Image from a PETA video documenting alleged rescue
An attorney in Virginia who stated that he represented PETA for more than 30 years, Philip J. Hirschkop, responded to questions about a multimillion-dollar civil suit filed in San Diego County last week by attorneys for former chinchilla rancher Lurlie Adams of Vista.
Ninety-year-old Lurlie and her husband Jim Adams, 95, sold their Valley View Chinchilla Ranch last August. A different attorney, based out of Rancho Santa Fe, acted as agent during the sale to protect the identity of the buyer.
Hirschkop stated that Lurlie Adams posted a sign on her fence indicating her business was closed in April of 2014, plus she posted on a website that she wanted to sell the business and animals.
“That is how PETA became aware of Valley Ranch and responded to that solicitation to purchase the animals,” attorney Hirschkop stated in an email on October 20.
Hirschkop claimed that Lurlie Adams made a public statement that she would electrocute the animals if she could not sell them; plus, she indicated she would not buy any more food for the animals beyond current supplies.
“Given these circumstances and buying animals at considerable expense; giving each animal veterinary examination and care; and finding approved homes for almost 400 animals can reasonably and accurately be called a rescue,” Hirschkop declared.
“When Valley Ranch put animals down it was done by electrocution,” Hirschkop stated. “Mrs. Adams and her foreman have admitted that and turned over the electrocution apparatus as part of the sale. This form of killing an animal violates national standards and is cruel.”
Lurlie Adams denies that she was cruel to the chinchillas she kept at her facility, and she has sued PETA for defamation.
“Further, the chinchillas never received any veterinary care or treatment,” Hirschkop stated. “Records show there were as many as 1000 or more chinchillas at Valley Ranch at given times. Without question, animals would get diseases or broken bones or other ailments that needed treatment.
"Each chinchilla was in a 2 ft. square wire cage, many for several years. When the Humane Society took the animals they found more than 2 dozen who had to be euthanized after examination by veterinarians, because they had disease, or untreated broken bones, or lacked adequate bone density from being held in a small cage for so long. The Humane Society can document that.”
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Attorneys for Lurlie Adams claim that a number of the animals died during the purported “rescue,” which they assert was a publicity stunt contrived to solicit donations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“When Mrs. Adams had an animal with a broken limb, she either set the limb using a paperclip and tape after giving the animal several drops of brandy or if she could not set a broken leg, then she cut it off with wire snips, again using several drops of brandy as an anesthetic. She has admitted this,” Hirschkop stated in an email. “PETA believes and has been advised the foregoing violates accepted minimum standards of treatment and constitutes cruel treatment of animals.”
Hirschkop asserted that PETA has been accurate in its public presentations, based on facts and a belief in what was best for the animals.
Hirschkop also remarked that “PETA has no personal dispute with Mrs. Adams nor any vindictive feelings toward her” and that PETA “is always willing to consider” any possible disposition of the lawsuit.