PETA, considered by many to be the highest-profile animal rights group in the country, kills an average of about 2,000 dogs and cats each year at its animal shelter here.And the shelter does few adoptions — 19 cats and dogs in 2012 and 24 in 2011, according to state records.At a time when the major animal protection groups have moved to a “no kill” shelter model, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals remains a holdout, confounding some and incensing others who know the organization as a very vocal advocacy group that does not believe animals should be killed for food, fur coats or leather goods.
For their part, officials at PETA, which has its headquarters and only shelter here in Norfolk, say the animals it rescues are in such bad shape from mistreatment and neglect that they are often better off dead than living in misery on the streets or with abusive owners.“It’s nice for people who’ve never worked in a shelter to have this idealistic view that every animal can be saved,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s vice president for cruelty investigations. “They don’t see what awful physical and emotional pain these poor dogs and cats suffer.”
Recently, Ms. Nachminovitch of PETA took this reporter and a photographer on a daylong tour through poor areas of Virginia and North Carolina, visiting several homes where dogs were living in poor conditions. At the first, three pit bulls were crowded into filthy pens behind a garage with no clean drinking water in 90-degree heat. At the next stop, a German shepherd was too timid and spiritless to come out of its doghouse for food. A dog at a third home had ears that had been partly eaten away by flies. At a few of the homes, Ms. Nachminovitch gave new doghouses to the owners.At PETA headquarters, at the request of this reporter, Ms. Nachminovitch led the way to a cinder-block building in the back and then to a windowless room where the dogs and cats are killed. It looked like a well-maintained examination room in a doctor’s office. There was clean bedding on a countertop where the dogs and cats are placed for the intravenous shot from a certified euthanasia technician.“It’s a humane exit from a world that’s treated them like garbage,” said Ms. Nachminovitch, a vegan who does not use animal products. “It’s very sad, but in these cases, it’s the best we can hope for.”