It’s Groundhog Day again and apparently our friends over in that bizarre parallel universe otherwise known as PETA still don’t like my robot idea. Some things never change. The piece below was originally published 3 years ago. In the 1096 days since then, more than 80 additional communities have achieved save rates of 90% or higher, accomplishing tremendous things on budgets a tiny fraction of PETA’s, despite the very serious disadvantage of being nothing but a bunch of cleverly disguised hoarders and dogfighters, while the kind folks at PETA continue to kill over 90% of the pets they get their morally superior hands on.
It doesn’t make any sense to me either.
A modest proposal: PETA should ‘euthanize’ only animatronic dogs and cats
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has once again made headlines for suggesting the use of animatronic technology as a means of protecting animals, this time suggesting that Punxsutawney Phil be replaced with a robotic groundhog, on the grounds that having an actual groundhog pop his head out of a hole in front of an audience once a year is a form of animal cruelty. They had earlier suggested that UGA replace its mascot with ‘robodawg’ after the untimely passing of Uga’s most recent incarnation. Additionally, PETA has produced a video in which robotic cats attempt to make robotic kittens. Clearly they are aware of the great potential this technology has for the protection of animals, but they are overlooking one use which would save thousands of dogs and cats every year, and it’s right there in front of them. It is so obvious, how could they not see it?
PETA kills thousands of pets every year, and many, if not most of these pets would be deemed adoptable by a No Kill shelter. No Kill shelters save 90% or more of the animals that come through their doors, whether or not they are open-admission. PETA, by contrast, seeks out andkills over 90% of the animals they get their hands on. In 2006, they killed 97%. In 2007, they killed 91%. In 2008, they killed 96%. There is no reason to believe that 2009 will be any different once the numbers are finally released.*
If PETA were to switch to ‘euthanizing’ robotic dogs and cats (and the occasional chicken), rather than killing actual living, breathing dogs and cats (and the occasional chicken), literally thousands of animal lives would be saved every year. Rescuing could be left to real rescuers. That infamous walk-in freezer at PETA headquarters could instead be filled with tofu burgers. PETA could inject Fatal-Plus into robots while the cameras roll. It would be great publicity. The technology would be very simple, since the robots wouldn’t need to do anything fancier than play dead. They could be reused time and again, which would be much more environmentally friendly than filling up dumpsters with dead pets. The money saved by eliminating the need to cremate tons of dead pets could be spent on spay-neuter assistance, or on more ads featuring naked celebrities.
If PETA would only stick its collective head out of its collective hole, it could catch a glimpse of the growing No Kill movement.
Everyone would live happily ever after.
*Note: The pertinent numbers to look at in these data are the numbers of animals taken in for adoption and the numbers of animals killed. PETA habitually includes animals brought to its spay-neuter clinic for surgery to obfuscate the true gravity of its statistics. When calculating the kill rate, the animals brought for surgery were, of course, left out.
Let PETA know about the benefits of ‘euthanizing’ robotic pets:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
501 Front Street
Norfolk VA 23510
Having convinced themselves that rounding up and killing healthy and treatable pets is somehow vegan, the staff and supporters of PETA try to keep the awful truth from the animal lovers who contribute to their $30 million budget, but more and more people are finding out, and they are having to try harder and harder. On rare occasions they publicize a rescue, real or imagined, and then offer the animal up for adoption, real or imagined–the truth being rarer than unicorns in PETA-land. Mostly they just lie about the nature of what they do.
Someday, PETA will stop rounding up and killing pets, and getting there will be a very interesting process, in the “may you live in interesting times” sense of the word “interesting. It won’t involve the sudden realization that what they have been doing is wrong and that there is a better way, because they already know both of those things on some level and that knowledge has not stopped them from unfettered killing. If you’re looking for integrity, don’t look at PETA. Will that day be brought about by legislation? Loss of funds? Legal action? A complete turnover of personnel? Those things will take years and the animals that fall into their hands need people to intervene on their behalf now.
Please do take a moment or two to ask PETA to switch to killing robots.
And while PETA does not have a Petfinder site and doesn’t typically advertise pets for adoption, they do have an adoption application. It isn’t easy to come by, but now you can download a copy here. A pretty unimpressive Word document, but it is interesting that they ask “How many companion animals do you own now? ” and ”How long you have owned him/her” (emphasis added). I thought they only liked ownership when they could use it to sneak out of some legal hot water. Also “Where is the animal now?” A coarsely-phrased but interesting question, coming from people who, if they were honest, would have to answer many thousands of times over: ”in some landfill somewhere”. I admit that I find the thought of telling those people any personal information rather creepy, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if PETA were to suddenly start receiving adoption applications from people informed about what PETA really is? Would they be ignored? Would applicants be opening themselves up for harassment? Would they be placing their pets at risk? How would this all look?
How do any animals get out of there alive?
