ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

PETA’s Farce of an “Adopt-a-Thon.”

So PETA is holding an “adoption event” at its Bea Arthur dog park for itself and eight shelters/rescues. On the surface this seems to be a positive thing — an opportunity for area shelters and rescues to get animals who are available for adoption out into the community and, hopefully, into some forever homes. The problem, however, is that while PETA claims to operate a shelter it does not. A shelter is a place where animals who have already been betrayed by someone in some way can find, well, shelter. Rescue. Protection. Advocacy. Love. Hope. A shelter is not a place with a 1% adoption rate. A shelter is not a place where killing is not only acceptable but encouraged. A shelter is not a place that, when asked what kind of actions are routinely taken in order to find animals it takes in forever homes, answers “no comment.” A shelter does not hire a high priced lobbyist to defeat an animal welfare bill. A shelter does not employ people who swoop onto a porch where a beloved dog is sitting, steal her, and then kill her. Despite the fact that PETA took in 2,626 animals in 2014 it is not a shelter. Why? Because it only managed to adopt out 39 of those animals. in 2014 PETA took in nearly 52 million dollars. I absolutely understand that PETA has a much broader stroke than animal rescue but if it can’t allocate enough of its resources to do better than to find forever homes for 39 of its animals then it has not earned the title of “shelter.”

So what is wrong with this “adoption event?” What is wrong with “a fun way for Hampton Roads families to meet some of the wonderful dogs” who “desperately need homes?” On the surface, nothing. In reality, a lot. PETA’s participation in this event, its hosting of the event, is a farce. It is a desperate act by a desperate organization. It is yet another way that PETA is attempting to legitimize its title of “shelter.” And the actual shelters who are participating in this, as wonderful as they may be individually, are merely contributing to the farce and inadvertently promoting an organization that has the killing of companion animals as its standard operating procedure. Real shelters standing arm in arm with PETA gives the impression that they are one and the same. I’m sure that is PETA’s intention because they are masters at molding the narrative. But PETA is not one of them. PETA is not a shelter. It is an organization that justifies killing the vast majority of animals that it takes in. And real shelters standing in solidarity with the killing machine of PETA is just a travesty. Hold the event, give the animals who desperately need homes a chance, but hold it somewhere other than on the grounds of PETA. Because those grounds are soaked in the blood of animals who were betrayed. And that is not where real shelters should be.

A List of Ways You Can Fight PETA’s Killing Machine

I was a little over ten miles into my run yesterday, I’d been pacing myself to hit fifteen — I was feeling strong and focused. At least until a sudden, worrying pain in my right calf shocked me out of my zone. I stopped running, stretched, walked, started running, the pain shot through my calf again. I stopped, cursed, started, and the pain said “are you insane? STOP!” So I did, because I’ve learned the hard way that running through pain is a very foolish thing. I felt pretty fricking robbed though. I still do. And it’s made me edgy.

Halfway through a cut throat game of Go Fish with our two youngest, our middle child noticed that my leg was taped and wrapped. She got a look on her face that was something between absolute horror and panic and said “Are you injured?” I told her yes, I just didn’t know how badly. She started shaking her head and said “Oh no! Oh God! Oh no! Oh Jesus! NO!” While she can be prone to dramatics, in this case, her reaction was completely warranted because this is not an exaggeration:

Injured runner may bite

Right now I’m trying not to project into the future, or worry about how long this injury will have me out. I’m trying to focus on taking care of my body, letting it heal, and not feeling slightly homicidal. And I’ve got some time on my hands, because I’m supposed to be running right now. So I wanted to blog about ways you can take action in order to help ensure that the recently passed Virginia Bill SB 1381, which will prevent PETA from killing the majority of animals it takes in, is implemented in a timely manner. Along with some other actions you can take.

Currently Virginia is stating that it will take two years to implement this bill. Two years! My husband works for the federal government so I have firsthand understanding about why the wheels of bureaucracy sometimes turn slowly, and I get that change does not happen overnight. But two years? Come on. Considering the fact that lives are on the line that is utterly unacceptable.

