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Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Many of you have read by now the damning article about the PETA employees being charged with felony counts of animal cruelty for dumping dogs and cats in a dumpster. But what you don't know is what is behind the story. I contacted Bruce Friedrich, whom you all know is a good personal friend of mine who gave me a much fuller story as to what the situation really is, complete with pictures of what PETA has done to alleviate suffering.These linked are just a few - the rest are on today's photo page. **WARNING - some are graphic!**
Before I jump in with what they have to say about the matter, let me give you a couple of personal stories that show you exactly what happens in these poor rural counties that have no shelter or, if they do, how they can hardly justify themselves as one. Not because the people running them don't care, but because there is just no funding to help them from the community at large. They are too busy buying their dogs from backyard breeders or answering the "free to good home" ads in the paper. And, btw, "free to good home" doesn't always mean that, as many of the people who answer those ads use those innocent puppies to train their fighting pit bulls with them - puppies and kittens alike.
I have talked before about the fact that the county I live in, Montgomery County, AR, has NO shelter at all. There is nothing more than a loose group of caring people like us who do their level best to help the ones they find. They are known as "Warm Hearts") really just a couple of women), but are extremely limited in what they can do. They take the ones they can in, find foster (rarely "forever homes") homes for them, spay/neuter them, vaccinate them, and generally do their best to help, and they generally do most of this at their own expense. Or, at least they did, until they lost the grant money that helped make that happen. Most of the community has never even heard of them, much less made a donation to them. But there are far too few of us to handle the load. You have seen just a few of the rescues that have come our way just since this blog was started. They go nowhere near the number that have been saved before this blog started. If yo want to help Warm Hearts and help keep up this service, their number is 870-334-2886, and the lady that coordinates all of this is named Maxine Goldman, though I have also a number of a person offering a foster home for animals (though she can only handle THREE, whereas we have EIGHT dogs and FOUR cats and a bunch of chickens, yet we STILL take in whomever shows up!) who can be reached at 870-867-5222 if you cannot get Maxine. They would greatly welcome any help offered and are in dire need of it because, as of now, there are now no more mobile spay/neuter clinics now that they have lost their "Bob Barker grant" for the terrible reason of offering this service to small dogs and cats, as opposed to restricting it to large dogs. These were the same people who neutered two of our cats. They only offered this service twice a year, which resulted in us having the 20 puppies (you might remember this story being told way back in this blog, and we even still have one of the dogs. His name is Junior, and we love him very much! But we can't vouch for what sort of homes the rest of them went to. We do know that one of the females now wears a bark collar, though, and that has eaten us up with guilt, along with the fact that this guy showed back up wanting to breed her with the daddy of these dogs, who broke off the fence post restraining him from getting to them and hwy the puppies were born in the first place, besides our financial inability to pay a vet to get them spayed.) we had to raise as we could not make that deadline, even though our appointment was made long before the dogs came into heat. You want to know who spayed both of those dogs before it happened again? PETA did. They made arrangements with our local veterinarian and paid the bill to make sure the same sad situation did not repeat itself! PETA did that, not anyone else.
My first personal story began when I was just a kid. I grew up in a county with no shelter, just like there were no shelters in the surrounding counties. The answer to stray dogs or problem dogs was a shot to the back of the head with a .22 magnum pistol. And, yes, I did this, although I tried to make it as humane as possible, never even letting them see the gun I used to end their pain. I would walk up to them, pet them talk softly and lovingly, then pull the gun out of the back of my pants, sneak it up behind them, and then pull the trigger. They never knew what happened, though it made me sick and sad every single time I had to do it. But I was unaware of any other option. I didn't even know that you could take a dog into a veterinarian to have them put to sleep, even if we had had the money to do so, which we didn't. I did this to five different dogs. I can remember every single one, so haunted I am by the fact that I had to do it. As far as I knew then, it was the most humane way to handle the problem. Two had rabies, and the other three had been so mangled by being hit by a car that they never would have made it anyway. So, I put them out of their misery the only way I knew how.
