Articles

It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

June 21, 2011
by Nathan J. Winograd – No Kill Advocate
Founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center

A very pregnant Lilly at MCACC West

A very pregnant Lilly at MCACC West

It’s 5 am in Maricopa County, Arizona. It’s the killing time at the pound and the animals will be rounded up and put to death. Their 72 hours are up and, according to officials, it is time for them to die. Maricopa County and Maddie’s Fund claim none are healthy. That is a lie. Meet Lilly. Lilly was at full term with 12 healthy puppies. They are now all dead. Each was cut out of her and given an injection of “Fatal plus.”

Like New York City, Maricopa County, Arizona, is a Maddie’s Fund collaborative project. We were promised that no healthy animals would be killed starting in November of 2006, nearly five years ago. And although project funding ended in 2009, Maricopa County is required to report its data until 2012 as a condition of keeping unspent funds. Like in prior years, in April of this year, just a couple of short months ago, they reported and Maddie’s Fund announced on its website that no healthy animals were killed in community “shelters.” Like New York City, the Maricopa County pound is prohibited from killing healthy animals as a condition of the grants. Like New York City, the Maricopa County pound kills healthy animals but lies about it. And like New York City, Maddie’s Fund promotes the lie.
How do we know it is a lie? We know it is a lie because Maricopa County killed 51% of all animals, about the national average. If Maddie’s Fund is to be believed, the entire USA is filled with communities saving all healthy animals by virtue of the fact that they are killing half of all animals.

We know it is a lie because as the pound began charging to take in stray cats (as high as $96 per cat), thus reducing the number of cats it took in by over 3,000, the cats were taken to the Arizona Humane Society (a kill “shelter”) instead which saw a corresponding increase in killing. It doesn’t matter who is killing them, it matters that they are still being killed.

We know it is a lie because as the number of animals killed who are claimed to be healthy dropped to zero, the number of so-called “untreatable” animals killed has increased. For example, the number of animals killed deemed “untreatable” increased from 576 to a whopping 3,486. Likewise, the number of “treatable” animals killed also spiked, from 31,568 to 37,888. Maricopa County officials also excluded 4,107 animals who they claim were killed at the request of the people surrendering them. Their lives were not counted in reporting results, the statistics—and the animals—swept under the rug. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: pounds and “shelters” do not create No Kill by killing as they always have, but simply re-categorizing animals as “unadoptable” or “untreatable” and then killing them. We achieve No Kill by actually saving their lives. In fact, the latest report is an analysis in failure.

From 2010 to 2011:

  • Killing is up at the Arizona Humane Society 19%, an increase of over 4,000 animals
  • Killing of animals claimed to be treatable has increased a whopping 42%
  • Killing of animals claimed to be untreatable increased 13% at AHS and 9% at the pound

We know it is a lie because Maricopa County shelters deem the “vast majority” of pit bull-type dogs and pit bull-mixes to be “unadoptable” in order to justify killing them, despite predictable pass rates of 90% in progressive shelters.

We know it is a lie because the Maricopa County pound kills all animals after a paltry 72 hours at 5 am every day. They claim none are healthy, a claim which strains credulity. And a lie rescue groups describe as “pure B.S.” (It also begs the question of why it is ok to kill animals with simple colds just because they are classified as “treatable” when Washoe County, NV is saving all of them, despite a per capita intake rate higher than Maricopa County; 14 animals per 1,000 people in Maricopa County vs. 35 animals per 1,000 people in Washoe County.)

And we know it is a lie because of Lilly.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog called, “The Anatomy of a Lie,” about the killing of Ginger’s healthy puppies in the NYC pound:

In late March, a pregnant lab-mix given the name of Ginger entered the New York City pound system. She was full term, within a day or so of giving birth. Spaying a dog in the peak of health is considered major abdominal surgery. Spaying a pregnant dog increases the risk as the blood vessels of her reproductive tract become large and more difficult to tie off during pregnancy. Spaying a pregnant dog at full-term is the riskiest of all: the risk of excessive bleeding is greatest and complications more likely. And, of course, spaying a pregnant dog means killing the puppies. Nonetheless, Ginger was spayed, and her fully viable litter of puppies was killed.

