PETA kills animals.

The animal rights group known the world over for its in-your-face, attention-grabbing campaigns against fur, animal testing, circuses runs a "shelter" in Norfolk, Va. that destroys 2,000 pets a year.


The group explains its shelter functions more as a free euthanasia facility for impoverished people and unwanted, old and sick animals, than a traditional shelter, adopting out only a handful of animals each year.

PETA is unapologetic about its activities, which many in the shelter world consider highly controversial.

I spoke to PETA vice president for cruelty investigations Daphna Nachminovitch in 2011 after getting my annual email from the Center for Consumer Freedom - a group run by lobbyist Rick Berman, which represents big agriculture and has waged an aggressive campaign against PETA and other animal welfare groups - pointing out the group's off-the-charts kill rate.

She described their work as a humane, "last resort" option for low-income pet owners in rural counties of Virginia and North Carolina.

"Most of the animals we take in are euthanized at the owner's request," she said, adding many can't afford vet care for costly procedures like hip replacement or treatment for parvo virus.

"They come to us with dying animals in their arms," Nachminovich said. "We alleviate suffering."

PETA also puts down strays and feral cats in large numbers.

A story in Sunday's edition of The New York Times looks at PETA's seemingly contradictory philosophy about companion animals, one that runs counter to the current " no kill" movement. PETA is taking heat from "no kill" activists.

"PETA does lots of good for animals, but I could never support them on this.," Joan E. Schaffner, an animal rights lawyer and George Washington University law professor, told the Times.

"We place some animals in good homes," Nachminovich told me.

Last year the total placed was 19.

PETA's shelter has no web presence and does not list pets on Petfinder, the major internet site for placement of shelter animals.

Nachminovitch told the Times that animals were better off being humanely euthanized than suffering in shelters or at the hands of owners who could not properly care for them.

PETA takes issue with the "no kill" movement for promoting cruelty by encouraging the warehousing of animals in overcrowded shelters.

In Pennsylvania, two large shelters, the Humane League of Lancaster County and the Delaware County SPCA, have gone 'no kill" in the last 18 months, leaving police, dog wardens and the public with few options to turn to when they pick up strays.

Chester County SPCA, which has a contract with Delaware County to take its strays, has seen a spike in its intake, but has not so far released its euthanasia statistics. A new open admission shelter, the Lancaster SPCA, opened shortly after the Humane League's policy took effect and quickly was criticized for euthanizing animals.

Some animal welfare activists blame the shift toward "selective intake" on the quest for public acceptance and grants from Maddie's Fund, the San Francisco-area foundation that supports no kill shelters. This can lead some shelter operators' fudging placement statistics, ignoring calls to pick up stray and offloading animals at low or no-cost to adopters without conducting thorough background checks, they say.

Nachminovich told me PETA would like to end euthanasia but for now they will continue to advocate for spay/neuter, place animals they can and humanely euthanize those that are, in their view, suffering.

"The animals we take in and euthanize I don't worry about it," she said." It's the dogs at the end of a chain who die a horrible death."