Monday, November 30, 2009

The Real Problem -- (Reply)

(Picture left: He's a happy boy now, but when rescued in August of 2008, Chance was on shelter Euth list for "Severely aggressive behavior.")

In a message dated 11/29/2009 4:01:05 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, Anonymous writes:
Wonderful insight into the world of dog rescuing and chow chows. I'd like to know what are the procedures and reasoning behind these temperament tests. Are there natural biases being applied by any given volunteer who happens to perform the test or is it the process in general?
Reply: You ask very good and complicated-to-answer questions.

Personally, I believe the main reason for the tests is protection from possible lawsuits resulting from a adopted dog potentially biting someone.

Of course whether a rescuer or a shelter doing animal adoptions, we all have to worry about any negative repercussions resulting from an adoption we do.

None of us want to learn that an animal we placed in a home has caused harm or injury to someone even if not specifically concerned over lawsuits.

But, the reality is there is NO 100% way of predicting or determining how any given animal may act in every perceivable situation. We are, after all dealing with animals, not computers or robots that we can "program" and "predict."

Add to that, the difficulty of trying to "evaluate" a dog's true temperament or possible behavior in a home when the dog is being held in the unnatural setting of a crowded and noisy municipal pound.

The sheer stress, disorientation, fear and possible depression most animals suffer when abandoned to a pound situation is enough to seriously alter their natural behaviors and reactions.

Actual aggressive dogs might feel intimidated in a shelter situation and behave in a deceptively passive or even docile manner. Such dogs will often "score" well on the SAFER tests.

On the other hand, formerly pampered dogs (particularly small ones) often panic in a shelter and act out in defensive or even aggressive manner. (Chance, my Pomeranian is a good example of this, although the shelter never officially SAFER tested him. He was too "aggressive" and resistant to any handling at all. Chance attempted to bite everyone in the shelter.)

Then, there are protective dogs like Chows, Rottweilers or German Shepherds (known for loyalty to owners) who are naturally wary of strangers. These breeds will often flunk the "tag," "pinch" or resource guarding parts of the SAFER tests. (For some reason, many Cocker Spaniels also fail food and resource guarding parts of the test.)

I have many problems with the SAFER tests as a matter of POLICY, one of which is its abysmal failure to differentiate among dog breeds.

There can be no reliable "one size fits all" Behavior Test for dogs. Breeds were created with different purposes and attributes in mind. To expect a German Shepherd or Rottie to behave or react like a Shih-Tzu is, (to my mind) pure lunacy.

So how DO shelters or rescues try to determine potentially aggressive dogs from those who are simply anxious or wigged out in a shelter environment?

That is not easy -- especially when the dog has been turned in as a "stray" and there is no history or "Owner Profile" on the animal.

I believe that instead of devoting so much time and resource to so-called SAFER tests, shelters need to PRIORTIZE getting as much history and BACKGROUND on the dogs as possible:

Where did the dog come from? What were the conditions in which the animal lived? If owned, was the dog owned by one individual or a family? Did the dog live with other animals? Etc., etc.....

If the dog arrives at the shelter as a severe cruelty or neglect case, (such as "Oreo" the formerly abused ASPCA dog euthanized after 5 months of medical treatment in the shelter) then special allowances need to be made for that. Usually, these dogs cannot be adopted directly to the public, but rather need to go to special trainers or rehabilitation centers if they are to be saved.

One cannot expect a formerly traumatized and/or tortured, starved dog to score like Lassie on a SAFER test. -- Again, pure lunacy.

Another way to get an idea of a dog's true temperament is information and input from shelter dog walkers and experienced, knowledgeable volunteers or shelter dog handlers.

Those who spend actual TIME with the dogs and walk or feed them usually have a much better handle on the dogs' true natures, then an individual paid to do a ten-minute temperament "evaluation" on the animals under high stress and unnatural circumstances. Gilbert's case was a good example of this. The shelter volunteer was able to better gage the dog's normal behavior than the so-called "SAFER test" wrongly determined.


We are killing millions of animals a year due to lack of human responsibility, failures to spay and neuter and pet overpopulation. Most of all, we are killing due to a lack of loving and responsible homes to send the animals to. Too many people BUY animals from back yard breeders and pet stores. Too many people fail to neuter animals. And too many people abandon pets to shelters or streets.

