PETA – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing & Why The Passing of SB1381 is Vital to Animal Welfare

by Sue Bell, Executive Director

Yesterday’s passage of SB 1381 here in Virginia was a positive thing for animals. This Bill was aimed directly at PETA’s practice of euthanizing companion animals brought to its facility in Norfolk as well as those rounded up (many times illegally) by their employees and volunteers from their community and beyond.

There is much public debate about this Bill as well as PETA’s role in the animal welfare world. PETA says it offers affordable euthanasia for animals whose owners cannot afford it. However, we know this to not be the reason behind the 1,800 animals they euthanized last year. PETA itself is not shy about its philosophy that animals should not be owned. Their answer – euthanasia of even the healthiest and most adoptable of animals is better than allowing them to find forever homes.

PETA would be well supported by the animal welfare community if they operated a euthanasia center where caring owners could bring their pets to be euthanized when it was needed in the best interest of their pet. PETA would be well supported if they would be honest and transparent about their intentions.

However, when PETA refers to itself as a shelter, it misleads the public into believing that they, like the hundreds of other public and private shelters in Virginia, seek adoptive homes for the animals they take in, only euthanizing those who are not adoptable. In fact, PETA euthanized more than 1,800 of the 2,000+ animals they took in last year. No other shelter in Virginia had euthanasia rates that high. No other shelter.

Sadly, our shelters still fill up with animals who are not adoptable for various reasons. Our shelters are incredibly under-funded and animals with extreme behavioral challenges or expensive medical conditions often have few options. Many of our shelters provide euthanasia services despite having the rules and regulations switched up on them by the VA State Vet’s Office time and time again. They offer these services despite being chastised by the public for having euthanasia statistics while simultaneously working towards “no-kill” outcomes – activities that are not mutually exclusive.

Progressive shelters work with rescues, volunteers, other shelters to seek lifesaving outcomes for their animals before making the decision to euthanize. These shelters struggle every day with incredibly difficult decisions that most animal lovers will never face. They don’t always get it right – no one does. But they try time and time again to do what is best for the animals with the resources they have available.

PETA, with its callous disregard for the public’s trust and its vehement disinterest in seeking lifesaving outcomes for animals, has no business including itself in the world of Virginia shelters. There is a role in our communities for groups to provide affordable humane euthanasia for animals who are suffering and are not adoptable. If PETA wants to use its millions of donated dollars to operate a euthanasia center for the public I would support it. If they wish to partner with Virginia’s shelters to provide humane euthanasia when the shelters have exhausted all other lifesaving outcomes I would support it.

At the end of the day it comes down to transparency. Animal welfare needs more of it. The landscape is not pretty. It’s sad, harsh, cruel. For those of us doing all we can to seek lifesaving outcomes for animals, we have nothing to hide. We need to applaud and support the efforts of the shelters doing the hard work to save lives. What we don’t need is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, pretending to be something it’s not. PETA has been doing this and SB1381 will put an end to it.

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