This week, Nathan J. Winograd, the director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, contributed a story to the Huffington Post Blog accusing PETA, arguably the most famous animal-advocacy group in the world, of animal cruelty.
Winograd claimed PETA has been systematically killing and disposing of animals in a shelter at its Virginia headquarters, charging that 96 percent of the animals that came to the shelter in 2011 did not leave alive.
“PETA does not even try to find them homes,” Winograd said. “PETA has no adoption hours, does no adoption promotion, has no adoption floor.” The report included upsetting images of dead cats and dogs, as well as garbage bags presumably full of animal carcasses, all reportedly taken at PETA's main facility in Norfolk, Va.
Based on recent social-media chatter, it appears that many former supporters of PETA are shocked by the report. Equally startling, then, might be PETA's response to the charges: Representatives of the nonprofit organization confirmed that PETA does in fact operate a shelter at its Norfolk headquarters that routinely euthanizes animals that are deemed too unhealthy or too dangerous to place in homes. Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice president at PETA, called it a “shelter of last resort,” and explained that the facility takes in animals from surrounding rural areas where they have been exposed to “horrific conditions.”
Guillermo said, “There are so many rural, very poor communities where there are no services available.” While explaining that PETA operates the facility at its headquarters only because the situation in the surrounding area is so dire, Guillermo insisted that the homeless animal population in the U.S is so massive that it is unrealistic to expect that all can be placed in homes. It might seem counterintuitive that PETA and no-kill shelter advocates would be at odds with each other, but PETA is openly critical of no-kill shelters that turn animals away -- in some cases, PETA has alleged, leading those animals directly to kill shelters. PETA has been doing its own investigation of some of these shelters and has released the results, which it describes as an expose, exclusively to IBTimes.
“It's stunning that shelters that tout 'no-kill' policies direct people to the very facilities that they publicly condemn,” PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch said. "Contrary to what 'no-kill' advocates would like everyone to believe, there is a huge crisis of homeless animals with nowhere to go, and until people adopt instead of buy, and spay or neuter instead of breed, euthanasia is unavoidable.”
Along with the statement, PETA has released a video of its investigation, titled “Turned Away: A Closer Look at No-Kill,” which can be viewed here. (Please note that while some of the shelters included in this footage have “Humane Society” and “SPCA” in their title, they do not appear to be connected to the national organizations of the same name.)
While Winograd's story came as a surprise to some, news of PETA's kill shelter has been circulating for years, and while PETA has not gone out of its way to broadcast the existence of the facility, it has publicly acknowledged it numerous times, most recently in a statement this year calling for mandatory spay-and-neuter legislation in the U.S. Based on conversations with PETA representatives Friday, there appears to be bad blood between PETA and the No Kill Advocacy Center -- and Winograd, specifically -- but it is unclear if and how the conflict goes deeper than disagreements about how to control animal overpopulation.
Nachminovitch said Winograd's Huffington Post story was “deliberately inaccurate and loosely based on information that PETA itself published publicly months ago,” and she suggested that the No Kill Advocacy Center and the Center for Consumer Freedom -- a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of the food-service and beverage industries -- and are in cahoots to discredit PETA, an allegation that IBTimes cannot yet confirm one way or another. We will be following up this story at a future date, with a closer examination of those relationships.
PETA representatives said they did not have any reason to believe Winograd has been made aware of PETA's investigation and the pending release of the “Turned Away” video. Winograd did not respond to a request for comment.
Ellen Killoran is the Media & Culture Editor at IBTimes. She previously contributed to The L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, and The Daily, and co-produced the HBO...