In order to kill them, each and every one of the healthy puppies had to be individually injected with poison. The killing of the puppies was, in point and fact, no different than if they had already been born since they had been born: by the equivalent of a C-section. They were able to survive on their own and, in fact, did survive, but not for long.

One by one, they were injected in the stomach with an overdose of barbiturates. One by one, they went limp and then died. One by one, their lifeless bodies were discarded in the trash, revealing the great hypocrisy of the broken pound system in the U.S., a system which chastises people for treating their companion animals as “disposable” even while they treat them exactly the same way: by killing them and then literally disposing of their bodies in landfills. The new lives of Ginger’s puppies, which should have held nothing but promise, instead were wiped out by callous indifference. It was a tragedy, but it should have surprised no one.

Ginger, make room for Lilly. Like Ginger, Lilly was pregnant and full term. And like Ginger, the Maricopa County pound decided to spay her and kill each and every one of her puppies, which they did. One by one, each was injected in the stomach with an overdose of poison. Or as the notes indicated, “Fatal Plus used” on all twelve of them.

Like Ginger’s puppies, the new lives of Lilly’s puppies, which should have held nothing but promise, instead were wiped out by callous indifference. And like Ginger’s puppies, Lilly’s puppies were not given record numbers or counted in statistics. Maricopa County did not report their lives or their deaths. They simply never existed. That way, they can continue to tell Maddie’s Fund that no healthy dogs have been killed, and Maddie’s Fund can continue to tell all of us the same thing. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. If New York City is any indication, don’t expect Maddie’s Fund to tell the truth in their glossy annual reports. Don’t expect them to correct the lies posted about Maricopa County on their website. In fact, don’t expect them to do a damn thing about it.

It’s déjà vu all over again.
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What’s Your Authority?

April 24, 2011
by Ryan Clinton – No Kill Advocate
Founder of FixAustin.org

Thanks to the work of compassionate, informed, and committed No Kill advocates—like you—high-kill shelters and their status-quo apologists are having to defend their regressive, old-guard, killing-machine practices now more than ever. The American people are tired of the excuses, angered by obstructionist shelter managers and pro-kill policies, and inspired by the hope that proven No Kill programs and policies have brought to communities across the country and beyond.

Sadly, however, a number of self-appointed “experts” are stepping forward to defend municipal killing factories and claim that they—not No Kill advocates—know what is best for sheltered animals. One near-comical claim from killing defenders is that their previous service on shelter-related commissions, committees, and governmental bodies makes them uniquely qualified to pontificate on what works and what doesn’t work to save lives at animal shelters.

But let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Prior service on a committee that has failed to increase lifesaving at an animal shelter does not make someone an authority on animal sheltering.

So who should we be looking to for advice on increasing lifesaving at animal shelters? What does make someone a person worth listening to? My view is this: if you want to fail, follow the advice of those who have failed. But if you want to succeed in saving more lives, listen to the advice of those with a proven track record of lifesaving success.

Listen to Nathan Winograd. The former California prosecutor helped run the San Francisco SPCA (back when it was committed to lifesaving) in the 1990s, led the transformation of the Tompkins County SPCA from a high-kill shelter to the nation’s first open-admission No Kill shelter in 2002, and now heads the No Kill Advocacy Center, a national non-profit dedicated to ending the unnecessary killing of lost and homeless pets at animals shelters.

Listen to Bonney Brown. She took over the Nevada Humane Society in Reno, a shelter mired in a high-kill past, and turned it into one of the top animal shelters in the country. She doubled the shelter’s adoption rate in just three months, and now, along with Washoe County Animal Services, saves about 90% of all impounded animals.