So, here’s what you can do, both to advocate for a more efficient time table and to hold PETA accountable. First, you can read this FB post by Nathan Winograd. In it he reminds us why this fight is so important, and he gives us email addresses for people we can contact about speeding up the implementation of SB 1381. That’s the second thing you can do — email them. Let them know, respectfully but forcefully, why taking two years to implement this bill is not acceptable. I’ll cut to the chase for you, here’s their contact information:

1. Sandra Adams, the Commissioner for Agriculture:

2. Dr. Carolyn Bissett, the State Veterinarian:

You know who else you can email? Daphna Nachminovitch, a PETA Senior Vice-President and the person who heads up the Community Animal Project — the folks who do the field work in Hampton Roads and beyond. Let her know, again respectfully (because nastiness gets us nowhere ) but forcefully, what you think of PETA’s better off dead mentality. Her email address is

Thirdly, if you live in the Hampton Roads area, or if you feel like taking a road trip, go to PETA headquarters. Their address is 501 Front Street, Norfolk. Go to the receptionist, tell her that you are requesting to see custody records of all the animals they’ve taken in for the last five years. Under Virginia law they must provide you with them. You’ll have to look at them on the property, which is a bummer, but that’s the law. Look for red flags (7 pound kittens, anyone?), holes in stories, clues to the truth. In all likelihood they will hem and haw, they will tell you that the person you need to talk to isn’t available, isn’t in the building, blah, blah, blah. I was told by a blogger to whom PETA consistently refers people in order to explain away why they kill that it is your legal right to request and examine animal custody records. So stand firm, don’t let them bully you. Because they love to do that, it’s what goes on. But behind every bully is fear and cowardice, it’s no different with PETA. And don’t let them fool you, don’t fall for their lines about their shelter being a “shelter of last resort.” Maya was a healthy, well adjusted, young animal and, after they stole her off of her family’s porch, they killed her. Along with the other animals they picked up that day. Ask them why, and don’t buy the rogue employee line, it’s a lie.

Another thing you can do, if you’re in the Hampton Roads area, is head on down to PETA and tell them you want to visit their shelter. Again, they will hem and haw. But, seriously, what kind of shelter doesn’t want to show off its animals to potential adopters? If you’re not in the area, or can’t make a trip to headquarters, give them a ring (757-622-7382) and ask for their hours, their standards for adoption, ask about the animals they have available. If you’re feeling feisty you can ask them about the animals they’ve killed. Or, if you’d rather, email them about it, here’s the contact form from their website. Let them know what you think about their better off dead mentality.

Utilize social media, it’s one of our greatest assets. Go to their FB page and ask why they have a 1% adoption rate. Why, over the past 12 years, they’ve killed 31,250 animals. Why, despite the fact that they took in over $51 million dollars in 2014, they only managed to adopt out 39 animals. These are numbers they submitted to the state of Virginia, hold them accountable. Take screen shots of your questions because they love to scrub their FB page and block people who confront them. Tweet at them, tweet at others, tweet at celebrities who support them, utilize hash tags like #PetaDeathCult.

And tell your friends and family the truth! I’ve had so many people let me know that they’ve spread the truth and were greeted with shock, then anger — not at them but at PETA. Because people feel betrayed, sickened, duped. And they should — what PETA does to the companion animals it takes in is sick, and folks should feel betrayed by an organization that promotes compassion out of one side of its mouth and killing out of the other.

For quite some time I have been asking former PETA employees to step out of the shadows and speak the truth. Many have done so anonymously, and their stories have been meticulously documented in this piece by Nathan Winograd. I know, to some, speaking anonymously may not seem like much but it takes courage to speak up, even anonymously. Their testimony is invaluable, and their truths have shed more light on the killing that happens behind the closed doors of PETA, it validates what we know. I hope some of them choose to come forward and attach their names to their truths. But they’re not the only ones who can take action — each of us can take action, each of us can be a voice for the voiceless and someone who stands between PETA and animals who are at risk.

I am determined to see this through. I am determined to see change happen. I am determined to hold PETA accountable. I will not back down, I will not stop speaking the truth. And I’m a little cranky so I’m kind of in my “oh yea, it’s on …” mode.

