ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

So Many Questions Surrounding Maya’s Theft …

Since I wrote my initial blog post on being rescued by Black Boy I have started digging deeper into what happened to Maya the Chihuahua. Now I have so many questions banging around in my head that I can barely think straight. And I’m frustrated because the more I dig the more questions I have. So I’ve decided to write some of them down. Not because I think I’ll get any answers from PETA but because I need to try to sort them.

1. I’ve been told by supporters of PETA that the employees who stole Maya believed she was a stray since she did not have her collar and tags on. But it seems that PETA, prior to the day Maya was stolen, had not only visited the trailer park where Maya and her family lived but had sat on the porch from which Maya was stolen and visited with her family. So how can PETA supporters still assert that she was a stray? Did PETA also, originally, before sending a fruit basket to Maya’s family, assert this?

2. We are now being told that one of the employees who stole Maya has been fired because her actions were a violation of PETA policy and Virginia law. If her actions really were a violation of PETA policy, rather than PETA SOP (which I believe is true based on my own tenure with PETA), why wasn’t she fired immediately — both for violating policy and for breaking the law? Why did PETA hire a lawyer to defend her and the other employee who assisted in Maya’s theft? Why wait until SB 1381 is before the Virginia assembly, and then have PETA’s lobbyist announce that one of the employees who stole and killed Maya had been fired?

3. We are also told that PETA employees were at the trailer park rounding up strays for a local farmer, who claims the dogs were attacking his livestock. What business did PETA have rounding up strays? And, according to Virginia law (specifically, Subsection 3.2-6546 C): ” C. An animal confined pursuant to this section shall be kept for a period of not less than five days, such period to commence on the day immediately following the day the animal is initially confined in the facility, unless sooner claimed by the rightful owner thereof.” Why wasn’t Maya held for that five day period? For that matter …

4.  It is my understanding that other animals were rounded up that day. How many were rounded up? Has PETA released the records of intake for that particular day? What happened to the animals who were rounded up with Maya? Why weren’t they held for the five day period required by law? I know we can assume they were also killed but has PETA ever addressed this aspect of what happened that day? Their lives matter too.

These questions are just the tip of it for me. And I’m frustrated by the lack of answers from PETA, I’m more frustrated because we may never get the answers to these questions and others. We all know, if there hadn’t been video of Maya’s theft, the story of Maya would just be another whisper in the wind; the word of one family, who would have been painted as negligent at best by PETA, against the PETA giant. But I am certain of this: Maya’s family is not the only one to have had an animal stolen from them by PETA.

I am urging folks in Virginia whose animals have “disappeared,” especially in areas where CAP works, to come forward and ask PETA about your animals. And I am asking people who have surrendered their animals to PETA for the purposes of rehoming them to ask PETA what happened to the animal? Ask for proof, ask for adoption records. Don’t just take their word for it. There are answers here, we must be relentless in our search for them.




My Letter to Virginia Delegates

Tomorrow I will be e-mailing all one hundred Virginia House members, asking them to vote yes on SB 1381. The following is the letter I’ve written to them — I wanted to share it on my blog as well. I’m giving my perspective not just as a former PETA employee but as someone who has experienced animal rescue overseas, and someone who has seen how shelters and rescuers have done so much with so little in order to help the sickest animals I’ve ever seen. Keeping that in mind, I know PETA, with its incredible resources, is capable of more — SB 1381 would require them to rise to that.

Dear Delegate,

I am writing today to ask you to please pass SB 1381. As a former PETA employee who worked in the Community Animal Project (the division that does field and shelter work), I know from firsthand experience that this bill is needed in order to protect the animals taken in by PETA.

In the eight months I worked for CAP the vast majority of dogs and cats who were killed were healthy, adoptable animals. They were not gravely ill, injured, elderly, aggressive, or otherwise unadoptable, as PETA is claiming. While my employment for PETA was fifteen years ago, I firmly believe, based on their own report of how many animals were killed in 2014, that they still hold a policy where killing animals they bring in is not a last resort — as it should be in a shelter — but a first response.