I find it creepy because the whole thing is so lopsided with a hefty dose of crazy added for good measure. In a No Kill community, a shelter is a positive part of the community, and has to earn its trust every day. Fortunately, earning trust is a natural part of taking in lost and homeless pets and reuniting them with their families of finding them new ones, providing sick and injured animals with medical care and a clean place to stay, treating volunteers with respect, and so forth. You can expect you adoption application to be handled in a professional manner in a No Kill community. PETA is the exact opposite of all that. They do all manner of crazy things and answer to no one.
So, what to do with the adoption application? I have a couple of ideas:
Click here for the original article.
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.
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?
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.
So, I have a few questions:
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.
In the (very few) quiet moments I’ve had since arriving in DC for No Kill Conference 2012, I’ve been thinking about why I’m here.
When I was eight years old and I found out that homeless animals were killed at the pound simply for being homeless, that knowledge preyed on my mind until, finally, one night I just broke down crying and couldn’t stop until my parents agreed to take me to the pound to adopt a dog. Saving one dog brought some relief, and I would be a completely different person had I not grown up with Muffin at my side.
But, basically, I’m here because I was there, because the shelter I volunteered at killed two of my foster kittens, and with them the illusion that I had that nobody would kill healthy, adorable kittens that had a place to go.
No way to un-ring that bell.
Painful and glorious, that experience was two object lessons. Physics tells us that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Two lessons so diametrically opposed cannot either, but they came rapid-fire, so very close together, that they were almost simultaneous. The ugliest and best of humanity can exist side-by-side, at least for a time.
Lesson 1: “Nobody wants to kill” is the biggest damn lie in animal welfare. The current sheltering system is so mired in gratuitous killing and abuse that only a complete fool could possibly argue that it could fix itself, even if it wanted to, which, in general, it does not. Why would someone kill two healthy, adorable kittens who were wanted by someone who they knew personally and saw every week? How could she? How dead does your soul have to be to choose the needle over the telephone? I have had twelve years to ponder this. Those kittens lived with me for a month and I will remember them forever. Of the millions of animals killed in shelters in 2000, or before or since, none were any less worthy of life than my kittens. The current “sheltering” model is abusive and degrading to all involved, to all humans and animals that come into contact with it.
Lesson 2: Normal people do not tolerate this crap. We are human beings, not doormats. We unapologetically demand to be treated like human beings. When people reject this affront to their humanity, they can make some pretty amazing things happen. Thousands of animals are alive and Tompkins County is a much better place for people and animals because a couple dozen ordinary people rejected the lies and the abuse. The sea change of 2001 was more and faster than anyone dared hope.
A new documentary on the No Kill movement will be released this fall, and Nathan Winograd showed a trailer of it as part of his closing remarks at the conference. Of course, it includes the story of Tompkins County.
When asked what it was like when the killing stopped, Bob Wise (whose stalwart advocacy was a crucial factor in making the transition happen) said that it was like we’d been living in darkness and “the sun came up.”
What made you a No Kill advocate?
PETA went down to Georgia, they were looking for some souls to steal.
Ingrid’s in a bind ‘cos she’s way behind and she’s willin’ to make a deal.
When she came across some people savin’ animals and bloggin’ on the ‘net.
So she jumped up on a Piggly Wiggly dumpster and said: “Mayor, let me tell you what:
“I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m an animal killer too.
“And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you.
“Now you tell some a pretty good lies, Mayor, but give Old Ingrid her due:
“I bet a needle of gold against your soul, ‘cos I think I’m better than you.”
The people said: “We’re just regular folks, and it might be a sin,
“But if she takes your bet, she’s gonna regret, ‘cos we’re the best that’s ever been.”
Mayor, you do your “research” and fight those advocates hard.
‘Cos hell’s broke loose in Georgia and the PETA don’t deal the cards.
And if you win you get this shiny needle made of gold.
But if you lose, well, either way, the Butcher of Norfolk gets your soul.
Old Ingrid opened up her case and she said: “I’ll start this show.”
And fire flew from her fingertips as she pulled up the blue juice, you know.
Then she pushed the plunger down and it made an evil hiss.
And a band of morons joined in and it sounded something like this:
[Hoarders! Dogfighters! Irresponsible public! Pit bulls! Feral cats! Pet overpopulation! We have to kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! KILL!!!]
When she’d finished, the people said: “Well, if it was about money, you’dve won.
“But sit down in that chair, right there, and let us show you how it’s done.”
Feral cats in the community? T-N-R
Puppies in homes gettin’ foster care.
Volunteers at an offsite, adoptin’ out pets.
“Boss, are we done now?”
“No, not, yet.”
Old Ingrid wouldn’t bow her head, couldn’t admit that she’d been beat.
She snatched that golden needle from the ground at the Mayor’s feet.
The people said: “PETA, just come on back if you ever want to try again.
‘cause we done told you once, you son of a bitch (no offense to female dogs), we’re the best that’s ever been.”
