around to it” kind of way, but in a “better go this weekend because it’s exciting, fun, and I’ll save money!” kind of way.
And just as wealthy people look forward to the Nordstrom annual sale because it’s an event, because it makes them feel special, and because they enjoy the idea of saving money, pet adopters respond the exact same way.
These days, people like to brag about having a rescued pet. Adopting a pet is a good deed and becomes a positive part of someone’s identity, and adoption promotions make more people into adopters of rescued pets because they combine a good deed with saving a few bucks.
I doubt that most of the people who are so upset at the prospect of pit bulls being adopted out for free know that the last time this facility made headlines, it was for killing a dog on television. I doubt that most know that at that time, its kill rate was 70%. And wherever kill rates are high, they are generally even worse for dogs labeled ‘pit bulls’.
Shelter killing creates a toxic climate of fear, leading to a willingness to believe the worst about people, and the long tradition of blaming the public means that the people whose support is essential to saving lives–”the public”, is, after all, your pool of potential adopters–is viewed with suspicion rather than courted. Innovation is suspect.
Is this shelter director committed to making this event a success? I don’t know. I sure hope that she is. What I do know is that the animals deserve a successful adoption event, and many more in the future. Animal advocates should do what they can to make this event a success, because we need to leave the bad old days behind.
If you were a pit bull, which would you choose: 15 minutes of fame for getting killed on the evening news or 15 years of life with a family who adopted you for free?
If someone had told me twelve years ago today that I would one day see the above video, I would have thought them insane.
The transformation that took place to create the nation’s first No Kill community created a bigger gulf between then and now than did the passage of time, and it didn’t take years to do it. To those who haven’t been on both sides of that gulf, what is now, was then inconceivable; what was then, is now inconceivable.
That’s what it is.
We live in a cruel, crazy world, one in which shelter killing is a habit, and getting to not killing requires a crisis.
We live in a beautiful world, because we can make the killing stop.
I believe in miracles.
They happen every day.
Now may be your chance to adopt a creature so rare, few have ever seen one. Only a handful of these creatures come into existence each year, and how they do so is is a mystery. They are so rare, that some question that they exist at all.
Here’s a picture of the animal in question:
You may be thinking that I’ve lost my mind. “That is a black cat. My local shelter and rescue groups have dozens of black cats available for adoption,” you say.
Ah, yes. Midnight, if she is even real, is different. Very, very different.
Midnight is apparently being offered for adoption by PETA.
Yes, PETA, the folks who brought you the Piggly Wiggly Dumpster Incident in 2005. The ones who brought you the Woo-Hoo You’re Gonna Kill Again! Gift Basket Incident last month. The ones who support continued killing and viciously attack No Kill efforts. The ones who have killed nearly every pet they have gotten their hands on in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.* They’ve killed over 25,000 healthy and treatable pets in the past ten years, and they show no sign of intending to slow down or stop. Some consider PETA to be a destructive cult.
Given this backdrop of death, untrustworthiness, and downright craziness, you’ll have to excuse me for being a bit skeptical.
- The story and pictures are pretty generic, as is the cat’s name. It seems to cater to the uncritical.
- There are no external links to news stories of the rescue which would confirm it’s validity.
- Midnight is a black cat, which means she lacks the unique identifying markings one would see on a calico, piebald, tortoiseshell, or even tuxedo cat. The pictures could be any black cat. This would make any ‘proof of life’ questionable.
- Why wouldn’t the cat just climb back down the tree on her own power? The picture of the cat in the tree shows what looks like an easy climb for a cat able-bodied enough to get up on her own power.
- Surviving ten days up a tree without water sounds a bit far-fetched to me. Even if the cat could lick dew-drops off of the leaves (assuming there were any dew-drops), I doubt it would be enough to sustain life for ten days.
- Is this story a reaction to criticism about PETA’s extraordinarily high kill rate? It looks like an attempt to distract their membership to me–something to point to and say “we do too adopt out animals” diverting attention from the infamous walk-in freezer.
- Perhaps they are trying to prove to themselves that they are good people. That is after all, a fundamental human need. Allowing the occasional animal out alive may serve that purpose, even as they kill thousands of others.
- Midnight’s owners are portrayed as the stereotypical uncaring owners that PETA would like its supporters to believe are so prevalent. People like that are actually the exception, not the rule. PETA’s take on humanity lacks nuance.
So, I have a few questions:
- How true is this story? Is it partly or completely made up?
- If there is any truth to it, is Midnight still alive?
- What does a PETA adoption application look like?
- If Midnight is real, then how did she get chosen for the rare privilege of surviving PETA? What sealed the deal? Was it her inability to climb down a tree? Her camel-like ability to survive without water?
- What is stopping PETA from advertising all the other animals they take in to their “facilities”–all those dogs and cats and bunnies and others they keep invisible to the animal-loving public, the ones that leave 501 Front Street via the freezer?
But, hey, you never know. If you are a cat lover with a penchant for cryptozoology, you might want to adopt
Now Midnight is settling in at PETA’s Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters and is waiting patiently for the right adoptive family. She will be microchipped and spayed before adoption. If you are ready to make a lifetime commitment and give Midnight the safe, loving home that every cat deserves, please e-mail Adopt@peta.org.
If you succeed, or if you know anything about this cat, I’d like to hear from you.
*Oddly, the 2009 stats don’t appear to be properly posted on the VDACS site (maintained by the state of Virginia where PETA is headquartered). They are available in the article to which I linked, however. A word about the numbers reported:
You’ll notice that there are a lot of animals listed in the categories “others” and “reclaimed by owner”. Those are animals that were brought in for spay-neuter surgery. They were never taken in “for purposes of adoption” and so should not be included in these statistics, but they are, because PETA wants to conceal the true gravity of its statistics. The pertinent numbers are in the columns “surrendered by owner” and “euthanized”. You’ll notice that these two numbers are very similar. That’s because PETA kills most of the animals it takes in “for purposes of adoption”.
You can compare PETA’s statistics to those of other agencies in Virginia by changing the agency identification number in the url (i.e. …fac_num=157… identifies PETA). In keeping with the ‘license to kill’ theme, let’s try ‘007’. That gives us the statistics for an organization called SOS-SAFE, or Saving Animals from Euthanasia. How about that? You’ll find that their numbers are quite a bit different from PETA’s.