Annually, animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) condemns Groundhog Day. This year, PETA called the exhibition of Punxsutawney Phil “a cruel form of speciesism, a human supremacist worldview.” Ironically, Groundhog Day is around the same time that PETA reports the euthanasia rates in its Norfolk, Virginia shelter to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). As a further irony, the theme of the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which the protagonist experiences the same thing over and over again, accurately characterizes PETA’s kill rate: just like last year and the year before and the year before that, PETA euthanized animals in 2022 at a rate that vastly exceeded the rates of facilities in Virginia reporting to the VDACS.
This year, PETA’s approach differed a little. PETA rolled out a slick video around the time that it filed its VDACS report in which it attempted to describe all of the good things that it claimed it does for animals. Tucked into the heart-rending visuals near the end of the video, PETA stated that it euthanized “2,130 sick, suffering, dying, feral, aggressive or otherwise unadoptable animals.” (What “otherwise unadoptable” means was left unexplained.) Evidently sensitive to criticisms of its euthanasia rate, PETA attempted to blame it on the purportedly restrictive intake policies of other animal shelters “including the municipal one in Norfolk, Virginia where PETA’s shelter is based.” Likewise, PETA’s 2022 intake policy, filed with its VDACS report, claims that the burden has shifted to PETA “[i]n places where public shelters are no longer open-admission, as in Norfolk.” We examined these assertions closer and found them to be suspect at best.
In the first place, the “municipal shelter” in Norfolk that PETA references — the Norfolk Animal Care & Adoption Center (NACC) — was and still is an open-admission shelter. As NACC’s website currently states, “NACC is the city’s animal sheltering facility. Our shelter is open-admission, providing a safe haven for animals in the City of Norfolk.” (Emphasis added). In addition, far from a reduction, NACC’s animal intake increased. According to NACC’s VDACS reports, NACC’s animal intake increased from 3,854 animals in 2021 to 4,337 animals in 2022.
More importantly, however, despite its open-admission policy and the increase in animals taken in, NACC’s 2022 euthanasia rate was miniscule when compared to PETA’s. The following table displays the relevant data (drawn from 2022 VDACS reports) for PETA, NACC and all agencies in Virginia combined:
The graph below plots the data in the table:
As can be seen, PETA’s euthanasia rate is sky-high when compared to the state-wide average. Indeed, the 2,130 animals that PETA euthanized represent 11% of all animals euthanized in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia in 2022.
Unlike what happens to the animals at PETA’s place in Norfolk, Groundhog Day came and went this year with Punxsutawney Phil still alive and kicking and looking forward to six more weeks of winter.