I was told to kill entire litters of healthy, adoptable puppies and kittens, cats who had been kept exclusively inside all their lives, dogs who would have been adopted in a heartbeat in other shelters. And I was told this by Ingrid Newkirk herself, the President of PETA.

My husband is a diplomat, currently with the American Embassy in Honduras, and over the course of our various postings I have volunteered for shelters and rescue groups in developing nations. Their efforts on behalf of animals put Ingrid Newkirk’s to shame. I have also worked in a small shelter in Montana, and volunteered at another shelter in Virginia. Neither in America nor abroad have I ever seen a shelter with kill numbers as high as PETA’s. It’s unheard of.

And I have never worked with another organization that has anywhere near PETA’s wealth. I volunteered in a shelter in San Jose, Costa Rica, for instance — the only conventional shelter in the area — and it operated on a shoe string budget. It did free and low-cost spay and neuter; it had vaccination clinics; it ran a veterinary clinic that helped some of the most destitute and neglected animals I have ever seen. They also took weekends where they would go into the most impoverished communities in the country and provide free care for animals. They never turned an animal away, and they only performed humane euthanasia (meaning they only euthanized an animal if he/she was suffering and could not be helped).

In the three years I lived in Costa Rica, euthanasia at that shelter was so rare that, when it had to happen, it was something the director and I talked about at length because it weighed on her. This is a shelter that sees some of the sickest, most neglected animals you can imagine: malnourished street dogs, abused dogs kept outside who are attacked by other dogs, cats with severe infections, wildlife attacked with machetes, etc. — and euthanasia is rare there. Consider this: if an underfunded shelter that routinely sees animals in such distress can provide them with what they need, then why can’t PETA?

PETA can do better, and this law would require them to do better. They know this, which is why they are lobbying so hard to defeat this bill.

Note that other shelters in Virginia support this law — PETA is the lone voice against this necessary legislation. Please do what is right for animals, and what is right for your constituents, of which I am one: I remain a Virginia taxpayer. I am sure that the great majority of Virginians do not agree with PETA’s “kill first” philosophy, and would urge you to vote in favor of SB 1381.

Thank you for your consideration,

Heather Harper-Troje

Important Information on Virginia’s SB 1381: No Time to Waste

The following is a piece By Douglas Anthony Cooper that was just published in the Huffington Post about Virginia Senate Bill 1381.  You can find it here but I’ve put the entire piece in my blog because this is so important and so timely. We don’t have any time to lose, the vote is tomorrow. Lobbyists, and the large organizations they work for, should not get to dictate what becomes law in our democracy, the only way to prevent this is to act. Please, if you are a Virginia voter, contact your representative and tell ask them to vote in favor of SB 1381, the contact information you need is in Mr. Cooper’s piece. The time is now.

“PETA would like you to believe that tomorrow’s crucial vote in Virginia isn’t about them. It’s about all those shelters that open their doors to dogs and cats, and then kill almost every single one. Never mind that PETA is the sole “shelter” that fits this description.

No, the bill isn’t about them.

That’s why PETA is the only group to have hired a lobbyist to quash this bill. That’s why PETA is the only group screaming about just how terrible this bill will be for innocent creatures.

Their lobbyist, Stephan Haner, is good. I mean that: he’s a pro. Note how he opens this letter to the delegates who will be voting: “Okay, we get it — people dislike my client PETA, for a whole bunch of reasons. But base your opinion on the truth, not a pack of lies.”

Nice, huh? Yes, these are lousy people, but you and I — adults — are capable of rising above such sentiments, and judging wisely. And, predictably, the next paragraph introduces… well, a pack of lies.

Bill 1381 “seeks to prevent any private shelter from practicing euthanasia.” Sayeth our lobbyist. Which is an interesting opinion, if you find rank garbage interesting.

Nobody is trying to prevent the practice of euthanasia. The bill does not oppose euthanasia, and neither does any advocate that I’ve ever met or heard of — including those that describe themselves as “No Kill.” Euthanasia means mercifully ending the life of an animal who is sick and beyond cure: generally in pain. Killing — as opposed to euthanasia — means ending the life of an animal just because it happens to be alive. The bill would deter shelters from doing the latter.

