The Best Friends view

June 24, 2005 : 7:15 PM ET

Many of you have called and e-mailed Best Friends to express your views and ask our opinion on the recent arrest of two PETA employees on charges of animal abuse.

Since these two people will be going to trial, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on their particular situation. However, we can certainly comment on the policies of PETA and their public remarks and actions.

PETA runs some very effective campaigns and we support much of what they have done to help bring an end to some of the worst abuses of animals in laboratories, factory farms, at sporting events, and fur farms.

But in the area of companion animals, we have some fundamental disagreements.

At a press conference following the arrest of those two employees, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said,  that PETA believes euthanasia is the kindest gift to a dog or cat unwanted and unloved. We simply couldn't disagree more. The kindest gift to a homeless animal is a good home. The kindest gift to an unloved dog or cat is a loving, caring place to go.

We know perfectly well that there are still more homeless animals each year than shelters feel capable of placing in new homes. But the number of animals being killed in shelters has dropped from about 17 million just 15 years ago to less than 5 million today. And we can now look forward to a day, quite soon, when there will be No More Homeless Pets in this country.

This remarkable goal is being accomplished through the work of increasingly progressive humane groups and shelters, where good people are working to save lives, not destroy them. Any organization that's aspiring to a leadership role in relation to companion animals needs to be encouraging people to save more lives, rather than to go on repeating the failed policies and practices that helped create the problem in the first place.

So we consider it to be extraordinarily irresponsible for a single animal rights group with a loud voice and a reputation for protecting animals to grab the headlines and tell the world that the best thing we can do for homeless pets is kill them. While PETA is in the forefront of many animal-related issues, they are way behind the times when it comes to companion animals. We would hope that they will continue to lead in the areas where they do well, and to stay out of areas in which, by their own words and deeds, they have no positive contribution to make.


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July 19, 2005 : 11:55 AM ET
posted by: cats
I had just posted a comment about an encounter that our SPCA had with PETA last year under the PETA Kills Animals story. Then I read the other comments that were posted. I must say, I am saddened but not surprised by the number of comments that were written in support of PETA and criticizing Best Friends. It is somewhat incomprehensible that people who love animals and work for them support a group that advocates their slaughter and denounce a group that advocates other ways to deal with population problems. Our SPCA struggles with the problems of overpopulation every day, but we also realize that all the years of killing have not solved the problem. We have a humane answer available to us - spaying and neutering every creature we can get our hands on. When we started our spay/neuetr program at the shelter - and especially when we started our TNR program - there were critics who accused us of everything from bankrupting the shelter to providing substandard care for the animals in surgery. One year later, money is pouring in, we've had no surgical problems beyond what you would find in any vet practice, and the amount of good will this program has produced cannot be measured. It is hard work and we all must pitch in. I myself drive around on spay days picking up strays in traps. We won't see immediate results as far as population is concerned, but we will see it eventually. Without groups like Best Friends and Alley Cat Allies educating groups like us and giving us hope, we'd be back to business as usual. When I came on the Board 4 years ago, we were routinely executing 1500 cats every year in our shelter. Last year we euthanized 350 - all for reasons of health, none for space or convenience. If we can do it, everyone can. All that is holding people back is their negativity. I am so sorry to see that surface in so many comments. the animals deserve better. Diane Davison

July 5, 2005 : 12:20 PM ET
posted by: lara
Amen Best Friends !

Once again, you have stated what needs to be said in a professinal, and clear manner. You guys are simply the best !

July 3, 2005 : 5:06 PM ET
posted by: annieb76

July 2, 2005 : 4:33 PM ET
posted by: hlk1126
Let me just say that it was the most wonderful thing I've heard all day to read that in fifteen years, the death rate has gone down from 17 million a year to 5 million a year. This fact is a tribute to the wonderful work that Best Friends does -- NMHP is indeed a reachable goal. Keep it up!!

July 1, 2005 : 12:52 AM ET
posted by:
I was completely shocked and caught off guard to see what PETA was doing. To call it "a gift" to be euthanized?? Come on. Maybe if some effort was made to adopt these animals, there would be no need for PETA's gift.

To have someone in a leadership role who actually believes this scares me. What else are they hiding?

June 30, 2005 : 10:49 PM ET
posted by: dmkastel
I want to compliment and praise the articulate and convincing article written to counter the claim by the PETA organization that the best solution for unwanted animals is to kill them. It is heartening to read the statistics for euthanasia have gone down from 17million a year to 5 million a year.

It is hypocritical and irresponsible for an animal rights orgnization to justify the killing of companion animals, while it chooses to save others. You are very observant to point out that they should be actively pursuing ways to save them instead of defending the killing as necessary.

June 30, 2005 : 8:17 AM ET
posted by: pigsaspets
Thank you for taking the stand that you do. Now we know why we love Best Friends so much. Thank you for all the work that you do for the animals.


June 29, 2005 : 7:58 PM ET
posted by: cloudbursting
Thank you Best Friends! As an activist working for animals and other beings, I have long been concerned regarding PETA's stand for what appears to be the ethical treatment for "some" animals. It's high time Newkirk's philosophy is exposed for what it is, fascism.

