An armchair activist, like an armchair quarterback, is one
who is critical of those activists who are actually in the "trenches"
helping animals, but who has no experience from which to make valid
criticisms. This last week I've seen several of these armchair activists
condemning Peta for their work in North Carolina. Mind you, Peta has been
doing the dirty work, improving impossible conditions, while the armchair
activist sits at his comfortable desk, slamming Peta for its actions and
insisting that he knows better how to spend their money. And all the while
he shows the world that he really doesn't understand the scope of the
problem with companion animal overpopulation in this country, nor does he
understand what's involved in sheltering and caring for homeless animals.
What started the armchair activist on his/her rant?
Newspapers reported that two employees of Peta were arrested on various
charges after they were linked with the disposal of plastic bags of dead
cats and dogs in supermarket trash bins after they had been killed by
lethal injection. But instead of waiting to hear all the facts, the
armchair activist begins to pound out his vitriolic attack on his computer
keyboard. The armchair activist doesn't even consider that there is
another side of the story, nor that what's being reported is not
convictions, nor that there might be mitigating circumstances. Normally,
news reports are something that activists learn to read with a grain of
salt when it comes to reports about animal activists, but because they
give ammunition to Peta's detractors, these reports are taken as gospel -
the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
What the news reports didn't say is how horrible the
conditions were that Peta has been trying to improve for several years.
Peta was first alerted to the problem by a Bertie, North Carolina police
officer in 2000, whose concerns triggered a Peta investigation of several
so-called shelters in Bertie County and Hertford County where Peta found
some of the animals housed in "shacks without heating in which animals
were left to drown or freeze to death," according to Peta's website at
Also reported by the officer was a large white dog found
drowning in a pool of water, lying on her side and too sick and weak to
lift her head; a starving dog eating a dead kitten; no covering for the
cages; no electricity; and methods of killing the animals that were
barbaric, including a leaky, rusty, windowless box where animals were
crammed on top of each other, and then gassed to death. This gas chamber
can be seen at
Other methods included restraining animals on a metal pole and shooting
them with a .22 caliber gun. Northhampton was killing dogs and cats with
an injectable paralytic agent that causes suffocation while the animal is
awake and aware that it can't breathe.
These "shelters" are in impoverished counties where animal
control is the least of community concerns. They are located in remote
locations, are not open for adoptions, and are minimally staffed by one
warden whose duties include responding to dog bites and stray animals.
Peta found injured and sick animals in the shelter that
were badly in need of veterinary care. Many had parvovirus and contagious
mange. Chains were found imbedded in dog's necks. There was no protection
from the elements. A water hose froze in winter. Animals drowned during
floods and froze to death during winter.
Peta sent a team to offer aid to Bertie County in order to
train shelter staff in proper feeding and cleaning protocols, and built
doghouses within the kennels to provide shelter from the elements - a
desperately needed improvement. Peta made arrangements to pay a local
veterinarian to euthanize the animals painlessly at the Hertford facility
and has paid, to-date, $9,000 for the service.
When checking back with the Bertie shelter, they found
conditions deteriorated again. Countless piles of feces were throughout
the shelter, dogs living in their own filth, a bag of food thrown into the
dog run and left to get wet in the rain, a dead wet cat lying in the
middle of the dog run, two dead puppies in an empty food bag. At that time
they issued an action alert that can still be seen at
All the inhumane methods of killing stopped after Peta
volunteered to provide a peaceful painless death free of charge. No secret
was made that they euthanized animals and that the animals retrieved from
the pounds would be provided with a humane death.
One of Peta's employees met with officials and was never
asked about adoption. The shelters don't have an adoption program or an
adoption rate, and never have. Since 2003 Peta has submitted several
proposals to officials and attended several meetings where they offered
and begged to be allowed to implement an on-site adoption program, among
other things. Officials weren't interested.
Peta worked with the shelters to clean old cages and build
new ones, train personnel, provide supplies and service. They spent more
than $250,000 on veterinary and other services in one North Carolina
County alone. They built a cat shelter from the ground up in an area where
cats were previously set free in the woods to breed.
