PETA's Not As Nice As You Think

The organization, which claims to be dedicated to the cause of animal rights, can’t explain why its adoption rate is only 2.5 percent for dogs.

In 2011, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) behaved in a regrettably consistent manner: iteuthanized the overwhelming majority (PDF) of dogs and cats that it accepted into its shelters. Out of 760 dogs impounded, they killed 713, arranged for 19 to be adopted, and farmed out 36 to other shelters (not necessarily “no kill” ones). As for cats, they impounded 1,211, euthanized 1,198, transferred eight, and found homes for a grand total of five. PETA also took in 58 other companion animals — including rabbits. It killed 54 of them.

These figures don’t reflect well on an organization dedicated to the cause of animal rights. Even acknowledging that PETA sterilized over 10,500 dogs and cats and returned them to their owners, it doesn’t change the fact that its adoption rate in 2011 was 2.5 percent for dogs and 0.4 for cats. Even acknowleding that PETA never turns an animal away — “the sick, the scarred and broken, the elderly, the aggressive and unsocialized…” — doesn’t change the fact that Virginia animal shelters as a whole had a much lower kill rate of 44 percent. And even acknowledging that PETA is often the first to rescue pets when heat waves and hurricanes hit, that doesn’t change the fact that, at one of its shelters, it kills 84 percent of supposedly “unadoptable” animals within 24 hours of their arrival.

When I contacted PETA for a comment on these numbers, Amanda Schinke, a spokesperson for the organization, sent a thoughtful and detailed response. In it she explained how “euthanasia is a product of love for animals who have no one to love them.” She called their killing a “tragic reality,” one that forthrightly acknowledges how “sometimes [animals] need the comfort of being put out of their misery — a painless release from a world in which they were abused and unwanted.” Noting that PETA, unlike many “no-kill” shelters, turns no animal away, Schinke added, “we do everything in our power to help these animals.” The harsh reality behind the grim numbers, she noted, should never be forgotten: “Millions of homeless animals are euthanized in animal shelters and veterinary offices across America because of simple math: too many animals and not enough suitable homes.”

But is this really a simple math problem? Nathan Winograd doesn’t think so. Winograd, a Stanford Law graduate and former corporate lawyer, is the author of Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart and Soul of America’s Animal Shelters. When the data on PETA dropped, he posted a scathing article insisting that the organization’s almost 100 percent kill rate was due not to laziness or poor management but to “something more nefarious.” Winograd asserts that PETA’s failure to find homes for impounded companion animals is the result of founder Ingrid Newkirk’s “dark impulses.” Performing a virtual psychological vivisection, Winograd diagnoses Newkirk as a “disturbed person,” a “shameless animal killer,” and the executrix of a “bloody reign” of terror over dogs and cats. At one point, he even compares her to nurses who get a thrill from killing their human patients.

Look past the rage, though, and it becomes clear that Winograd has an important case to make. In PETA’s response to me, Schinke wrote, “Winograd dishonestly and viciously attacks all open admission shelters, those that do not shut the door to any animal, even those for whom peaceful release is a mercy.” This is another way of saying that because PETA accepts so many dire cases, cases in which euthanasia may very well be justified, it should be excused for killing over 99 percent of the animals under its care. Winograd, however, argues persuasively that PETA euthanizes far more than just the unadoptable cases. In the following excerpt from his blog, he reveals that Newkirk admits to killing animals that are “adoptable”:

In a December 2, 2008, interview with George Stroumboulopoulos of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Stroumboulopoulos asks Newkirk: “Do you euthanize those pets, the adoptable ones, if you get them?” To which Newkirk responds: “If we get them, if we cannot find a home, absolutely.”

In an email to me, Winograd elaborated, noting that when The Daily Caller asked PETA “what sort of effort it routinely makes to find adoptive homes for animals in its care,” PETA responded with the ever convenient “no comment.” He also observes that the numbers PETA reports historically come from Virginia, which compiles data only for animals taken into custody “for the purpose of adoption.” Winograd thus concludes that PETA’s claim that it kills so many animals because they are unadoptable is, as he puts it, “a lie.” He goes on:

It is a lie because rescue groups and individuals have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable. It is a lie because testimony under oath in court from a veterinarian showed that PETA was given healthy and adoptable animals who were later found dead by PETA’s hands, their bodies unceremoniously thrown away in a supermarket dumpster. It is a lie because, according to The Daily Caller, “two PETA employees described as ‘adorable’ and ‘perfect’ some of the dogs and cats they killed in the back of a PETA-owned van.”

So yes, Winograd is angry. But even if his argument is only half right, an animal rights organization with a $30 million budget should be able to do a whole lot better.



  • Why arent people in a rampage over this…I certainly am!

    • What we should be “in a rampage” about is the fact that people continue to breed animals, buy them from pet stores, and fail to have their animals spayed or neutered while millions must be euthanized every year for lack of homes. Pointing the finger at the few who are trying to help, like PETA, doesn’t fix the problem or do anything to help animals who are waiting in shelters or struggling to survive on the streets.