And don’t kid yourself: this bill is aimed at one shelter in particular. It aims to shut down PETA’s grotesque slaughterhouse: their “shelter,” which has killed over 33,000 pets. Yes, lots of shelters in American kill unnecessarily, but PETA’s kill rate puts them in a special category. They are a machine.

“So, let’s talk about it,” says their lobbyist. Okay, I’m all for that. Let’s talk.
“Of the 3017 animals it accepted in 2014, almost 2868 were surrendered by their owners.” Right. I have no reason to disbelieve this. It’s probably correct — or mostly correct. What is almost certainly not correct is this: that all of those owners wanted those pets put to death.

People surrender animals to shelters hoping, for the most part, that they will be re-homed. Often they explicitly request this. PETA kills these pets anyway.

Don’t believe me? We have abundant information, including the recent testimony of a whistleblower, who worked at PETA fifteen years ago: “I was told regularly to say whatever I had to say in order to get people to surrender animals to me: lying was not only acceptable, it was encouraged.” And often what was said was this: that PETA would be adopting these animals out.

This courageous whistleblower, Heather Harper-Troje, recounts one litter of puppies: “They were surrendered by their owner — I picked them up. We were supposed to find them homes, but they were all euthanized.” And this is simply one anecdote: “I never had an owner tell me they wanted their animal killed.”

Perhaps that testimony is too old for comfort? Perhaps PETA has reformed its vicious ways? Well, you’re welcome to conclude this, except that an employee was videotaped recently — just this November — stealing a perfectly health pet from a porch in Virginia: a little girl’s dog, which was killed almost immediately afterward. PETA’s lobbyist describes this as “a terrible mistake.” I’d certainly agree with the “terrible” bit. Theft is rarely a “mistake.”

Frankly, nobody decent could possibly conclude that PETA has become a more reputable outfit — not after reading this fully documented report: “PETA’s Secret Slaughter of Kittens and Puppies.” (Warning: the photographic evidence will turn your stomach.)

So, I’m glad we’ve had this little talk, Mr. Lobbyist. And I am truly impressed by your rhetoric. What worries me is that the delegates representing the people of Virginia will be equally impressed. And that would be a disaster for animals.

If you’re a Virginia resident, contact your delegate. The vote is tomorrow. You can find out who represents you on this page: “An Urgent List for Virginia Voters.”

You can arm yourself with the actual facts here: “SB1381: David and Goliath scenario to protect Virginia’s dogs and cats.”

Tell your delegate that you’re on the side of David. That you agree with Virginia’s elected senators, who have already passed this bill on your behalf. That you’ve done some reading, and spent some time with your beloved animals, and have decided that Goliath and its lobbyist don’t speak for you.”

Don’t Let PETA Fool You, SB 1381 is a Good Bill

Tonight I saw an “Action Alert” from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urging people to ask the Virginia House of Delegates to vote against SB 1381. Let’s look again at what SB 1381 does: “Clarifies that the purpose of a private animal shelter is to find permanent adoptive homes and facilitate other lifesaving outcomes for animals.” Sounds like the definition of a shelter, right? But, apparently, PETA needs it to be clarified, and then put into law, that a shelter should exist to rehabilitate and re-home animals. As the law stands now, or, rather, the loophole of the law stands now, they are free to kill the vast majority of animals who come into their shelter. This law would prevent their ability to do that.

What makes me most angry about this “Action Alert” is that it is cynical, it demonstrates they will stop at nothing to push their agenda. And it takes complete advantage of well meaning people who look to PETA as a beacon of animal welfare, and who trust the organization to tell them the truth. They are counting on that trust. Don’t let them fool you. Unlike PETA, I am not asking you to take me at my word, I am saying if you have any doubts at all do your research, figure out where you stand, and then do something! I trust in the integrity of this bill, I trust in what is right. So I trust, when you do your research, you will support this bill and you will make your voice heard.

