Facts (from official figures, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services):
In 2013 PETA had 1281 cats in their care (other than those handled as part of its spay/neuter program) . Of those, almost all – 1248 – were surrendered by their owners. Out of the 1281 cats 14 were adopted, 2 were reclaimed by their owners, and 1163 were euthanized by PETA. 89 other cats were transferred to other organizations: 36 to Virginia Beach SPCA (which adopts out about 75% of the cats it receives), and 43 to the Norfolk Animal Care Center.
In the same period, PETA had 894 dogs in their care (878 of whom were surrendered by their owners). Of those, 32 were adopted and 629 were euthanized. Some 222 were transferred to other organizations, 211 of whom to Virginia Beach SPCA, which adopts out 84% of the dogs in its care.
The adoption rates for PETA in the early 2000s was up to around 26% of animals in their care, but this dropped sharply and by the late 2000s was less than 1%. At the same time ,the euthanasia rate rose from 72% to 97%. The euthanasia rate has recently dropped down to about 82%, almost entirely due to a marked increase in transferring cats and dogs in their care to other organizations. Historically, the number of animals transferred to other organizations has been single or double digits. Adoption rates are currently less than 3%.
What do these figures tell us about PETA? Crucial to understand is the nature of the intake. If the intake, for some reason, consists almost exclusively of animals who are considered (rightly or wrongly) by PETA to be “unadoptable” or otherwise without hope of an acceptable quality of life, then the figures become more easily explicable. The figures by themselves tell us nothing about the health or adoptability of the animals PETA takes in. At the same time, PETA appears to take the view that if the animal is not socialized, has shown aggression, requires extended care, is elderly, or simply is ill, such animals should not be adopted out. In defending its high euthanasia rates PETA highlights (often by use of graphic images) cases of animals taken into its care who were suffering to an extent that renders euthanasia an understandable decision. But are such cases representative of the vast majority of their intake?
It is also probably worth noting that PETA does not run a shelter in the usual sense and does not operate an established adoption program. (Most of the few animals adopted out by PETA are to its own employees or volunteers).
In the absence of any objective measure of the nature of the intake, most notable is the change in euthanasia and adoption rates over the years. Why were PETA able to adopt out 25% of their intake in the early 2000s but only managed adopting 1% by the late 2000s? Why did the euthanasia rate rise over that period from around 75% to almost 99%? Whatever the nature of the intake, this dramatic change in euthanasia and adoption rates could be explained by the nature of the intake only if the nature of the intake changed correspondingly. In the absence of a better explanation for this change the most likely explanation would seem to be a deliberate change in policy either by directly affecting how they handle intake (such as a policy decision to euthanize rather than try to adopt animals out) or in a way that dramatically influences the kind of intake they receive (such as, perhaps, stopping charging for euthanasia, perhaps making PETA the “go to” place for euthanizing sick or dying animals. But this explanation seems unlikely, given the generally falling overall numbers of animals surrendered to PETA over that period).
Write up courtesy of Vegeteers’ Member Dr. Godwyn