Tuesday, December 16, 2014

PETA Killers Must Be Stopped

By now most of you know of the recent abduction and killing of Maya, a little girl’s loved Chihuahua, by PETA. If you don’t yet know the story, you can read the initial news account here, but here’s the short version:

On a Saturday in October, a PETA van drove up to the home of Wilbur Cerate’s family, two women got out, one of them went onto the Cerate porch, grabbed their Chihuahua, Maya, shoved her in the back of the van, and drove off. Three days later, the women returned to the Cerate home with a fruit basket, and told the Cerate family that they had “euthanized” Maya.

Maya, loved family member abducted and killed by PETA

Although the Accomack County sheriff charged PETA with larceny, the county’s commonwealth attorney, Gary Agar, dropped the charges, claiming there wasn’t enough evidence for a prosecution. He seems to be ignoring the fact that there is a video showing these women from PETA entering the Cerates’s property, taking Maya, and driving away with her in the van. And in any case, isn’t the evidence or lack thereof something for a jury to decide? Agar also stated that PETA was there to collect strays. But PETA has no authority to collect strays, as that is the job of animal control, which PETA is not. And even if they were, they would have to abide by the stray hold period, which is five days in state of Virginia.

PETA has been contacted by news outlets on several occasions, and publicly asked for a comment, but as of this writing, they have remained strangely silent on the subject. Perhaps they believe if they just don’t say anything, this will eventually blow over. After all, by their own admission they kill more than 90% of animals they take in, and are known to take animals under the pretense of finding them  homes and then take them straight to their van and kill them, and they have publicly called for the killing of pit bulls and feral cats, and yet they still have a large number of people who will defend them even in the face of all this.

But this isn’t going away. Shortly after this news broke, a Facebook page was started on behalf of Maya. The page now has more than 8,000 “likes” and counting. And more people and organizations are speaking up against PETA’s actions. Foremost in the call for action against PETA is the No Kill Advocacy Center (which has long pointed out PETA’s penchant for killing animals), which has petitioned the Virginia State Veterinarian to revoke PETA’s license as an animal shelter (yes, PETA still has animal shelter status, even though they don’t actually HAVE a shelter). The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies has written a letter in support of the petition, as has the Richmond SPCA. Even Virginia State Senator Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. has written a letter requesting a review of PETA.

Here’s the bottom line: PETA can go on with its loopy publicity stunts, half-naked celebrities, and lurid videos of people doing kinky things with vegetables all they want. But they have to be put out of the animal-killing business. And with any luck, this time, PETA has dug its own grave.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

L.A.: Progress Toward No Kill?

Shortly after the statistics for Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) for the fiscal year ending July 2014 came out, both LAAS and Best Friends started shouting from the rooftops that there had been a "record drop" in the killing (or, as they misuse the term, "euthanasia"). But really just how significant is this reduction? Let’s take a closer look at the statistics in order to get a clear picture of how (or indeed whether) LAAS is progressing toward No Kill.

To begin with, the fact that the killing was down is really no surprise, as killing has been going down every year since at least 2009[1] (the first year for which I have records). Also, note that the "record" drop last year is in fact smaller than the drop the year before[2] (going by live release rate, which is the clearest way to assess progress toward No Kill).

Intakes were also down last year, and that is a good thing, as keeping animals out of the pounds is as important as getting them out once they are there. But notice that the difference in the number of cats and dogs[3] killed from 2013 to 2014 is approximately the same as the difference in intakes in those years, so the reduction in the number of animals killed can be accounted for almost solely by the reduction in intakes. In other words, even if LAAS had done nothing specific to reduce the killing, the number of animals killed would have gone down almost as much as it did.

And what was the reason for the reduction in intakes? Was either LAAS or Best Friends proactive in that regard? Not so you’d notice. The pet retention programs at the South L.A. (run by
Downtown Dog Rescue) and North Central (run by Home Dog L.A.) pounds are doing a wonderful job of helping to keep animals with their families, but that would never have happened without dedicated volunteers and outside groups. Also, these are just two of the six LAAS locations, and neither LAAS nor Best Friends has done anything to institute or support such programs in the others (more on this in a later post).