Listen to Dr. Ellen Jefferson. She founded Emancipet, a low-cost and free spay-neuter provider in Austin, Texas, that has altered more than 100,000 animals, and over the past 2.5 years, has led the non-profit Austin Pets Alive to save almost 8,000 dogs and cats from certain death at municipal shelters in Austin and surrounding areas. Due to her leadership and renewed efforts at the City’s municipal shelter, Austin’s open-admission shelter has saved almost or over 90% of all impounded dogs and cats from December 2010 through March 2011.

Listen to Susanne Kogut. Under her leadership, the Charlottesville SPCA has become one of America’s top open-admission shelters. Listen to Mike Fry. Due to his leadership, three communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin have enjoyed No Kill success. Listen to Cheryl Schneider, who reformed the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, currently the top life-saving open-admission shelter in Texas. We’re not in uncharted territory here; there are plenty of proven, successful leaders for us to listen to.

But the next time someone not on this list tells you to just be quiet—to stop criticizing them or the high-killing animal shelter they are affiliated with—and to just trust them to take care of everything, ask them this:

What’s your authority?

If their answer includes a history of serving on committees or commissions that have failed to achieve No Kill success, or includes a leadership position in a high-kill animal shelter, or if their answer is that they are employed by a fancy-named, capital-lettered national animal-welfare organization that has never achieved No Kill success in any community, just ignore them. Their advice will not only be wrong, it will delay the implementation of proven, lifesaving programs in your community.

To be successful, follow success.
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When to Call B.S. on an “Expert”

What Animal Advocates, Policymakers, and the Press
Can Learn from the Texas Supreme Court

August 2, 2011
by Ryan Clinton – No Kill Advocate
Founder of FixAustin.org

It’s not often that my career as a Texas appellate lawyer intersects with my passion for America’s lost and homeless pets. Sure, both involve advocacy and underdogs (pun intended), but most of the time, there is little in common between them.

But as I recently re-read a number of seminal Texas Supreme Court cases regarding the validity (or lack thereof) of expert testimony, I had an unexpected “aha” moment: the Texas Supreme Court’s scrutiny of expert testimony is both relevant and beneficial to the No Kill movement because it establishes a meaningful process for distinguishing between constructive and helpful expert opinions, and those opinions — even if delivered by credentialed individuals — that are so untethered to objective and verifiable data that they are, in reality, no evidence at all. Of anything.

This is important.

Because in the animal-welfare world, self-proclaimed experts parade around the country with fancy capital letters on their shirts offering half-cocked theories on things they and their organizations know little or nothing about, often to the very real detriment of sheltered animals. And in many instances, the press and public officials take the fancy-lettered-shirt-wearing experts’ words as gospel. But as the Texas Supreme Court has made abundantly clear, an opinion of a credentialed individual is, as a matter of logic, unworthy of deference merely on account of his or her apparent credentials; instead, an opinion—regardless of source—is valid only if it is based on objective, relevant, and verifiable evidence.

In fact, the law has a term for a credentialed individual’s baseless opinion: ipse dixit. Literally, ipse dixit means “He himself said it.” Or has others have translated it, “it is so because he says it is so.” Black’s Law Dictionary defines ipse dixit as “a bare assertion resting [only] on the authority of an individual.”

In other words, there are some expert opinions that are helpful, meaningful, material, and probative of whatever it is the expert is speaking about, and there are other expert opinions that are merely the ipse dixit of a credentialed witness. The former are helpful; the latter are devoid of any merit whatsoever regardless of source. The rub is distinguishing between them, and that’s where the Texas Supreme Court comes in. According to the Court, a credentialed expert’s opinion is evidence of nothing at all—indeed, it isn’t even admissible for consideration—if:

  • It is not based upon a reliable evidentiary foundation;
  • It is not “sufficiently tied to the facts”;
  • It is nothing “more than ‘subjective belief or unsupported speculation”;
  • “[T]here is too great an analytical gap between the data the expert relies upon and the opinion offered”;
  • It “is based on assumed facts that vary materially from the actual, undisputed facts”;
  • It is based on nothing more than the expert’s “bald assurance”;
  • “[T]here is no explanation of how [proven facts] affected [the expert's conclusions]“;
  • The expert’s opinions are based on a flawed methodology; or,
  • There is a “flaw in the expert’s reasoning from that data [that renders] reliance on [the opinion] unreasonable and render[s] the inferences drawn therefrom dubious.”If any of these things is true, the expert’s opinion “is unreliable and, legally, no evidence” at all. It amounts to nothing of value.

