Is PETA really euthanizing most of its shelter animals? Yes.

March 30, 2009 10:26 pm Published by 31 Comments
PETR
This image doesn’t really have anything to do with this story, but I made it a while ago and I think it’s funny.

Here’s one I heard about a few months ago, but didn’t think about much until it popped up again today on Digg, as most things do.

As the story goes, PETA (the animal rights group) euthanized 95% of all the animals it took in during 2008. Wow. But, is it true?

While researching, I quickly found my way to a site called “PETA Kills Animals”, which seems to be the source of this claim. They have the data they used all wrapped up in a nice PDF file and a table of data showing the exact numbers, from 1998 to 2008. And yes, the data shows, without a doubt, that PETA is euthanizing huge numbers of animals. Case closed, I’ll share the site on Facebook to make myself feel good. Right?

However, someone on Digg doubted the numbers, and claimed the numbers were much lower. Another poster chimed in with links to the data directly from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. (PETA’s headquarters are in Virginia.) That site has PETA’s data from 2004-2007, so that’s the date range I’ll be sticking with for the rest of this article.

I looked at the exact numbers, and at first glance something seemed wrong. In 2007, PETA took in 8362 animals, and euthanized 1815 of them. That’s definitely not 95%; it’s 22%. Huh?

I was confused, and began to get mad at the PETA Kills Animals site. Their euthanization numbers matched the VDACS, but I couldn’t figure out where they were getting their “Received” numbers. Finally, I realized that the PKA site wasn’t counting the animals that were reclaimed by their owners, which makes sense because many animals aren’t strays, they’re just being held until their owners come back to claim them.

 

I crunched the numbers again (which, by this time, I had put together into a spreadsheet) and sure enough, the numbers worked out to 96% in 2007, or 92% from 2004-2007.

PETA Total Animals Total minus returned Killed % Killed % minus returned
2004 10,298 2,655 22% 86%
2005 9,960 2,165 20% 90%
2006 9,637 3,062 31% 97%
2007 8,362 1,896 22% 96%

Just for the hell of it, I decided to compare those numbers to the Humane Society, and to the state-wide averages.

HS Total Total minus returned Killed % Killed % minus returned
2004 88,546 75,373 40% 46%
2005 106,974 92,276 39% 45%
2006 99,550 86,719 35% 40%
2007 96,976 84,095 34% 39%
State Avg Total Total minus returned Killed % Killed % minus returned
2004 241,234 207,351 43% 50%
2005 292,488 254,004 43% 50%
2006 277,784 242,613 42% 48%
2007 269,958 236,216 40% 46%

So there you have it. PETA really does have a horrendous euthanasia record for stray & unwanted animals, at least compared to the Humane Society and to the state average. The percentages are still pretty high no matter where you go, but especially at PETA.

However, one thing I noticed that I found interesting was how much higher PETA’s “Reclaimed by Owner” percentages were compared to the other organizations. PETA’s rate is 75%, whereas the average is 13%. Does this mean that PETA is at least doing a much better job of returning animals to their owners?

Probably not. Once again perusing the PDF document on PKA, I noticed that in PETA’s documents for 2008 and 2009, they’re counting animals that are brought in for neutering as “reclaimed by owner”. In fact, nearly all reclaimed animals are those that were brought in for neutering. I kinda doubt that the Humane Society is inflating their numbers with neuterings, though I don’t actually know one way or the other.

This puts PETA in a good position, PR-wise. By these numbers, they can say that they euthanize only 24% of the animals they take in, versus the state average of 42%, which is a huge distortion of the data. And really, that’s what this article is all about: how you read data, and how it can be twisted to fit your needs.

A quick glance at PETA’s Wikipedia page will give you a much better picture of the organization’s shady goings-on, but there’s really no better example than their animal adoption rate.

Humane Societies: 42%
Virginia state average: 32%
PETA: 5%

Here’s my spreadsheet, in case anyone’s interested.

The Why

About 10 minutes after I posted this, I realized that there’s still a lot of relevant info to pass along, and a lot of unanswered questions.

First, I should point out that the PETA Kills Animals web site is run by the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is definitely not a good source of unbiased information. This is one of those situations where the name is the opposite of what it really is, like the Patriot Act. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote this post: to check the data myself, and to hopefully provide an unbiased point of view. (Or, as unbiased as I can be – I must admit that I really don’t like PETA at all.)

However, the data checks out, and comes directly from the government of Virginia. PETA really does euthanize 95% of the animals it takes in. On the other hand, I have no idea why they euthanize so many animals.

I definitely agree that it’s necessary to euthanize some animals (and people too, but that’s another matter entirely). I found a post on PETA’s blog with photos of horribly mutilated animals (I won’t link to it here because you really don’t want to see those photos) that shows how necessary it is.

