Baxter Black: The dark side

Two of the richest animal rights groups in the country recently have made the news.

PETA killed 95 percent of the dogs and cats left in its care in 2008 (VA Department of AG), and the Humane Society of the United States contributed less than 4 percent of its $91.5 million budget to hands-on dog and cat shelters in 2007 (Center for Consumer Freedom).

Both stories were presented to expose the hypocrisy of animal rights groups whose commercial fundraising depicts and depends on the image of the compassionate caring of kittens and puppies.

But anybody who has worked for local humane societies, horse refuges, dog pounds or veterinary clinics understands the reason PETA is in the "euthanasia" business in a big way - the country is overrun by unwanted dogs and cats and horses.

It is no easier for the director of a local Humane Society in Montana (not affiliated with the HSUS) to euthanize the majority of the pets she accumulates monthly, than it is for the local veterinarian to agree to euthanize (usually at no charge) a litter of kittens or an unwanted horse.

Nor do I think the people working in the back of PETA are callous about it. Just like the abandoned horse issue, somebody has to take responsibility and do the right thing, and it ain't always pretty.

Much ado is made about spaying and neutering our pets - about breeding too many horses. The fact remains, despite all of our editorials, city laws, clinics and education, PETA put down 21,339 dogs and cats in the past 10 years. All of us veterinarians, livestock people, slaughter horse buyers, city dog catchers, rendering plant truck drivers and PETA workers choose to bear the responsibility of this dark side of the cute and cuddly companion animals world.

The HSUS smartly has chosen to avoid the dark side. We down here in the trenches could use their help to fund more shelters, horse refuges, dog pounds and carcass disposal. We'll still do the dirty work, but their contribution would be a Godsend.

I can tell you personally, working on a kill floor, eradicating livestock for disease purposes, putting down abandoned horses, or helping euthanize hundreds of companion animals in the back room of a humane shelter takes a toll on a person. You who do it have my compassion, admiration and respect - you are on the front line of humanity.

"I loved ol' Blue as much as a man could love a man's best friend

And when his time came, I helped him along. I owed him that much in the end."

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