Be careful where you send your money

Jul. 12, 2013 @ 05:25 PM

This week, I received an email from the American Kennel Club and the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association reporting information about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA is an organization that hasn’t been without controversy through its history but the report I received this week reported action on the part of PETA that’s absolutely scandalous. The organizations name implies the ethical treatment of animals, but their actual practices are anything but ethical.
“While most shelters strive for a 90% re-homing rate, PETA is apparently proud of their 99% killing rate and callously boasts that the animals it rescues are ‘better off dead’. That is an alarming ratio that should be fully investigated. PETA’s track record is absolutely unacceptable,” said AKC Chairman Alan Kalter in a report from AKC and VVMA. “Legitimate animal shelters in America re-home most of their sheltered animals. If some of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs can be rehabilitated and re-homed then PETA can — and should — do better. If they cannot — or will not — then they should leave sheltering to others.”
According to a 2010 report by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, of the 4,569 pets received by PETA that year, 3,630 were euthanized. In 2011, out of 2,050 pets PETA received that year, 1,965 were euthanized. While I don’t have numbers, the Humane Society of the United States apparently has a similar problem to PETA with high euthanasia rates in the neighborhood of 75%.
It’s hard for me to imagine an organization that sells its programs as working in the best interest of animals would kill 99% of the dogs brought to their shelters, but I’m afraid that PETAs disregard for the animals they purport to protect is not such a rare case as one might think. The commercials posted by PETA and HSUS showing photos of cute puppies and kittens and abused looking dogs have little to do with the actual practices of the organizations.
It’s easy to sit back and say such abuses only occur in places like California but this simply isn’t the case. The shelter referred to is in Norfolk, Virginia. A couple of years back, I reported on the draconian beach closures at North Carolina’s own Cape Hatteras and the slaughter of predators on Hatteras Island. In action promoted by the Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife, hundreds of naturally occurring predators on the island were slaughtered. Both organizations promote themselves as interested in the protection of our wildlife. The slaughter of hundreds of foxes, raccoons, and opossums was conducted by the US Park Service in an attempt to protect American oystercatchers and piping plovers, neither of which are endangered. The object was to completely rid the island of all these predators in the interest of protecting a few nesting pairs of birds.
The lawyers of the Southern Environmental Law Center who filed the lawsuit against the US Park Service were awarded $100,000 of our tax money for shutting down our beach. The US Parks Service spent an additional $300,000+ more of our tax money enforcing the ban on, not just driving on the beach, but walking on it as well. That’s right, you can’t even walk in the areas reserved for piping plover and American oystercatcher nesting areas. The law is described by SELC as concerning off-road vehicles, yet they never mention it prevents walking on the beach.
Four hundred thousand dollars plus is just the beginning of the financial boondoggle that’s crippling the economy of Hatteras Island. There were hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of dollars, spent on the research that went into this ill-advised decision to close the most popular sections of Hatteras beach and kill off these animals. I don’t think anyone of either side of this would argue that each of the fledged piping plovers cost American tax payers at least $100,000 each and some estimates reach upwards of one million dollars each for the average of four non-endangered birds fledged annually on Hatteras Island for the last ten years . None of this concerns the folks at the Southern Environmental Law Center, Defenders of Wildlife, or the National Audubon Society other than the fact that they use the issue as a fund raiser for uninformed donors.
In a recent paper, Dr. Michael A. Berry, who worked in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a senior manager and scientist and served as the Deputy Director of National Center for Environmental Assessment at Research Triangle Park, observed, “The paid leadership and staffs of some of these more radical, non-governmental environmental organizations, such as SELC, DOW, and Audubon Society, are constantly searching for a mission to justify their paycheck. They use unsettled law to target the weakest entities they can find, such as the economically stressed communities of the Outer Banks that do not have the financial resources to fight back.”
As long as organizations like this attract poorly informed, feel-good donors who have little real knowledge of the outdoors, those organizations will continue to thrive while the real conservationists, traditional outdoor sportsmen like hunters and anglers pay the real bills that actually do something for wildlife and habitat.
Since 1937, hunters have been supporting wildlife management through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. The idea was to use the excise tax on long guns and ammunition to aid in the conservation of wildlife. The law was expanded to include handguns and ammunition as well as archery equipment in the ‘70s. A similar act that benefits fish conservation is the Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Act that became law in the ‘50s and sets 10% of all money spent of fishing equipment aside for the conservation of fish.
I know no one who wants to see the over exploitation of our natural resources and I’m certain few Americans wish to see animals abused and exterminated without having a reasonable second chance for a quality life. The best approach to managing animals, both domestic, like the dogs euthanized by PETA or the naturally occurring predators that were hunted down and killed on Hatteras Island is a sensible approach that considers a reasonable balance.
Before you donate to any organization, you should know what that organization is really about and not simply react to a well scripted and produced commercial. Please seriously look into non-profits you chose to support. There are organizations that truly do support conservation and there are charlatans who operate on the fringe of reason and use your money to fund huge salaries and programs that actually harm the animals you are trying to protect. I’m not asking you to take my word for this, please research it yourself. You may find you are paying for something you don’t agree with.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com or offtheporchmedia.com.