And they went: Feral cats in the community? T-N-R
Puppies in homes gettin’ foster care.
Volunteers at an offsite, adoptin’ out pets.
“Boss, are we done now?”
“No, not, yet.”
With apologies to the great Charlie Daniels.
“The most potent and cost-effective outreach vehicle is the development of a creative volunteer program. Were shelters to place a high priority on this area through attracting, training, and skillfully utilizing a volunteer outreach corps, they could begin the transition from killing site to a community resource center. A true shelter should be a place where life is afﬁrmed, both in teaching and practice, not a building permeated with the odor of death” ~Ed Duvin, “In the name of mercy,” 1989
PETA has some advice for communities looking to end the population-control killing of homeless pets: keep right on killing.
My head hurts. My heart hurts. I am not surprised.
Some weeks have a theme. This week’s theme has been cognitive dissonance, that feeling you get when presented with inconceivably mind-bending scenarios. It can lead to a search for answers, a further exploration and questioning of oneself and the world, to a desire to reshape the world and oneself, or it can lead to a distortion of thought, forcing it to fit where it does not. What you choose to do with it makes all the difference in the world.
To become a No Kill advocate is to step through the looking glass of animal welfare, into a world where what is is so often the opposite of what is logical, just, and common sense. Every day is filled with cognitive dissonance. Killing is kindness. Nobody wants to kill, yet shelters kill 3-4 million pets every year—half of all they take in. Shelters kill animals with rescue on the way. People calling themselves animal lovers make excuses for these things. Killing healthy and treatable and friendly pets is “euthanasia.” We call the places that do the killing “shelters.” Pets are labeled “unwanted,” blaming them for their own killing. And so on, and so on.
And the organization billing itself as the “largest animal rights organization in the world,” the one known for extremism in advocating against the wearing of fur, the eating of meat, and the testing of cosmetics on animals, the one known for its founder’s statement that “animals are not ours to eat, wear or experiment on,” the one for which no ad campaign in the name of veganism is too tasteless, makes excuses for the killing of homeless pets, advocates the killing of homeless pets, and kills thousands of homeless pets every year.
How do “animal rights” and “needless killing” manage to peacefully coexist within the same organization and within the individuals that comprise it? The right to live is fundamental to all others. Without that, there are no other rights. How are they unable to see the hypocrisy of this, even when it is pointed out to them repeatedly, even when the evidence piles as high as the stack of dead bodies in that infamous walk-in freezer? How do they recognize the role cognitive dissonance plays in how other people justify what they do to animals, choosing to keep the same old beliefs when confronted with conflicting information, yet can’t see it in themselves?
Up is down and black is white.
The excuses are a slow-moving target, but a moving target nonetheless. There’s the irresponsible public, which has enjoyed perhaps the longest popularity–over 35 years; pet overpopulation, another classic; and, more recently the notion that animal rescue is often a front for hoarding and dog fighting has been on the ascent, perhaps as the previous two are losing some of their old appeal. These excuses all have a few things in common—they are false—myths created from gross exaggerations and deliberate misrepresentations, but with small grains of truth that have given them traction. A minority of pet owners are irresponsible, that is true, and those who work in shelters or rescue will see a disproportionate number of this minority, but that is not why shelters kill. There are a lot of homeless animals, but that is not the same thing as ‘overpopulation.’ Hoarding and dog fighting exist, but to say that they are epidemic in animal rescue is nothing but a lie concocted to serve a nefarious purpose.
Hoarding is a mental illness, and hoarding of animals is a relatively rare mental illness. Mental health experts have yet to reach a consensus as to its underlying cause. Animal hoarding cases receive an increasing amount of media attention because they are so freakish and unusual. A search of the Pet-Abuse website, a site that tracks all manner of cases of pet abuse, for hoarding cases* with the keyword ‘Georgia’ yielded 12 cases in the entire state in over 10 years. Of those, two involved rescue—one was a volunteer (but not a foster care volunteer) at a rescue, the other, was the Loonie Farms case.
The state of Georgia, unlike many, requires that animal shelters and rescues be licensed and inspected by the Department of Agriculture. There are currently over 400 nonprofit rescue groups licensed in Georgia. Suffice to say, that rescue hoarding is very, very rare.
Shelter killing is commonplace. A report prepared by the Georgia Voters for Animal Welfare estimates that Georgia’s taxpayer-funded animal control shelters kill 62% of the animals they take in–260,000 dogs and cats every year, so in the past 10 years, Georgia shelters killed upwards of 2.6 million animals. (The overall trend nationwide is that killing is declining, so would likely have been even higher in the years prior to the GVAW report.) Many thousands of animals die in Georgia shelters for every one that may end up in these bad rescue situations.
And how many dogfighters would want to get a rescue license from the Department of Agriculture and deal with paperwork and inspections so that they could pull animals from shelters when they could steal them or get them from ‘free-to-good homes’ ads? Clearly these risks are grossly overstated.