So this is my theme song …

And this is my mindset …

Never provoke an injured runner

Let’s go …

The Pros and Cons of Life in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

It’s that time again — bidding season. Not for us, thank GAWD, but for many others (you have my sympathies). I know some folks love bidding season, for me whatever patina bidding season once had is gone and I just dread the researching and the waiting. And waiting. And waiting …

I’ve decided to do my Foreign Service blogger duty and write out my list of pros and cons of life in Tegucigalpa, I hope it helps folks. Plus, if I don’t blog about something besides PETA Imma lose my damn mind.

So, here is my list. I’ll start with the cons first so we finish on a high note.

The Cons of Teguc:

1. Not being able to go out on foot. This is, by far, my biggest issue with living in Teguc — to the point that I really had to scrounge around for the others because they’re so minor to me. But there is potential for violent crime and post states that going out and about on foot is a no no. This is a quality of life issue, it’s a major quality of life issue for a runner, especially since Teguc has some really nice straight aways for running and all I can do it look at them longingly while we drive past. Now, having said that, once you leave the city you are good to go — walk around (or run) to your heart’s content. I’ll write more about that in the pros section. Also, in contrast to what we’d heard before we moved here, driving at night is fine, just know where you’re going and don’t wander into areas that are not safe.

2. The security situation. Loads of narcos out there, folks, and they don’t play. But let’s keep things in perspective. Our major cities have hot spots for violent crimes, and they have all the things that cause it, and Teguc is no different. Be smart, stay out of the areas you’re not supposed to be in, practice safe driving techniques, pay attention to your OPSEC — you should be fine. I don’t dwell much on the security situation, I think folks blow it out of proportion. Bad stuff can happen no matter where you are but you choose whether or not to live in fear (which is different than just being cautious). So don’t let this prevent you bidding Teguc.

3. Traffic. It sucks. ‘Nuff said.

4. The air quality can get obscenely bad at the end of the dry season but it’s temporary so not a huge deal.

5. I’m thinking … I’m thinking …

The Pros of Teguc:

1. Post morale. While I realize this is fluid I wanted to list it here because it’s pretty awesome. Local staff are fantastic, knowledgeable, responsive, and friendly. And our Ambassador? He’s like the Old Spice guy of Ambos — you wish your Ambo was as cool as our Ambo is. Seriously.

2. Loads of fun weekend trips. There is a huge national park with lots of hiking (La Tigra), a very large park up in the hills of Teguc (El Picacho — where you can RUN), and there are beautiful colonial villages to visit (Valle de Angeles and Santa Lucia to name just two). There are also other activities I’ve heard about but not yet done, like the children’s museum, which I’m told is fantastic. Farther afield there are fun and completely manageable, even with kids, weekend trips. Our favorite so far is Lago Yajoa, where we’ve gone so many times that we have yet to visit other places because sometimes when you travel so much you just need spots that are comfy and familiar, right? We’ll branch out soon. If you do visit Yajoa, make sure to stay at the D & D Brewery and Lodge, it’s not only lots of fun but the people are some of the nicest you’ll meet and they have fantastic guides who can take you around to all the best spots in the area. D & D is also within walking (or RUNNING) distance from Lenca ruins, which are very cool to explore, and the national park they’re in is large enough that you can spend the whole day hiking. The beach is, in my opinion, too far for a weekend trip, it took us about five hours to get to Tela, but I’ve been told the beaches of El Salvador are much closer and very nice (they’re on our list).

3. Proximity to the rest of the Mayan world. The Ruta Maya is at your fingertips here, and it’s awesome! We recently took a trip to Tikal, Guatemala. It’s a long haul, it took us two days to get there, but it is so worth it. We stayed on the beautiful island of Flores, which is incredibly charming, (another hotel recommendation, Hotel Isla de Flores is inexpensive and very sweet, also has great food). We’re planning what we’re referring to as our epic adventure for this winter, where we will visit as much of the Ruta Maya as we can squeeze into a few weeks — Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

4. The Honduran people. They are warm, welcoming, and very down to earth. And they don’t mind gringos in the slightest, which is a plus. The folks I’ve met not only tolerate my awful Spanish but are very patient when I can’t seem to spit the right words out or when I look at them with that awkward deer in the headlights look I get when I don’t understand something. And they have a real pride when it comes to their country, which they should, because it’s an absolute gem.

