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NORFOLK -- Every year, tens of thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters, humane societies and by groups in Hampton Roads.

13News found that animal rights group, PETA's euthanasia numbers were the highest in the area.

It took in 2,200 dogs and cats last year and euthanized 93%.

PETA says putting down the animals is a by-product of a pet overpopulation crisis.

'Sometimes euthanasia is part of that equation. Nobody hates that more than we do,' said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA vice president.

She added, 'obviously we have to tell people that we euthanize and that is what they're told. There are no secrets at PETA.'

Some PETA supporters were unaware of the numbers.

'I just don't believe in killing for no reason. That's one of the reasons I'm behind PETA 100%,' said Anita Tevis. She brought her pregnant cat to one of PETA's mobile clinics for an emergency surgery. She said if it weren't for PETA, she could not afford the surgery her pet needed.

Compared to PETA, other area animal control departments, shelters, SPCA's and humane societies had lower euthanasia rates: 26% at Portsmouth Humane Society; 40% at Virginia Beach Animal Control; 50% at Peninsula SPCA; 46% at Norfolk City Animal Control; 1% at Norfolk SPCA; 29% at Hampton Animal Control; 32% at Isle of Wight Animal Control; 68% at James City County Animal Control (Williamsburg), and 58% at Chesapeake City Animal Control and Pound.

Critics say despite PETA's claim that it is euthanizing as a result of overpopulation, the numbers are just too high.

'I think they're clearly not an animal welfare group. These are people who believe that these animals are better off being killed than they are being in a home,' said Rick Berman of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a non-profit lobby group out of Washington.

PETA says many times when they get the dogs and cats, they are terminally ill or severely injured. Nachminovitch explained that owners are fully aware that euthanasia is a real possibility when they surrender their animals.

'I think if people are upset about PETA euthanizing animals, about any animals suffering, about any open admission shelters euthanizing, they need to look in the mirror and ask themselves what can I do today to prevent animal suffering and deaths at shelters,' said Nachminovitch.

'We don't euthanize for time if an animal's been here too long and we don't euthanize for space,' said Jeff Roberts of the Norfolk SPCA. It's euthanasia rate for last year was only 1%. It is the area's only 'no kill' shelter.

Norfolk SPCA is also a limited admission shelter, meaning it can pick and choose which animals it takes in. Open admission shelters like the Portsmouth Humane Society accepts all animals that are surrendered and is also contracted as the city's pound.

Despite its open admission policy, Portsmouth SPCA has a euthanasia number of only 26%.

'We're really creative in the way we get animals out of our shelters. We have a really great foster program. We evaluate animals a little differently than they do at some of the other shelters,' said Christie Chipps Peters, executive director of the Portsmouth Humane Society.

Peters also said that euthanasia is also necessary in some cases.

'We do euthanize and I do agree that it is one of the kindest things you can do for some of the animals that come in that are suffering,' said Peters.

PETA said it also works very hard to help with the pet overpopulation crisis. It has three mobile spay and neuter clinics that they say have affected 74,000 dogs and cats since 2001.

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