Since our wildly popular PETA Kills Animals website debuted in 2005, more than six million people have seen its startling message. And public knowledge that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals killed more than 97 percent of the dogs and cats in its care during 2006 has surely made the group uncomfortable. PETA’s response strategy so far has generally been to ignore its self-inflicted credibility problem in the hope that it will go away. But lately we’re seeing signs that PETA’s legal pit bulls are trying to intimidate journalists who are inclined to amplify the truth.
Case in point: Universal Press Syndicate pet columnist and New York Times best-selling author Gina Spadafori, who writes a pet-issues blog at PetConnection.com. On Tuesday, Gina noted that while PETA complained bitterly that an average of one dog per year dies in the annual Iditarod race, the group was mum about its own doggie death-toll. After which PETA’s top lawyer immediately threatened legal action. Here’s the letter.
Like a good journalist, Spadafori has followed up a few times since Tuesday, first giving PETA a chance to vent its spleen and then examining the whole fracas more carefully. Here’s the basic issue: PETA’s lawyer claims that absolutely none of the 2,981 pets his co-workers killed in 2006 were “in search of new homes.” As you might suspect, we’re not buying it.
Spadafori asked some probing questions this morning, all of which we suspect PETA will perpetually duck:

Were there medical examinations by a veterinarian, and written records of the same for each animal killed? A behavioral analysis by a qualified behaviorist, and written records of the same for each animal killed? May we see them? Or were these determinations made by the animal’s previous owners, and if so are there the signed forms standard at every veterinary office and shelter making sure the previous owner understands that they are turning the animal over to be killed? May we see those forms? Alternately, may we get the names of all the previous owners so we can ask each and every one of them if it was their understanding that they animal was unadoptable and would be killed when they surrendered the animal? So we can ask, exactly, what they were told by PETA?
If PETA staff made these determinations that the animals were unadoptable, may we have the names of these people and see their qualification to perform such tasks? Are they veterinarians or certified behaviorists? May we see the records of their medical and behavioral determinations that these animals were not adoptable? May we see PETA’s guidelines for determining adoptability?
Honestly, it’s impossible for me to determine if I was wrong without such documentation. PETA’s kill rate seems awfully high, so it’s natural we animal-lovers should wonder how it got that way.

Millions of Americans are asking the same questions, albeit perhaps not so articulately. PETA may have picked the wrong lady to threaten. This one has a newspaper column. Stay tuned.