People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has agreed to pay the Zarate family $49,000 after they euthanized the family’s Chihuahua without even telling them.

PETA officials took custody of a Chihuahua in a Norfolk-area trailer park after the dog was found outside without a leash, chain, or collar. Under Virginia state law, PETA was required to wait five days to give the family the chance to claim the dog before taking further steps. In this case, the organization did not wait the mandatory five days. Instead, the dog was euthanized early.

The Zarate family, not surprisingly, was furious. They sued PETA for $7 million for killing their family dog, Maya, in violation of state law. In court, the family’s lawyer argued that PETA “considers pet ownership to be a form of bondage.” This week, the family and PETA settled the lawsuit, with PETA agreeing to pay the Zarate family $49,000 and also donate $2,000 in honor of Maya’s memory.

The purpose of the five-day waiting period is to give the pets’ owners sufficient time to locate and retrieve their animals. PETA contended that they had made a horrible mistake and accidentally euthanized Maya the Chihuahua too soon.

This incident has once again thrust PETA back into the spotlight for its euthanasia practices. The organization’s Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters performs most animal euthanizations. In 2014, PETA’s Norfolk HQ euthanized 2,454 of the 3,369 dogs, cats, and other animals that came through its doors. According to PETA’s own statistics, just 23 dogs and 16 cats were adopted from the location that same year.

Even with them euthanizing the dog too early in this case, the fact that an animal rights organization kills this many animals is disturbing to many. PETA typically ends a calendar year with four to five million dollars in the bank. Given this large surplus, many people are puzzled about why they would put animals to death instead of using that money to promote their adoptions.

In 2014, the same year that PETA euthanized almost 73 percent of the animals that came through the doors of its Norfolk facility, the Lynchburg Humane Society took in approximately the same number of animals and was able to save 94 percent of them without needing to raise millions of dollars.

The next year, however, PETA openly bragged about the Norfolk euthanasia numbers in a 2015 press release:

PETA puts its money where its mouth is, spending more than $2.5 million in 2014 to assist the public with free veterinary care, spay/neuter services, doghouses, straw bedding, ‘pet’ food, counseling to help people keep and care for animals they were considering giving up, and free euthanasia services for 2,454 dogs, cats, and other animals in just one area of the United States — services people on a fixed income (or no income at all) can’t afford.” (emphasis added)

This press release shows that the organization is proud of the euthanasia policies at its Norfolk facility. While they point to the benefits of helping families who cannot afford euthanasia, the Zarate family’s experience shows that not all families are on board with PETA killing their pets. While the organization portrays the Norfolk facility’s euthanasia practices as charity, it is unclear how many pets are killed without their owners’ knowledge or consent.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk has published a blog post on the organization’s website detailing why they euthanize animals.

It’s easy to point the finger at those who are forced to do the ‘dirty work’ caused by a throwaway society’s casual acquisition and breeding of dogs and cats who end up homeless and unwanted, but at PETA, we will never turn our backs on neglected, unloved, and homeless animals — ven if the best we can offer them is a painless release from a world that doesn’t have enough heart or homes with room for them.

That statement is little solace to the Zarate family. They had more than enough room in their heart and home for Maya the Chihuahua but were robbed of the chance to collect their pet when the shelter violated state law and euthanized her early.

While the $49,000 settlement serves as an acknowledgment of guilt, it doesn’t bring the Zarate family’s pet back. And being just a drop in the bucket, the settlement is unlikely to change how PETA’s Norfolk shelter does business.

What do you think? Should this organization try to save more animals at its Norfolk facility? Let us know in the comments below!

Virginia’s legislature just saved hundreds of dogs’ lives with this one piece of legislation. Read more here!