The second personal story I will let Laura tell., because she is the one who lived it:
I have always loved animals and sought what I could do to help them, from taking in strays (my first at the age of nine!) to the summer I spent as a teenager working as a volunteer in a no-kill shelter called Adopt-A-Pet in Shreveport, LA. We were overfull, according to the health codes, but people kept dropping off animals when we were closed. There was no fence around the place, just a small brick building, and there was a small yard with a doghouse out front for the inevitable drop-offs we couldn't stop so that they would be safe and sound until we showed up for work the next day. I can remember one day when we all arrived for work and found a whole litter of puppies so infected with mange that we didn't know if we could save them or not. But we tried. One of them we called Bozo, because the only hair he had left was on his ears - he was completely bald everywhere else. And, miraculously he made it, whereas most of the rest did not because they were too far gone. We also had a whole three-ring binder, you know - one of those kinds that is a 3-subject notebook - that held the names and numbers of people wanting to give us unwanted animals. We never in all the summer I worked there called any of those people back because we never had enough room to take them in. I guess the main reason we even kept it was on the off chance that someone would call looking for a specific type of animal to adopt that we did not have at the shelter. But that shelter was so full that we had to put cats and kitten in cages with others. Many of them were sick, but not so bad that they needed a vet. The only two I remember being that sick we actually did have to put down. I held them both, talking to them lovingly and stroking them, talking softly - little black kittens - until I felt the last heartbeat and I knew it was all over.
We did out best not only to feed and water them and keep their wire cages clean, but to also spend a few minutes every day giving them love. A couple of the animals there had worked their way into our hearts so much that they were allowed full roam of the place, especially if they had been there a long time. We got calls for us to take in animals every day, but only twice do I remember someone showing up to adopt one of them. Sadly, that shelter was closed down shortly after I left due to health code violations due the the number of animals there. It was something like 35 that we were allowed to have, and we had over twice that many, even though they were well-cared for, well-fed, clean and loved. I have always wondered what happened to them and figure that they probably went to the pound, where they were euthanized. Once we even saved one from the pound, smuggled him out with the help of a caring employee that hated seeing highly adoptable animals put to sleep. This one was a white poodle, and it was made clear to me that if anyone found out we had done this, not only would this caring man lose his job, but we would all be in trouble, too. We had to sneak in and out like criminals to save this one dog, but we did it. And I would do it again. That one went straight to a home after we removed all identification that labeled him as a pound animal.
There are two shelters in Polk County, the one adjoining our county and one that has a little more money than ours does. Even there, though, the shelters suffer. Not long ago you may remember a dog that showed up that we were unable to find a home for or properly care for. We took him to For Sake of Animals, the no-kill shelter, but they had no room. We even offered to take the two most unadoptable cats in the place, but still they wouldn't take him. They were just too full, and we were turned away. Then we headed to the Humane Society, which is only open a few days a week and is surrounded by a tall fence and monitored by a camera, with a sign saying that anyone caught dumping dogs there would be subject to a crime and caught and punished accordingly. We never even found anyone to talk to, much less had the ability to ask them to take him. it wasn't long after that when we read in the paper that they had turned into a kill shelter, creating much division among the volunteers there, a lot of hurt feelings, and I am sure, much crying as to the fate of the dogs entrusted to them to find good homes for.
Oh, and btw, the people over in that county have lot the funding they were using to spay/neuter just like our county did for the same reason, as they shared the same source of funding to accomplish this much-needed work, so the problem will only grow. In fat we found yet another shot dog down at the river just last week. If you want to help, their info is as follows:
Compassionate Animal Spay/Neuter Program
P.O. Box 195, Mena, AR 71953
They are a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Public Charity, with 100% money going to the animals.
They work with the Ouachita Humane Society, and the woman I talked to is named Arleen S. Wiley, Director, email address is firstname.lastname@example.org (hope that's right - her writing is hard to read, but the phone number is correct) They DESPERATELY need help! Anyone who can help them and the program in our own county, PLEASE DO SO! Prevent the suffering!
But other than the few of us that take these animals in (which is NEVER enough!) what choice is there, other than euthanasia, when otherwise even the most highly adoptable dogs are not taken in and people keep not spaying/neutering, buying from backyard breeders and pet stores? There is just no choice. No choice! We have seen this with our own eyes. Many of those dogs in the no-kill shelter that Laura worked at were highly adoptable, even cute little kittens, yet no one came to get them. They were forced to live their lives inside a metal wire cage for months, and some even years, at a time. What kind of life is that, I ask you? None. Dogs and cats need more than food and water. They need love and companionship. They need freedom to run and exercise, not locked up in prison-like conditions. No, euthanasia is not great, in fact it is terrible and a blight on our society, but what else is there to do when the animals come in faster than you can find homes for them???
This is a problem that humans have created, are responsible for, and must solve themselves by their own actions. This is truly one of those situation that if you are NOT part of the solution, then you ARE part of the problem.
I pasted the official statement from PETA on the photo page, but here it is again, along with a transcript of the press conference they held to bring this situation to light: I only hope that it gives you a better understanding of what the real situation is.
It is against PETA’s policy to put the bodies of animals in dumpsters, and we are appalled that a member of our staff apparently did that. There is no excuse for that and, despite the fact that she is a caring soul, we have suspended her from work.