Which brings me to a letter sent from PETA to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson of Columbus, GA. You can read it by clicking here. Apparently the No kill advocacy going on in Columbus caught PETA’s attention and they wanted to offer the beleaguered mayor some advice that only an organization that kills nearly every animal they get their hands on can. They hope their letter finds her well. They always hope their letters find the recipient well. It’s like they don’t have the social skills or brainpower to come up with a different opening line.
Things have been heating up in Columbus in recent months as a growing number of its citizens become aware of the mismanagement and rampant killing there, and of the fact that there is a better way. This past week a dog named Lexie was killed despite having an adoption commitment. Further background on the Columbus situation is available here, here, and here. The local TV station aired this piece recently, and the public response to it led to another one airing February 22 in which the Mayor cited this letter from PETA as support for her claim that not killing would be harmful to animals.
And this during not just any week, but the very week that PETA’s own kill stats for 2011 were released. PETA kills the animals it seeks out and takes in to its Bates Motel for pets so-called shelter (they alternately refer to it as a ‘shelter’ or an ‘office building,’ depending on the situation) at a rate of 97%–far worse than all but a handful of Georgia animal controls. This is despite, or perhaps because of its budget of over $30 million. Bill yourself as a champion of rights, build a relentless publicity machine, and you too can get away with murder.
In 2011, PETA took in 2029 animals (mostly dogs and cats, and some “other” animals such as rabbits) “for purpose of adoption.” They killed 1965 of them. Only 28 were adopted and 11 reclaimed. PETA transferred 34 to kill shelters, where they may or may not have been adopted and other animals may or may not have been killed to make room for them. PETA’s adoption rate in 2011 was 1.4%. One-point-four percent. 97% went on to occupy the walk-in freezer in PETA’s headquarters. Keep in mind that over 90% of pets entering shelters are healthy or treatable, and there is no evidence that the pets taken in and killed by PETA are any different. PETA has been consistently unable to produce evidence otherwise, even when pointedly asked.
PETA would prefer that the status quo continue. Though they apparently aren’t aware that rescues are licensed and inspected in GA, they disparage concerned citizens, animal rescuers and No Kill advocates (some of whom are or have been shelter directors themselves) as “individuals and groups unfamiliar with the inner workings of animal care and control facilities (or the daily challenges and heartbreaks that shelter workers face).” Really? What is it about these “inner workings” that cannot be understood by ordinary people not inducted into the mysteries? They don’t explain that but present a collection of straw men, falsehoods and a couple of articles, one of them poorly written fear mongering about hoarding, the other one they apparently didn’t read very carefully. It concludes with the story of how Best Friends, perhaps the best-known no-kill animal sanctuary in the country, and host of the annual No More Homeless Pets Conference, orchestrated rescue and adoption for the hundreds of feline victims of the FLOCK hoarding case in Pahrump, NV.
They cite cases where No Kill has not succeeded, but fail to mention that none of those were following the No Kill Equation, the only proven method for ending population control killing in open-admission shelters. They ignore the growing list of communities where No Kill is succeeding—28 as of this writing. They ignore that we have known that it can be done for almost 11 years.
The letter is signed by Jennifer Brown, who notes that she can be reached at (630)966-8895 or JenniferB@peta.org.
On one side we have the product of the nation’s oldest animal welfare organization, the ASPCA’s Tactics of the Extremist Agenda, and on the other the product of an organization over 100 years younger, one that prides itself on being seen as extremist in the name of animal rights, yet which kills and rehashes excuses for killing that mostly date from before it was founded. PETA has nothing of substance to offer. It is weak, derivative and backward, trading off the false image it has crafted.
Why would anyone want to take advice (and say so on TV!) on animal sheltering from an organization, which, despite a budget of over $30 million, has an even worse kill rate than all but a very few in Georgia? Why align oneself with an organization that is unpopular with those who don’t care about animals and is doubly so with informed people who care about homeless pets? Why do so while claiming to be “the most progressive”? That is not a winning situation no matter how you look at it.
Ed Duvin, who sparked the No Kill movement with his 1989 essay “In the Name of Mercy,” could have been rebutting PETA’s campaign against the No Kill movement in general, and against Virginia’s S.B 359 in particular when he wrote “Speciesism: Alive and Well”. Heck, I hope this finds them well:
“Instead of recognizing our movement’s historical and contemporary role in this holocaust, many leaders continue to rationalize it on the basis of a “humane” death being preferable to a “miserable” life – further arguing that we are best able to provide this “merciful” end. Desperate humans are grievously suffering by the tens of millions all over the world, but who can imagine relief agencies endorsing systematic euthanasia as an acceptable policy. A vastly different ethic applies for companion animals, however, and most of our movement remains silent.”
“Deciding that death for other beings is preferable to a risk-ﬁlled life is not euthanasia in its traditional form, but rather a lethal manifestation of speciesism that projects our own fears and values onto another species, and then proclaims – as though we were omniscient gods – that death is our loving “gift” to them.”