But, instead of the putting the responsibility (or blame) where it truly belongs (with the PUBLIC and the politicians), we put it on the animals by claiming that they "fail" their SAFER "temperament" tests. There is "something wrong" with them.

In short, as conducted now, I believe the SAFER tests should be eliminated from all shelters as they, at best are unreliable and given to great errors and at worst, simply used as (usually false) justification to kill shelter dogs.

I understand shelters have to "euthanize" for all the reasons emphasized above.

But, lets me HONEST about the real reasons we are killing the animals, instead of dressing it up in "blame the victims and pacify the public" gift wrap (i.e. "The animals are old, sick or vicious.")

That is what is truly inexcusable and unconscionable as it insures we will NEVER address or solve the real problem -- human irresponsibility. -- PCA


Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Number to Ponder

(Picture Left: Gilbert -- One, very fortunate Chow Mix)

The past few weeks have thankfully seen some increase in adoption inquiries, adoptions and new rescues.

Perhaps these are the first indications that things might finally be turning around in the grim economy -- or, at least just a bit. There seems to be some room for new optimism.

One of our dogs recently rescued is Gilbert.

Gilbert is a 4-year-old black Chow who arrived at the city shelter (AC&C) early in November after being abandoned in an apartment after his former owners moved out and left him.

Gilbert is a peaceful, seemingly well trained dog who was put into Adoptions shortly after arriving at the pound -- something very unusual for a Chow. Due to their general aloofness and reserve with new people, most Chows don't make into the adoption wards of shelters.

Those times when a Chow does, it is something to behold.

Alas however, Gilbert did not stay in the AC&C adoption ward long.

A day or two later, the shelter conducted a SAFER ("temperament") test on Gilbert and he dismally failed the "dog-to-dog" part of it, garnishing a "5" -- the worst rating a dog can get.

Gilbert was immediately pulled from the Adoption Ward (located in a garage) and put into the main building where his fate was certain death unless taken out in rescue.

Workers at the shelter then called me asking if we could take Gilbert.

I, of course had concerns about the "dog-to-dog" behavioral rating, but long experiences with both the shelter and the controversial "Behavior Tests" have taught me never to take the SAFERS at face value.

I requested one of the volunteers at the shelter (who I know and trust) to do a separate evaluation and let me know her thoughts.

"Jane" (not her real name) thankfully obliged and later told me that Gilbert showed no aggression towards other dogs when taken for walks. Once again, the SAFER test was put to question.

"I don't know how they came up with a '5' on Gilbert's dog-to-dog," Jane said with frustration. "I've walked him by many dogs, including some who are dog aggressive and Gilbert shows absolutely no reaction."

Feeling more assurance with Jane's words, I went to the shelter to see Gilbert myself and my experiences with him and other dogs were exactly the same as Jane's. He seemed a very peaceful and mellow dog.

I then told Jesse, the New Hope Rescue Coordinator, that we would try to take Gilbert, but I needed a couple of days to advertise and try to find a foster for the black Chow.

"Oh, that's good," Jesse remarked. "He's already on the Euth list for tomorrow. I will pull him for now, but you need to get him out. How soon can you take him?"

"Jesse, I can't make promises!" I replied with some exasperation. "I will do my best to come up with something, but you know how this goes. Right now, we are full in boarding and foster. I have to hope we get lucky in finding a suitable foster. -- I will TRY."

"Oh, well you always find people," Jesse quipped cheerfully. "Just let me know," she smiled.

Jesse was a lot more optimistic than I was.

The following day we advertised Gilbert on several adoption sites, along with another dog, "Lady," an older, very sweet little Shepherd mix who had also hit the Euth list due to Kennel Cough. We had already committed to saving Lady.

As luck would have it, I did receive one very good offer for foster that day.

"Chris" and his finance, Jen are a youngish couple from Manhattan's Upper West Side who were thinking of adopting a dog, but saw our desperate foster "life or death" ads for Lady and Gilbert.

"We'd like to help," Chris told me. "Which dog is more urgent?"

"To be honest, they're both urgent," I replied. "I realize you can't take both dogs, but if you can take one, we can try to get the other one into emergency boarding."

Later that evening I met Chris and Jen at the shelter, along with a couple of my volunteers, Firouzeh and her boyfriend, Michael who were there to help with dog photos and other matters.

