PETA is proud to provide a ‘shelter of last resort’

Colleen O’Brien

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Please allow me to correct misinformation in Hazel Gordon’s March 22 piece about PETA.

Free of charge, PETA provides a “shelter of last resort” at our Sam Simon Center headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. Our doors are open to every animal in need, including dogs who are brought to us dying from painful cancers or advanced heartworm disease after being chained or penned up outside their entire lives; feral cats ravaged by feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia, or other contagious and fatal illnesses; and animals whose guardians have been referred to us by other shelters or even veterinarians because they can’t afford to pay to end their beloved companions’ suffering. I invite readers to visit our website and watch our video to see some of the many animals we’ve helped provide a peaceful release to.

Readers should also know that the anti-PETA website cited in Ms. Gordon’s piece is run by a notorious front group for the meat and tobacco industries—which kill hundreds of millions of animals every year, not out of compassion but out of sheer, unmitigated greed. This group’s clients fear PETA’s effectiveness in informing people about the suffering and cruelty inherent in their industries and in persuading consumers to change their buying habits and to make kind choices—so it deliberately sets out to mischaracterize our organization’s vital work in our community.

Just as a hospice for humans has a high mortality rate, so, too, does a shelter that primarily takes in animals who are geriatric, catastrophically injured, diseased, and dying. For animals like Trina, a dog with a mammary tumor the size of a cantaloupe, and Chi-Chi, a dog suffering from advanced lymphoma and congestive heart failure, euthanasia is an act of mercy. For some of the animals we serve—who’ve spent their lives in isolation, neglected and deprived of all that makes life worthwhile—it is the only kindness that they have ever been shown. Others are beloved family members, and their guardians stay with them until the very end. We are honored to provide people who have no resources with this service and to provide animals with the dignity of a painless death when life has no more to offer them.

Few people realize that “no-kill” shelters usually refuse to accept animals like these. Turning away the desperate cases makes shelters’ euthanasia rates seem low and appealing, but it leaves the animals most in need with nowhere to go. We see them abandoned and left to die on the streets, or with no other recourse, people shoot them, beat them to death, or let them die without pain medication. PETA works to prevent this by welcoming all animals in need, without discrimination, admission fees, appointments, waiting lists, or other obstacles.

In addition to providing this vital service, PETA spent more than $2.2 million last year helping animals in some of the poorest areas in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina—including areas that lack an animal shelter, a humane officer, or even a veterinary clinic. These are animals whose guardians may live in a caravan without running water or be unemployed, on drugs, or living on disability or other low, fixed income.

Our rescue team goes out every day (and is on call 24/7, including on holidays) to provide dogs who are kept chained or penned in backyards with free sturdy, custom-built doghouses and straw bedding. They replace heavy chains that sometimes weigh as much as or more than the dogs themselves with lightweight tie-outs and provide neglected, abandoned, and abused dogs and cats with flea and flystrike preventive medications, food, water, and much more.

Last year, PETA helped more than 2,000 impoverished families keep animals they had been about to give up by providing them with free veterinary care, including repairing prolapsed organs, treating dogs suffering from life-threatening uterine infections, removing tumors and ruptured growths, performing drainage surgery for hematomas and infected wounds, and treating ear, skin, and upper respiratory infections.

When adoptable animals come our way, we transfer them directly to high-traffic shelters for a chance at finding a loving home. We’ve also found excellent homes for many animals ourselves. Many of PETA’s staffers live with dogs, cats, rabbits, or other animal companions adopted from PETA or help us provide foster homes. We urge everyone who has the time, patience, resources, and love to care for an animal for life to adopt one (or better yet, two) from a shelter, instead of buying from pet stores or breeders.

Adopting saves lives—which is why we promote it—but the key to becoming a “no-kill” community is to become a “no-birth” one. That’s why PETA works at the roots of animal overpopulation. Our fleet of mobile clinics sterilized more than 15,100 animals last year alone—and more than 139,000 animals in the last 15 years—all at little to no cost to their guardians.

Everyone who cares can help by working to pass spay-and-neuter laws as well as laws to ban sales of animals at pet stores and by having their own animals sterilized and helping friends and neighbors get theirs “fixed,” too. By rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, together we can end animal homelessness and arrive at a day when all cats and dogs have the loving homes they deserve.

Colleen O’Brien is vice president of the Communications Department for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

 

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Colleen O’Brien