A reply from PETA
(Information forwarded by Bonney Brown of Best Friends, who received a copy from the original recipient.)
Thank you for your inquiry about the Associated Press article on euthanasia and overpopulation. The article's figures are accurate, but, unfortunately, it does not even begin to address the complex issue of animal overpopulation or PETA's role in combatting it, particularly the fact that we have saved thousands of unwanted animals from being born and subsequently finding themselves at the mercy of an uncaring world. PETA fights companion animal abuse and overpopulation aggressively and in a variety of ways. Through our undercover investigations and grassroots campaigns, we work to seek justice through the courts and educate the public about overpopulation and how to fight it. If you saw the recent Dateline piece on national television you will have seen how we are trying to wake the public up to the role puppy mills and pet shops play in flooding communities with casually acquired, and then often carelessly discarded dogs and cats. (For more information on our puppy mill campaign, please go to: http://www.helppuppies.com/index2.html).
Our Community Animal Project (CAP)
rescues homeless animals directly -- crawling through sewers, poking through junkyards,
climbing trees, dodging cars, and arguing with landlords to coax terrified abandoned or
neglected animals to safety. We go into the very worst of neighborhoods to deliver food,
doghouses, and bedding to pit bulls who have never known a kind word or touch; dogs
who--thinking we are bent on doing them harm as all the other humans in their lives
have--come at us with snapping jaws to defend the tiny patch of muddy earth they call
home. We find starved corpses, dying animals, what is left of cats who have been used as
bait for fighting dogs. In winter we see the dogs shiver and try to curl into the tiniest
balls to keep warm; in summer we see them with their tongues dragging, water bowls
overturned, panting to try not to succumb to the heat. In floods and storms, we are out
there at all hours of the night saving lives. We push to have owners of severely abused
animals prosecuted and the animals removed, but if we can do nothing else, we try hard to
at least make the animals as comfortable as we can and sterilize them so more puppies
won't freeze out there in winter or
PETA takes in the animals nobody wants--the feral cat colonies descended from abandoned, unaltered house cats who are now thin and wild and often infected with deadly, ravaging diseases like Feline AIDS and leukemia. The stray dogs so disfigured by mange they are almost no longer recognizable as canines. The litters of parvo-infected puppies, wracked with diarrhea and vomiting--literally dehydrating to death. The backyard dogs who have known only chains, beatings, and neglect, and who have gone mad because of it. Some of the animals PETA takes in are eventually reunited with their families. We have caught and reunited some of the most elusive animals who other agencies have given up on. Some animals are fostered until homes can be found for them (PETA does not operate a shelter; we use veterinary boarding kennels and foster homes, including our own staffers' houses, and space is extremely limited). Other healthy and adoptable animals are taken directly to local shelters. Tragically, the only relief for the rest lies in oblivion.
Area shelters are overrun with animals, thousands of whom are euthanized for lack of good homes, despite the fact that most are young, healthy, and friendly. The "middle-aged" shepherd mix who literally climbs the walls trying to escape the presence of humans doesn't stand a chance--he will simply mark time cowering in his cage until his date with the needle. PETA opts to euthanize extremely sick or feral animals immediately, rather than subject them to the trauma of further transport and caging that will only, ultimately, end in death. We give them love and attention, food and soothing voices, and yes, a gentle death in our arms.
There is hope for abused animals, and it lies in prevention. We must persuade people to spay and neuter animals to stop the cycle of abuse. We must convince governments, like our own here in Norfolk--where we have already changed the ordinance once and are working to change it again--to accept responsibility instead of turning a blind eye to a problem that results in almost unimaginable animal suffering--not to mention taxpayer expense. PETA works very hard on this, educating the public about the need to spay and neuter through pamphlets, billboards, letters to the editor, ads, articles, and humane education in schools. We spay and neuter animals belonging to low-income families and the elderly poor for no charge whatsoever--we pay for every shot, surgery, blood and feces sample, and medication. Since January, 1999, PETA has sponsored more than 700 spay/neuter surgeries in the Tidewater area. But PETA and animal shelters can't do it alone. Everyone needs to do their part. Every one of us who cares about animals must work to help the animals in our communities. If a stray shows up on our doorstep, we mustn't tell ourselves that she has a home, or that "someone else" will take care of her. We must be that "someone else." Caring individuals must take homeless animals to shelters or, if they have the time, money, and space, spay them, vaccinate them, and foster them until loving, permanent homes can be found.
Each and every one of us can make a difference. If your neighbor's dog "keeps having puppies," offer to have her spayed. Write to your town councilperson and urge him or her to raise licensing fees for unaltered animals. Alert authorities if you witness an animal being abused or neglected. Boycott pet shops that sell puppies and kittens and adopt strays or shelter animals instead.
PETA can provide information, advice, educational materials, and assistance. For more information on our companion animal programs and literature, please go to: http://www.peta-online.org/cmp/ca.html. I hope this information is helpful and I hope you will continue to support PETA's vital campaigns. Thank you again for your inquiry and for all you do to help animals.