“A recent issue of the leading shelter publication spared no effort in denigrating progressive programs to support feral cats. The thrust of this dogmatic criticism was that euthanasia is preferable to neuter-and release programs, claiming such programs expose ferals to the risk of “terrifying lives and tragic deaths.” Here again, we see the “kill, kill, kill” mentality – arrogantly presuming that certain death is a kinder fate for ferals than uncertain life. How ironic, as Thoreau pointed out, that the most desperate lives are lived quietly by humans, and yet no one is euthanizing us for our own protection!”
“During the past few years, I have witnessed more anger from the Shelter Establishment directed at critics than the grotesque slaughter, and this sorrowful lack of priority and proportion is indicative of a malignancy in the soul of our movement.”
The thing is, he wrote that back in 1990. It’s 2012 and they still don’t get it.
If you are from Virginia, please join Alley Cat Allies, No Kill advocates, and some of the best-performing shelters in the country in voicing your support for S.B. 359, which clarifies that TNR is not prohibited in Virginia by clicking here.
Early last Thursday morning, I published an open letter to Mary Jo White, Chair of the ASPCA Board of Directors, and emailed a copy to her at her law office. Earlier this afternoon (its Tuesday), I received a reply, not from her, but from the ASPCA Public Information Office.
A form letter. How rude. How disappointing. How unsurprising. How typical.
I would like to note that although in my original letter, I had specifically requested that my intelligence not be insulted, they went ahead and did it anyway. Notably absent from this form letter are any links to the full text of the Amy Paulin/ASPCA Quick Kill Bill (the A5449 that the ASPCA is touting below) or to the Kellner CAARA Bill. That is because anyone of normal intelligence would be able to see that the ASPCA’s bill is comprised of nothing but loopholes allowing the continuation of the status quo, while the Kellner bill would result in genuine reform.
The letter appears to assume that the recipient is some sort of babe in the woods–utterly uninformed and lacking in even the most basic critical thinking skills. Perhaps this is who the ASPCA’s Public Information Office is accustomed to writing for–the superficial check-writer who will believe anything she is told as long as it contributes to her desired self-image as an animal-lover. That ain’t me, as I explained pretty clearly in the letter that got this rot for a reply:
Dear Friend of Animals:
Thank you so much for your interest in the ASPCA. The ASPCA has always encouraged open dialogue and the thoughtful exchange of ideas, and I appreciate your contacting us with your concerns regarding the shelter access legislation in New York. There is a lot of information circulating on this bill so allow me to explain what it does and does not do.
The ASPCA applauds efforts to foster cooperation and to save lives through shelter-rescue partnerships. We support shelter access legislation crafted to accomplish the twin goals of saving lives and preventing suffering caused by hoarding, cruelty and neglect, and animal fighting. We think that A. 5449-A and S. 5433-A strike a good balance by instituting some positive procedures to help lost pets find their way home, enhancing shelter care for animals, fostering collaboration between shelters and rescue organizations, and ensuring that animals are not placed in harm’s way by incorporating necessary safeguards to prevent animal suffering.
Here are some of the advances A. 5449-A and S. 5433-A make that will save lives:
1) Establishes new procedures to help ensure that lost animals are reunited with their owners;
2) Requires appropriate vaccinations and emergency care to prevent pain and suffering for animals brought into shelters;
3) Prevents euthanasia if an appropriate rescue option is available;
4) Requires every shelter to establish a list of rescues to notify prior to euthanasia to ensure that as many animals are provided rescue as possible;
5) Strikes current law allowing euthanasia if an animal is “unfit for any useful purpose” and instead requires that the animal be suffering incurably; and
6) Includes safeguards that would help prevent animal fighters or hoarders from being able to pose as a rescue organization, thereby avoiding sending animals to situations that would experience intense suffering and death.
Criticisms of this legislation have been generated by individuals who support a different, competing bill that would require that shelters hand over animals to organizations without the shelter having authority to inspect the facility where animals are taken to ensure their health and well-being. While we support the broader goal of saving as many lives as possible, we believe it must be done with protections that ensure animals are not put at risk and placed in situations where they will experience tremendous suffering. That is why we have determined that A. 5449-A and S. 5433-A is the best way to instigate cooperation and rescue work without jeopardizing our homeless and lost animals. There has been confusion regarding some of the language in this bill and we are actively working with Assemblywoman Paulin to make amendments.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me again. Thank you for being an animal welfare advocate and for all you do to help.
ASPCA Public InformationThe information contained in this e-mail, and any attachments hereto, is from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) and is intended only for use by the addressee(s) named herein and may contain legally privileged and/or confidential information. If you are not the intended recipient of this e-mail, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, copying or use of the contents of this e-mail, and any attachments hereto, is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please immediately notify me by reply email and permanently delete the original and any copy of this e-mail and any printout thereof.
