How the Government Secretly Kills Your Pets and Our Wildlife

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a program to kill wild animals — around 1.5 million of them every year. Over the years it has killed 22 million animals, spanning 476 species. U.S. taxpayers fund the slaughter, but we aren’t allowed to know just what they’re paying for.

Formerly known as Animal Damage Control, the program, now called Wildlife Services, exists to subsidize private businesses like ranches. An example: a rancher who thinks wolves are attacking his herd can call in the government, and it will trap, poison, shoot from helicopters, or otherwise wipe out whatever wolves its personnel find nearby just as though it were a private company working for a customer.

The Center for Biological Diversity called on the USDA this month to put an end to the indiscriminate killing. Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center, called Wildlife Services “an out-of-control, rogue agency that shoots, snares and poisons more than a million native animals every year, many unintentionally including at least 13 endangered species” like grizzly bears and wolves. In fact, it is responsible for making some species endangered, including gray and Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets and prairie dogs.

Wildlife Services has operated in the shadows for decades. As Atwood said, the program isn’t governed by enforceable regulations that would “ensure transparency and accountability to the taxpaying American public.” It takes our money to kill our wildlife but refuses to tell us the details.

There are also no regulations requiring the organization to use the best available science or to take the most effective possible steps to avoid killing non-target animals, according to the Center. That is why Wildlife Services kills endangered animals, as well as people’s dogs and cats, with impunity. The agency admits to killing 4,000 non-target animals in the last 17 years; the real number may be much higher.

The Center’s petition to Obama calls for some obviously needed, common-sense reforms, like regulations requiring the application of the best science when deciding whether to attack animals; avoiding killing the animals it isn’t gunning for; treating animals ethically (that one will likely befuddle them); trying every nonlethal method to handle the problem before resorting to killing; and informing the public about its victims. If all that happened, maybe Wildlife Services’ crude methods wouldn’t lead to stomach-churning incidents like this one (see the photo), in which dogs attacked a coyote who was caught in a government leg-hold trap.

Reforming Wildlife Services is, for good reason, a popular cause. Project Coyote and the Animal Welfare Institute joined the Center in filing the petition, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund signed on in support.

Stay tuned: USDA is legally required to respond to the petition. In the meantime, please sign our petition to the USDA calling on it to create the regulations the Center has called for.

Related Story:

The U.S. is Spending Your Money Killing Innocent Wildlife

Photo credit: isafmedia


H M.
H M2 years ago

Signed and holy shit, this is another side effect of the military industrial complex. See what happens when the government does private industries' bidding?

Carrie-Anne Brown

signed, thanks for sharing :)

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla4 years ago

Signed... Disgusting.

Deborah Ebersold
Deborah Ebersold4 years ago

There is no excuse for this indiscriminate killing and the harm this does to our environment. Let us have our wildlife - not to mention pets that are killed by accident.

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton4 years ago

OUR TAX DOLLARS ARE PAYING for this SHIT. How much would it cost if we threw down birth control? Pennies on the dollar? I am so angered by this crap.

John Lopez
fsdvsd sf vsfdv4 years ago

This why the Horses and Mustangs are being rounded up and sent for slaughter.
So RANCHERS can use OUR public land for their PRIVATE PROFIT.

THis make me REALLY angry!

Mary B.
Mary B4 years ago

I agree that our government must imediately stop it's participation in this activity.If there is a culling to be done then it can be done carefully and specifically, but this blanket approach is totally unacceptable.

Waltraud U.
Waltraud U4 years ago

infantilism - "It is horrifying that we have to fight our own governments to save the environment."
- Ansel Adams, photographer.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

Wildlife dis-Service has been operating for decades and has tried to keep their actions under wraps. Along with all the wildlife (including endangered species (eagles and others) "killed accidentally") they have murdered untold numbers of family pets who eat their posin or step in traps. A detailed expose was run in the Sacramento paper as to the numbers and types of animals they have killed and how they cover up the "incidental" killings. They are told to hurry up and bury the evidence, literally. This department needs to be disbanded in order to save wildlife and domestic animals. There is no respect for this department.

Mark Donner
Mark D4 years ago

FWS is 100% a criminal organization hiding behind a government front. It must be stopped.