June 29, 2005 : 4:08 PM ET
posted by: NancyKe
Ingrid Newkirk is absolutely right and so is Best Friends. However, is Best Friends prepared to back up its noble words? Will you, or any other no-kill shelter, go to these pounds in North Carolina and pick up the animals and give them adequate veterinary care and keep them comfortably until they find forever homes? Unless and until you do, do not condemn those who choose euthanasia. It is very easy to know that every animal is entitled to a good loving home, and very hard to provide one. The bottom line is that there are not enough homes for them all. Even Best Friends and all the no-kill shelters in the US cannot house the hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters each day.


Nancy Kelly

June 28, 2005 : 1:56 PM ET
posted by: icekeva
I too supported PETA, and still do to a degree. That's what's frustrating, I do agree with some but definitely not this. If more people would just volunteer and support the No Kill it could work, people are just too selfish and don't have all the information. They don't want to learn more and go with what they've been told and they tell their children etc.... I am just now volunteering and regret I have waited so long. I am going today to talk to a mobile home park about working a TNR station and hope to get some volunteers there, wish us luck.... Best Friends, is there an easy way to get your name out there? I have already been asked to quit forwarding mail to some people, as I always do :) I leave your magazine in beauty salons and chiropractors office. Any other suggestions?


June 28, 2005 : 11:46 AM ET
posted by: sugrfrejaz
I will never choose death because one day there will be no death - only life - and we have to get used to that eventuality.

June 28, 2005 : 8:25 AM ET
posted by: Rhudgens
I was rather disturbed by what I read about PETA and how they responded. Killing animals is not solution! In the past I have supported PETA, but I don't support this.

I do support and agree with Best Friends, the most we can do is find good homes for unwanted animals. They deserve that! Reaching out and putting in the efffort to get strays neutered and spayed works wonders. I have done that in my own neighborhood and I know it has helped very much.

Shame on you PETA, you won't get my support on this one!

Robin Hudgens

June 28, 2005 : 12:51 AM ET
posted by: Jerry
The HSUS was/is just the SANE, Middle of the ROAD, broad appeal to the most donors - for PETA.

They were/are joined at the hips for years.

June 27, 2005 : 8:42 PM ET
posted by: joannaharkin
"rottirets" wrote (at June 26, 2005 : 9:39 PM ET) on one of these boards relating to this topic -- (this is a long post -- I apologize and alert you) >>I have a very good friend who worked for PETA for awhile, and it was >>her job to round up strays and immediately euthanize them. She was >>becoming very depressed because the animals didn't have a chance. >>She quit the job and stopped working with animals for awhile >>because of the guilt she felt. So yes, PETA does pick up strays and >>put them down without every giving them a chance. This is one >>organization that needs to be stopped.

Below is what I wrote earlier today to a friend who herself worked for PeTA a dozen years ago or so and told me of Ingrid's attitude back then. I was incredulous but came to hear it from others and believe it. So today I wrote her:

An attorney (who worked at [redacted] and now is with [redacted] near my office and came by for lunch one day -- wonderful person who helps feral cats and is a Catholic) said she knew she had to quit working for PeTA when had drinks one night with her co-workers who were conversing about how they "had" to euthanize so many animals at the local shelter they were helping...

She told me they would go into the shelter and "clean house" by PTSing (PTS = put to sleep/euthanize) cats and dogs in the cages even when there were plenty of empty cages. Doing so enticed the public to bring in more animals. She could not tolerate what she saw happening. She acquired a fourth cat and was taunted with being a "cat collector."

Her experience is about two years old, but mimics a story I heard from another PeTA employee (who left) who was once asked by Ingrid to foster a Chiwawa (sp?) dog, a breed for which Ingrid has a particular fondness. This person said, "I cannot because I just took in some orphaned kittens." Ingrid's reply (I know this is all hearsay -- but I can locate the person who told me this) was in effect, "I'll put them down for you. Please take this dog!"

