Euthanasia controversy sparks new law

Published: Apr. 2, 2015 at 1:51 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2015 at 2:23 AM EDT
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It's been a long standing debate between animal shelters: Can you find every animal a home or is euthanasia a sad inevitability for some animals?

A new law just signed by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe clarifies that the purpose of private animal shelters in Virginia is to adopt animals to permanent homes. It's a clarification many advocates say was necessary because of PETA's high kill rate.

"I do believe that the enormous rate of killing that occurs at their shelter in Norfolk is deeply disturbing," said Richmond SPCA's Robin Starr.
"Disturbing" and "unreasonable" is how Starr describes the operation of PETA's animal shelter in Norfolk, where euthanasia is more typical than adoption. Organizations like Richmond SPCA are speaking out, jumping on board of Senate Bill 1381, which makes it clear an animal shelter's priority should be finding animals in their care permanent homes.
"I think it is a very fine bill that makes clear that private animal shelters in Virginia must operate with integrity," said Starr.
The new law does not require animal shelters to stop killing altogether. PETA responded with a statement, saying, "PETA's animal shelter has always operated to find adoptive homes and will continue to do so as stated in Senate Bill 1381" But numbers in a state report show the majority of the animals they take in are put down. Last year, 2,455 of the 3,017 animals in their care were euthanized, which is a kill rate of 81 percent. PETA says they often take in animals that are old, sick, or injured when "no one else will." But Starr says of the 3,700 animals Richmond SPCA takes in a year, more than half fit in the same category, and they find a home for every one.
"An organization with the great wealth that PETA has should be providing veterinary care and rehabilitation to the sick and injured animals that come in to its care and working to save their lives," said Starr.
PETA did not respond to inquiries about their euthanasia rates or how they determine when animals are euthanized. Starr concedes PETA does good things for animals but hopes this law means a change in these numbers.
"I think if they're not prepared to do that then they should get out of the business of sheltering," she said.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The law goes into effect in July.

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