In a recent letter to the Chronicle, Daphna Nachminovitch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) unfairly attacked me and essentially asked Houston to continue its decades-old policy of killing the vast majority of animals in its shelters. (Please see "No-kill shelters are no good," Sunday.)
In Seattle, PETA sided with a shelter even after a 15-member citizen advisory committee, local veterinarians, outside consultants (including myself) and a team of vets from the Veterinary College at the University of California at Davis found animals left for days with no food or water, animals left bleeding in their kennels with no medical attention, deplorable conditions and mismanagement at all levels. The King County council ignored PETA.
After Pittsburgh officials announced that they were going to implement a pilot project of neutering rather than killing unsocialized free-roaming (feral) cats, PETA argued that the cats should continue to be killed. Pittsburgh officials declined.
When former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was arrested for dog fighting, PETA urged the court to kill all the dog victims. The court refused. Today, the dogs are in sanctuaries and loving new homes.
Now in Houston, after officials announced they are considering a review of operations to increase lifesaving, PETA once again went on the attack. Like their counterparts in Seattle/King County and Pittsburgh, Houstonians should ignore PETA, too.
Unfortunately, many animal rights activists blindly follow PETA's lead, whitewashing killing even in the face of no-kill alternatives and the success. They do so because they see PETA fighting for the right to life of other animals -- animals in circuses, on factory farms, in research laboratories and in other industries. Yet, when it comes to companion animals, they have an entirely different standard. They not only call for the deaths of dogs and cats in shelters, PETA kills dogs and cats itself -- nearly 2,000 per year. In 2006, PETA put to death an astonishing 97 percent of animals it impounded -- finding homes for only 12 of the 3,043 animals it claimed to rescue.
It is time people cease relying on the advice of individuals like Nachminovitch and organizations like PETA.
To imply that no kill by definition means filth and hoarding is a cynicism that has only one purpose: to defend those who are failing at saving lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting a picture of the alternative as even darker. The philosophical underpinning of the no-kill movement is to put actions behind the words of every shelter's mission statement: "All life is precious." No kill is about valuing animals, which not only means saving lives but means good quality care. By denigrating no kill as akin to animal hoarding, these groups appear to be arguing for nothing more than a nation of shelters firmly grounded in killing -- a defeatist mentality that is inherently unethical and antithetical to animal welfare.
But Nachminovitch knows this, so she engaged in subterfuge. If you can't attack the message, attack the messenger, which is what she attempted to do. She argued that shelters I am associated with have record rates of animals dying in their kennels as a result of warehousing. This is nonsense. In New York, at a shelter I worked for, deaths in kennels dropped 90 percent after new policies involving cleaning, vaccinating and care policies were implemented. In Reno, Nev., the number of animals being killed and/or getting sick in the shelter has been steadily declining since new no-kill policies were implemented, with adoption rates increasing by as much as 84 percent.
The only example Nachminovitch cited for her flawed proposition where she actually provided any data was for shelters in Los Angeles, of which I have been an ardent critic, have never worked with and which have nothing to do with the policies I advocate. To try to link me with the shelter is the height of obfuscation. It is a lie.
Over the past five years, several animal-control shelters across the United States have embraced not only the no-kill philosophy, but the programs and services that make it possible. As a result, they are achieving unprecedented lifesaving success, saving in excess of 90 percent of all impounded animals. The formula for saving the lives of more than 4 million dogs and cats has been discovered. And we should be working feverishly to ensure that this formula is replicated in every com-munity across this country.