AWI Statement in Response to False Online Petitions

Over the past few months, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has been the target of several online petitions, circulated on and spread through social media networks, which falsely claim AWI supports the cruel killing of coyote pups and the use of steel-jaw leghold traps on federal refuge lands. These claims could not be further from the truth. AWI is and has always been vehemently opposed to both practices.

AWI has campaigned vigorously for years against the steel-jaw leghold trap in this country and abroad. Unfortunately, as in most US states, it is legal to use steel-jaw leghold traps in North Carolina. We have always been and continue to be opposed to these traps—instruments of pain and suffering that endanger people, pets, and wildlife.

In recent years, AWI and fellow NGOs have brought multiple lawsuits in North Carolina to protect the highly endangered red wolves. Coyotes are hard to distinguish from red wolves. Thus, when the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission wanted to allow coyote hunting in the five-county red wolf recovery area, we sued to prevent it.

In the past, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s red wolf recovery team euthanized hybrid pups. AWI has never advocated for this practice. On the contrary, whenever possible, we support humane capture and sterilization of coyotes in the red wolf recovery area so that the coyotes can continue to live there without posing a threat to the wolves through hybridization.

These petitions and associated linked photo/video montages contain inaccurate and misleading information about AWI. We believe the individuals behind this apparent smear campaign are attempting to threaten AWI’s very existence and base of support, as well as harass and intimidate AWI’s staff.  

Since its founding in 1951, AWI has been dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. We seek better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. To learn more about the work we do on behalf of red wolves, please visit our website at, as well as

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