5. Discovery School. It’s small, which is important to us, and the teachers, administration, and staff are fantastic. They’ve got an open door policy — which I appreciate because, while I’m not a helicopter mom, I do like to pop in and say hi to my babies now and again. Our kiddos are pretty scary smart and I feel that their teachers at Discovery picked up very quickly on their strengths, and they provide them with the avenues to move forward and be challenged. The teachers also recognize the areas where our kids need extra assistance (or where they’re just being a bit more lax than they should be — yea, I’m talkin’ to you, kids).

6. Bonus Pro: The cost of living and availability of stuff. You can get just about anything here and it’s relatively inexpensive. Imports are pricey, of course, but that’s to be expected. Travel is not expensive and that’s a huge bonus for a family of 5. You can make it expensive, of course, but you don’t need to pay big bucks to stay somewhere decent or to have fun while traveling.

So there you have it, my list of pros and cons. I was very hesitant to green light Honduras because of the whole “Murder Capitol of the World” headline but I am so glad that we did. We bid Honduras for the job, which we’ve never done before, but we’ve ended up loving it because it’s a fantastic country. Bid Teguc — know what its limitations are but don’t let them stand in your way because they pale in comparison to what makes this a special country.

A Plea to Former PETA employees — it’s time to rise up.

This morning I read a blog piece by Nathan Winograd entitled The (Death) Cult of PETA, it is absolutely required reading for anyone who wants to know more about PETA and I hope it spreads far and wide. In it he perfectly lays out not only the arc of damning evidence that brings into the light what actually happens to companion animals behind PETA’s closed doors, but the mindset that enables these events to happen. Please read it — there is not one wasted word in it and it is a vital piece of research and writing.

While there is a lot to say and highlight about Mr. Winograd’s piece, what I want to focus on for the purposes of this blog are the former employees he has spoken to over the years, because there have been many and they are quoted in his piece. The problem is that none of them have attached their names to their statements and that, of course, is what has to happen in order for them to have the full impact they deserve. So I am asking, once again, for former employees to come forward.

I know going up against PETA is an intimidating endeavor — they will lie to discredit truth tellers, they will attempt to smear reputations, they will have others attempt to smear reputations, they will manipulate information in order to suit their narrative, they will threaten legal action. We ALL know this. But, at the end of the day, none of that really matters. We know we’re telling the truth, and they cannot take that from us. You went to work for them for a reason — because you wanted to fight for animals, because you wanted to do the right thing, because you wanted to stand up and be an unwavering voice for the voiceless. You learned the hard way that PETA was not only the wrong avenue for these efforts but that they stood in direct opposition to them in many ways. NOW is your opportunity to stand up, to be that voice, to fight against abuse, betrayal, lies, and the killing of innocents. NOW is your opportunity to do what you couldn’t do when you worked for PETA: the ethical thing. NOW is your opportunity to protect and love all the animals who are at risk because of PETA’s better off dead mentality. We, along with Mr. Winograd and others who have stood up to PETA, are their only hope. Their only hope. We are responsible for horribly betraying not only the animals we were meant to protect but our own values and ethics. Nothing will change what we’ve done but speaking up is the closest thing we have to redemption.

Things will not change at PETA without us. This is your chance to make a real and lasting difference, and that chance is a gift, please accept and embrace it. Please, please, come forward. I will have your back, that is an absolute guarantee. If we all rise together, if we all attach our names to our truth, they cannot silence us, they cannot take us down, and we will walk the road towards amends together.

Dr. King

Molding the Narrative

Yesterday I wrote an entry about Mary Tully’s blog piece about me. One of the things Ms. Tully was seeming to imply with her piece is that Douglas Anthony Cooper has, possibly, lost some faith in me. Mr. Cooper decided he needed to set the record straight on that and he wrote, in part, this:

For the record: I remain utterly convinced in Ms. Harper-Troje’s scrupulous honesty; nothing in her account strikes me as anything but rigorously accurate.

She responded to Mr. Cooper and several comments, back and forth, followed. Then, poof, they disappeared. So Mr. Cooper opened another discussion, which also seems to have disappeared.

