PETA in a Dogfight over its Euthanasia Practices

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) euthanized almost 90 percent of the animals sheltered at the group's headquarters in Norfolk, Va., in 2012, and the organization is taking heat for it.

Critics are charging PETA — renowned for its aggressive anti-cruelty campaigns — with hypocrisy after the group's euthanasia statistics were posted on the website of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

PETA, however, insists the allegations are financially motivated by an industry group whose "goal is to damage PETA by misrepresenting the situation," said Jane Dollinger, spokeswoman for PETA, in a statement.

According to the published records, PETA euthanized 1,675 of the 1,877 animals in its care in 2012, including 602 dogs and 1,045 cats. [10 Things You Didn't Know About Dogs]

"It seems PETA is more dedicated to publicity stunts than to keeping the animals in its own care alive," Justin Wilson of the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) told the Daily Mail.

"It's the height of hypocrisy for PETA to demonstrate for the 'rights' of rats and pigs, while killing tens of thousands of pets. It's time that the Commonwealth of Virginia finally reclassifies PETA's pet shelter for what it is — a slaughterhouse," Wilson said.

The CCF is a nonprofit organization "devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices" from "animal-rights misanthropes and meddling bureaucrats," according to its website.

And the CCF, which receives financial support from the restaurant, food and beverage industries, has locked horns with PETA in the past.

"This is old information regurgitated with a slant by a front group for Philip Morris, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, cattle ranchers, and other animal exploiters that kill millions of animals every year — and do so not out of compassion but out of greed," PETA's Dollinger wrote in an email to LiveScience.

"Most of the animals we take in are society's rejects: aggressive, on death's door or somehow unadoptable."

Each year, between 3 million and 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States, according to estimates from the Humane Society of the United States.

"Anyone who is shocked to learn how many animals have to be euthanized annually should ask themselves if they're spaying and neutering their companion animals, adopting from shelters instead of buying from breeders and pet stores, and demanding higher animal care standards in their own communities," Dollinger said.

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