By Daphna Nachminovitch
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' struggle with the ugly issues of animal population and euthanasia in North Carolina is in the spotlight now. We welcome the opportunity to cut through the media frenzy and share the facts.
PETA concentrates on exposing the cruelties of the food, clothing, experimentation and entertainment industries. But we couldn't turn our back when we discovered that in northeastern North Carolina, pounds in some rural counties were pitiful shacks where dogs drowned during floods and workers killed animals with a .22 rifle or gassed them in a leaky, rusty, windowless metal box. These shelters have no public visiting hours and no adoption programs. All the dogs and cats were killed, and killed badly, giving North Carolina the second highest kill rate in the nation.
While pushing for reforms and even building a cat shelter from the ground up, we reluctantly became a "shelter of last resort," able to offer a painless, peaceful death in loving arms to sick, injured and aggressive animals who were slated to be killed inhumanely. Some we managed to place (see the condition of euthanized animals and some of the happy endings on HelpingAnimals.com.)
But the most important work we do in North Carolina is spaying and neutering, at no cost, the dogs and cats who would otherwise be producing litter after unwanted litter. And this is what needs to be discussed, in North Carolina and everywhere. PETA is now being criticized for not simply building shelters to house these animals. But building more shelters takes away the resources needed to stem the tide of unwanteds. We're not talking about a few thousand dogs and cats you or we can scramble to find homes for; we're talking about three to four million animals who must be killed every year in the U.S. because prospective guardians choose to go to pet shops and breeders and still don't sterilize their dogs and cats.
The no-kill, or turn-away, shelters tout the fact that they don't kill animals, but they have awarded themselves the luxury of turning away thousands of animals they deem unadoptable. Where do these 'undesirables' go? To those shelters that, like PETA, will do the heartbreaking job of euthanasia.
Critics may condemn PETA for supporting euthanasia, but we are not ashamed of providing a merciful exit from an uncaring world to broken beings. We know that we are also working at the roots, persuading people that buying puppies and kittens from pet stores and breeders means that other animals literally dying for a home in a shelter pay with their lives. Most importantly, every time we spay or neuter an animal, and we sterilized over 8,000 dogs and cats last year alone, we prevent the births of four times this number right off the bat. Three animal generations down the line, that means we prevented the births of nearly half a million animals, which, given the 'throw away rate' for animals, means countless thousands were never born only to be euthanized.
We all want to save animals. The way to do that is to prevent the births of more dogs and cats. Leaving euthanasia to someone else solves nothing.
Daphna Nachminovitch is Director of the Domestic Animal and Wildlife Rescue & Information Department for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; HelpingAnimals.com.
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