I was almost sure Chris and Jen would take Lady who is a smallish and very sweet and ingratiating dog, but for some reason, they took more to Gilbert.

Gilbert too, responded very well to the young couple.

Within an hour or so, Chris and Jen were on their way home with Gilbert in the back seat of their car while Firouzeh, Michael and I took Lady to a boarding facility on the Upper East Side, where a few days later, the affectionate, gentle mutt was successfully adopted.

At no time when we had the two dogs together, did Gilbert act anything but the perfect gentleman around Lady.

It was still a mystery on how Gilbert scored a "5" on his dog-to-dog behavior test. Nevertheless, it was something I had to point out to and warn his new foster people about.

"Watch him around other dogs," I cautioned. "Even though Gilbert was good with Lady and seems OK with dogs on the street, he must have shown some reaction to whatever dog they tested him with in the shelter."

Yesterday, I called Chris to inquire how things were going with Gilbert being that the couple now had the Chow for more than two weeks.

The news was nothing but positive. -- so good, in fact, that the couple is going to officially adopt Gilbert this Monday.

Chris told me that not only is Gilbert great with every dog encountered in Central Park, but also good with the family CATS in Connecticut where the couple and their new dog were spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

So much for Gilbert's "animal-to-animal aggression."

We will never know of course why this animal-friendly dog scored so deceptively and badly on the so-called SAFER ("temperament") test in terms of other dogs.

Is it the stress of being abandoned and winding up in a crowded city pound? Is it the unnatural way the test is conducted? (Putting two strange dogs face to face in a small room and then scoring how they "react.") Or, was there "something" about the tester dog that for some reason, put Gilbert on the defensive? The "something" about the other dog could be anything from a medical condition to sex of the dog to fear or some other "energy" emanating from the tester animal.

There are in fact, so many variables when these SAFER tests are conducted in a city pound that any kind of reliance on them is foolhardy at best and totally misleading and dog-condemning at worst.

Gilbert is simply a very fortunate dog that a number of people from a shelter volunteer, to myself, to his ultimate adopters were able to perceive the real dog underneath the inaccurate, disparaging and scary shelter "Behavior" label.

The question to wonder about is, "What if, one day, one of these negative behavior evals turns out to be right?" (So far, at least for us, that "What if" has never occurred.)

Another, even more important question to wonder of:

How many good dogs, not so fortunate as Gilbert have actually died due to faulty and inaccurate SAFER tests?

I shudder to think of that number -- or the faces and actual, gentle souls behind it. -- PCA


Friday, November 20, 2009

Response to ASPCA Generic Letter

My personal response to the ASPCA's public information letter:

Dear Generic ASPCA Public Information:

The PR robotic response below addresses none of the questions or statements of my first communication with the ASPCA, nor does it refer to Oreo, a young Pitbull who suffered horrendous abuse at the hands of her former owner with any sense of empathy or understanding.

On the contrary, the ASPCA seems determined to paint this victim of cruelty in the worst possible light in order to justify the "A's" arbitrary decision to end Oreo's short, painful and miserable life.

In some ways, it reminds one of those lawyers who have attempted to blame rape victims for their own rapes by putting a woman's past or style of dress on trial ("She brought the rape on herself!")

By describing and labeling Oreo as "untreatably aggressive" the ASPCA raises many questions -- Questions that have yet to be answered.

What exactly is, "untreatably aggressive?"

Did Oreo arrive at the ASPCA with a history of biting, fighting or attacking either humans or other pets? Did she bite or attack her human abuser who reportedly beat her with regularity and threw her from a roof top? Did she attack residents of the Brooklyn neighborhood she came from?

When suitably recovered from her broken legs and fractured rib, was Oreo regularly walked in the neighborhood by an ASPCA staffer or volunteer?

If so, would it not put the people and pets residing on Manhattan's crowded Upper East Side at great risk of attack from an "unrtreatably aggressive" dog?

If not, would it not be considered "cruel" to keep a young and ordinarily very active Pitbull confined to a small cage almost 24/7 for five months? Wouldn't most normal dogs go insane (and become "aggressive") from long term confinement (and isolation) in a cage?

How exactly were Oreo's needs for exercise met? Was she run on a treadmill? Exercised in a yard? Walked on the streets?

According to dog expert, Cesar Millan, a dog's number one need is "exercise."

