The core of the debate is a philosophical disagreement about the most humane way to manage unwanted pets.
Nothing is warm and fuzzy in the world of Virginia animal-welfare organizations this year as shelters attack each other over a seemingly slight tweak to the state code that some activists say could put a major shelter out of business.
At the heart of this fight is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and its record on euthanasia, which alarms other animal advocates.
PETA operates a large shelter at its headquarters in Norfolk, where every year the vast majority of cats and dogs taken in are euthanized. The shelter came under fire last fall after it euthanized a Chihuahua that was inexplicably snatched from its owner’s porch by a PETA contractor on the Eastern Shore.
So the timing was perfect for a bill put forward by Sen. William M. Stanley Jr. (R-Franklin) that has emerged from both houses of the state legislature and that defines a private animal shelter as “operating for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes.” Under the current code, that description is only one of several that can describe a shelter.