If you can find them
POMPANO BEACH, Florida––Do “600 Million Stray Dogs Need You?”
Not on this planet.
Alex Pacheco, who cofounded People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 1981 and has basically lived off that claim to fame ever since, has since 2009 asserted that “600 Million Stray Dogs Need You?” in the title and fundraising appeals of his current organization.
“600 Million” has raised more than $1 million dollars since 2011, according to IRS Form 990 filings, to develop hypothetical “spay and neuter cookies,” also called in the appeals “Spay Food.”
But the “spay and neuter cookies” don’t exist yet, and likely never will, with no such product even distantly visible on the scientific and regulatory horizons.
Despite Pacheco’s claim that “yes, the ingredients are safe … I’ve eaten them myself!”, the operative words on the “600 Million” web site are “Just imagine being able to safely sterilize (spay and neuter) homeless cats and dogs, by simply allowing them to eat a cookie.”
That’s right: just imagine. Wish and hope, but don’t expect it soon, or ever.
Much as gullible donors and dog and cat rescuers may long for “spay and neuter cookies” that they can just toss down with kibble, “capable of spaying and neutering animals – without surgery,” as Pacheco invites recipients of his appeals to imagine, no contraceptive product has been described yet in scientific literature from which demonstrably effective and safe “spay and neuter cookies” might be made.
No labs, no scientists
Nor, if any “spay and neuter cookies” actually did exist, could they win regulatory approval for distribution and use without extensive trials and publication of the data in both governmental bulletins and peer-reviewed veterinary and medical media.
Certainly such a product could not be developed by an organization consisting of little more than a Pompano Beach post office box, with no laboratories verifiably in existence or under contract, no scientists verifiably on the payroll, and according to the IRS Form 990 for 2015, filed on July 26, 2016, a cumulative deficit of $460,358.
But $250,280 in gaming expenses
What the “600 Million” IRS Form 990 for 2015 does show is that “600 Million” claimed gaming expenses of $250,280, through which $347,771 was raised. Under the heading of program expense, $75,060 was spent on “loan repayments” and $54,004 for “volunteers recruiting members.”
$62,671 was spent for “joint costs from a combined educational campaign and fundraising solicitation.”
But not a cent is identified as having been spent for spay/neuter work, any sort of scientific research, nor for cookies in any form, even chocolate-covered and bought from the Girl Scouts.
The “600 Million” filings of IRS Form 990 from 2013 and 2014 show similar spending patterns, but omit Schedule G, the form reporting gaming expenses and returns.
“Program service accomplishment”
The 2013 filing, however, does include an attachment alleging, without offering specifics, that during the year “We recruited additional scientists,” without identifying any scientists and without showing any expenditures under the heading of program service which might be for scientific work.
By way of “program service accomplishment,” the 2013 “600 Million” Form 990 claims “We expanded our rabies program saving children and animals!”, without including any documentation of “600 Million” having had a “rabies program” in the first place.
Continues the “600 Million” Form 990 for 2013, “We documented that not only is rabies an orphan disease but that the formulas we are developing can serve as orphan drugs, with the potential to in effect prevent the orphan disease rabies.”
Left unclear were how “600 Million” documented that “rabies is an orphan disease,” when globally more than 20,000 government agencies and nonprofit organizations have been addressing it with tangible programs, many for more than a century; what “formulas” Pacheco and company were “developing”; and what “orphan drugs” are.
Couldn’t find mega-bucks r&d programs
The 2013 “600 Million” statement of “program service accomplishment” added that “Our work has revealed evidence that there may be no clinical trials in progress anywhere, on a drug to prevent rabies – except for the trials we are carrying out.”
The many and often keenly competitive rabies vaccine manufacturers worldwide will be surprised to discover that Pacheco et al were unable to discover that their multi-million dollar research and development programs exist.
These 2013 claims of “program service accomplishment” were not included in the “600 Million” IRS Form 990 filings for 2014 and 2015, which mention nothing even that hazily specific.