PETA has always supported and spoken openly about euthanasia. It is easy to throw stones at those doing the dirty work for society, but euthanasia is a necessary evil until the massive animal overpopulation problem can be solved. We invite anyone who can offer a home to any animal, pay for one or a hundred spay/neuter surgeries, or persuade others not to go to a pet shop or breeder, to please join us in doing these things. In the last year, we have spayed/neutered more than 7,600 dogs and cats, including feral animals, many free of charge and all others at well below our own costs. Support for this program is much needed.
To clarify, we do not run an adoption facility, although we do place animals, approximately 360 in the last year, despite having run out of friends and family members to approach. We are a "shelter of last resort," taking in and giving a painless death in loving arms to animals who would otherwise have been shot with a .22 or gassed in a windowless metal box, which is what happened in North Carolina before PETA offered free euthanasia services to agencies there. North Carolina has the second highest rate per capita of euthanasia in the country—35 animals killed annually for every 1,000 residents—and most do not die a humane death. Sadly, the shelters we work with have no adoption programs or hours set aside for adoption. At the Bertie County dog shelter, residents were throwing unwanted dogs over an 8-foot-high fence, where they became infected or injured by other sick or aggressive dogs from whom they could not escape. Bertie County also had no facility for cats and used to let them go to breed in the woods and fend for themselves until PETA built a shelter for them this year. PETA has begged for years, through formal proposals and numerous meetings, to have the county allow PETA to implement an adoption program as part of a larger picture of sheltering that would also include a spay/neuter program, a humane education program, 24/7 emergency services, and rabies clinics. For more information on our efforts, please visit http://www.helpinganimals.com/f-nc.asp.
We try never to take in adoptable animals unless we know we have a home for them—only those who are mange-covered, have parvovirus, are injured, old, unsocialized from life on a chain, or unwanted and for whom there are no good homes available. We also work at the roots, spending more than $240,000 in one North Carolina county alone, to provide shelter in winter for animals left out in the cold, to spay/neuter, to get vet care for animals in dire straits, to send Bertie County’s one animal control officer to professional training, to pay a cleaner to maintain two shelters, and much more.
We have always outspokenly advocated fixing the problems of overpopulation through practical methods. Sadly, those stories don’t get coverage in the media.
We urge you to look closer and do your part to help us help these animals. For information and resources on how to do that, visit HelpingAnimals.com
The PETA Staff
PETA STATEMENT AT NEWS CONFERENCE REGARDING EUTHANASIA
June 17, 2005
Since the news from North Carolina, we have received countless enquiries. The two most pressing are "why is PETA in North Carolina?" and "why do you euthanize animals?" We would like the opportunity to answer these two questions. We will take your additional questions at the end. First, let me explain why we started going to North Carolina.
My name is Daphna Nachminovitch, and I oversee PETA's Domestic Animal and Wildlife Department, including our Community Animal Project and our spay clinic, SNIP
Let me give you some background as to how and why we started working in North Carolina. In 2000, PETA was contacted by a police officer who was distressed by conditions in the county pound. We were given photographs which showed one dog drowning in a pool of water, too sick and weak to lift her head, a starving dog eating a dead kitten, and a dead puppy found in the gas chamber shed. PETA then visited the Bertie County Animal Shelter to see things firsthand. We found sick, injured animals in need of veterinary care, a leaky windowless gas box in which animals were placed to be killed, and facility that had no electricity and no covering for its cages. PETA immediately offered aid to Bertie County and to the City of Windsor, which operates its own facility within the county limits. There, animals were restrained on a metal pole and shot with a .22. Shortly after this, we found out that Hertford County's homeless animals were also gassed. We made arrangements to pay a local veterinarian to euthanize those animals by painless injection. PETA to this date subsidizes humane euthanasia at the Hertford facility, and has so far paid nearly $9,000 for this service.
Our trips to Northampton County began after it was discovered that a local veterinarian was illegally killing animals with injections of a paralytic, succinylcholine chloride, which causes respiratory arrest before loss of consciousness, leaving animals to suffer horrific deaths by suffocation while their organs freeze up. PETA has spent well over a quarter of a million dollars to improve the facilities, build and deliver doghouses for animals left outside with nothing but a metal barrel or not even so much as a tree in all weather. Even when we try sometimes, we still can't prevent suffering. This poor dog-despite our efforts-was retied in such a way that he could not reach the shade we had provided him by delivering a doghouse. He baked to death in the hot sun, just 2 weeks ago. We also spay and neuter animals as well as provide other medical care, apply flea and tick preventative to chained dogs who become so infested that they open sores on their bodies from scratching, give away straw and tie-outs, send animal control officers for training, hire staff to clean the shelters, purchase supplies for the shelter, and even build from the ground up a brand new cat housing barn in Bertie County. We have only ever helped and alleviated cruelty and suffering.