Consider also the fact that Best Friends is now running the seventh LAAS location as well as its own adoption center in West L.A. In other words, there is now room for many more animals in the system (5,234 animals went to Best Friends from city pounds last year), and Best Friends is also doing massive PR work in addition to its adoption promotions, coalition rescue partners, and spay/neuter clinic. Under those conditions, the number of animals killed would be expected to decrease significantly even with "business as usual" in the rest of the system.

So while it is true that fewer dogs and cats were killed last year in L.A. than in previous years, that fact is misleading and doesn’t prove any fundamental progress toward No Kill in the system as a whole; rather, it points to a notable lack of such progress.

And let’s not forget that these are lives we are talking about. All analysis and arguments aside, the tragic fact remains that while LAAS and Best Friends are patting themselves on the back, 12,681 cats and dogs were killed last year (please just pause for a few seconds and ponder that number), the vast majority of them healthy or treatable animals who wanted and deserved nothing more or less than to find a home and someone to love. So LAAS and Best Friends can crow about their "record" as much as they please, but until they actually start doing all that they can to truly end the killing by wholeheartedly implementing all the programs of the
No Kill Equation, I can’t really see anything to celebrate.


1. Bear in mind that the years I refer to are fiscal years, as that is the way LAAS keeps its records.

2. While it is true that the live release rate increased, the increase was smaller this year (the year everyone is raving about) than the increase that occurred last year. The increase from 2012 to 2013 was 6.96%. The increase from 2013 to 2014 was just 5.56%

3. For the purposes of this post I am looking only at the numbers for dogs and cats because those are the numbers that LAAS and Best Friends are using; but we have to remember that there are other animals whose lives matter just as much, and whom LAAS and Best Friends seem to be ignoring.

Monday, October 6, 2014

This Saturday! Redemption Screening in San Pedro

I'm so excited that the screening of Redemption, Nathan Winograd's documentary film about the No Kill Revolution in America, will take place this Saturday, October 11, at 11 a.m. at the Warner Grand Theater, 478 W. 6th Street in San Pedro. Do YOU have your ticket yet? If not, you can get yours HERE, The film will be followed by a Q&A with Nathan Winograd. I hope to see you all there!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bad Karma

From everything I have heard and know about Karma Rescue in Los Angeles, it is a great rescue and does a lot of good. So when I heard about their behavior recently with regard to a lost dog named Raffiki who ended up in their care and whom they refused to return to her rightful guardians, I was not only extremely upset for Raffiki and her family, but disappointed that an otherwise great rescue would show such a terrible lack of judgement, and a propensity to elitism.

The story:

Several weeks ago, Rosa Torres’s dog Raffiki got out of her back yard and got lost. Ms. Torres did all the right things to try to get Raffiki back: flyers in the neighborhood, Craigslist, Facebook, and searching the East Valley pound, which is the one closest to her Panorama City neighborhood. As it turns out, Raffiki was taken to the pound, but not the East Valley location, rather she was taken to the West Valley location, miles away.

While Ms. Torres searched, Raffiki was pulled from the West Valley pound by Karma Rescue and put up on their web page as adoptable. In her search, Ms. Torres saw Raffiki on the Karma website and immediately called and left a message on the group’s voicemail. But no one at Karma bothered to return her call. So in desperation, she put in an adoption application for Raffiki, now called Kami by Karma. But according to Karma, Ms. Torres’s application–to adopt her own dog–"did not meet the qualifications that Karma looks for when adopting a dog to a home." Raffiki was quickly adopted out to another family. All this happened within one week.

Raffiki was a family member who was ripped from her loving family, including Torres’s four-year-old son, and placed with strangers. Ms. Torres told the L.A. Times that her son "cries whenever he looks at [Raffiki’s] picture" and that he keeps asking when Raffiki is coming home.