Not even 600 million dogs in the world
But very little about “600 Million” has ever been credible or verifiable, beginning with the premise behind the name itself.
In all likelihood there are likely not even 600 million dogs in the world, and never were, let alone “600 million stray dogs.”
Psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren, best known as author of several best-selling books about the intelligence, mental abilities and history of dogs, made a credible attempt to estimate the world dog population, both owned and stray, in his “Canine Corner” column for Psychology Today of September 19, 2012.
Adding up all available numbers he could find, including estimates of feral and free-roaming dogs from the World Health Organization, Coren concluded “Our best guess would be that there are at least 525 million dogs on our planet.”
But of those 525 million, at least 403 million were and remain owned pets or working dogs.
WHO said what, when?
Pacheco and “600 Million” have attributed to the World Health Organization the erroneous claim often made in “600 Million” fundraising solicitations that “55,000 children…die from rabies each year.”
Some World Health Organization literature, and literature from the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, has alleged that rabies kills as many as 55,000 people per year––but not just children.
Meanwhile, research funded by the World Health Organization demonstrated in 2003 that the Indian data from which this number was projected was overstated by a factor of approximately 100. ANIMALS 24-7 has extensively documented that the primary input data behind it dated to 1911, and was collected before post-exposure rabies vaccination was introduced.
“You have been in Afghanistan?”
A “600 Million” appeal linked to World Rabies Day, September 28, 2016 centered on the story of U.S. soldier Kevin Shumaker, a U.S. soldier who on January 11, 2011 was bitten by a dog at Combat Outpost Base Chamkani in Afghanistan. Shumaker failed to report the bite to higher-ups and failed to seek treatment, although he mentioned it to a veterinarian in March 2011, and mentioned it again on his Post Deployment Health Assessment form in April 2011.
Developing rabies symptoms on August 14, 2011, Shumaker died on August 31, 2011, after 12 days in a medically induced coma.
Shumaker’s mother was in January 2012 identified by Nancy Montgomery of Stars & Stripes as “a manager at Genentech, a California biotechnology company,” a division of the Roche pharmaceutical empire with more than 13,000 employees worldwide, but neither the “600 Million” appeal nor any other material from “600 Million” has made or implied a Genentech or Roche connection.
In any event, “spay/neuter cookies,” had they existed, could only have prevented Shumaker’s death if they had prevented the birth of the dog who bit him, or had somehow been combined with canine Raboral, an orally administered rabies vaccine developed in 1969 which is encapsulated in species-specific “cookies” used to immunize foxes, raccoons, and coyotes.
Raboral is rarely used to immunize domestic dogs, however, and is so temperature-sensitive that it has not been used anywhere in hot climates.
SenesTech split with Pacheco in 2011
Pacheco and “600 Million” in 2009-2010 worked with the Arizona-based contraceptive research firm SenesTech, developer of an experimental rodent control product called ChemSpay.
But Joyce Briggs, president of the Alliance for Contraception of Cats & Dogs, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, reported on April 4, 2011, that “SenesTech notified ACC&D that they have severed ties with ‘600 Million Stray Dogs Need You’ and its founder, Alex Pacheco, and that “neither ‘600 Million’ nor Mr. Pacheco have any claim, right, title, license or interest in our ChemSpay product or any other [SenesTech] product.”
Recalled Briggs, “On December 22, 2010, ACC&D responded to claims being made by ‘600 Million’ and its then partner, SenesTech, about their non-surgical sterilant technology, ChemSpay. At that time, we expressed our concerns about the unfounded statements being made––especially by ‘600 Million”––about the effectiveness and safety of ChemSpay. The treatment was being presented as proven and ready to be submitted for regulatory approval, but no data was presented to support those claims.”
Pacheco acknowledged the split with SenesTech in an April 11, 2011 e-mail to “600 Million’s Team Members,” headlined “Update on Science and Marketing Recruitment.”
