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Archive for September 2011

PETCO sells animals down the river

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By Daphna Nachminovitch

People across the country are rightly outraged that PETCO left hundreds of caged animals to die in its Johnson City, New York, store during massive flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee overflowing the Susquehanna River. Despite highly publicized flood warnings and a mandatory evacuation order from the town’s mayor, PETCO managers abandoned terrified birds, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, mice, reptiles and other animals to struggle to keep their heads above water as floodwaters rose. Nearly 100 animals perished.

PETCO’s refusal to evacuate these animals in the face of imminent danger is only the latest incident in the company’s long history of callous disregard for the lives and well-being of the animals it sells. PETA and the mayor of Johnson City are calling for a criminal investigation and appropriate charges against PETCO for abandoning these animals to die in the flood, but many other animals will continue to suffer and die in the pet trade unless caring people turn their outrage into action, by refusing to buy animals—or anything—from stores that treat living beings like inanimate objects.

To understand PETCO’s total indifference toward animal welfare, you only need to look at the deplorable mass-breeding mills from which it buys the animals it sells. PETA has sent undercover investigators into four animal suppliers to the pet trade, and every investigation found animals confined to crowded, miserable, factory-farm conditions; languishing in filth; deprived of the barest essentials, including food and water; severely neglected; abused and left to endure slow, painful deaths. PETCO is well aware of how animals suffer and die in these hellholes, yet it continues to do business with them.

At one PETCO supplier, Atlanta-based Sun Pet, Ltd., PETA obtained undercover video footage of a Sun Pet employee bashing a bagful of hamsters against a table to kill them, among other horrors. Prompted by PETA’s complaint, the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) inspected the facility and found rodents running loose, dead animals in enclosures with live ones, food thrown on top of bedding and rusty cages with sharp, dangerous edges, which Sun Pet was ordered to replace immediately, but didn’t. U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors confirmed many of these findings and the GDA slapped Sun Pet with a $3,000 suspended fine and two years of probation, but PETCO continues to buy and sell animals from this mill to this day.

PETA’s 2007 undercover investigation of another PETCO supplier, Rainbow World Exotics (RWE) in Hamilton, Texas, revealed similar abuse. We captured heartbreaking footage of a worker castrating inadequately anesthetized rabbits and bleaching their wounds, a manager stomping hamsters to death, live animals being tossed in the trash, a cockatoo starving and dying and more. PETCO has stood by RWE and continues to buy and sell animals from its warehouse.

And PETCO would probably still be selling animals imported by the now-defunct U.S. Global Exotics, Inc. (USGE), if PETA’s undercover investigation hadn’t resulted in more than 26,000 mammals, reptiles, amphibians and arachnids being seized from the facility and a municipal judge divesting the owners of all the animals. At USGE, PETA’s investigator documented animals confined to severely crowded and filthy containers, including soda bottles and milk jugs, litter pans, cattle-feeding troughs and barren wire cages, as well as employees who put hundreds of sick, injured and dying animals in a freezer to die. Some of them, including a squirrel whose neck had been severely lacerated and a chinchilla who was bleeding from a prolapsed rectum, languished for hours before succumbing.

PETCO may not care if animals are bashed against tables at its suppliers or if they drown in their cages at its stores, but it surely cares about its bottom line. It’s up to us to hit PETCO where it hurts—its bank account—by never spending so much as a cent in its stores until it stops selling all animals. People who are ready to care for an animal companion can help stop the flood of homeless animals by adopting from animal shelters and rescue groups instead and having their new companion spayed or neutered.

Daphna Nachminovitch is the vice president of PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Why PETA is ready to go all the way for animals

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By Lindsay Rajt

In preparation for the new .xxx Internet domain that will launch later this year, businesses are rushing to preregister their websites to prevent cybersquatters from creating X-rated rip-offs of their brands. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is also signing up, but we’re not blocking our name. Instead, we’re launching a graphic, “not safe for work” (NSFW) website that will open people’s eyes to what truly dirty things are being done—not in someone’s fantasy, but in reality—to animals exploited in the meat, fur and circus trades.

A PETA triple-X site? It’s a provocative idea—and that’s the point.

We at PETA have gained a reputation for bold actions because we are willing to go where few organizations dare, as long as we can make people aware of issues affecting animals.

Sometimes that has meant lying nearly nude inside Styrofoam containers labeled as “meat” or wearing little more than bodypaint to protest the cruelty of the fishing industry. And it has meant arranging photography sessions with  compassionate adult-film industry greats, including Sasha Grey, Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson, who have appeared in our ads promoting spaying and neutering companion animals—reminding the public that “Too Much Sex Can Be a Bad Thing”—and urging viewers to “Pleather Yourself” (instead of wearing real animal skins).   