I haven’t heard of other shelters in the area opposing this bill. In an article by Arin Greenwood for the Huffington Post, Tabitha Frizzell Hanes with the Richmond SPCA states this:

“The current wording of the definition has been interpreted to create a loophole under which the PETA facility in Norfolk operates as a private animal shelter but without the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals. Over the past decade, as save rates at private shelters across Virginia have risen and euthanasia rates have fallen, the PETA facility euthanizes the animals it takes in at a rate of about 90 percent.

“It is out of step with the progress being made for our state’s homeless animals for a private shelter to operate not with the purpose of finding animals adoptive homes but almost entirely to take their lives.”

Ask yourself, if other shelters are supporting this bill why is PETA opposing it? Why did it hire a lobbyist to fight it?

I’ve been accused of doing this to seek attention, so I hesitate to post the interview I did with WVEC TV in Virginia but I’m going to because it is my testimony. It is the truth.

Interview with WVEC

This “Action Alert” is a lie. What they’ve written in it, their “concern” for smaller, private shelters, is a lie. It’s all done in the name of protecting the status quo at PETA–to kill the vast majority of animals they take in. Don’t let them fool you, and don’t let them stop you from taking action. Go here for a list of all Virginia delegates and their email address, and then contact them. Make sure you put in your subject line that you support SB 1381.  We are obligated to speak for those who can’t, and together we can create a change that will benefit vulnerable animals who are counting on us. Their lives depend on our action, plain and simple. So, ACT!

Virginia Voters, Keep Up the Momentum!

I’ll be happy when this blog can go back to its regularly scheduled programming of writing about the places we visit, raising kids overseas, and the occasional political rant but, until that can happen, this is the track we are on.

Virginia Senate Bill 1381 has conquered one more hurdle, this time in passing the House Agricultural Committee. It was close, 12-10, but it happened. Friday is go time, that’s when the bill is before the House. I am urging Virginia voters to contact their delegates and ask them to support SB 1381, briefly tell them why this bill is so important. If you’re not sure who your delegate is you can go here. And I’m asking folks to go further by contacting all members of the House of Delegates and do the same, you may not be one of their constituents but you are still a Virginia voter, you can find the list here.

I know that we can sometimes wonder if appealing to our representatives makes a difference, but it’s what we’ve got, and if we all do it then we’ve got a powerful weapon, one we need to use. If we do nothing then we’ve let the lobbyist working on behalf of PETA win, we’ve let the status quo of killing adoptable animals win. So let’s move forward, folks, and fight for the animals who cannot fight for themselves. We’re in mile 11 now, and we never give up on a run.

An Urgent List for Virginia Voters

Virginia’s SB 1381 passed the House Agriculture Subcommittee yesterday afternoon, but just barely–4 Y-3 N. On Wednesday it will go before the full Agriculture committee, if it passes there it will go before the full House on Friday. To remind, SB 1381 “Clarifies that the purpose of a private animal shelter is to find permanent adoptive homes and facilitate other lifesaving outcomes for animals,” it closes a loophole that needs to be closed. If this bill passes any private facility that calls itself a “shelter” will not be able to kill the majority of the animals it takes in, it will instead have to re-home them.

I am urging Virginia voters to act. We know that PETA has hired a lobbyist to work towards defeating this bill, we can’t let that happen. I’m posting an Action Alert from No Kill Hampton Roads, please act on it as soon as you can, we’re down to the wire here.


SB 1381 passed the House Agriculture Subcommittee yesterday. Vote was 4-3. It will be before the full House Ag committee tomorrow, Wednesday morning. So, please contact your delegate and House Ag committee members today.

1. Contact your Delegate and urge them to support SB 1381 and request support for this bill from fellow delegates on the House Ag committee.

2. Contact each House Ag committee member and urge support for SB 1381.
(FYI Delegates Poindexter, Knight, James & Keam voted in support of this bill yesterday in the Ag subcommittee and the no votes were from Morefield, Orrock & Marshall)

The House Ag committee has 22 members and for your convenience their email addresses are listed below and also a suggestion of what to say:

Dear Delegate:
As a Virginia, I urge you to support SB 1381. This bill clarifies the language for what constitutes a private shelter in Virginia. It includes that a “private animal shelter” means a facility operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes and facilitating other lifesaving outcomes for animals. Surely this is something we all want our private shelters in Virginia to strive for, the best outcome for each and every companion animal.
Thank you.

