A recent email to several mailing lists I’m on left me baffled. It detailed a woman who had apparently called to book an airline flight for a dog. According to the email,
The guy (named Al in Denver’s cargo office) told me there was a 4 hour layover and was I sure I wanted to ship them. I said I did and he told me he would book them into a kennel facility if they exceeded the 4 hours there. I said if that is policy then that would be fine. He put me on hold to reserve the kennel I guess and then came back and said he’d book my flight but was calling PETA on me. No humane society or explanations about why he was concerned for a 4 hr layover. Just sicking PETA on me.
The email then goes on to detail how the woman is now afraid that PETA is going to ‘show up at her door’, and explains that Peta now has undercover operatives placed within airlines, in order to track the way that people ship their dogs.
This typical ‘black helicopter story’ was instantly backed up by a repetition of an urban legend we’ve all been hearing for years – that PETA/HSUS/AR Group of your choice is going to dog shows and either:
a) poisoning dogs
b) letting dogs out of their crates
Another variation on this one has the AR operatives following a van full of show dogs to a gas station, and then being caught sneaking around the van and trying to let the dogs out. This is inevitably supposed to take place near a busy highway, where undoubtedly the released dogs would all run to their doom under the wheels of a transport truck.
These stories do a lot to work us all up into a frenzy of fear and paranoia over the actions of these shady Animal Groups – groups which are apparently lurking around in our backyards, just waiting to release our dogs into the wild (or else poison them, depending on which version you hear). In a few cases, the “PETA poisons dogs!!!” story has been used to excuse the death of show dogs in the care of handlers. In another case, Peta was blamed for a generator which failed on a handlers van, leading to the death of the dogs inside.
The one defining factor all of these stories have is that NONE of them can be verified. Ask for concrete, solid facts, and the stories, in typical urban legend fashion, fall apart. No vet reports. No autopsy reports. No media reports. No police reports. No insurance reports. Nothing, other than ‘friend of a friend who swore me to secrecy’ type scenarios.
As I’ve been saying for years, if just ONCE someone could provide me with something concrete to back up one of these stories, I can almost guarantee that a media frenzy would ensue that would make front page headlines.
Verified proof that Peta is poisoning people’s pets? What newspaper or television station wouldn’t want a piece of THAT action?
Film footage of HSUS letting dogs out of their crates, and into traffic? YouTube ratings sensation!
If your dogs were poisoned by Peta, is there any possible way that “the man” could get you to shut up and stop talking? Would you not be on the phone to Oprah, Sixty Minutes, the New York Times, every police station in the country and the freakin’ Pope? I know I would. Instead, I am told that the ‘victims’ are afraid to speak out, in fear of retaliation. And always, always – it’s second hand. It’s never “Yes, this is what happened to me”, but rather “I know someone who met some guy who knew the person…”
I’ve been skeptical of these stories for years, mainly because I think we have enough REAL issues to worry about without fearing mythical bogeymen around every corner.
Stories like this distract us from the real issues of BSL and ownership restrictions, and blind us to the actual ways that today’s AR groups operate best – through media campaigns and political clout. After all, when they can lobby to have bills passed that restrict the ownership rights of hundreds of thousands of people, why bother creeping around one or two dogs?
Do I think Peta might show up at dog shows? Sure, especially if they can wear stupid costumes and hand out flyers, and turn it into a media circus (like last year’s Westminster). Do I think they’re lurking at shows, waiting to let dogs out of crates? Nope – although I do think that dogs frequently do get loose at shows, mostly because we’re all sometimes distracted, and don’t lock them properly.
I’ve taken some flack for these views over the years, usually expressed as either my being an actual AR undercover myself (the “if you’re not with us, yer agin’ us” mantra), or expressed as my being a naive dupe who can’t see the forest for the trees.
Personally, what I believe is that the truth, and accuracy, matter more than scary bedtime stories about monsters under the bed and black helicopters over our heads. But, hey – if you’re willing to tell me that this – any of this! – happened to you personally, and have the police reports to prove it, I’d be happy to print a retraction. Until then, color me skeptical.