Ingrid ran the Washington Humane Society in DC and before that was a protégé of Phyllis Wright, VP for Companion Animal Services at HSUS. Both of them back in the late 60's-early 70's I believe felt strongly that the only way to solve the pet overpopulation program was to put as many animals down as possible. Reduce the supply and you will increase the value. (In fact I have an article I came across the other day entitled "Why We Must Euthanize" written by Phyllis and published in Shelter News -- going WAY back.) One might say, Ingrid never laid her eyes on an animal she did not have so much heart for that she did not want to put him or her "down" to avoid what fate might otherwise befall him or her as well as reduce the overall supply of animals, as well as work toward a day when there will be no more "companion animals." Because cats are obligate carnivores they especially should be "bred to extinction" and then no one will have to kill other animals to feed cats (or allow them to predate on birds and rodents). In DC in the 60's, 70's and 80's, maybe there just were not enough good homes and insufficient access to low-cost neutering. Too little funding so a decision was made that the public did not need to know what was going on. However, that's "old thinking" and "new thinking" has now evolved and replaced it. Except PeTA hasn't quite "got it." As Michael Mountain points out, animal welfare work is a work of the soul. It should be about truth telling and doing the right thing for each animal in each unique situation. Maybe we cannot become a "no kill" nation overnight (without encouraging animal hoarding), but we can be honest with ourselves and each other and with the public. When I am called by a person whose animal's time might clearly be "up" due to medical or behavioral problems combined with the animal's age and a short timeline (to get the animal out of their home or off the street), I DO support them in making that hard decision not to abandon the animal, but take the animal to a open-admission shelter for probable euthanasia (or to their vet). Sometimes people have told me I'm the first person who said that to them -- other animal welfarists have hung up the phone angrily on them or they (the caller) has left voicemail messages in groups' voice mailboxes and never heart back. The odd thing is that after I've given someone "permission" to make what might be the most loving choice for them that day, it sometimes has taken the pressure off them. They feel as if they have a choice in the matter, and might then ask me to repeat my advice about finding homes for pets using the incredible options available to us today via the internet. (Obviously the caller's devout wish is for me to just take their animal(s).) But I know that lying is not the way to minister to anyone. PeTA needs to restore their credibility in order to help what is more their true constituency (animals in labs, animals in factory farms, animals in bad circuses, etc.). The NMHP movement is here and those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of those doing it! -- Joanna Harkin, Wash DC

June 27, 2005 : 7:47 PM ET
posted by: Laura Holloway
I am appalled and dismayed to hear this from Ms Newkirk. I have always respected Peta and what it stood for. Now I have to change my thinking. It can never be explained to my satisfaction that killing those animals and dumping them was for "their benefit". All of us must continue to work toward educating the general puplic on spaying,neutering and responsible pet ownership. I support NO Breeding by anyone for the next 10 years as a start to the overpopulation of animals but that will never happen. I will no longer support Peta who has the means to save more pets than most organizations who work so hard at it. What a sad story and lesson to be learned this way. Peta just set all the hard working humane groups back a step in the eyes of the nay sayers.

June 25, 2005 : 11:10 PM ET
posted by: Anne
For over twenty years I've TNRd ferals, found homes for many cats and kittens whom I socialized. While it is high maintenance and living in Los Angeles with its schizophrenic animal policies, hostile neighbors, indifferent pet owners who don't spay or neuter and when they re-locate conveniently leave their pets behind for me to do -- yet despite all this, I have managed to keep as many of the outdoor ferals safe and well-fed. I've an fenced-in backyard -- where they can sleep and be at peace -- a mini-sanctuary. I've areas where they can take refuge during rainy and cold days. My pay-off? The knowledge that I've kept them from diseases and other dangers. My ferals' lifespan range from four to twelve years depending on their natural instinct -- and my hard work to ensure that they are kept as safe and healthy as possible.

Being an outdoor feral may seem unpleasant for us humans who are used to the comforts of shelter -- but the ferals had adapted to their condition -- and prefer being away from humans. But I can tell you that they know me. The most rewarding feeling I get is the look of trust I sense they give me when I call them to come and feed. Oh, they also know when they've done something I don't approve -- when they act territorially over the food and bat each other or hiss, I say firmly, "No fighting!" or "No!" -- and they stop, look at me, and eat without fuss.

June 25, 2005 : 7:50 PM ET
posted by: give pets a chance
Thanks for providing your perspective on the PETA story. Indeed, PETA has done many wonderful things to end animal cruelty, but here in Norfolk, companion animal welfare has suffered because of PETA's actions. As a previous shelter employee, I have had to face members of the public who have surrendered their pets to PETA for rehoming with the understanding that the pets would find a good home or be transferred to the local SPCA. The pet owners were desperately seeking help to locate and reclaim their pet after having second thoughts about giving the pets to PETA. I also watched as bags of dog and cat carcasses were delivered for disposal almost daily from PETA employees. When our shelter started asking too many questions about where the animals were coming from (we were only supposed to be disposing of feral cats, but there were cats and dogs, puppies and kittens, many with collars) PETA stopped bringing us the bodies. Furthermore, PETA has jeopardized the potential for our region to receive much needed funding to support a No More Homeless Pets/ Maddies Fund initiative because of their unwillingness to allow local shelters to help them find homes for the animals in PETA's custody. One local shelter transfers animals from as far away as 70 miles because of surplus cage space. Last year this shelter transferred over 200 animals from other shelters and the animals, many of which received medical attention and treatment prior to being placed for adoption, would have otherwise been euthanized.

June 25, 2005 : 1:44 AM ET
posted by: Sharon Kidd
PETA was a pioneer in animal rights. I can understand that they are trying to give an animal the most painless death possible. HOWEVER, that being said, I have visited Best Friends and have seen how effectively the "No More Homeless Animals" mission works. I think that the organizational drive behind the Best Friends project is cohesive and controlled. PETA is more of a band of assorted cells. I love Best Friends and, in particular, Sasha at TLC Cottage. She is my totem cat, and to think that she would have been killed by lethal injection (which is actually painful for cats) makes me angry beyond words. PETA, learn a lesson from Best Friends. They have made it work. So can you.