This is the trick PETA and PETA apologists use: mold the narrative. If something doesn’t fit their version of the truth, or if the discussion has gone somewhere they don’t like because truth has been revealed, or if someone challenges them, the solution is simple. Delete it. Block them (both PETA and Ms. Tully have blocked me on Twitter and PETA has blocked me from commenting on their FB page). Which shows me that they are afraid of open, honest dialogue. So they do everything they can to mold the narrative to what they want people to believe. There are a lot of comments on my blog that are either not factual or just flat out rude towards me. I was asked by several people why I don’t delete them and I completely understand why someone would wonder this. Nobody likes to see nasty things written about them, it’s not fun. And why leave misinformation up? My philosophy about misinformation is this: I trust that anyone who really wants to form an opinion about this will do their research and research will reveal both misinformation and truth. My philosophy about personal comments is this: folks can call me every name in the book, they can spew lies either about me or about PETA, I don’t care. And my reason for not caring is twofold:

1. Their opinion of me means nothing.

2. I know I’m telling the truth so their lies, also, mean nothing.

This is me, again, channeling the honey badger. Because, really, what does it matter? If I know I’m telling the truth people can say what they like and it doesn’t change the truth. Period.

The narrative mold is always based on either out right lies, or things that have enough of an element of truth that their entirety seems believable, or they are verbal slights of hand meant to distract from the real issue. Miss Tully’s blog about me is full of all three of those things. But why delete comments that challenge you if you know you are telling the truth? Any lie that someone writes or says means nothing. And I find if I just let people speak or write their lies then, eventually, they’ll either run out of steam or shoot themselves in the proverbial foot.

From the very beginning I have asked people to do their research, think critically, make up their own minds. I’m not the only one who has revealed PETA’s practices towards the animals they take in, there is evidence of it in other places, what happened to Maya the chihuahua is just one example. My biggest frustration is that I know there are many other former CAP employees who know the truth and I cannot understand why not one has come forward. All it would take is one or two more people to stand up and let the truth be heard. One or two. That’s it. I know it’s scary, I know it’s intimidating but, I swear, I will have your back and so will many, many others. Remind yourself of this:

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

To be clear, I am not saying PETA is evil. Despite the assertions of Ms. Tully and some others, I am not a PETA hater, I have no bones to pick with them. I hope CAP goes on to continue to do the great field work it does. However, that work should not include the killing of animals. That is evil. I believe that and so do a great many other people.

In the interest of folks getting the full picture, I’ve decided to post the screen shots of the deleted comments on my blog so anyone who wants to read them can do so.



Just Call Me Honey Badger

A few days ago blogger and PETA apologist Mary Tully wrote a blog entitled “The Curious Case of Heather Harper-Troje.” Since I don’t read her blog I didn’t notice that she’d written about me until someone kindly sent it to me on Twitter. I intend on writing a lengthier blog about what she asserted both in her piece and in the comment section of her blog when I get a bit more time — I’ve got some things to say about it. One of her main assertions, both implied and more overtly stated, seems to be that I am lying about PETA. My response to that is twofold:

1: I’m not.

2: I don’t care if she thinks I’m lying.

My initial objective was to write the truth in order to begin to make amends to Black Boy. That’s it. And I feel I have at least started that process. The fact that people were open to listening to me, and open to believing me, is something I am very grateful for. Partly because so many people have been supportive throughout what has turned out to be a longer and more difficult process than I had anticipated — I could not have kept speaking up without the people who have had my back. And partly because I want people to know the truth about certain practices in which PETA engages. It is my hope that whatever I’ve added to this ongoing dialogue has made an impact.

But I know there are certain people who will never believe me, for whatever reason. And I know there are people who know I’m telling the truth but will continue to call me a liar because they want PETA to be able to continue doing what it does, which is kill the vast majority of animals it takes in. My bottom line is this: it is not my job to refute Ms. Tully’s assertions that I am lying. I hope that anyone who is on the fence will carefully examine all the evidence available and think critically about it. But that’s up to each individual.