This test should be a tool for every animal-welfare advocate. When a fancy-lettered expert strolls into your town and claims they know better than you, challenge them. When a self-proclaimed expert writes a letter-to-the-editor to your town’s newspaper defending and promoting shelter killing, challenge them. Test their opinions by the criteria of the Texas Supreme Court. And when their defense of status-quo shelter killing fails to pass muster— as it inevitably will— call it what it is: ipse dixit.

When your shelter director claims that it is “impossible” for a shelter to save 90% of impounded dogs and cats, call it ipse dixit, because that opinion is contrary to the indisputable fact that there are communities all over the country that are already saving 90% (or more) of impounded dogs and cats.

When your county officials claim that saving lives requires becoming limited-admission, call it ipse dixit, because that opinion is not tied to the objective, verifiable facts that No Kill reforms can work in open-admission shelters.

When your elected leaders claim that shelters cannot save lives until the “irresponsible public” rights itself and magically becomes responsible, call it ipse dixit, because that opinion is based on nothing more than subjective belief and unsupported speculation.

Do not hesitate to challenge the opinions of self-appointed experts— especially those coming from organizations that claim to know better than you, but in reality know nothing about No Kill reforms, policies, and programs. When you demonstrate that their baseless opinions wouldn’t even be considered in court, you will undermine the authority they claim to have, and you will level the playing field to enable a real, meaningful, fact-based discussion on what is best for sheltered animals. And when you can have a real conversation— based on actual facts— to determine what is best for animals, the animals win.

The fancy-lettered shirts won’t have anything on you.
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The Truth About PETA

The Butcher of Norfolk

March 27, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd

The blog I write is about reforming animal sheltering in the United States. It is about ending the systematic killing of animals in these pounds. But this particular blog isn’t about sheltering. This isn’t about the battle between the No Kill philosophy and its eventual conquest over regressive, kill-oriented approaches. This isn’t about a lazy, inept, or uncaring shelter director who fails to hold his or her staff accountable. It isn’t about shelters that kill animals because doing so is easier than putting in place the programs and services to stop it.

This is about something more nefarious. This is about something truly insidious. This is about a bully who seeks out animals to kill. This is about the creation of death squads that actively go into communities with the specific purpose of finding dogs and cats to kill. And this is about a movement that has utterly failed to defend the innocent animals being slaughtered. This blog is about Ingrid Newkirk, the President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This is about an animal killing, arrogant, disturbed person. And enough is enough.

Since 1998, PETA has killed over 20,000 animals. Over one year ago, I wrote a blog opining that the reason PETA slaughters virtually every animal it seeks out and “impounds” has more to do with Ingrid Newkirk’s dark impulses than with any ideology, philosophy, or belief in overpopulation. This followed a staggering 97% kill rate for animals in 2006, despite millions of animal loving members, a world-wide reach, and a budget of tens of millions of dollars. It followed the killing of 1,942 out of 1,960 cats they impounded. It followed the deaths of 988 out of the 1,030 dogs they impounded. It followed the killing of 50 of the 52 rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals they took in. It followed the killing of the one and only chicken they impounded. That blog earned me a letter from PETA’s attorney threatening litigation for defamation.

Then came the 2007 numbers showing a 91% rate of killing—the killing of 1,815 of the 1,997 animals they impounded. And so I reran the blog. And now we have the 2008 figures and the slaughter—the needless, senseless, evil slaughter—continues with an equally staggering 96% kill rate. A paltry seven dogs and cats were adopted. A paltry 34 were transferred to an SPCA whose fates are not known. And out of 2,216 dogs and cats impounded, the rest were systematically put to death by PETA.

Killed: 555 of the 584 dogs.

