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Why We Euthanize

Written by Ingrid Newkirk | March 21, 2013

In my first year working at a grossly substandard animal shelter in Maryland, I forced myself to go in early to euthanize dogs by holding them in my arms and gently helping them escape an uncaring world without trauma or pain and to spare them from being stabbed haphazardly—while they were fully conscious, terrified and aware—in the general vicinity of their hearts with needles blunt from reuse and left to thrash on the floor until they finally died by the callous people who would arrive later to do the job.

I always wonder how anyone cannot recognize that there is a world of difference between painlessly euthanizing animals out of compassion—aged, injured, sick, and dying animals whose guardians can’t afford euthanasia, for instance—as PETA does, and causing them to suffer terror, pain, and a prolonged death while struggling to survive on the streets, at the hands of untrained and uncaring “technicians,” or animal abusers.

Diamond was suffering from a painful facial tumor that was slowly eating away at his face
Sasha had a severely infected bite wound

It’s easy to point the finger at those who are forced to do the “dirty work” caused by a throwaway society’s casual acquisition and breeding of dogs and cats who end up homeless and unwanted, but at PETA, we will never turn our backs on neglected, unloved, and homeless animals—even if the best we can offer them is a painless release from a world that doesn’t have enough heart or homes with room for them. It makes it easy for people to throw stones at us, but we are against all needless killing: for hamburgers, fur collars, dissection, sport hunting, the works. PETA handled far more animals than 2,069 in 2012. In fact, we took in more than 10,000 dogs and cats and work very hard to persuade people to spay and neuter their animals and to commit to a lifetime of care and respect for them. We go so far as to transport animals to and from our spay/neuter clinics, where they are spayed or neutered and given vet care, often for free! Since 2001, PETA’s low- to no-cost spay-and-neuter mobile clinics, SNIP and ABC, have sterilized more than 50,000 animals, preventing hundreds of thousands of animals from being born, neglected, abandoned, abused, or euthanized when no one wanted them. And on a national level, PETA is focusing on the root of the problem through our Animal Birth Control (ABC) campaign.

Big Girl was still alive when a field worker found her
Still Alive

If anyone has a good home, love, and respect to offer, we beg them: Go to a shelter and take one or two animals home. The problem is that few people do that, choosing instead to go to a breeder or a pet shop and not “fixing” their dogs and cats, which contributes to the high euthanasia rate that animal shelters face. Most of the animals we took in and euthanized could hardly be called “pets,” as they had spent their lives chained up in the back yard, for instance. They were unsocialized, never having been inside a building of any kind or known a pat on the head. Others were indeed someone’s, but they were aged, sick, injured, dying, too aggressive to place, and the like, and PETA offered them a painless release from suffering, with no charge to their owners or custodians.

Every day, PETA’s fieldworkers help abused and neglected dogs—many of them pit bulls nowadays and many of them forced to live their lives on chains heavy enough to tow an 18-wheeler—by providing them with food; clean water; lightweight tie-outs; deworming medicine; flea, tick, and fly-strike prevention; free veterinary care; sturdy wooden doghouses stuffed with straw bedding; and love.

What we see is enough to make you lose faith in humanity. One pit bull we gained custody of, named Asia, looked like a skeleton covered with skin when PETA released her from the 15-pound chain she had been kept on for years. Asia suffered from three painful and deadly intestinal obstructions, which prevented her from keeping any food down. She faced an agonizing, lingering death, so our veterinarian recommended euthanasia to end her suffering. We pursued criminal charges against those responsible for her condition, leading to their conviction for cruelty to animals. That is just one of the dozens of cases we see every week.

The majority of adoptable dogs are never brought through our doors (we refer them to local adoption groups and walk-in animal shelters). Most of the animals we house, rescue, find homes for, or put out of their misery come from miserable conditions, which often lead to successful prosecution and the banning of animal abusers from ever owning or abusing animals again.

Santana had facial injuries so serious that his right eye was swollen shut and his jaw was ripped and hanging
Facial Injuries

This dog was suffering from advanced cancer

As long as animals are still purposely bred and people aren’t spaying and neutering their companions, open-admission animal shelters and organizations like PETA must do society’s dirty work. Euthanasia is not a solution to overpopulation but rather a tragic necessity given the present crisis. PETA is proud to be a “shelter of last resort,” where animals who have no place to go or who are unwanted or suffering are welcomed with love and open arms.

Please, if you care about animals, help prevent more of them from being born only to end up chained and left to waste away in people’s back yards, suffering on mean streets where people kick at them or shoo them away like garbage, tortured at the hands of animal abusers, or, alas, euthanized in animal shelters for lack of a good home. If you want to save lives, always have your animals spayed or neutered.