Confirmed Pacheco, “We will no longer be working with SenesTech. We have begun a new working relationship with what I’ve nicknamed our Canadian Crew––new scientists whom we’re working with, and the specifics of which will be shared when a few more of the elements are finalized. Because we’re dealing with potentially patentable scientific formulas,” Pacheco said, “some of which can be classified as veterinary pharmaceutical ingredients, there’s a considerable amount of legal work and paperwork required by various parties. Furthermore, out of an abundance of caution, we have most of our written communications pre-reviewed by legal counsel before we send it out. In addition, for legal reasons we have to limit what’s disclosed and when things are disclosed, and we must continue to keep certain information confidential and disclose it only on a need-to-know basis.
No money to follow
Briggs said she “asked around a bit,” but her scientific sources “have no idea who these Canadians might be.”
As of November 2, 2016, Alliance for Contraception of Cats & Dogs project manager Valerie Benka told ANIMALS 24-7, the alleged “Canadians” remained unidentified.
While some Canadian scientists are known to be doing advanced research on animal contraception, the “600 Million” filings of IRS Form 990 show no financial transfers to Canada.
Contraceptive pet foods
The contraceptive pet food approach Pacheco touts meanwhile has little chance of winning licensure in the present regulatory environment, even if such a product is ever developed. Several contraceptive pet foods were briefly marketed between 1963 and 1978, but all required repeated dosing to sustain the contraceptive effect, and sustained use led often to pyometra.
Two products from this generation of animal contraceptives are still available by prescription––Ovaban, for dogs, and Feral-Stat, for cats. But neither is actually a sterilant.
The birth control pet food introduced with the greatest fanfare, Mibolerone, was a progestin product closely related to the post-coital human contraceptive RU-486. It had the same issues as the rest, however, and the active ingredient was banned in the U.S. as an abortificant from 1988 to 2000.
Former Procter & Gamble toxicologist Mark Lafranconi, then manager of the $300 million P&G program to develop alternatives to animal testing, in 2010 surveyed the P&G regulatory experts on behalf of ANIMALS 24-7 as to whether a birth control pet food could gain regulatory approval, even if it worked perfectly in laboratory settings.
“I have polled across our organization and the unanimous conclusion is this type of initiative would never receive approval,” Lafranconi reported, “no matter what the jurisdiction. Inability to control access and exposure is the major limiting factor.
Agreed Linda Rhodes, then vice president for clinical development at AlcheraBio LLC, of Metuchen, New Jersey, a division of Argenta Inc., “I would say that there is no chance that the government will approve a substance to be given to feral animals using a bait, flavored substance or food, by lay people, given what we know about the science today. In order to not impact people, especially children, or other wildlife, such a substance would have to be completely species-specific. For example, a drug that could only be effective in cats and no other birds or mammals. Given today’s science, there is no drug or substance that I can think of that has that level of species specificity.”
Oral rabies vaccine scattered as bait for raccoons, foxes, and other wildlife has been successful, Rhodes acknowledged, “but only because it is administered exclusively as part of government programs, and because human or multi-species ingestion has only beneficial results, i.e. vaccination against rabies.”
Rhodes was previously director of clinical development projects for production animals at Merial Ltd., the maker of Raboral. She now chairs the Alliance for Contraception in Dogs & Cats board of directors.
The case of the vanished ballots
Associated with PETA until 1998, Pacheco was also associated with the New England Anti-Vivisection Society for a time, after PETA and The Fund for Animals led a 1988 takeover of NEAVS from the administration of former probate judge Robert Ford, who was later fined for alleged self-interested management.
In early 1996, coinciding with the retirement of the late Fund for Animals founder Cleveland Amory after a decade as NEAVS board president, a board faction identified with PETA tried to consolidate authority by ousting a faction identified with The Fund for Animals and electing Pacheco as president.
Membership ballots believed to have favored a Fund faction candidate at one point mysteriously disappeared. Court verdicts favored the Fund faction, which eventually prevailed, and hired current NEAVS executive director Theo Capaldo in 2000 to take the organization in an independent direction.