published Thursday, October 7th, 2010

PETA says state’s advice violates anti-cruelty law

NASHVILLE — The animal rights group PETA wants Gov. Phil Bredesen to put a leash on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, charging some employees are giving callers “cruel” advice for killing “pest animals” like raccoons that are caught alive.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asks Bredesen in a letter to act and “ensure that TWRA will take immediate corrective action and properly educate and train its staff regarding acceptable wildlife euthanasia methods.”

The group said Tennesseans seeking advice on how to dispose of trapped raccoons and skunks “are being instructed to kill the animals by drowning, gassing via tailpipe, and abandonment (leaving animals inside the traps without sustenance).”

Those methods cause “unnecessary pain and suffering and would therefore violate Tennessee’s anti-cruelty statute,” says PETA’s letter, sent Tuesday.

Bredesen press secretary Lydia Lenker said, “We received the letter, but the governor has not yet had the opportunity to review it.”

PETA’s associate director for cruelty investigations, Stephanie Bell, said the group began hearing complaints from Tennesseans in June about TWRA staff recommendations.

“We were told they would look into that but then we got additional reports that cruel methods were being recommended,” Bell said.

The letter says PETA initially talked to TWRA Director Ed Carter on June 6 and he “assured us that the issue would be investigated.” But the letter says Carter “ignored” a Sept. 10 letter they sent after reports of staff still outlining inhumane methods for disposing of the animals.

Efforts to reach Carter on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Asked about PETA’s letter to Bredesen, TWRA’s chief of information and education, Don King, said, “I’m not aware of us giving advice like that.”

“Many nuisance trappers release the animals they trap and relocate them. If an animal looks suspicious and is not acting normally, it may be taken to animal control for testing,” he said.

PETA’s Bell said, “We understand that in certain instances animals must be removed and dispatched for a variety of reasons [such as serious injury or disease.]

“If the animal can’t be released on the premises, our belief and our desire is to see those animals dispatched humanely,” Bell said.

While TWRA’s Nashville headquarters says it is unaware of problems, Jackson, Tenn., resident Rob Weems said a receptionist at the agency’s West Tennessee office offered him some advice he didn’t like after his daughter safely trapped a young skunk at their home.

Weems said the woman asked him if he had a plastic bag, then told him, “OK, put the garbage over it and throw it in the nearest river or lake and drown it.”

“I’m not a PETA member or anything,” said Weems, who works in law enforcement. “I hunt. I eat meat. I’m not a campaigner against slaughterhouses or chicken houses or anything like that. But that appalls me. A true hunter doesn’t want to kill anything like that.”

Weems said he got a follow-up call from the TWRA’s West Tennessee director, who told him, “Well the best thing is to just drown them. ... If you shoot it, it’s going to spray everywhere.”

The hunter said he did neither.

“I took my skunk out in the woods and turned him loose and let him go on his fat little way,” he said.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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walther said...

My family recently used a wildlife service to get rid of attic rats. They also are called on to trap these "nuisance" animals. The wildlife worker had a couple of trapped raccoons in cages in his truck. He said that he was required to exterminate them "just in case" they had rabies. I think that is unnecessary. They could be held for the incubation period to see if the disease develops. If it doesn't, they could be relocated. Even Old Yeller was kept in the corn crib until he had to be shot!

October 7, 2010 at 7 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

Remember PETA stands for People Eating Tasty Animals

October 7, 2010 at 3:13 p.m.
eshever said...

I don't want any animals to suffer at any time, but I think PETA's reaction here is kind of ridiculous. I don't know about skunks but I have accidentally caught a raccoon in a live trap. They are not happy about it. They aren't cute like raccoons on TV or at a zoo. They are perfectly willing to use their claws and teeth on the unfortunate person who tries to let them out of the trap. I don't know any good way to release them without getting mauled. So, if the TWRA tells me how to get a raccoon out of a trap without getting hurt myself, I'm going to do it, and thank them.

PETA loves to make mountains out of mole hills for the sake of publicity, which is what they are getting here. Their actual knowledge of animals, especially in the wild, is nada. I think people are a lot better off listening to TWRA than to PETA. PETA just needs to be ignored as the ignorant publicity-seekers they are.

October 8, 2010 at 8:06 a.m.
cellardoor said...

It's not like PETA is demanding anyone treat a rabid raccoon like a beloved family pet! They simply do not want the animals to be tortured! I don't see how asking the TWRA to NOT tell people to kill trapped animals by drowning them, gassing them with a tail pipe, or starving them to death is irrational and/or "making a mountain out of a mole hill"?

October 13, 2010 at 6:36 p.m.
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