Killed: 1,569 of the 1,589 cats.

PETA has argued that all of the animals it kills are “unadoptable.” In fact, PETA’s attorney stated that in his letter threatening a defamation lawsuit if I did not back down. But this claim is a lie. It is a lie because the numbers historically come from the State of Virginia’s reporting form which only asks for data for animals taken into custody “for the purpose of adoption.” It is a lie because PETA refuses to provide its criteria for making that determination. It is a lie because rescue groups and individuals have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable. It is a lie because testimony under oath in court from a veterinarian showed that PETA was given healthy and adoptable animals who were later found dead by PETA’s hands, their bodies unceremoniously thrown away in a supermarket dumpster. And it is a lie because Newkirk herself admitted as much.

In a December 2, 2008 interview with George Stroumboulopoulos of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Stroumboulopoulos asks Newkirk: “Do you euthanize those pets, the adoptable ones, if you get them?” To which Newkirk responds: “If we get them, if we cannot find a home, absolutely.” In short, Newkirk admits that PETA “absolutely” kills savable animals. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.

Why does the animal protection movement tolerate this woman?

No other movement would allow someone to remain in her position without a massive outcry and public condemnation when their actions are so counter, so anathema to their movement’s foremost principles. The child protection movement would not allow someone who kills children to run an organization dedicated to children’s rights. The human rights movement would not allow someone who kills people to run any of their organizations. But the animal rights movement—a movement founded on the principle that animals have a right to life—allows a very public, avowed, shameless animal killer to run an animal rights organization. And with the exception of Friends of Animals, the rest of the nation’s animal rights groups remain deafeningly silent about it.

As if that was not shameful enough, others go further and actually embrace her. The groups which organize the Animal Rights Conference inducted her into their Animal Rights Hall of Fame. Wayne Pacelle and HSUS have allowed her and her pro-killing apologists to give workshops at their national conference, HSUS Expo, to promote PETA’s ghastly vision of killing.

So a notice to all would be animal killers out there. One way to avoid the condemnation by the animal rights/welfare community for your vile actions is to start an animal rights group yourself and use that group as your cover for killing. Because they won’t stand up to you. There will be no campaign to bring you down. They will kowtow to your power and your position. You will become their colleague. Some will look the other way. But others will induct you into their hall of fame. Still others will ask you to present workshops at their national conference.

If history teaches us anything, however, it is that the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to one. The only thing that will stop Newkirk is challenging Newkirk and calling her killing for what it is: the nefarious acts of a disturbed person. Because that’s how history will remember and condemn her, despite the aura of legitimacy her untoward actions now receive from her Board of Directors, the Humane Society of the United States, the groups who promote the Animal Rights Conference, and the other groups which tolerate her leadership position through their silence.

While those who now dare to call Newkirk’s slaughter for what it is may be threatened with litigation, or be attacked in other ways, history will vindicate them, as it always does for those who—despite the personal costs—defend what is right by challenging tyrants. While those who remained silent in the face of these atrocities—the hypocritical leaders of other organizations who take her telephone calls, shake her hand, stand side-by-side with her, and take personal pride in their association with her—will someday have to answer for this complicity, and will face the shame that comes with answering “nothing” when asked what they did to stop Newkirk’s bloody reign at PETA.

Because engrave this in stone: As soon as Newkirk and her pro-killing cultish devotees are gone, PETA will immediately, completely, and without reservation embrace the No Kill philosophy and become one of its leading champions. When that happens; when her actions are thoroughly and completely seen by everyone for what they truly are; when she is condemned and finally, finally, thankfully, finally, we don’t have to hold our breath, clench our teeth, shake with rage, or cry at the thought of what PETA did to those poor animals, we will all be left wondering just what took us so damned long to rise up and stop this villain in our midst.

So here it is again: Round 3. Munchausen by PETA. My opinion.

Munchausen by PETA?
In search of a diagnosis as to why Ingrid Newkirk and PETA seek out animals to kill. And a plea for the movement to stop them so that they won’t continue killing.

