In July, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to the mayor of Palisades Park, California, asking her to put an end to a city program of poisoning squirrels.
In a press release, PETA said,
Today, following a barrage of complaints from outraged Santa Monica residents, PETA fired off a letter to Santa Monica Mayor Pam OÂ’Connor, urging her to order city employees to immediately remove all pesticide currently being used to poison ground squirrels at Palisades Park and to establish strict policies prohibiting the use of poisons in Santa MonicaÂ’s parks. PETA points out that if the city is concerned about the possibility of the spread of disease, it should be targeting fleas and not squirrels or other animals.
Poisons cause immeasurable suffering and prolonged deaths for the animals who ingest them and for “nontarget” animals who consumeÂ—even in partÂ—the poisoned bodies. As PETAÂ’s wildlife caseworker, I often receive requests for information on proven humane methods of managing urban wildlife populations. For instance, if city officials are concerned about disease outbreaks, they should be targeting fleas rather than squirrels. To prevent the spread of plague, an online pamphlet produced by the LA County Department of Health called Facts About Plague in Los Angeles County outlines an effective flea-control strategy that employs bait stations to distribute insecticide dust on squirrelsÂ’ fur as they enter the stations. The flea powder, harmless to squirrels, kills the fleas living in squirrelsÂ’ fur, and when the squirrels carry the powder back to their subterranean homes, the powder also kills the fleas living in these burrows.
“Death from the poisons being used by the city is slow and agonizing,” says PETA Wildlife Biologist Stephanie Boyles. “No one knows how many animals have suffered and died, but the mayor has the power to stop this cruel program and the obligation to stop any violations of local, state, or federal laws relating to the poisoning.”
But PETA didn’t quite have all of the facts in the matter.
Palisades Park Mayor Pam O’Connor told the Santa Monica News that all poison bait had actually been removed in June. Moreover, the use of poison bait had been ordered by the Los Angeles County Department of Health, which PETA cites in its letter as favoring alternatives to poisoning!
The City of Santa Monica is not performing any ground squirrel suppression measures at this time. We stopped the last week of June, removing all the bait from the stations.
As you know, the City was ordered to suppress the ground squirrel population [by Los Angeles County]. The coastal belt of California is one of the high-risk areas for plague. Keeping the ground squirrel population down is a precaution against humans and pets being infected.
And while PETA’s letter said it had received “a barrage of complaints from outraged Santa Monica residents,” city officials told the Santa Monica News they had only received a complaints from a handful of people.
Judy Rambeau, assistant to the City Manager in charge of community relations, told the Santa Monica News,
I’ve gotten numerous calls and emails from two people. We heard a lot from the same people over and over and over again.
Of course, in PETA World, if two activists each call and e-mail officials 12 times, that translates to dozens of complaints!
Animal rights group calls for end to squirrel killings. Jorge Casuso, Santa Monica News, July 29, 2005.
PETA Calls On Santa Monica Mayor To End Cruel, Deadly Squirrel-Poisoning Program. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, July 27, 2005.