Still, some people were shocked to learn of our plans to register the PETA.xxx website. But they shouldn’t be. While people bothered by online erotica resort to heated discussions, a great many others enjoy taking a peek at what’s getting everyone so hot and bothered in the first place, judging from the massive popularity of X-rated sites. And it’s as important for PETA to reach people who visit triple-X sites as it is for us to interact with sports buffs or music fans so that we can show everyone why stopping the truly obscene abuse of animals is worth bothering about.

Yes, PETA.xxx will feature uncensored graphic material. This is no mere tease. Those who like to watch may find anything from exotic skin flicks to shocking hidden-camera video footage that reveals what really goes on behind closed doors. “Naughty” is too mild a word to describe it. Visitors to the site can expect more than just cheesecake or beefcake (while picking up facts about why beef and cheese are bad not only for your heart and waistline but also for your love life).

We firmly believe that no one will feel cheated but that anyone visiting PETA.xxx for cheap thrills will come away better for it.

While it would be nice to just hold a news conference in our office attire and have animal-related issues widely covered, in a world of nonstop multiplatform media, it is often our racier actions that get people to pay attention to the plight of animals. And getting the word out can mean the difference between life and death.

So we hope that people who gravitate toward NSFW sites will give PETA.xxx a peep, while those who might find it objectionable are invited, as always, to visit our main website, PETA.org. Whether titillated, offended or somewhere in between, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to create a kinder world for animals.

Lindsay Rajt is the associate director of campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Can your dog or cat count on you if disaster strikes?

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By Ingrid E. Newkirk

In the course of just a few days, PETA’s headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, was rocked by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake and then clobbered by Hurricane Irene. Half of the underside of our headquarters blew away, and renting out rafts on the river that was once our road could have kept us in dog treats for a year. Luckily, all the building’s occupants, including Brandi, Bubbles and Marshall, the cats who live on the top floor, emerged unscathed. The cats were already wise to sudden shake-ups: They had been left homeless before, dumped by residents of New Orleans in the aftermath of the BP oil spill. They weathered the last two emergencies, thanks to well-rehearsed emergency procedures.

Natural disasters are unpredictable and uncontrollable, which is why it’s crucial to make emergency plans for everyone in the family—including our animal companions—before a disaster strikes. It’s not a responsibility to shrug off.

Most people did the right thing, taking their dogs, cats and other animals with them if they evacuated. But others decided to leave town without making plans and left animals behind to “fend for themselves” in the high winds, pounding rain, lightning, flying debris and floods. One person even asked us for “a heavier chain” to tie down his dog because his other dog was swept off her feet during Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

PETA staffers worked day and night rescuing animals who were left behind. We found a dog who had been left in a pen with only a sheet of plywood above him for “shelter” for three days, as winds neared 70 miles per hour. He is now indoors with his new foster parents, who report that he will not leave their side.

We found a puppy tied so tightly to a grill by a shoelace that she had to stay standing in order to avoid strangling. She had been left like that all night in a flood plain that had been evacuated. What if we hadn’t found her? We took her to our headquarters, dried her off, gave her a good meal and found her a foster home. She’s only 10 weeks old. What an introduction to human nature.

Two dogs named Angel and Sasha were left tied on a tiny metal balcony all night on Friday as the hurricane barreled toward Norfolk. The eye of the storm was only an hour away when PETA arrived at the apartment, where the woman who came to the door said that she wouldn’t let the soaked, terrified dogs inside because they were “destructive.” She signed them over to us, and we took them to a local open-admission shelter.

Early Sunday morning, a call came in from a fire department. A dog had wandered in, old and covered with mange, and collapsed on the floor. The firefighters gave him more love than he had probably ever had in his whole life. Mr. Jones, as the dog is now called, is now resting on a cushy bed at PETA’s headquarters. Who knows what awful memories and worries he has as to what humans will do to him next.   

These are a few of the “lucky” ones, although their trauma manifests itself in many ways—aggression, timidity, separation anxiety. Many other animals suffered and died in the hurricane because their humans couldn’t be counted on to protect them. Leaving animals behind in an evacuation—especially if they are tied up, caged or confined outdoors—is no different from signing their death warrant. They can’t escape rising floodwaters, fire, falling or flying debris and other dangers, and they are likely to starve to death if conditions prevent their owners from returning. The nightmare for them is in having been deserted and left helpless in the face of imminent danger.

It’s crucial to plan ahead. Human shelters often refuse animals, so it’s best to keep a list of places where you can stay with your animals during an evacuation, such as friends’ homes, hotels and campgrounds. Have a disaster kit ready for each animal, including carriers and leashes, water and food bowls, enough food and medication for a week and a favorite toy or blanket. Have your animals microchipped, and put secure, legible ID tags on them. Make sure they are current on their rabies vaccinations, and carry documentation of this with you.

As those of us on the East Coast have experienced, it’s not a question of if a disaster will strike, but when. Please, plan now so that your animals will be safe when an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, wildfire or whatever else Mother Nature dishes out comes your way.

Ingrid E. Newkirk is the president and founder of PETA, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 8, 2011 at 4:47 pm