In 2006, an official report from People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows that they took in 3,043 animals, of which 1,960 were cats, 1,030 were dogs, 52 were other companion animals, and one was a chicken. Of these, they killed the chicken, killed 1,942 cats, 988 dogs, and 50 classified as “other companion animals.” They found homes for only 2 cats, 8 dogs and 2 of the other companion animals.

By the numbers:

PETA killed 1,942 of the 1,960 cats, finding homes for only 2.
PETA killed 988 of the 1,030 dogs finding homes for only 8.
PETA killed 50 of the 52 other companion animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.), finding homes for only 2.
PETA killed the chicken they took in.

That’s a 97% kill rate. (This was based on PETA’s own reporting to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which only requires “recordkeeping and reporting of only those animals taken into custody… for purposes of adoption.”) Despite $30 million in revenues, they found homes for only 12 animals. An additional 21 cats and 25 dogs were transferred to another agency (likely a kill shelter since PETA has a “policy against No Kill shelters.”) The rest were put to death. Why?

I’ve tried to explain it by the simple observation that the founder of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, formerly held a job killing homeless dogs and cats at the Washington Humane Society, a shelter with a consistently poor record for saving lives and the subject of historical public acrimony for its over-reliance on killing. But, in my opinion, there appears to be something more disturbing going on here than Newkirk’s history.

It can’t simply be explained by catch phrases like “they are hypocrites” and “they don’t really care.” Those are terms which No Kill proponents may use to describe Newkirk’s and PETA’s position on killing dogs and cats, but they don’t explain it. Nor is this simply a disagreement between No Kill supporters and traditional “catch and kill” proponents. That is the debate going on with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), where their reputations and donations are being threatened. But with PETA, there appears to be something much more nefarious at play.

While Newkirk tries to shield her actions by wrapping them in the language of opposition to “No Kill,” PETA neither has an animal control contract, nor do they operate as a rescue group. Any effort to offer a lifesaving alternative to killing is dismissed as “no clue” or “warehousing animals” and any dissent by employees or volunteers is allegedly punished by termination or ousting from the group. In talking with an ex-PETA employee, he indicated that during a staff meeting, he was subjected to a PETA video of this kind (No Kill equals hoarding). Having lived in San Francisco during the 1990s when No Kill was in its heyday there and the San Francisco SPCA the nation’s premier shelter, he openly questioned the veracity of the information and was asked to his supervisor’s office and terminated.

Why? The closest analogy or explanation that I have found which appears to fit is the same phenomenon that causes nurses to kill their patients, some offshoot of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (See Attack of the Killer Nurses: A look at a curious phenomenon – nurses who kill their patients, National Review, May 28, 2001). In the typical case, the nurse or caregiver kills the patients with lethal injections. They often claim they act from “compassion for their ailing victims,” because they want “to end their suffering,” and because they and their colleagues are “severely overburdened.” In their minds, they are the heroes and those who try to stop them are turning their backs on their patients.

The corollary to PETA’s language about “Euthanasia: The Compassionate Option,” about “overburdened” shelter workers, and about giving animals what Newkirk calls “the gift of euthanasia,” and how “it was the best gift they’ve ever had,” is eerily similar. In her case, she also believes she is the hero and those who try to stop her are turning their backs on the animals. (She recently blasted a No Kill supporter by stating: “How dare you pretend to help animals and turn your back on those who want an exit from an uncaring world!”) Indeed, Newkirk-through-PETA says that blaming shelters for killing animals is like blaming hospitals for killing patients. Is Newkirk trying to tell us something?

Unfortunately, I have no psychological evaluation to support such a diagnosis, except for similarity of language and the acts themselves: the fact of the killing, the death squads, the indoctrination against No Kill, the hateful denunciation of No Kill, and the proactive efforts to stop communities from trying to embrace No Kill principles.