      • What we should be enraged about is that Peta isn’t spending their money keeping these animals alive rather than running ridiculous ad campaigns that cost millions of dollars. That money could go to keeping these animals alive. That is what I’m enraged about.

  • monsters ! they just don’t wanna care. for people the most important thing is money.

  • Who doesn’t want to end the need to euthanize homeless dogs and cats? But this lovely-sounding “no-kill” chant is not only misleading but outright dangerous because it fails animals miserably, doing far more harm than good.

    “No-kill” shelters reject the neediest animals because they don’t want to sully their hands doing society’s dirty work. That would be grand if saying “no room at the inn” meant that those who were turned away had somewhere else to go, but they don’t. Every “no-kill” shelter turns away animals when their cages fill up (which is constant). So, what happens to the animals turned away at the shelter door and
    who are the subject of anxious inquiries over the phone?

    Do they suddenly, miraculously, find magic homes? No, they don’t. Do their people
    even care about putting in any extra effort? Often, no.

    “No-kill” fanatics can deny it until the cows come home, but everyone who works in animal control and real humane societies knows exactly what happens. Dogs and cats are abandoned—left locked in foreclosed homes; left chained up in the yard to starve or freeze; dumped on the streets, in the woods, at highway rest stops, in neighborhoods, or even in the California desert to “fend for themselves.” They become ill and infested with parasites, or are hit by cars. Some are even cruelly killed by people desperate to get rid of them.

    And, even given the limited numbers of animals whom “no-kill” shelters take in, how
    many of them simply warehouse animals in cages indefinitely, as if they were inanimate objects who can be stored on a shelf, without happiness, freedom of movement, or real companionship? How many of these places don’t let visitors through the door? How many have things to hide, like deplorable filthy conditions and animals denied proper care? Dozens upon dozens of “no-kill” shelters have been raided and/or closed down because of cruelty in the last year alone. See this
    list for recent examples:

    As this article points out, most of the animals PETA takes in are are abused,
    sick, elderly, aggressive, unsocialized, or otherwise suffering and unadoptable
    (see some of these animals at and With up to 8 million animals flooding shelters across the country annually, many healthy animals must also be euthanized for lack of homes. Even if those 8 million animals could be placed with loving families, there would be 8 million more the next year, and the year after that.

    The only real and long-term solution to the animal overpopulation crisis (and the
    resulting need for euthanasia) is prevention. This doesn’t come by hating those
    who deal with today’s massive overpopulation and homelessness crisis, and it doesn’t come from racing to another state to “rescue” this dog or that from euthanasia. It comes from sterilization programs and facing facts and being outraged that our governments are not doing more to prevent animal births and prevent shelters from making policies that hurt rather than help animals.

    Last year alone, PETA spayed and neutered more than 10,000 animals at little to no cost to their guardians, preventing countless puppies and kittens from being born only to end up homeless. We need everyone’s help. Please, always spay or neuter your animals, and press for everyone you know to adopt animals from shelters—never buy to them from breeders or pet stores. Please visit and to learn more about our work.

    • Just want to say that whilst I’m sure there are many shelters out there like you have described, you shouldn’t stereotype. I work in a very small “no kill” animal shelter in the UK and no dogs or cats are turned away unless there is absolutely no room (which is rare and that is the truth, we have a good turn over rate at this shelter). If animals are turned away we have a back up of foster homes who take in dogs or cats and we are partnered with a larger neighbouring shelter who will take in animals if we are absolutely desperate (this has very rarely happened) and they live by the same policy as us. Our animals are not ignored or mistreated, there are dedicated volunteers who take the dogs out for walks at least twice a day and there is an exercise field where the dogs can spend many hours playing with volunteers and potential new families. Our cats are not kept in small cages. We have a fenced off area with many Wendy houses full of litter trays, beds and toys and access to a large outside area day and night. They are thoroughly cleaned daily and volunteers spend time playing with the cats. Also, feral cats who may be put down else where are found homes on farms, stable yards, etc.
      Whilst I understand some of your points i just didn’t want you to group all no kill shelters together

  • Speaking of “nefarious” policies, can you next train your spotlight on Nathan Winograd and his fundamentalist “no-kill” philosophy that basically puts euthanasia numbers above all else? Some no-kill or “low-kill” shelters are starting to refuse to take in stray and feral cats because they are hard to adopt out, or, in other words, bad for their
    euthanasia numbers. Another of Winograd’s no-kill strategems is “retention”, or telling people who come to the shelter to give up their animals to simply keep them. While that’s great for the shelter’s numbers, that’s bad (sometimes fatally bad) for animals who wind up being dumped on the street or given away to people who chain them up in backyards or do even worse things to them.

  • I think it’s worse to let animals rot in overcrowded no-kill shelters, which leave animals without proper care and in filthy conditions, than it is to euthanize animals who would otherwise spend their lives in cages or on the streets. I applaud the hard work PETA does for spay and neuter efforts, which is the real solution to the overpopulation crisis.