See more about how PETA saves animals.

Commenting is closed.
  • Michelle says:

    I understand what you are doing and it is sad for the animals they didn’t asked to be treated that way by bad’s not fair… If you ever need help bringing animals to clinics to be spayed or neutered in my area.. i would be glad to help..

  • Joel A. says:

    thank you for posting this. this is exactly what i would try to let the people bashing peta know about euthanasia but they never get the bigger picture. keep up the amazing and important work peta! i support you guys completely!

  • Bridget says:

    i don’t like seeing any animal suffering like these are either….but peta puts these pics up for a reasonpeople who don’t give a crap about animals see these kinds of pictures and sometimes it changes their point of view…and one person’s mind changed for the better towards animals is absolutely beautiful. beautiful just like every one of these sweet creatures. thanks for the article Ingrid! thanks peta! you are my religion!

  • Vegan says:

    Such heartbreaking photos…but they truly demonstrate why humane euthanasia administered by trained personnel must be made ubiquitous and readily available. I can’t believe the same isn’t available for humans. There is simply no compare between quality of life and mere existence.

  • Harlie says:

    ah finally. its ridiculouss what people on the O”Rielly factor said that made me so mad. Peta is amazingg! 3 D

  • sgt. pepper says:

    omg!!! the pictures are unbelievably amazing i have no words to explain how i felt when i saw the pictures i love dogs i love any animal but dogs are the animal that i love the most please warn us if you are going to post those kinds of pictures i’m horrified. how can someone treat an animal so badly?! no words

  • Niranjan says:

    Fk these people at the Center for Consumer Freedom they act as if they care for these abandoned animals. CCF B$Ds.

  • Marivic says:

    Thank you for posting this entry I cannot explain how much this really broke my heart. I cannot understand how some humans can be so extremely cruel to another living creature. It so sad to see these animals in pain and they are at our mercy.

  • Carlie says:

    Killing healthy animals in “shelters” helps breeders stay in business. If shelters refused to kill healthy animals they would fill up to capacity and breeders would finally be recognized as the cause of this problem. For all those animals who are not incurably suffering let them live they don’t want to die and we have no right to end their lives!

  • Coral says:

    May god have mercy on the souls of their abusers.

  • Lori says:

    Thank you Ingrid is the least I can say! I am NOT offended by these photos and I believe you HAVE AN OBLIGATION to keep posting these photos no matter how scary and sad they are. I am offended that I live amongst a general population of people who DON’T WANT TO FACE this kind of painful truth. I couldn’t even imagine the HORROR of living in that painful state never mind having people turn their backs because my pain is TOO UNCOMFORTABLE for THEM. I don’t know how YOU do it! I know for a fact if I hadn’t watched the videos on PETA or read articles like this I would have stayed ignorant and one more compassionate heart would have been wasted! Actually 3 compassionate hearts! As a mother and persuasivedemanding girlfriend LOL I have introduced us all to a vegan lifestyle! And!…My daughter proudly displays her PETA stickers on her school bag proudly stating her intentions given her new information about factory farms!! Awareness is the key! No matter how gruesome the reality WE OWE IT TO THE ANIMALS THAT SUFFER TO BE THEIR LOUD AND “OFFENSIVE” “CRAZY” “BLEEDING HEART” ADVOCATES!! My money is your money

  • Brittany says:

    I think it is absolutely horrific that Consumer Freedom created such falsities about a group as wonderful as PETA. To outrageously post such libel as Consumer Freedom did is cause for a lawsuit. Maybe if PETA did file suit against Consumer Freedom they would have more resources to continue to help as many animals as possible.

  • Bailey says:

    i definitely felt the impact of this post.. but those pictures will really haunt me please post a warning next time just so we know what’s coming.. but thank you PETA for having the compassion to not let these poor suffering animals live in agony from the consequences of societies own stupidity and carelessness. I can truely say that I am so appreciative of the kind humans out there like you all that are strong enough and smart enough to know what is right and when to do it… I LOVE PETA!

  • Laurie Marshall says:

    I couldn’t read the whole article the pictures were so disturbing. My horse has a visible cancer and I’m having a hard time dealing with that… I wish I could read the article.

  • Jasmine says:

    how can ppl do this? How can they allow an animal to suffer so bad makes you wonder if they are so hap hazard with thier childrens health.