While all this was going on, Peta also delivered hundreds
of free dog houses and straw to dogs throughout the community, who were
chained to metal barrels or with no shelter at all, and have paid to
spay/neuter countless animals already in homes. This, of course, was in
effort to reduce the birth rate so that less animals would end up homeless
and would mean less animals in the area's death trap shelters.
What does the future hold for the animals in the area if
these shelters terminate their relationship with Peta? They will go back
to their old ways.
As for the armchair activist - what happens to the dogs
and cats who are born into a world that doesn't want them, has not cared
for them, and ultimately has abandoned them to be disposed of? The
armchair activist has all the answers. S/he thinks that all Peta has to do
is build no-kill sanctuaries. But the armchair activist doesn't have a
grip on the massive undertaking this would entail, nor does he understand
what it would do to the animals themselves. The armchair activist believes
that any life, no matter how lonely, no matter how fearful, is better than
no life at all. And that's an easy thing for the armchair activist to
believe, because he doesn't have to live it, doesn't have to see the
animals suffer for his choices.
The armchair activist doesn't take into account that dogs
have evolved, through selective breeding, into animals that want to be
part of human families. The armchair activist thinks that a dog living in
a kennel all it's life, is experiencing a life worth living. How big must
the fantasy sanctuary in the armchair activists mind be, that it can
handle the millions of dog and cats that are killed in this country every
year because of lack of homes? And that's just this year - what about next
year, and the year after that?
We all look forward to a no-kill society, where adoptable
animals don't have to die, but the armchair activist forgets that this is
a goal to work towards - one that will only be reached with education,
spay/neuter campaigns, and possibly even legislation. It's not going to be
solved overnight, and it certainly isn't going to be solved solely with
sanctuaries, because as homeless animals are warehoused in sanctuaries,
people come to the conclusion that it's okay to breed more. There will
always be those that don't care about orphaned animals, and will just
produce more to make money or to please themselves, but that number
increases when people think that their actions don't cause the deaths of
dogs and cats that are already here, needing homes.
Something else that the armchair activist doesn't realize
about sanctuaries is that they fill quickly and need to turn subsequent
orphan animals away. For those that they can take in, if no homes are
available, the adoptable animals become "cage-bound" and are no longer
adoptable. So, such animals are being kept while they slowly become
unadoptable and have to be killed anyway - even by the no-kills. And then
there is always the fine line between being a sanctuary, and being a
hoarder or collector.
The armchair activist also conveniently ignores the
efforts Peta has made to educate and to spay/neuter. Not only in the
counties that are currently in question, but all over the country. Not
only do they have a mobile spay/neuter van called the "Snip-Mobile" (
that helps reduce the birth rate in their area, but they also offer free
downloads of educational literature on spay/neuter, and many other
companion animal issues at (
www.helpinganimals.com/t-lit.html ). And
hopefully they will be able to continue to help the animals in North
Carolina to have a reduction of births, better housing, and a merciful
death when there are no other options.
One other thing that the armchair activist sees fit to
complain about is the method that the Peta employees used to dispose of
the remains of the animals they euthanized, which was by putting them in
plastic bags and placing them in dumpsters. This may or may not be ill
advised, and apparently was illegal, as dumping anything in private
dumpsters is illegal. However, the normal method of disposing of dead
animals by animal control in that area is to send them to a landfill.
Which basically means that they would end up in the same place as the
contents of the dumpster.
More things for the armchair activist to consider:
• It costs taxpayers an estimated $2 billion each year to
round up, house, kill, and dispose of homeless animals.
• An estimated 7 million cats and dogs are killed in U.S. shelters each
• 47% of cats surrendered to U.S. shelters are not spayed or neutered.
• 55% of dogs surrendered to U.S. shelters are not spayed or neutered.
• 67,000 puppies can be born from one female dog and her offspring in 7
• 420,000 kittens can be born from one female cat and her offspring in 6
• 71% of cats and kittens entering U.S. animal shelters are destroyed.
• 55% of dogs and puppies entering U.S. animal shelters are destroyed.
• For every human born, 6 puppies and kittens are born.
Where would you like those 6 puppies and kittens, for each
of your family members, delivered?
My advice to the armchair activist? Get off your duff and
volunteer at a shelter, or with a rescue group. See what life is really
like in the world of homeless animals.
Go on to Second Mad Cow
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