If Oreo was so "aggressive" and "unpredictable" that it was impossible for staffers at the ASPCA to walk her on busy Manhattan streets, properly socialize or "rehabilitate" her, what attempts were made to send Oreo to a more suitable environment and rehabilitation center such as Best Friends ("Dogtown") in Utah or even Cesar Millan's dog center in California?

Best Friends is an organization that has taken in and rehabilitated many dogs (from shelters) with major behavioral and aggression issues, including most of Michael Vick's dogs. Surely, they would have taken Oreo if approached. Oreo was a very special and high profile media case. (Ditto, one might suspect with Cesar Millan.)

The question is: WAS Best Friends contacted and requested to take in Oreo and work with her? If so, what was their response?

How does the ASPCA know Oreo's "aggression" was "untreatable" if no attempt was made to send this dog to a more suitable and appropriate environment that would allow for proper exercise, stimulation, time, expert care and possible rehabilitation?

If most of Michael's Vicks "fighting dogs" could be rehabilitated in a proper environment, why couldn't Oreo?

Oreo was a very young dog whose behavior presumably could have been modified and worked with over time in a more nurturing, natural and suitable environment.

Expecting a horribly abused, fearful dog to magically transform into "Lassie" while confined to a smallish and busy brick and mortar shelter on Manhattan's congested Upper East Side seems unrealistic and lacking in understanding of bully breed behavior and regular canine needs for exercise, peace and stability.

Finally, attempts to discredit all those who question or criticize this decision by the ASPCA to kill Oreo seems, once again, like a cheap lawyer tactic to "attack the credibility of witnesses for the opposition" as well as to divert the issue.

It isn't Pets Alive who is at issue here for simply offering to take and attempt to work with Oreo.

It's the ASPCA for not allowing this victim of cruelty and abuse ANY "second chance" and instead, seemingly blaming Oreo for her own execution.

In doing so, the ASPCA has not only killed one dog for whom we will never know whether rehabilitation was possible or not, but unfortunately, has also tainted and shown all other Pitbulls and shelter dogs in an extremely derogatory and damanging light.

Instead of saying "we are killing these dogs because there are far too many and we don't have the homes for them" (which would put most of the blame rightfully on the public), the ASPCA claims instead, to kill because there is something wrong with the animals:

i.e. Blame the victims.

What a horrible message and death knell for the animals.

The ASPCA should be ashamed of itself.

Patty Adjamine,
New York City


Thank you for contacting the ASPCA - America’s first humane organization – regarding Oreo. It is important that our members have a voice in what happens in our organization – your willingness to take the time to send a message is truly appreciated. Due to the large volume of phone calls, mail and e-mails, we apologize for a generic response to your message, but please know that each and every communication is thoroughly read.A great deal of misinformation regarding Oreo’s euthanasia has been passed around on the Internet-- everything from what time Oreo was euthanized (it was 3 p.m.) to Pets Alive’s credentials (they are NOT a member of the Mayor’s Alliance). In addition, critics have seized on Oreo’s plight as an opportunity to discredit the ASPCA—which is interesting when you consider that one of our most ardent critics, Camille Hankins, the Director of Win Animal Rights, was convicted of animal cruelty in 1995 when nearly 100 animals were found stuffed into a tiny, filthy trailer that she rented.While we certainly think all of these issues merit rebuttal, we believe it is critical that we address the questions and concerns regarding our decision not to send Oreo to a sanctuary.It is first vital to consider the very definition of “animal sanctuary.” The mission of animal sanctuaries is generally to be safe havens, where the resident animals are given the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible in a protective environment. Due to the extreme emotional and physical strain Oreo suffered, her living conditions at a sanctuary would have been anything but "natural," and her quality of life would have been poor at best. She would have been forced to live a life of isolation with extremely limited human contact and virtually no animal contact. For an animal that is distinguished by sophisticated social cognition and communication, such an existence could hardly be defined by the word "sanctuary."Many groups like Pets Alive dispute that this would have been Oreo’s fate. But how can that be anything but empty rhetoric when these groups had no access to Oreo or her evaluations? We had our own professional behaviorists, as well as an independent veterinary behaviorist, conduct numerous evaluations, and in our experience, the findings were not consistent with sanctuary placement. We spent five months with Oreo- day in and day out- not only evaluating her behavior—but trying to rehabilitate her. This is central to the ASPCA’s mission. Just since 2003, when Edwin Sayres joined the ASPCA, we have rehabilitated over 1,200 animal cruelty victims at a cost of over 5 million dollars. Why would Oreo be any different?The fact is… she wasn’t. Despite the sensational nature of her injuries, she was treated with the same love and respect—and given the greatest of care and rehabilitation-- that we afford all of our animals. But at the end of the day, and more often than the animal welfare community discusses, we made the most humane decision we could. There is no “Oreo conspiracy,” as some have claimed. This is simply, and tragically, the case of a heartbreaking decision made all the more difficult by the ignorance and hypocrisy of a few.Should you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to email us again.