So what is it? (PETA-apologists have suggested that Newkirk has seen terrible suffering and worries about animals, but this is nothing more than Orwellian double-speak. I was a prosecutor. I’ve seen and handled cases involving torture, child rape, murder, arson of animals, and other acts of unspeakable cruelty. I was also an animal control director in a shelter which investigated and prosecuted horrific crimes against animals. I’ve seen terrible suffering to which is why I want to end it, regardless of whether it comes at the hands of a single abuser or systematically by killing)

We may never know. But what we do know and what I can say is that animal rights and animal welfare groups should reject this point of view and actively campaign against it not only for the dogs and cats PETA will kill in the future and whose interests they theoretically exist to protect, but because it undermines our movement’s credibility when we either ignore the atrocities PETA is committing against animals, or make excuses for it simply because those perpetrating them claim to be part of our movement. Moreover, PETA’s position that animals in shelters do not have a right to live subverts the entire foundation upon which all social justice movements are inherently based.

The right to life is universally acknowledged as a basic or fundamental right. It is basic or fundamental because the enjoyment of the right to life is a necessary condition of the enjoyment of all other rights. A movement cannot be “rights” oriented as PETA claims to be and ignore the fundamental right to life. If an animal is dead, the animal’s rights become irrelevant. Not only does PETA not acknowledge the right to life, they have rejected it saying that they “do not believe in right to life,” as it relates to dogs and cats.

Of more immediate concern, it is the relationship between Americans and their animal companions that can open a door to larger animal rights issues. In their daily interactions with their dogs and cats, people experience an animal’s personality, emotions, and capacity both for great joy and great suffering. They learn empathy for animals. It is not a stretch that someone who is compassionate—and passionate—about their pets would over time and with the right information be sympathetic to animal suffering on farms, in circuses, in research facilities, and elsewhere.

Right now, however, the nation’s largest self-proclaimed “animal rights” group is actively working to ensure that that door is never opened—by actively and proactively arguing that dogs and cats do not have the right to life, and that killing them is an act of kindness. In my opinion: It is beyond ironic. It is beyond hypocritical. It is beyond a betrayal. It is beyond obscene. Regardless of whether you believe in “animal rights” or you don’t; regardless of whether you are a vegetarian or not; regardless of where you stand on animal issues unrelated to animal sheltering, I believe PETA’s position is insane.

And despite the fact that PETA’s annual killing of thousands of dogs and cats has been common knowledge among the leaders of our nation’s animal welfare and animal rights groups for years, most of these so-called “leaders” have chosen to look the other way. In fact, HSUS invites Newkirk and her cronies to give presentations at their national animal sheltering conference. Two years ago, Newkirk gave a video presentation on what amounted to why Pit Bulls should be killed and this year, one of her devotees will share PETA’s strategy for how to engage in “damage control” and “public relations spin” when a shelter or community which kills is challenged by No Kill proponents. Why are groups like HSUS supporting her? Do they hate the movement to end the systematic killing of shelter animals which No Kill represents so much that they are willing to embrace a person and organization this zealous in support of the killing of dogs and cats? The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” can’t be it, can it? Is HSUS so threatened by No Kill that they are willing to embrace an organization which appears to be working to undermine their other platforms? With friends like these, the animals truly do not need enemies.

In my opinion, PETA’s position on killing of dogs and cats is irresponsible. But as to the question of why they do it, I am not a psychiatrist and I very much doubt that Newkirk and her followers will submit to a psychological evaluation. As a result, I am afraid I have no clear answer, though my personal opinion leans toward Newkirk suffering from the mental illness of Munchausen by Proxy. And if I am correct, she will never stop killing until she is forced to.

PETA’s Board of Directors, PETA employees, other animal welfare groups, and animal rights activists need to stop drinking the Ingrid Newkirk Kool-Aid. They must stop making excuses for the killing of animals. They need to openly reject views that need to be explained in the pages of the Journal of Psychiatry. And, if they are to protect the thousands of animals whose lives are at future risk from PETA, they must work to remove the political cover provided by her association with PETA which allows Ingrid Newkirk to continue to act on what I believe are deeply disturbing impulses that result in animals being killed.