NORFOLK, Va. (CN) - A Virginia family says People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stole their pet chihuahua and euthanized the dog within 24 hours, and they want $7 million for their loss.
The PETA website states they love animal companionship but believe "pet keeping" should never have existed.
"This selfish desire to possess animals and receive love from them causes immeasurable suffering, which results from manipulating their breeding, selling or giving them away casually, and depriving them of the opportunity to engage in their natural behavior," the website states. "They are restricted to human homes, where they must obey commands and can only eat, drink, and even urinate when humans allow them to."
A Nov. 23 lawsuit filed by Wilber Zarate Llaven in Norfolk, Va., Circuit Court claims that the public "is generally unaware" that the organization is against domestic pets.
"Under PETA's philosophy, it is better to kill lost or stray pets than to find them suitable homes," the lawsuit states.
PETA runs an animal shelter in Norfolk, Va. However, according to the lawsuit, the facility is actually a front for a slaughter house that kills cats and dogs.
In 2014, the management team of the trailer park where Zarate and his family lived called PETA to see if they would remove the now-stray animals that had been left behind from families who moved away and left their pets, the lawsuit states.
Zarate claims PETA employees Victoria Carey and Jennifer Wood came to the park and began to ingratiate themselves with the residents, telling them they would try to find good homes for the dogs they captured. They also allegedly told them PETA would be glad to provide vaccinations for the residents' pets and to have them spayed and neutered.
Carey told Zarate that PETA would be glad to have Maya, his pet chihuahua, vaccinated, according to his lawsuit.
Zarate says he agreed, and based on PETA's representation and assurance, he opted to wait for PETA to provide a time to give Maya her annual vaccination as agreed.
According to the complaint, although PETA was contacted to address the issue of the dogs that had been left behind in the park, the nonprofit did not make any effort to capture and relocate those animals.
Instead, Zarate alleges PETA took the opportunity to enter the park to surreptitiously take the residents' pets for the purpose of euthanizing them.
Zarate says he returned from the store on Oct. 18, 2014, to find Maya was missing. He checked the security camera footage from his porch and found that Carey and Wood first attempted to pay neighborhood children to lure Maya off the porch, he claims.
When the children were unsuccessful at their attempt, Carey and Wood backed a PETA van into Zarate's driveway, seized Maya, loaded her into the van, and drove away, according to the lawsuit.
Zarate says he called the PETA animal shelter the same day of the alleged abduction, with no answer.
The next day, Zarte had his niece call PETA to speak with Carey. The niece indicated they were calling to get Maya back.
Not realizing that a video existed of the abduction, Carey allegedly denied that PETA had taken any dogs that day. The niece replied that they were caught on security footage, according to Zarate's lawsuit.
Zarate claims Carey immediately hung after realizing that her actions had been caught on video. At the time of that conversation, PETA had already killed Maya, he says.
PETA violated Virginia law by taking an owners pet without their permission and not waiting the mandatory 5 days after receiving a companion animal before euthanizing it, Zarate claims.
Carey and another PETA representative came to Zarate's home on Oct. 21, 2014, carrying a fruit basket, the lawsuit says. They allegedly admitted to Zarate that they had "bad news" - PETA had euthanized Maya.
During the visit, the PETA reps asked about the video and were visually searching for the camera, Zarate says.
According to the complaint, it was apparent to Zarate that the real purpose of the visit was for PETA to ascertain the location of the security camera and learn the extent to which PETA's illegal actions had been captured on video.
In a further attempt to cover up what they did, Zarate says PETA falsified and altered documents they were required to submit to government authorities.
Zarate's daughter Cynthia became distraught over the death of her dog and began experiencing extensive and severe emotional distress, the lawsuit claims.
Zarate and his family seek $7.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages. They are represented by William Shewmake in Richmond, Va.
The Norfolk PETA and their attorney Jeffrey Kerr, along with Shewmake, could not be reached for comment.
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