I’ll plod through it paragraph by paragraph. Care to guess how many lies I’ll find?
Paragraph 1: The ASPCA does NOT encourage discussion or the open exchange of ideas. They block anyone on their Facebook page who questions or criticizes them. They call shelter reform advocates ‘extremists’ and work both publicly and clandestinely to fight desperately-needed reforms. They have yet to engage in any meaningful discussion with anyone on the issues of Oreo or rescue access or the deplorable state of NYCACC or any of a host of other issues. I do get a kick out of the “There is a lot of information circulating on this bill so allow me to explain what it does and does not do” line. A lot of information. And just who is ‘me’? This form letter is not signed with a person’s name. Will no one at the ASPCA take responsibility for the Quick Kill Bill or even this stupid little
pack of lies form letter?
Paragraph 2: The folks in Austin had to fight the ASPCA tooth and nail for the reforms needed there. I don’t think that what the A tried to do while Fix Austin and Austin Pets Alive! were trying to save animals and reform the shelter would be characterized by them as “applause” nor would they be likely to call it “fostering cooperation.” As if that weren’t enough, they trot out the “rescuers are hoarders and dog fighters in disguise” argument, because lobbing baseless insults at rescuers is such a good way to promote cooperation and lifesaving. Everyone just loves it when you insinuate that they are mentally ill or criminals. The Quick Kill bill does not “strike a good balance” (love that phrase!) between anything. It leaves all of the power in the hands of those who have shown themselves least able to use it responsibly–the shelters that kill as a means of population control. It grants none to those who would take responsibility for saving lives, those who would speak out about the abusive conditions they witness when visiting shelters to pull animals–the rescues. Then there’s the hidden subtext–why do we need shelter reform and shelter access legislation now? Where has the ASPCA been all these years? Shouldn’t the mighty A have demanded years ago that shelters be true to the name, that they save lives, work with rescuers, and refrain from abusing the animals in their care? The ASPCA is reacting to something, not leading.
Paragraph 3: The ASPCA bill does none of the things listed. If anything, it does just the opposite. That is why numerous animal advocates have characterized it as dangerous. The points advocates have found most objectionable are those that allow animals deemed to be in “psychological pain” to be killed immediately, and rescues to be excluded from a shelter’s list of approved rescues for arbitrary reasons. This would allow frightened and lost family pets to be killed before their families could possibly get to the shelter to reclaim them. Points 5 and 6 are perhaps the most egregious lies on the list, as the bill does not require that an animal be suffering incurably to warrant euthanasia, and it is not aimed at keeping animals out of the hands of abusers, but would allow shelters to retaliate against rescues that speak out against abuses they witness at the shelter by excluding them from rescuing, thereby keeping them out of the hands of people with a conscience.
Paragraph 4: Actually criticisms of the Quick Kill Bill have “been generated” by a great many individuals and organizations. Furthermore, we support CAARA, which is not a “competing bill,” but the original bill in this scenario. The Quick Kill Bill was put together by the ASPCA to compete with it, not the other way around as they are trying to imply. Furthermore, CAARA spells out specific, standardized, and meaningful requirements for rescues, and it does not require shelters to just hand animals over to just anyone. They go on to qualify support for saving as many lives as possible, a classic “yes, but” statement. Whenever someone consistently makes “yes, but” statements, particularly when they make the same ones over and over despite having the “but” part of the statement addressed or refuted, I am forced to conclude that they do not really want change, at least not this change. What do they really want? They want us to shut up and go away, but keep those checks coming.
And “instigate cooperation and rescue work”? I have to see that as a Freudian slip. The word “instigate” is generally used in reference to getting negative things started–riots, strife, stuff like that. So the A really sees cooperation and rescue work as negatives. That explains a few things.
As for the alleged “confusion” about this bill, that “confusion” is not on the part of its critics. We’re critics of it because we care about animals and we can read. And Assemblywoman Paulin did not cook up her bill by herself. It was written by and for the ASPCA. Please do not persist in insulting advocates’ intelligence like this. It makes me testy.
Paragraph 5: Contact who, precisely? And why? Do you have other form letters I might want to add to my collection? And what do you think you’re thanking me for?
So, Mary Jo White got my email but failed to get its message. Rather than take responsibility for replying herself, she passed it along and “ASPCA Public Information” got my email but failed to get its message. To both of them I say: You cannot choose to hear only the ‘ka-ching!’ of money rolling in, the sound generated by all of those sad-eyed puppy ads, that self-reflective sound you yourselves have orchestrated, that fun-house mirror you hold up to ask “who is most humane of them all?” To both of them I say: The sounds of checkbooks slamming shut, of people demanding real change, of people making real change happen, these sounds are growing louder every day.
Listen to them, even if it is only out of enlightened self-interest.