Why Would PeTA Hire a Lobbyist to Defeat a Bill Intended to Help Animals?

In Virginia tomorrow Senate Bill 1381, which has already passed the Senate, will go in front of the House. This bill “clarifies the purpose of a private animal shelter is to find permanent and adoptive homes and facilitate other lifesaving outcomes for animals.” If SB 1381 passes it would mean that PeTA, which states that it has a shelter (and, therefore, has to meet the legal guidelines for animal shelters), would have to shift from killing the majority of animals it takes in to finding adoptive homes for them instead. The way it would most impact PeTA is clearly stated in this article by Arin Greenwood at the Huffington Post:

“The current wording of the definition has been interpreted to create a loophole under which the PETA facility in Norfolk operates as a private animal shelter but without the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals,” Tabitha Frizzell Hanes, of the Richmond SPCA, writes on the shelter’s blog. “Over the past decade, as save rates at private shelters across Virginia have risen and euthanasia rates have fallen, the PETA facility euthanizes the animals it takes in at a rate of about 90 percent.

“It is out of step with the progress being made for our state’s homeless animals for a private shelter to operate not with the purpose of finding animals adoptive homes but almost entirely to take their lives.”

The purpose of an animal shelter is rescue, killing the vast majority of animals that come into a shelter is not part of rescue. Apparently, PeTA wants so badly for this bill to fail that it hired a lobbyist whose aim is to make sure that the bill fails, as outlined in this latest piece on the Huffington Post by Douglas Anthony Cooper. Quoting Mr. Cooper,

The bill seemed certain to pass in the House, as the Senate approved it 33-5. That certainty has evaporated with the revelation that PETA has hired a famous lobbyist to urge Virginia Delegates to vote nay. VPAP (The Virginia Public Access Project) has reported that Stephen D. Haner has been retained by PETA to lobby politicians in the area of “all matters related to the operation of private animal shelters in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” (VPAP is a non-partisan institution aimed at keeping Virginia voters informed.)

Why would PeTA want so badly for this bill to fail that it hired a lobbyist in order to fight the bill’s chances of passing? PeTA stated that, in 2014, it provided “free euthanasia services for 2,454 dogs, cats, and other animals in just one area of the United States.” While many shelters offer a humane euthanasia service, I cannot imagine that the numbers of animals euthanized under this service at any given shelter are anywhere near what PeTA says it does. The implication of “free euthanasia services” means the owner of a dog, cat, or other companion animal brings their animal to PeTA for humane euthanasia because the animal is suffering, due to age or illness. My understanding is that this bill would not impact that activity, and my feeling is that they are fighting this bill so hard because animals suffering due to age or illness whose owners are asking for humane euthanasia is not the true explanation for PeTA’s outrageously high kill rate. The reason for the high kill rate is that animals who PeTA has surrendered to it for the purposes of adoption are never (or extremely rarely) placed up for adoption, rather they are killed. If this bill passes, PeTA would no longer legally be able to do that and things would get very tricky for the organization.


Apparently, Revenge is a Dish Best Served #IceCold

This afternoon I did a skype interview with WVEC News Now in Hampton Roads, Virginia about the truth I’ve been telling regarding People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and how the vast majority of companion animals who are turned over to them for adoption (or, sometimes, stolen) are killed, usually the same day, sometimes within minutes. Most importantly, how PeTA, when taking these animals in, never intends to put them up for adoption, despite the fact that is what is told to the owners in order to convince them to surrender the animal. And how, at least during the time when I worked there, the logs where the use of phenobarbital was recorded were doctored in order to allow animals to be killed off the books.

