Thursday, BFF Gina Spadafori over at PetConnection blessed me with one of her rare transcontinental phone calls to discuss the state of the pet world and our respective writing careers (hers in full bloom, mine barely budding).

At the outset Gina confided that she’d received a very legal letter from PETA demanding she retract a statement she’d made on her blog. Read the whole story here and a thoughtful follow-up post here.

Gina’s supposed sin was to have lamented PETA shelters’ 97% euthanasia rate (their own stats, by the way), essentially decrying the inhumanity of killing animals it should have found homes for.

PETA responded to this seemingly innocuous statement with a certified letter on legal letterhead demanding she take it back. According to the letter, the animals taken to its facilities were so ill they were essentially unadoptable. In effect, it chastised her for drawing the unsavory conclusion that PETA had euthanized animals for no good reason.

My take?

In the absence of any mode of determining how or whether indeed PETA’s shelters managed to source such a high percentage of “must-kill” animals, it’s my view that Gina’s in the clear.

If PETA cannot independently confirm its contention, the public should be free to draw whatever inference it may from the euthanasia of so many “unwanted” pets. Otherwise, any organization is potentially free to commit heinous acts of cruelty behind closed doors with a lofty decree and a cadre of lawyers to back it up whenever anyone contradicts its version of reality.

Last I checked, first amendment rights permitted journalists to use their own common sense when faced with astounding discrepancies. Most shelters euthanize between thirty and sixty percent of their charges. So why PETA’s 97%? What makes them so special that their facilities require such high rates?

Given the shockingly high percentage, is it so far out to assume their rates reflect their stance on TNR (against), breeding (against), petdom as we know it (against)?

Predictably, Gina’s taken this opportunity to expose PETA’s Achilles heel while sagely reflecting on her true responsibility in reporting and opining on PETA’s practices. Instead of backing down, she’s taken the opposite tack, challenging PETA to prove its claims instead.

You go, Gina!

I’ve been the recipient of hate mail from big organizations, too, though none has yet arrived with a green strip across the top and a dotted line. Phew!

No doubt it’s scary to know a big organization’s got it in for you. But as I’ve since remarked on a comment to her post, getting that kind of correspondence from PETA can only mean one thing: You’re making a difference.