At the end of the day Ms. Tully, or anyone else, believing me has no impact on my life.  I have nothing to personally gain from any of this, my only reward is knowing that I’ve done the right thing and that, hopefully, it’s helped. But, either way, my life goes on. I keep running, I keep finding joy in all the same things, I help my kids navigate life, I snuggle with our youngest (he still loves to snuggle with mommy and I am soaking that in until it’s no longer the case), I have dates with my husband, my dog still greets me like it’s his birthday and Christmas all rolled into one when I’ve been away for the afternoon. And, hey, I got to watch the Boston marathon today and be reminded of the greatness of the human spirit and, despite the annoyance Ms. Tully has caused me, that beautiful and positive experience is far more important to me personally than her lies. Life goes on, it will continue to go on. No matter how many distractions Miss Tully tries to create, no matter what lies PETA cooks up about me. Life goes on and, at this point, I’m all about the attitude of the honey badger — and that’s good.

Two Kittens, One Puppy, Two Dogs — All Killed by PETA the Same Day As Maya. THIS is SOP.

Lately I’ve been enjoying my life getting back to what I consider to be normal — still working on trying to get the truth out about PETA, and advocating about this to our elected representatives, as well as working on some other things I’m hoping will help shed light on PETA. But mostly just going about my daily business. My dad is here visiting so our family took a long weekend to beautiful Lake Yajoa, on Friday we leave for another long weekend, on the Caribbean coast of Honduras, at the end of March we are undertaking a grand adventure to the Guatemalan ruins of Tikal. Planning these trips, dedicating myself to my running streak, enjoying our family, and making sure our home is humming along smoothly have taken up most of my time, and I’ve very much enjoyed that because it’s what I love to do.

But I came across this information and it was shocking. Well, not shocking for me because I know it’s SOP for PETA. But I’m hoping it’s shocking for others in the sense that people will see what PETA really does, what they will continue to do unless they are stopped.

Maya Wasn’t The Only Animal PETA Killed That Day:

Records from VDACS show that at least two kittens, one puppy, and two other dogs were also killed

These are not things invented by PETA detractors, these are from PETA’s own records, records they submitted to the state of Virginia. They can be seen here. Animals killed that day include:

• Two four month old kittens
• A six month old puppy
• A one year old Lab-mix
• Another Chihuahua

Why were these animals killed? Are we supposed to believe that two four month old kittens and a six month old puppy were so sick, or otherwise unadoptable, that PETA had no options but to kill them? Since their surrender/intake forms are so lacking in information (seriously, these are pathetic intake forms — no details about the animals, no details about why the animals were surrendered or why a decision was made to kill them) we can only make guesses about why they were killed. My own belief is that PETA intentionally keeps their records bare bones because the less information provided about the conditions of animals, and the reasons for surrender, the harder it is to prove that they are killing healthy, adoptable animals. But those of us who know the truth about how PETA operates CAP know they were killed because that is SOP — regardless of the condition of the animal, regardless of the adoptability of the animal, regardless of the reason for surrender.

It absolutely pains me that so many animal lovers and advocates still do not see the truth about PETA. The only way the killing of adoptable animals by PETA will be stopped is for that to change. We need more ex-employees to come forward, we need people with firsthand knowledge of PETA SOP to speak the truth about them. When enough of us are shining light on this it will no longer be ignored, lies will no longer be believed, and adoptable animals who deserve a chance to live will no longer be killed in alarming numbers. We’ve got  to do this, I am begging others to come forward, together we can stop the killing.

My Complaint to the Virginia Department of Agriculture Against PETA

On Tuesday I got some pretty disappointing news (to put it mildly), in response to my request to file a complaint against People for the Ethical Treatment of animals with the Virginia Department of Agriculture. This was what I emailed to them on February 13:

Good Afternoon,

I would like to file a complaint against People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in regards to what, I believe, happens within their Community Animal Project.

Fifteen years ago I worked for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the Community Animal Project division as a Field Officer. I would like very much to have a chance to give you my first hand account of the practices within PeTA towards the animals that they take in to their “shelter” (I use quotes because, during my time there, there was no actual shelter beyond an empty closet and the warehouse where animals were killed). I realize this was fifteen years ago but it is my deeply held belief, based on events that have been covered in the news in the years since my employment, and because I am very familiar with the mindset of the President of PeTA, Ingrid Newkirk, that nothing has changed within the organization regarding the treatment of companion animals.