PeTA’s response is that I’m a “disgruntled employee” who has created a “hateful fantasy” in order to enact revenge. I watched the story with my family, when we heard the response from PeTA my kids burst out laughing, they’re now teasing me that my new nickname is “disgruntled.” Why? Because it’s an absolutely ridiculous and laughable response. At the time of my firing my husband was a television journalist and anchor, we knew half the reporters and photographers in town. If I’d wanted revenge I would have done it then, and done it in a very grand way. It took me fifteen years to come up with this “hateful fantasy” for the purposes of revenge? I know I’m not the brightest bulb in the bunch but I’m not that dim. So I tweeted this:


I am so grateful that this is all finally being revealed, and that people have my back, and that people are paying attention. The practice of killing healthy, adoptable, or easily rehabilitated animals, without ever placing them up for adoption was wrong then. I believe this is still happening at PeTA. It’s got to stop.

You can watch the interview here:

My Response to the Haters

Shill, hack, only doing it for attention, only doing it for money, naive, liar, full of shit, crackpot, coward, reeking of dishonesty, on and on. These are the fun-filled comments that are coming my way. Thankfully, the positive ones still outweigh them.

I was messaging with one of my best friends this morning and I told her that I was being accused of doing this for money, which is funny because I’ve been offered money for the publication of my blog in a journal, I replied that he should feel free to use the blog but that I don’t want the money. My friend responded with “Remember, they can’t discredit your words, all they have left is to try to discredit you.” This will be my mantra (thank you, R, I love you!).

Everyone who knows me knows my reasons for speaking the truth about my experiences at PeTA. And they know why it’s taken me this long to do it. I am not trying to “take PeTA down,” as has been the accusation. PeTA has done groundbreaking, revolutionary work in animal rights and none of what I’m saying is meant to detract from that. But I think it’s important to know that’s not the full story. And I think it’s important for the full story to be out there for a lot of reasons.

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I wanted to respond to the people slinging these accusations at me. I’m sure they’re hoping that they will insult me into submission and I’ll go slinking off to the sidelines licking my wounds. That won’t happen, and not because I’m itching for a fight (I’m really, really not, this whole thing is time consuming and energy draining) but because I stand by what I’ve written.

I look at this kind of like a long run (those of you who know me knew this was coming sooner or later). The first few miles are tough, intimidating, or just tiresome. Then you get two or three miles in and you’re cruising along, pumped up, feeling like you can conquer the world. At around the eight mile mark you start to feel tired, your muscles ache, you just want to stop because eight miles is enough, right? At the ten mile mark you refuse to quit, because you’ve given it so much already and you cannot back down now, you have to see it through. We’re at the ten mile mark, and I never give up on a run.



The Legacy of Black Boy

Sometimes the most frightening things can turn into the most meaningful. Writing my blog about PeTA, was a painful and difficult thing, publishing it was scary. It was scary because I know what I’m potentially up against by speaking the truth about PeTA, I lived it. But I knew telling the truth had to be done and, once I wrote it, I wanted it read far and wide. I did a little research and found the work that Douglas Anthony Cooper has been doing to expose PeTA, I felt he was the one I needed to contact. My hope was that he would read my blog and know the best way to get the truth out so I sent him a Facebook message with a link. Over the course of many hours we communicated and I told him more about my experiences, it felt good to share these things, cleansing. Keeping them locked tight, shared only to those I most trusted, was like having a darkness living inside of me, some nasty companion I hated and couldn’t get rid of. I don’t consider myself to be absolved, but I’m on my way.

Mr. Cooper published a piece  on the Huffington Post about my experiences at PeTA. I’m nervous about it, for the same reasons I was scared before, but I’m also very grateful to him for telling my story. I want to honor the dog who saved me, I want Black Boy’s legacy to be one not only of setting me back on my path and helping me find absolution and self-forgiveness, but helping me make a difference in the lives of animals.

This morning I was reading my Twitter feed and I saw Black Boy’s name everywhere, it brought tears to my eyes. This is a dog who meant so little to the person who was supposed to love and care for him that she left him outside in a snowstorm to freeze to death while she sat in her house next door, safe and warm. But he mattered to me, I had come to love him, and if I could go back to that night and change what I did I would do it in a heartbeat, but I can’t. All I can do now is move forward and make sure that Black Boy’s legacy is one of redemption and change.

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