Dear Ms. White,
I am writing to you as a longtime observer and critic of the ASPCA who would like nothing better than for the ASPCA to become an organization that I could wholeheartedly support. I love animals and all of my pets are rescues. Almost all of them are refugees of our nation’s broken animal sheltering system, rescued from, rather than by the shelters that are supposed to be their safety net. The fact that animals have to be rescued from shelters which are not places of safety but are places of abuse and killing is the irony at the heart of why I cannot support the ASPCA, an organization which claims to be on the side of animals, and was founded to be on the side of animals, but which is instead fighting to maintain the deplorable status quo in NYCACC and “shelters” across the country, and fighting against No Kill shelter reform in Austin, TX and elsewhere (thankfully FixAustin and Austin Pets Alive! won that round). Tragic irony is the way of the warped world of animal sheltering. (I almost said “way of life,” but that would have been utterly inappropriate.)
Your ad campaigns are ubiquitous. When I was sitting down to write this, I found that articles I’d written critical of the ASPCA and articles I’d written about situations which illustrate the need for shelter reform and genuine shelter access legislation had ASPCA ads on them. One had a total of four ASPCA ads, and it was specifically about the ASPCA’s opposition to shelter reform and access legislation! No wonder people are so confused and continue to send you enormous amounts of money even as you fail to clean up the mess you helped create in your own backyard and even as you promote legislation like the Quick Kill Bill (sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin) and oppose legislation like CAARA (sponsored by Assemblyman Micah Kellner), which would save animal lives and go a long way to advancing the humane treatment of animal rescuers by guaranteeing them the right to rescue even when they speak out about abuses that they witness.
Do not try to tell me that the Paulin bill is wonderful for animals or that the Kellner bill is inadequate. Nonsense! I have the unfair advantage of having actually read them both. I will not be fooled, only further irritated by any such attempts to insult my intelligence, and I’m already pretty ticked off.
I used to live near the ASPCA’s home turf of New York City, and I’ve known the ugly reality hidden behind the cute calendars for many years—since the early-mid 1980s, to be more precise, when the ASPCA ran animal control for NYC, and when I first heard the below parable of the accountant and the veterinarian, which I recounted in a previous article about the ASPCA’s opposition to Oreo’s Law. It was quite the chamber of horrors back then, worse even than NYCACC is now. (I’m always perplexed by people who, upon finding out the truth about the ASPCA, think that it has very recently strayed, like in the past few years. Not so. It’s just that more people are becoming aware of it)
The ASPCA has long been a nice comfortable killing machine. It’s really quite amazing how times have changed and not changed…
An accountant was visiting his client, a veterinarian who worked for the ASPCA in addition to his private practice. In fact, he seemed to spend a lot more hours at the ASPCA than he devoted to his private practice, even though they weren’t paying him all that much. The accountant was at the vet’s office wrestling the books into some semblance of order and a very friendly dog with a badly scarred and misshapen head came galumphing over to be petted, and the accountant obliged him. The dog was friendly to the point of making a pest of himself by attempting to be an oversized lap dog. The accountant shooed him away so that he could get some work done. He could hear the clop-clop of the dog’s paws on the floor as he went down the hall, around a corner, and back up another hall to reappear at the opposite door of the office he was working in, with a look on his scarred face that said “Hi, I’m a different dog than the one that was just here a minute ago, pet me too”.
The dog had come to reside temporarily at the vet’s office as a result of the vet’s work for the ASPCA. He’d come in as a badly injured stray. Someone had apparently beaten him and he had multiple fractures to his skull, which the vet, who is well-respected for his considerable skills as a surgeon, had spent hours in surgery wiring back together. He practically donated some very fancy surgery to them because that’s the kind of person he is. They wanted to kill the dog after all that–”a friendly dog who wouldn’t win any beauty contests”, as the accountant described him. The vet removed the dog from their custody instead. The accountant told the vet that while he admired the work he did on behalf of this dog and other animals at the ASPCA, it was his responsibility as accountant to advise him to leave the ASPCA and concentrate on his private practice, and frankly, he couldn’t understand why he took that kind of abuse from them, and for so little money. The vet’s reply was impossible to argue with:
“The animals need me.”
One protector in the killing machine was better than nothing at all. I can’t imagine how he did it for as long as he did. The tradition of killing animals for being there and abusing those who would do otherwise is a long one there. I am perpetually amazed at people who see it as a benevolent place. Apparently their marketing has done its job, but it would take a lot more than some nice packaging to remove the image of that dog my father described so vividly and what the ASPCA wanted to do to him, and to the vet.
I hadn’t thought of that dog in years, but recent events have made him restless. He’s been making his circuit down the hall, around the corner, and up the other hall, to reappear at the opposite door. Always the same question:
“Will it be different this time?”
When will it ever be different?