  • Christine says:

    I have seen many of those animals myself because for years I have picked up dogs and cats from the street and I also volunteer at a local animal shelter in Cabo San Lucas Mexico a place where people sadly still need to learn a lot about taking care of animals. However the last picture posted here made me cry. I have seen many cruelties and I have also been there for those poor animals when they were euthanized to give them some love and comfort in the last moments of their lives. But that last picture just brought tears to my eyes. It upsets me how people are able to abuse animals in such a way I just dont understand it and it makes me angry. I also work to educate people about spaying and neutering and it is a long difficult way but I hope that one day we will get there that one day people will learn and understand that animals are living beings who feel pain and joy and love and suffering just like we do that they should be treated with respect.

  • April McDannell says:

    I completly understand your position. I am on a rescue email list and the one thing that is in ever single email is that the dog is not altered what a shame in this day and age. A no kill shelter sounds great but after months of being kept in small pen with no hope I personally feel it is in teh best interest of the animal. Of course if the animal can be placed in a home then that should be the plan but many cannot. What your are doing is not popular but I applaud you for taking a stand for those with no voice.

  • Rachel says:

    These photos are horrific and painful to look at but I think it’s important that people see them. I have seen several of the antiPETA ads rear their ugly heads again of course never stating that big business with a financial interest in animal cruelty is behind them.

  • Kate says:

    These pictures are horrifying yet required to confront those that don’t understand what happens and what these poor innocent creatures have to go through because of the human race being so ignorant. It tears me to pieces knowing animals are suffering all around the world in the most unbelievalbe ways possible I have also dedicated my life to save these animals in need great and small I want to save them all…. If only that was realistic… as long as I can make a difference I will die a happy girl Thanks for the brilliant work your doing PETA your so right your cleaning up the dirty work of the human scum that do these things someone has to and you have decided to carry out this horrifying task…. well done… please don’t ever stop supporting animals!!!

  • Megan says:

    I agree about the warning perhaps but seeing the pictures and seeing animals come in as I have while working at a shelter is what is going to make people realize just what is going on in the world of animal cruelty. People can talk about it until they are blue in the face but until you see a picture like these or see a dog weighing 10 pounds that should weigh 50 or more you will never fully grasp what is going on in our society.

  • sam says:

    why do they keep complaining DO something about it stop going after restaurants help the animals who actually need help why wont anyone do anything except complaininstead of making horrible jokes and non clever names do something……christ

  • Cathy Dunne says:

    It takes nerves of steel and hearts of gold to do this loving work. One day it won’t be necessary people will “get it” I am sure. Maybe not in our lifetimes but they will. And as far as putting a warning on the pictures please do not sugar coat things. Those pictures tell the truth. Sugar coating things and hiding the truth is what keeps us in this mess of suffering. Once people know ignorance is over.

  • Serenity says:

    I am so sick of the smear tactics “PETA kills animals”. anyone who believes such deliberate deception is of low intelligence. it is not even logical that an animal rights groups CHOOSES to ever euthanize animals but rather MUST do so to end terrible suffering. Rest assured PETA intelligent humans do not fall for these ridiculous lies spread by horrible humans that profit from hurting animals feel guilt about the fact that they are breeding animals and adding to this tragic overpopulation problem and of course just plain HATEFUL sadistic humans that see PETA as a threat to their right to enjoy abusing and killing defenseless animals. Keep up the great work. PS what’s wrong with those wimps who can’t handle those photos? that’s the reality of humans abusing animals they need to deal with it so that others can learn the TRUTH.

  • Jeremy Storly says:

    Don’t put a warningpeople need to see this! I have been trying for years to convince people that PETA is forced to euthanize animals for a reason but many are willing to accept the propaganda of the CCF not knowing they are a front for the meatrestaurant and tobacco industries. THANK YOU for giving us the TRUTH and not trying to candycoat it. This is the world we live in people. Don’t like it? Then CHANGE IT!!!!!

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you PETA for doing an amazing job and not turning away animals when other shelters do.

  • nur aykurt says:

    have respect for peta and endless love for dogs are like my kids. believe in the highest penalties for those who hurt our innocent animals

  • Cara says:

    Thank you for explaining this. I will never be able to understand the kind of abuse animals receive and I support PETA all the way. I have become a vegetarian and always check products to make sure I am not buying an animal product or a product tested on animals. Thank you for everything you guys do to help living creatures.

  • Shaz says:

    The people who criticise PETA for euthanising animals are always the people that do NOTHING to help animals or worse they are hunters or fur wearers etc. They are trying to deflect criticism from themselves but anyone with half a brain can see that PETA does a lot of great work and makes a difference to thousands of lives.

  • Jacob says:

    A common rally cry from the enemy “PETA How many people would still support you if they knew you euthanized animals?” Uh almost all of them judging by this entry.