I would like to show you these photographs. Please take a look at the albums we have placed on the tables.
I will now turn this over to PETA's president, Ingrid Newkirk.
INGRID: Now let me explain why PETA believes euthanasia is the kindest gift to a dog or cat unwanted and unloved. Please also try to put yourself in the place of those of us at PETA who care deeply for animals yet who have to hold the animals in our arms and take their lives because there is nowhere for them to go. The fact is that we cannot stop euthanasia until people stop letting dogs and cats bring new litters into the world. For every litter born, it is estimated that over 1,000 more animals will end up being destroyed as those litters grow up and start having litters themselves within six months. The numbers of unwanted animals are pretty impossible for the average person to imagine. If you have not worked in an open-admission shelter - one which does not set a limit on the number of animals it will accept and then turn away the others - you would be shocked. North Carolina shelters kill 35 animals annually for every 1,000 residents, and, as you have heard, most do not die a humane death. Someone asked could we not bring the animals from NC to Virginia to be placed? Well, Virginia already faces its own problem of large numbers of animals who can't find homes. We have actively lobbied for increased license fees for unsterilized animals, we were instrumental in getting Norfolk to pass a regulation requiring the animal shelter to pre-sterilize animals before adoption, and we run a spay clinic seven days a week to try to help. Citizens who are up in arms about the need for euthanasia should join us in being up in arms about stopping the flow of unwanted animals.
We were asked, could we not advertise for homes for them? The open admission shelters advertise every day for the animals they have, yet every day they must euthanise, they have no choice, because not enough people come to offer good homes to the ones already there and more animals are coming through the door.
Could we not turn the animals loose on the street? No, they would come to a bad end in traffic or by starving or they would simply end up in a shelter again.
Could we not run a refuge for them ourselves? Well, we could warehouse them and fill this building in a month, easily. There isn't the space, the money or the staff to do that properly for even one month's worth of unwanted animals, and what would we do the month after that and the month after that?
That is why we try to prevent current and future suffering by doing two things
1) we work at the roots, trying to stem the flow of unwanteds so that there will be fewer to euthanise. We do that by education, by advocacy, through pushy ads, by running a mobile sterilization clinic that has spayed thousands of animals in this area alone in the last few years.
And 2) we give the unwanted animals a painless exit from an uncaring world. We will not shy away from doing society's dirty work as long as the alternative is a life of misery and a bad death. And that is the alternative. As you have heard Ms. Nachminovitch say, in North Carolina, in these impoverished counties, the alternative has been slow death or bad death. Animals have frozen to death in the pounds there for lack of heat in winter; they have drowned there during floods, they used to be shot in the head with a .22 (and I ask you to imagine one man out there trying to hold the dog with one hand and shoot accurately with the other), and they were gassed to death in a windowless, metal box, struggling to get out. We would not be doing our job if we didn't stop those things.
There is no magic wand that will stop euthanasia, but each of us who has been upset by realizing that it happens, can look into our soul and honestly ask ourselves: "What am I doing to stop the overpopulation crisis for dogs and cats? To stop the killing."
If the answer is just feeling bad about it or complaining, that is no help at all. To fix the flow people must stop breeding, casually acquiring, and then dumping animals. We did not create the problem, but we try hard to fix it every single day. We also, from the very beginning, have begged North Carolina counties to allow us to help them establish on-site adoption programs and we can only hope that the current level of interest, after all these years, may allow that to happen at last.
Finally, let me say how PETA euthanises, and you are welcome to watch us do that, by appointment under conditions that you will not disturb the animal. PETA uses a barbiturate, sodium pentobarbitol, to deliver one injection into the dog or cat's leg. The animal is held lovingly and petted and talked to as the solution enters the vein. For many of these animals, that is the only loving touch they have ever felt.
Unconsciousness occurs in a matter of two or three seconds and occurs without trauma, without pain, and without the animal knowing. PETA has never made a secret of the fact that most of the animals picked up in North Carolina are euthanized. We want attention for euthanasia but no one is usually interested in this depressing story.
Now we hope that the counties of North Carolina will still not only welcome our services - for it would be a terrible step back if all that is focused on is the matter of the bodies put in the dumpsters. That conduct disgusts us, violates PETA protocol, happened without our knowledge and can never be allowed to happen again, but our work must go on. Thank you.
We will now take your questions.
Chris Overton / Activist Liaison / PETA
International Grassroots Campaigns
When responding, please include our entire correspondence. Thank you.