    • Whilst I do agree that animals shouldn’t be left in filthy shelters for the rest of their lives, I do think you’re missing a key point. I work in a very small animal rescue charity (uk based) and we have a no kill policy (unless an animal is severely ill and suffering or a danger which hasn’t been resolved through training though this has never happened in my experience. Whilst we have many cats atm, we take good care of them and they do not waste away in filth or tiny cages. Many are adoptable and find a home eventually but until then we care for the best we can. I don’t say this is necessarily true for all shelters but don’t jump to conclusions that all no kill shelters are the same.

  • Millions of animals are euthanized in shelters every year because there aren’t homes for them all. Warehousing them in so-called no-kill shelters is not a humane solution. They need loving families and room to run and play. Euthanasia isn’t popular, but until more people spay and neuter and adopt animals from shelters rather than getting them from breeders and pet stores, or from irresponsible people who place free to good home ads, it is the only merciful—and realistic—solution. I urge everyone to do whatever they can to help animals – spending time criticizing those who are trying make the world a kinder place helps no one.

  • As this site is called UberFacts, you should really get your facts straight. I’ve been a PETA member for years, and your allegations are wrongheaded and completely unfounded. Yes, of course they want to shock people, because what happens to animals in puppy mills, laboratories, circuses, and on factory farms is shocking.

    I’m careful about the groups to which I donate money, so I’ve looked at PETA’s finances (a summary of which can be found on their site each year). No one at PETA is getting rich; almost everyone on their staff could earn more working elsewhere, but they’re dedicated to helping animals. And they are certainly not paying millions to get stars involved — the celebs want to do something to help.

    It makes little sense to look to the very people who gave up their animal companions as the experts on their conditions; it’s likely the animals they subsequently described as healthy/cute/etc. had problems they probably never bothered to have diagnosed.

    Having lived in Norfolk (PETA’s hometown) a few years back, I can attest to the horrible conditions for animals in the surrounding areas. And after taking rescues to overburdened local shelters (especially after one made the ill-advised decision to go “no-kill” and turn away animals), I know that many healthy animals must already be euthanized for lack of homes.

    If PETA opened an adoption facility, they might be able to find more homes for some of the few healthy, socialized animals they receive — but that would mean one less home for an animal in another area shelter, who would have to be euthanized instead. How is that better?

    Don’t get me started on Winograd and his miguided zealots. Euthanasia is not cruelty. Know what is? Breeding animals while millions are already homeless. Getting a puppy or kitten and then dumping her at a shelter or on the street when they’re not as cute. Leaving animals outside their whole lives until they get sick or injured or go mad from loneliness and frustration. Until those issues are fixed, euthanasia will be a regrettable necessity.

    This smear campaign was launched by a front group for industries that profit from animal abuse. By buying into it, you’re helping animals’ enemies. I support PETA because they’re more effective than anyone in getting real results that improve and save animals’ lives: banning chaining of dogs, operating free/cheap mobile spay/neuter clinics, getting animal-welfare regulations enforced, curbing animal testing at thousands of companies, changing the images of fur, circuses, zoos, etc. The list of victories is almost endless.

    If you want to do away with euthanasia, good. Promote adoption in your community. Sponsor a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Work to pass legislation to discourage breeding and buying animals. But don’t waste your time attacking PETA — it does far more harm than good.

  • PETA does the ugly, heartbreaking work. For all those who criticize, tell me, what’s your solution for all the millions of dogs and cats who no one wants? To sentence them to live in a cage, like a puppy mill? Animals need companionship, love and attention. Warehousing them in the hopes that there are people waiting to take on aging and often ill animals is a fantasy. It’s so easy to sit at your desk or in your armchair and have all the answers. But the reality is far more grim. The world is filled with mean, cruel people, and I am grateful that there are brave souls at PETA who don’t turn away.

    • I know several shelters that get just as many of animals as PETA and can adopt out most of them. There are the sad few that can’t be adopted out, but by PETA’s numbers it shows that they aren’t even trying. Most small shelters live off of donations and PETA has the money to help out much more than they try.


  • Why cnt the people who take care of the animals in the shelters actually take care of them and give them attention. Im guessing if you work there you must care for animals yourself.

  • PETA puts the same value on animals, that we put on humans… so PETA what do you advise we do with overpopulated countries, and the homeless people we have on the streets?

  • could it be about the money? lots of people donate. maybe a financial statement is relevant here.

  • i can understand that its impossible to find homes for all animals, even those that are adoptable. what i can’t understand is why an agency that gets funding from the government AND public donations has a kill rate of over 90%. call me stupid but i find that utterly ridiculous

  • I don’t think you said ‘even acknowledging’ enough

  • I’d like to know how PETA can afford to spend so much on advertising. It must be far wealthier than any vegan or vegetarian society operating in any country, so where do all its donations come from. Given its use of ‘Playmates’ to supposedly advance veganism, Hugh Hefner maybe?

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