PETA Is Pissing Up the Wrong Tree

October 4, 2005 — A large number of us in the animal rescue community are up in arms over a recent article in PETA's Animal Times, "The Disturbing Facts About No-Kill Shelters." And although we understand it's the mission of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to push peoples' buttons, cause a ruckus, and generally fan the flames of controversy for the greater good of the animals, we think they've finally lost their minds. They think we should kill more animals to free up more time to support their domestic pet priority, family planning.

We're so appalled with this "thinkpiece," which begins with a suspiciously apocryphal-sounding tale of a man who ran over his dog after finding no room at the no-kill shelter, that we're posting a rebuttal to their reductive thesis.

PETA says: "No-kill" animal shelters should really be called "leave-the-killing-to-someone-else" shelters.

Katie says: Exactly. Just because we cannot save them all does not mean we should not try to save any. Each year, larger, more commercial organizations such as the Humane Society chapters kill a multitude of animals that we consider to be adoptable. Because they deal in volume, they have a lower tolerance for behaviors and "defects" that are correctable or manageable in a smaller setting like ours. No-kill shelters like Second Chance Ranch take in fewer animals, but still provide a valuable service to the animals whose lives are spared because we spent a little more time and effort finding them a home.

PETA says: Even though the people who run these places are usually well-meaning, they can never build enough cages and kennels to house the 6–8 million dogs and cats who need homes each year. When "no-kill" shelters turn animals away because their facilities are already bursting at the seams—what happens to these animals?

Katie says: We really hope that posing this as a question was a rhetorical device, because if PETA really does not know the answer, their standards of truth and responsible reporting are lower than even we give them credit for.

Oftentimes, these animals are referred to or transferred to other no-kill shelters or, increasingly, private foster homes. Second Chance Ranch has a private placement program, where animals stay in their current home while we post them on the Web site and screen potential adopters for a suitable home. Second Chance Ranch has provided free training to hundreds of pet owners, helping them mend the relationship with their animals so they could keep their pets. As a last resort, the more responsible pet owners take their dogs to their vets to be humanely euthanized; the less responsible owners dump them at a kill shelter.

We at Second Chance Ranch are optimistic realists. We try to save every animal we can, but we cannot work miracles. We know that some dogs are truly dangerous and some sadly are so warped from abuse that they are beyond repair. Where we differ with PETA is that we think euthanasia should be used only after all other options have been explored. Through our work, we try to teach that pets are worth saving and deserve more consideration than a quick trip to the nearest kill shelter.

PETA says: If they aren't abandoned or killed by their owners, they go to the shelters that never turn away an animal in need.

Katie says: People who kill and abandon their pets are selfish, stupid, and evil. PETA knows as well as we do that selfish, stupid, evil people do selfish, stupid, evil things every day, regardless of consequences or options. Kill shelters have not dissuaded humans from violence against domestic animals any more than prisons have dissuaded humans from violence against humans. For a lot of animals, the shelter means nothing more than 72 hours of fear and confusion before death. That is a service we choose not to specialize in.

PETA says: (These shelters) have made the difficult choice to take in every single animal brought to them, including those who are diseased, badly injured, aggressive, elderly, or unsocialized after spending their lives at the end of a chain—animals who have little chance of being adopted. They take them all in, even if all they can offer the animals are a meal, kind words, a loving touch, and a painless release from an uncaring world.

Katie says: If PETA had bothered doing their homework, they would know that kill shelters consider no-kill shelters to be a valuable part of a heterogeneous animal support system. Kill shelters turn to no-kill shelters for help when the clock is running out on an adoptable dog or when they pick up an adoptable stray they don't have room for.

But in PETA's oversimplified view, everything is rosy, calm, and kind at the noble kill shelter. This magical place must exist only in PETA's mind, because it's unlike any kill shelter we have seen. We have found most kill shelters to be cacophonous warehouses of cold cement, where terrified dogs are dragged and shoved into cyclone fence cages, where the stench of bleach and the smell of fear hangs thick in poorly ventilated air. The food, if any is provided, is often of poor quality. The medical care, if any is provided, is often perfunctory. The abattoir approach to animal management has so desensitized many shelter workers that there often is no "loving touch" and the entire grim enterprise is anything but painless.

Because the kill shelter is PETA's "good place," Second Chance Ranch is of course assigned the role of "bad place." Please, everyone, the next time you come to the Ranch for a free horse training demo or to help socialize the puppies we crawled through wilderness thickets to save, don't forget to tell us about the horrors you've witnessed at the nightmarish hellscape of food, warmth, love, and healing that is our animal sanctuary. Remind us that instead we should have just killed all of our animals, because they shouldn't have been born in the first place.

Are you as unimpressed with PETA's intentions to divide the animal welfare community by discrediting dastardly do-gooders like us? Send an e-mail with your thoughts about this article to on No-Kill Shelters.

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