Years later, in 2000-2001, I had the excruciatingly painful experience of volunteering at a shelter and fostering a litter of kittens in my home for a month. They were healthy and delightful little kittens and I did what I was told, returned them to the shelter when they were old enough for adoption. The shelter reneged on its promise to call me if they were in danger of being killed for any reason and instead killed two of them when I had made it clear that I was only a phone call away. Boy, was I naive! There wasn’t even any call. Those two adorable little kittens were instead injected with poison and thrown in the trash as if their lives truly did not matter and I was treated like trash, my efforts, my ideas, my feelings, my personhood of no consequence to people for whom making a phone call was a greater inconvenience than killing two little kittens. Its not like I was anonymous to them either, I was at the shelter volunteering every week. Did they think I would take that lying down or that I wouldn’t find out? Or perhaps, more chillingly, did killing kittens with a human attachment, and to someone they saw every week, have an added measure of attraction? All of these scenarios are possible, and all of them happen in shelters. Thankfully, the volunteers at the Tompkins County SPCA rebelled against the status quo. We looked at each other and realized that we were not alone. We stood up for the animals and we stood up for ourselves. The animals deserved to live and we deserved to be treated like human beings. Less than a year after my kittens were so needlessly killed, Tompkins County made history by ending its killing of healthy and treatable pets and becoming the first No Kill community in the country. To this day, it remains the only one in New York State.
What the heck are you people doing with that $140 million that you raise every year?
I wrote about that experience and received many comments and emails that went like this:
I run a rescue group. My local shelter killed animals I specifically called and said I was on my way to pick up. Why? Because like you, I complained about the shelter publicly. I tried to work with them, but my concerns were ignored. They said I was unreasonable because I thought dogs should have access to clean water. I am so sick of people saying shelters have no choice but to kill, that they work hard, that they care so much. Tell it to the two dogs I was on my way to save when they thought they would teach me a lesson by killing them. I will never forget the look on the staff’s face when I arrived. They were smiling and smirking. As soon as I saw them, I knew something was terribly wrong. I just could not imagine that it was that. I’ve not been back since then.
Have you ever thought for a minute what it is like for someone to have an animal they had offered to rescue killed to spite them or because of rampant incompetence? Have you ever thought about what it is like to have that agony compounded by the knowledge that huge, enormously wealthy organizations not only won’t go to bat for you and the animals you’re trying to save, but that they’ll label you ‘divisive’ or an ‘extremist’ for speaking out about it, that they’ll instead back those who kill animals out of spite and incompetence, even going so far as to enshrine this sort of abuse in legislation? Spend a few minutes trying to put yourself in the shoes of animal advocates and rescuers. If you have a pet, hold them on your lap. Picture them being killed in a shelter while you were on your way to pick them up. How would that make you feel? How would you feel if you were then called names by your pet’s killers? What would you do next? Would you be able to continue rescuing, knowing that this could happen again and again?
Why on earth should this be allowed? Why on earth is one of the largest and wealthiest animal organizations on earth trying to pass legislation that would ensure that it continues happening, to block legislation that would make it illegal, and to fight grassroots reform efforts?
Unlike the animals in shelters, and unlike those of us who have experienced firsthand the need for CAARA and other genuine shelter access and reform legislation, you are in a position that affords you tremendous leverage. You are Chair of the Board of one of the largest and wealthiest animal organizations in the world. You could literally turn the world around for the 3-4 million animals who die annually in America’s shelters because what you decide to do right here, right now in New York State will set a precedent for every shelter and every legislature in the country. You could save so many animal rescuers from the torment they face every day without laws protecting their right to rescue. You could make a huge positive difference in the lives of shelter employees. You could spare untold numbers of pet owners the agony of having their pet killed in a shelter before they could get there to pick them up.
You have the power to hold your CEO, Ed Sayres accountable for actually protecting animals and animal rescuers for the first time in his life. You can order him to withdraw ASPCA support for A5449, the Quick Kill Bill and to join the No Kill Advocacy Center, Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society, No Kill Nation, and thousands of private citizens in support of CAARA instead.
You have the power to fire him.
You have the power to hire someone who would make Henry Bergh proud.
You have the power to make it different this time. You have the responsibility to make it different this time.
I, and many others will rejoice if you do. We’ll keep fighting if you fail to.
P.S. I said that almost all of my pets were refugees from the broken animal sheltering system. Ernest had the good fortune to arrive at the Tompkins County SPCA in August 2001. She was only 10 days old. (What can I say? kittens are hard to sex at that age!) She arrived at a shelter that was truly a shelter for her, a place where she and her mother and litter mates were guaranteed continued life and the foster care placement that they needed. Had she arrived at the shelter just two months earlier, prior to June 11, 2001, her story would very likely have ended in much the same way as those two little kittens I’d fostered only to have the shelter turn around and kill them–luckless, betrayed and dead in a trash bag.
I thought I’d built up an immunity to cuteness, but the charms of the little runt kitten with the Don King hairdo proved too much for me, and I ended up adopting her. We were both very lucky. She had a shelter that was truly a shelter when she needed it most. So many are not so fortunate. They are the voiceless, the ghosts that haunt the animal welfare movement, the unseen, unsaved millions.