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    Thank God PETA has addressed the euthanasia issue upfrontthank you so much Ingrid. The antianimal rights lobby has gotten far too much mileage out of it. Proactive transparency is the best way to take the wind out of their slimy sails. This should be posted every 6 months to help shut up the big yappy mouths of the deceptivelynamed Center for Consumer Freedom and others.

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I work in an open admissions facility where we do everything in our power to care for and adopt each and every animal that enters our shelter. We too have a lowcost spayneuter clinic but it’s still not enough in this “throw away” society.

  • Chris says:

    I’m glad you addressed that issue. I know you take a lot of flack on it. I’m going to save it and pass it on to the naysayers

  • kasia says:

    i support you 100 ! most of those animals would probably thank u you for letting them go if they could speak. all they knew was hatrid cruelty pain and dissapointmen. people should stop accusing you and talking st.. by the way i wonder if all those who are PETA HATERS take things into their own hands and adopt animlas to “save” them from you…? i bet all they do is talk! SAD! PS. pictures that are posted here just broke my heart those poor things deserved to die in peace…

  • Sarah Anne says:

    I personally see no reason for someone to not see the difference. Just last summer I had to euthonise my dog Maggie. She was a 15yearold Golden Retriever German sheared and had two attacks of vestibulars disease. Before those she was running around like a puppy then within 4 months she couldnt do much of anything and being in pain all the time. Stopping animals from suffering is completely different than making food out of them. Some like mine just cant get better.

  • Rhonda Lavallee says:

    Thank God for people like you!! Keep up the excellent work you are doing including giving unwanted abused and neglected animals a comfortable and loving death. This is far more humane than other ways some people which I will call bastards have found to kill animals.

  • Lauren says:

    I think that the pictures are up there for a reason… if you wouldn’t have seen them would the article have affected you the same? I can’t stop crying when I see these pictures when I read about some things that happen to animals.. It’s cruel disgusting sickening and it has to come to a stop.

  • Chris says:

    Thank you Ingrid for this heartfelt and genuine blog entry. It thoroughly explains why PETA is faced with euthanizing thousands of animals. It’s not PETA’s fault it’s society’s fault. When will people learn?

  • Jazz says:

    Euthanasia is sometimes the last nice thing u can do to an animal especially when it had such mad cruel and unbelievable experiences!!!

  • Jacob says:

    Glad to see we finally addressed that. Now hopefully we can see those fascist teenagers as what they are nutjobs.

  • Beth says:

    I am so passionate about the ethical treatment of animals.

  • Jasmine says:

    i had seen the criticism from other groups towards Peta but i dismissed it as i believe Peta’s actions and results speak for themselves. Those pics are horrific. My heart goes out to those poor animals.

  • Harlie says:

    3333 i really hope you mean it. GO PETA. i hope this opens some peoples eyes!

  • Becca says:

    I’ve worked in a shelter and seen horrible abuse and I am a strong supporter of euthanasia. However I was less a supporter before I saw what terrible conditions these animals arrive in. I think the key is education. People need to see these pictures to understand why euthanasia is an absolute neccesscity. They also need to understand that euthanasia is a painfree end to the painful life that many animals are forced to live.

  • Jay Sitlani says:

    It breaks my heart when even a single companion animal has to be euthanized but there are often no other viable options. I would like to think that were I dying a slow agonizing painful death I too would choose euthanasia. Often euthanasia is the noblest most courageous choice.

  • Cassie Evans says:

    Wow. I can’t even begin to say how much this hurts me. As i was reading this i was crying and couldn’t believe some of the stuff i was seeing and reading. It is my goal in life to stop animal abuse. I don’t just want to stop it i need to stop it. How can someone so those things to animals? How? How can people me so cruel and cold hearted? I will do anything i can to stop animal abuse but i do need help. I will devote my life to it.

  • Chelsea says:

    I have so much respect for Peta. And as a supporter of all of the hard work that you do I know exactly what you are talking about. People love “Petabash” to me all the time. But it is facts like in this article that I can present to them to maybe change a few minds. Thanks for posting and for all of the incredible things that you do !

  • Aneliese says:

    Very well written. However there should have been a warning at the beginning of this entry about the pictures. I hate to think of the kids reading this and they having to see the photos like me without any warning.

  • Celine says:

    i so agree!! very well said i feel so bad for these horribly treated animals GO PETA!!! you guys are amazing!!!

  • Jeff Patterson says:

    Would PETA be interested in the Buffalo N.Y. police Dept issuing a no knock warrant on a citizen and imediately shooting his two family dogs with buckshot only to leave not finding anything and making no arrest’s. Contact Dan Patterson 81 Indian Church Rd. Buffalo N.Y. Thanks

  • Natasha Thompson says:

    I find it unbelieveable that people can treat animals in unkind and hurtful ways. It breaks my heart.