But I don’t know what percentage of the animals that PETA euthanizes are mercy killings. I doubt that it’s any higher than the Humane Society or any other shelter group. It’s not like people say “hey, this dog has had half its face blown off; let’s take it to PETA”.

Another thing I don’t know is whether PETA’s shelters operate similarly to traditional shelters, or even how traditional shelters work. But if they can’t operate their shelters well, and if they can’t properly provide adoption services, maybe they should just stop doing it, and donate that money to the ASPCA.

The data is accurate, but we still don’t know exactly why the data says what it does. Hopefully, with this info out in the open, people will ask more questions, and ideally, PETA will explain exactly why its euthanasia numbers are so high. There must be a good reason, right? Or are they hypocrites?

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This post was written by Bevans

31 Comments

  • sunnyskeptic says:

    OMS, those PETA people are such f'in liars. None of this surprises me, but thanks for posting it, what a read!

  • sunnyskeptic says:

    OMS, those PETA people are such f’in liars. None of this surprises me, but thanks for posting it, what a read!

  • Shanonigan says:

    Best post I've read on this subject. Thanks for the info and the thoughtful reflection.

  • Shanonigan says:

    Best post I've read on this subject. Thanks for the info and the thoughtful reflection.

  • erin says:

    peta goes in to state run shelters and takes the animals slated to be euthanized, then they euthanize them in a more humane manner.this is why the numbers and greater for peta. peta is doing the right thing euthanizing these animals, the blood is on society's hands (who should be spaying/neutering) not peta's.

  • erin says:

    peta goes in to state run shelters and takes the animals slated to be euthanized, then they euthanize them in a more humane manner.

    this is why the numbers and greater for peta. peta is doing the right thing euthanizing these animals, the blood is on society's hands (who should be spaying/neutering) not peta's.

  • Bevans says:

    That's definitely the kind of thing that would make all this make more sense. Thanks for the info.However, can you provide a link to that info? I'd like to find out more, so I can update this post.

  • Bevans says:

    That's definitely the kind of thing that would make all this make more sense. Thanks for the info.However, can you provide a link to that info? I'd like to find out more, so I can update this post.

  • Happytaps says:

    You might also want to consider that some of the animal pictures PETA uses are staged, as in the Silver Springs monkey trial where founding member Alex Pacheco went under cover and illegibly and maliciously staged photos against Dr. Edward Taub.

  • Happytaps says:

    You might also want to consider that some of the animal pictures PETA uses are staged, as in the Silver Springs monkey trial where founding member Alex Pacheco went under cover and illegibly and maliciously staged photos against Dr. Edward Taub.

  • StanTweedle says:

    Yes, if PETA kills them and throws them in a dumpster it is ok. If I kill them and eat them it is not. Go Figure…..
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • permaculture says:

    Confirmed here by: [Penn & Teller – Bullshit – PETA] (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0exLa6saV9o)
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • There was a time when PETA was a really cool organization. I remember doing events at concerts where we made small but real progress. Now PETA is a Myspace-fueled fashion statement for rich teenagers.
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • deltron says:

    Penn & Teller had an excellent episode on PETA. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9ijLulwUTY
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • maryjayjay says:

    I’m vegetarian because I hate plants.
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • jambarama says:

    A lot of animal control organizations are capturing, sterilizing, and releasing wild animals. Of course that doesn’t help with animals that used to be pets, but for feral cats/dogs it seems more humane to me.
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • mistercow says:

    If you look more closely at these numbers, you can see that something is fundamentally out of whack here. For example, in 2005, PETA took in 9960 animals, 7795 (~78%) of which were reclaimed by the owner. The Humane Society, on the other hand, took in 105469 animals, of which 14697 (~14%) were reclaimed by the owner. Right off the bat, something is very, very strange. If nothing else, this makes me wary of any attempt to directly compare these statistics. Anyway, [PETA has responded] (http://web.archive.org/web/20040210045810/http://www.petrescueonline.org/newsinfo/petaeu2.htm) to these kinds of accusations before. Apparently the reason that their euthanasia rates are above average is that they take in animals that other shelters reject, and with very sick animals, they euthanize immediately.
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • mistercow says:

    >One possible reason their euthanasia rates could be so high is that they take some of the animals that are in the worst shape or that they take animals from non-killing shelters when the non-killing shelters have an animal that needs to be killed. Of course, that is all just speculation on my part. Your speculation is [quite astute] (http://web.archive.org/web/20040210045810/http://www.petrescueonline.org/newsinfo/petaeu2.htm).
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • Spocktease says:

    I think the most poignant bit to take from this is that PETA demand we stop using animals for *anything*; we can’t eat them, research on them, put them in zoos or even *keep them as pets*, yet for some reason it’s okay for PETA to kill the animals in their custody when they become too burdensome. I’m not saying euthanasia isn’t the right thing to do in many situations… I think it can sometimes be the most humane solution. But then, *I’m not in PETA.*
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • Spocktease says:

    You’re certainly right about slaughterhouse conditions. The way many domesticated animals are treated is abominable, to say the least. However, I think it *is* justified for us to kill and eat animals. We, as Humans, need the raw materials only animal flesh can provide to sustain ourselves. It is possible to survive on a vegan diet, but to my general knowledge, it’s not recommended by doctors since it can have effects detrimental to one’s health. In an ideal world, it would be entirely unnecessary to kill to obtain our food; we could synthesize it or grow it somehow. I’m certain we’ll learn to do so one day, partly because of the moral aspect of killing (which, while necessary for our survival, is still a [bummer] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Understatement)), but mostly because it’ll be cheaper and more efficient than giant murder factories. In the meantime, however, lots of people would die very quickly if humanity as a whole were to switch to a vegan diet. We simply don’t have the infrastructure in place to accommodate the needs of 6.8 billion people without killing animals for food. I believe it is our responsibility to do so, to survive — but to do so without giving the poor beasts miserable living conditions, stress, disease, and famine their entire lives and then slicing them apart while they’re still breathing. I think we’re better than that. /soapbox I enjoyed the exchange between you and dbconnect.
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • Matt says:

    I was going to write a response articulating how I feel about this article, but I thought this clip says more than I can.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXhbSgRIUKI&NR

  • Matt says:

    I was going to write a response articulating how I feel about this article, but I thought this clip says more than I can.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXhbSgRIUKI&NR

  • unmsia says:

    PETA euthanised most of its unwanted shelter animals, with a kill rate of 90%+, nearly 50% more than other shelters. http://bit.ly/9ZMvxj
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • mariah_a says:

    I’m a vegetarian. Because I don’t like the taste of meat. PETA fucking sucks.
    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  • Phil Goetz says:

    I have a theory, though no inside information. PETA believes that animals, in their natural state, have rights in the way most people believe people have rights. Pets are animals bred to be stupid, trusting, weak, and dependent, for our enjoyment. The owner-pet relationship is fundamentally exploitative. PETA probably sees all pets as abominations that should be exterminated.

  • Lindsay Kaufman says:

    The Youtube link no longer leads anywhere- repost it?

  • Lexia says:

    Don’t tell me your buying into this bullshit, the website petakillsanimals.com is fake. http://www.consumerdeception.com/index.asp it explains everything right here, the guy made the website because a tobacco company gave him a $600,000 “donation” to spread propaganda against PETA. Do some critial thinking before you assume everything you read on the internet is real. I have friends who work at PETA, and I’ve been in that office, and no of what they say happens.

  • soraya says:

    Below is what Peta just wrote me, after I said I would like to do TNR on some cats living in an abandoned house.

    Special note for their view about cats “not to mention the fact that cats decimate wildlife populations and disrupt ecosystems in the cruelest ways.” (I thought humans were cruel, not animals)

    Here it is:

    “Finally, about the cats in the abandoned house, I’d encourage you to take them to your local animal shelter rather than sterilizing them and returning them to their lives as strays. This would actually put them in harm’s way! I can help you find the appropriate open-admission shelter, if you’d like. This is very important because these cats might not survive the rest of the winter (I understand a few more snowstorms are coming up!). Additionally, disease, extreme weather, traffic, breeding, predation, larger animals, injuries, dogfighters who trap cats whom they use to train their pit bulls with, bunchers who trap cats to sell to laboratories, poison, cruel kids, angry neighbors, sacrificers, not to mention the fact that cats decimate wildlife populations and disrupt ecosystems in the cruelest ways… PETA fully encourages good people like you to trap feral cats and take them to the shelter. With more than 300 cruelty cases coming our way weekly, the vast majority involving outdoor cats, you would be taking them out of harm’s way.”

    For me, there is nothing more beautiful than cats who pursue freedom and are allowed to climb trees and go on roofs.

    I am shocked by this answer from PETA.

  • soraya says:

    Ah, and about ASPCA, when I had two kitties left by my front door and I had no idea what to do with them, they told me I should look for help from ASPCA in NJ (I was calling NYC) and the lady helped me in nothing. She was actually quite rude, the only person in the unit, therefore, the only one answering the phone. One of these people who are just holding a job they got but don’t really care about working.

    Neither NYC or NJ ASPCA helped me in nothing.

    I ended up getting a lot of help from an organization called CATS, who still help me on anything related to cats.

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