Karma states that they had "spoken with" the adopters, "to apprise them of the situation," which means nothing. In light of their statement that Ms. Torres wasn’t qualified to adopt from them, I’m sure they didn’t recommend that the new adopters give Raffiki back to her real family. In fact, I would guess that they actually did the opposite and advised the adopters not to give Raffiki back.

Karma’s attorney, Susan Willis, is quoted in the L. A. Times as saying about Rosa Torres, "had she been a little more diligent, we would have spoken with her." This is pure nonsense. Ms. Torres called Karma as soon as she knew Raffiki was with them. I would like to challenge who was and was not being diligent here.

Some people have stated that Karma is within their legal rights in everything they have done, and they are correct. But although Karma acted legally, they did not act ethically to do whatever they could to get the family reunited. After Raffiki was adopted to her new family, she legally belonged to them, and so the adopters are also acting within their legal rights. But again, knowing now that Raffiki has a family who loves her, including a broken-hearted four year old boy, the ethical thing for the family to do would be to give her back to them. Just because all parties are acting within their legal rights does not mean they are doing the right thing. And here’s a thought: What if the new adoptive family should realize that Raffiki should be reunited with her real family? I don’t know about Karma’s adoption agreement, but it is standard procedure for rescues to require that, should adopters for any reason want to give up their animal, they return him or her to the rescue. So, if the new adopters DO decide to give Raffiki back, Karma would have to agree. Would they agree? I have contacted Karma and asked them this very question, but have yet to hear back from them. I’m not holding my breath.

A press release from Karma states that they acted "in the best interests of the dog." So, they really feel that Raffiki’s best interests are to be torn from the family she loves and placed with strangers? Really???

It has been said in defense of not giving Raffiki back that she wasn’t spayed or microchipped, had no identification tags, and got out of her yard. Therefore, they conclude that this means her family was "irresponsible" and not worthy to get her back. This self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude is prevalent among rescuers, and needs to stop.

If a dog is being mistreated, I’m all for doing whatever it takes to get him or her out of the abusive situation. Otherwise, the fact that someone doesn’t do exactly the things you think they should do is none of your business. Period.

Raffiki was just the opposite of abused. She was well-loved and well-taken care of. But because she wasn’t spayed, chipped, or wearing any tags, and her family lives in a relatively low-income part of town, and she got out and got lost, according to Karma Rescue, and sadly, a number of others in the rescue community, this means her family was "irresponsible" and not worthy to have her, and was justification not to give her back. What makes these people arbiters of what a "good" home is? What gives them the right to decide who does and does not deserve a dog, doesn't deserve their own dog? What gives them the right to, in essence, steal a family’s dog? It is this behavior that is irresponsible, not Raffiki’s family’s.

Jessica Gary, a former Karma volunteer, has resigned over this incident, after attempting to get Karma to do the right thing and give Raffiki back to her real family. According to Ms. Gary , she saw posts on Facebook that Raffiki’s family was looking for her, and she called someone at Karma to discuss the situation, but was told "the dog wasn’t spayed or microchipped. She’s not getting her dog back." That was hours before they adopted Raffiki out to someone else, who, according to Ms. Gary, already had a dog who was not neutered. This refutes what Karma is alleging.

Aside from the sadness of the story as it pertains to Raffiki and her family emotionally, returning a dog or cat to his or her guardian is one important thing we can do as part of a program to stop the killing in pounds . Raffiki already has a home, and another family wanted to adopt a dog–an opening for another dog who could have been saved.

I certainly hope that both the adoptive family and Karma Rescue will come to see what’s right and let Raffiki return to her real family.

And I hope, for the larger picture, that rescues with unreasonably tough standards for who should and shouldn’t have a pet will realize that they are hurting, not helping the situation for animals. While they turn down loving homes, animals are being killed by the thousands in "shelters" every day.