Sincerely,ASPCA Public Information >>>

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Setting Animal Protection Back 100 Years (Reply)

(Picture Left: "Nia" and Chris. Nia is a fabulous "Throwaway Mama" Pitbull that we rescued from death at the AC&C almost a year ago. All this time, this loving and dog friendly, child friendly dog has languished in boarding. Our abilities to place loving Pitties like Nia is now further hampered by the ASPCA's distruction of Oreo and false rationalization for it.)

Cubby's Daddy Writes: A high visibility organization with the massive funding and community standing of the ASPCA has a responsibility to set an example. By killing Oreo, the example they set is that it's ok to put down pitbulls because they are "aggressive" and can not be rehabilitated. The average person knows nothing about this breed except what they hear on the news. They think all pits are dangerous and should be put down. The ASPCA has done nothing but re-affirm that misconception. People are the problem, not the pitties.

Reply: The wisdom of your comment cannot be emphasized enough.

As powerful "role model" to almost the entire animal protection movement, the ASPCA has sent a silent message to the media and the public at large in its needless and unjustifiable execution of Oreo.

The message is that Pitbulls are aggressive and beyond redemption and should be put down in order to "protect the public."

What the ASPCA doesn't say is that according to insiders who knew Oreo, the dog was not aggressive at all. Vets had no problems in treating Oreo or volunteer dog walkers in walking Oreo.

Ah, but alas, Oreo (a former victim of beatings by her owner and being thrown from a rooftop) didn't fair well on her so-called, "Behavior Test." She charged a plastic hand dangled in front of her face.

My, my. Surprise, surprise.

I wonder what my dogs would do were I to dangle a plastic hand in front of their faces? Sadly, I can't answer that question as I've never had occasion to tease or torment my dogs with a plastic hand. I suspect, Chance, my Pomeranian might "charge" a plastic hand. Perhaps I should have him put down as a "danger" to the public?

What is particularly distressing about the ASPCA's killing of this particular dog is not just the actual execution, but the ASPCA's justification and rationale for it.

"Blaming the victim," so to speak.

One might be a little more understanding of the ASPCA position had they said something like:

"More than 90% of the dogs we get in from cruelty cases are Pitbulls. More than 80% of the dogs arriving at city Animal Control shelters are Pitbulls and Pit mixes.
Tragically, we don't have the responsible and capable homes to place all of these dogs into. We are forced to kill most Pitbulls because there is no reputable placement for the majority of them."

Had the ASPCA said the above, while representing TRUTH, it still would not have justified the killing of Oreo, because this particular dog DID have placement offer through a reputable and capable sanctuary ("Pets Alive"). If (as said yesterday) the ASPCA didn't like the particular shelter, they could have appealed to Best Friends in Utah who, almost assuredly would have taken a case as special as Oreo's and had the means to do so.

But, the ASPCA never bothered to ask Best Friends and ignored Pets Alive's offer.

In its arrogance, The ASPCA apparently didn't want another organization to succeed in what it failed to achieve: "Rehabilitation" and possible placement of Oreo into a loving home. It was more convenient and politically expedient to kill the dog and then blame Oreo for her own execution ("unadoptable.")

Thus, rationale for Oreo's death is put on the DOG, rather than the vicious human individual who so cruelly beat and tried to kill her OR the culture that is so ruthlessly breeding, abusing and discarding this breed of dog en masse.

The ASPCA's inexcusable killing of Oreo sets back the Animal Protection Movement at least 100 years.