 The short version is this:

 *Contrary to what PeTA maintains, the vast majority of animals that were surrendered to PeTA  during my tenure were not sick, old, severely damaged, etc. Many were, in fact, perfectly healthy and adoptable — these include kittens, puppies, and well socialized and maintained animals. Those are animals that would be available for adoption immediately in a conventional shelter or rescue, at PeTA they were killed, in the great majority of cases the same day as their surrender. While a portion of the animals we took in did have some challenges they were minor (worms, fleas, lack of proper nutrition, etc.) and could easily have been dealt with in a proper foster home. There were some animals who were in quite bad shape, (severe tick infestations, severe malnutrition, etc), these were the minority, but, again, easily rehabilitated.

 *Contrary to what PeTA maintains, the vast majority of animals who we killed were not surrendered by owners for humane euthanasia but were surrendered, the owners thought, in order to be placed up for adoption. We were told to say whatever we needed to say in order to get an owner to surrender, lying was encouraged. Meaning, we knew the animal would be killed but told the owner the animal would be placed up for adoption.

 *When I worked at PeTA we were routinely told to doctor the logs where we recorded the use of phenobarbital, a controlled substance for which you need a license (as you are aware) in order to allow us to kill animals off the books. For example, if a dog was 40 pounds you would list him/her as 50 pounds, this would give you room to then kill a 10 pound animal off the books and still account for the amount of phenobarbital that you used. So the number of animals killed was actually even higher than what was recorded.

In the interest of full disclosure I was fired from PeTA, not because I was bad at my job but because I no longer wanted to follow orders I had come to see as immoral, and because I dared to confront Ms. Newkirk when I disagreed with her (an absolute no-no at PeTA). I am not a disgruntled employee, as some would assert. My husband was, at the time, a TV anchor and reporter, I knew half the journalists in town, if I’d wanted revenge for my firing I could have done it then in a very grand and public way. But I just wanted to leave everything in the past and try to forget PeTA and what I had done there. The work of killing animal after animal with very little reprieve or chance of hope is soul crushing, and mine was dying. I was grateful for the catalyst of being fired. I have decided to speak up now because I can no longer live with the weight of this knowledge, and because I want to help create change for the animals whose lives were stolen when I worked at PeTA, those since, and those at risk in the future.

 Again, I know my experiences are from fifteen years ago but I deeply believe, based on stories like the theft of Maya the chihuahua last year, that nothing has changed and I ask that my account be taken into consideration. It is my own opinion that PeTA’s license for controlled substances should be revoked so they are no longer able to engage in the killing of the vast majority of the animals they bring in.

 When I emailed this to them I did not consider it to be my formal complaint, rather the reasons (in a nutshell) I wanted to file a complaint. But they took it as the complaint, I guess it doesn’t make much of a difference because this is what I received in response:

     I am in receipt of your complaint against People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Thank you for your sincere interest in the welfare of animals in Virginia.

     The alleged actions that you describe occurred before PETA established a private animal shelter. This department has limited oversight over the private animal shelter currently operated by PETA; it does not have any authority over licensing for drugs. The Board of Pharmacy and the Board of Veterinary Medicine in the Virginia Department of Health Professions has authority over drug complaints and licensing.

     Once again, thank you for bringing your concerns to the attention of this Department.

A few things went through my head after I read the response and, honestly, I’m still scratching my head over it because, ultimately, it just sounds like a “sorry, not our problem” response. But if it isn’t their problem then whose problem is it?

What I’m hoping is that the newly passed SB 1381,* which “clarifies that the purpose of a private animal shelter is to find permanent adoptive homes for animals,” will change how the Department of Agriculture deals with PETA. I guess that will depend on if this response comes from a place of apathy or from a true lack of ability to do anything due to the absence of adequate laws. My concern is that PETA will find ways to skirt the law and that, if the Department is apathetic (rather than lacking teeth), they will be allowed to do so.

*SB 1381 still needs to be signed into law by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. If you are a Virginia resident please call his office at 804-786-2211 and urge him to sign SB 1381. The animals of Virginia need us to speak for them, and to give them a law that will protect.

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

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