A spokesman for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling it a “tragic mistake,” but when one of the organization’s former workers took Maya, a Chihuahua, from a Virginia family’s front porch and euthanized it, it was not out of character with what the charity has been doing for years.
Maya, a Christmas gift for Wilber Zarate’s daughter four years ago, was last seen in October 2014 when a PETA worker was observed on the Parksley, Virginia, family’s surveillance video, coming onto the property and taking the dog. Court documents said that on the day Maya was taken, the family had gone to the store to purchase her a pillow, but couldn’t find her when they returned, reported WAVY-TV.
When Zarate checked his security camera, the video showed a van with “PETA” on the side parked in his driveway. Two women exited the van and one walked up his porch, took Maya, and put her in the back of the van. The dog was put down shortly after that.
According to a PETA spokesman, the employee made a “tragic mistake” by euthanizing the pet “without permission.”
“I was angry. I understand they pick up my dog if it was in a tree or another place, but this is in my house,” Zarate said.
According to the 11-page court filing, PETA representatives brought a fruit basket to the Zarates after the dog had been put to sleep. The paperwork said Zarate’s daughter cried for weeks and lost sleep and weight.
“She didn’t want to go to school, she didn’t want to do jobs, she’s crying,” said the girl’s father at the time of the theft.
“They’ve lost a member of their family, as anybody who has a dearly beloved pet understands, they’re a member of your family,” Zarate-family attorney William Shewmake said. “We want to hold them accountable for what they do, and we look forward to a trial in this case.”
The family alleges trespassing and emotional distress and is seeking a judgment of $9 million.
The case highlights PETA’s controversial practice of killing large numbers of animals in its care.
According to data submitted to the Virginia Department for Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed almost 90 percent of dogs and cats placed in the care of the shelter at its Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters in 2012. The charity, known for provocative publicity campaigns such as the “I’d rather go naked” anti-fur campaign, euthanized 1,647 cats and dogs that year and only placed 19 in new homes.
At a time when the major animal-protection groups have have adopted a “no kill” shelter model, PETA defends its higher rate of euthanasia by claiming the animals are “unadoptable.”
“Honestly, I don’t understand it,” Joan E. Schaffner, an animal-rights lawyer and an associate professor at the George Washington University Law School, which hosts an annual no-kill conference, told the New York Times. “PETA does lots of good for animals, but I could never support them on this.”
Now it’s time to see if a Virginia jury will support PETA.
PETA said earlier the woman who took the dog was immediately suspended and later fired. While she and her companion were both charged with larceny by the Accomack County sheriff for taking personal property, the local commonwealth attorney dropped charges saying the surveillance video did not show criminal intent, and there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. PETA was fined $500 because it failed to keep the seized dog alive for the amount of time required by law.