No more Mr. Nice Guy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The gloves are now off on the heels of PETA’s formal response to the January trial in Winton, as published as a guest column in Saturday’s edition of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

The author of that piece, Daphna Nachminovitch, serves PETA as its Director of Domestic Animal and Wildlife Rescue Department based out of Norfolk, Va.

I’ve known Daphna since the events that unfolded on June 15, 2005 when two of the PETA employees under her watch, Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, were arrested for disposing of dead dogs in an Ahoskie dumpster. Daphna and I spoke several times just after those arrests. I also interviewed her following the two-week trial where Hinkle and Cook were acquitted of the major charges lodged against them.

I harbor no disgust or hatred against anyone representing PETA. I do however disapprove of the way they attempt to hide behind animal rights in an effort to prevent further domestication of pets.

In her column, Daphna said I held PETA responsible for the number of unwanted animals euthanized in Bertie and surrounding counties. I didn’t fall off the turnip truck just yesterday. I know, as I’ve stated many times before, that there are pet owners who fail to take responsibility for the care of their animals, eventually leading to overpopulation in our animal shelters.

I don’t blame PETA for the actions of irresponsible pet owners. What I did say in my Feb. 13 column was the biggest thing I learned from sitting on my duff for two straight weeks at the trial was that PETA apparently thinks all unwanted animals are not worth saving.

Daphna, tell me I’m wrong on that one. If I am, then why didn’t PETA’s CAP (Community Animal Project) program bring back any dogs or cats alive from the Bertie, Hertford or Northampton County animal shelters? Were they all so sick with Parvo and infected with mange? Wasn’t there just one pet worth saving?

Apparently, there was no effort ever made to save any of the animals. If there were, then PETA would have sent a larger vehicle on their CAP trips to northeastern North Carolina. I say that in reference to testimony heard at the trial (the one where Daphna said I wasn’t paying attention). The PETA lawyers kept driving home a point of how did local officials expect the CAP workers to haul 20-to-25 live animals back to Norfolk in the back of a regular size van? That’s not our problem n it’s PETA’s, but then again they didn’t intend to bring back any animals alive to begin with.

That was my take on the whole ordeal. Why would PETA, which operates on donations, sink thousands of dollars in improving our local animal shelters? Upfront, it appears to be a heartwarming story of love and care of animals, but I feel it was an all-out attempt to ensure the short-term health of those unwanted pets so they would have the first chance to stick a syringe full of Pentobarbital in the animal’s leg.

Daphna wanted to know where was my outrage in 2000 when Bertie County used a gas chamber to end the lives of unwanted animals at the pound. She inquired of where I was when PETA representatives made a plea in 2000 before the Bertie Commissioners concerning the plight of the county animal shelter.

To answer those questions, I’ll simply say I was in Ahoskie. We didn’t cover Bertie County in 2000. I was unaware of how they handled their unwanted pets back then. I’ll agree that was an inhumane way of ending an animal’s life, but it was an acceptable practice used for years by rural counties without the financial means to sink into animal welfare.

She went on to accuse me and some county officials that we pretended the sordid treatment of unwanted animals and PETA’s efforts to clean-up that mess never occurred. Perhaps she was listening too much to the PETA attorneys who kept referring to the whole ordeal as a conspiracy to bring down PETA. They even went as far as to hint that this newspaper, in particular yours truly, was involved.

Heck, even Daphna’s column addressed the “us against them” theory. She said a local woman told her during the trial that the local publicity surrounding the trial had given the community a common enemy (PETA) to assemble against.

No, it wasn’t this newspaper or our local county officials that cast a long shadow of doubt against PETA and its often controversial practices. If ya’ll need to point a finger of blame, aim it at yourselves. Who else could have a department known as Domestic Animal and Wildlife Rescue and then claim they are forced to end the miserable lives of these poor, unwanted animals. If that is their definition of rescue, I sincerely hope that if I’m drowning, they’re not the first on the scene. I may be on the receiving end of a cinderblock rather than a life preserver.

And please don’t respond with the tired excuse that all the pets at our local pounds are unhealthy and have to be put to sleep. That’s your wet dream, not ours. If it were the case, then how has an under funded group of volunteers, aka PAWS of Hertford County, adopted out nearly 300 animals since July of last year. If PETA’s “rescue” program had their way, those 300 pets would all be dead by now.