The message is: "It is easier and more convenient to blame and kill the animal victims of abuse than to challenge and go after the human perpetrators." -- PCA


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ASPCA Part of the Problem (Debate)

Linda Brink Writes: As much as I deplore the ASPCA action--and truly, I hate what they did--I have a hard time ever mounting a campaign against any animal rescue organization if that organization is doing any good at all--and the ASPCA does do some good. When animal activists attack animal rescue groups who do some legitimately good work, it splits the forces...... Use what happened to Oreo to highlight the real issue, not the failings of the ASPCA. The failings are a symptom. The issue is the disease.

Reply: With all due respect, there are major holes in your argument.

You say, "The ASPCA does some good." You speak about the ASPCA as if it were some tiny animal rescue group operating on a shoe string budget.

In reality, the ASPCA soaks up MOST of the donation dollars of the entire animal welfare, rights and even rescue movement. We are talking of an organization that has raised 30 million dollars from ONE commercial!

The question needs to be asked, "What is the ASPCA doing with all those millions of dollars?" (Obviously, SOME good has to arise!)

In many ways, the ASPCA has sold out the very animals it portends to speak for, "Oreo" being only one sad example -- a "symbol" so to speak of the whole.

Yesterday, I wrote about the ASPCA's long, sordid history of killing and then blaming the animal victims for their own executions. "Most of the animals are old, sick or vicious." This is obviously the tactic the ASPCA used to justify the destruction of Oreo. ("She was aggressive.")

You seem to think that the public will come to some sort of enlightenment on its own.

Why should it?

The ASPCA has been putting out the message for years now that, "New York City is on the road to no kill." Many people interpret that message to mean NYC is "no kill" now.

There is no sense of public URGENCY to help save strays or shelter animals or, quite frankly, for the public to neuter its own pets as most people believe all pet related problems have been solved. Many otherwise animals lovers now buy pets from pet stores or breeders rather than adopt as they believe that the only animals "euthanized" in shelters are "old, sick or vicious."

Complacency and naivete are major parts of the "disease" you speak about. And the ASPCA has been one of the biggest contributors to that disease of misinformation and denial.

How can NYC be "on the road to no kill" when we don't even have ONE fully functioning and humane Animal Control shelter in the entire city? Does anyone think to ask that the ASPCA donate some of its millions to help build ONE state of the art, Animal Control shelter in NYC?

The ASPCA will of course argue that it is a "National" organization whose agenda isn't NYC "stray" cats and dogs. But, what exactly has the ASPCA achieved on behalf of animals suffering nationwide? Has it launched a nationwide media campaign against puppy mills or factory farms? Has it focused on the national epidemic of dog fighting and the breeding, abuse and abandonment of Pitbulls?

One is hard pressed to come up with one major achievement for animals by the ASPCA, other than its Spay/Neuter van. -- And that doesn't cost 100 million dollars.

Finally, you speak about "splitting the forces." But, it seems from the messages I have read it is you who is being somewhat divisive in defending the ASPCA. The rest of us seem to be on the same page in agreeing that some action needs to be taken to insure that what happened to Oreo does not occur again to some other hapless animal under the ASPCA's control and "care."

As for the ASPCA signing its letter to concerned citizens with, "Public Information Department" rather than an actual name, I think that seems to show its utter disdain and arrogance towards those who were distraught by the needless death of Oreo. -- Either that or those at the ASPCA are ashamed of their own letter, as no one seemingly wants to take the responsibility (or blame) for it. --- PCA


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Transformation of Dutch

(Picture Left: Dutch giving a kiss to Chris. --Something that never could have been imagined or predicted six months ago.)

As a small rescue group without a brick and mortar shelter, we rely on either foster people or boarding kennels to care for the dogs we rescue.

Two of the individuals we board dogs with are also dog trainers.

Yesterday, I had opportunity to visit (along with a friend) the boarding/training home where we are currently keeping six of our rescued dogs.

All six dogs were happy, healthy, balanced and enthusiastic.

But, the dog who had made the greatest "transformation" from the time he was first rescued was "Dutch," a beautiful, Chow/Duck-Trolling Retriever cross pulled from the AC&C Euth list last Spring.

When I first met Dutch at the shelter, he was a very nervous, wary and untrusting dog.

I attributed the young, 1-year-old dog's lack of ease and socialization to the stress of being in the pound after his owner was evicted (for non-payment of rent) and apparently went to a human shelter where she could not bring her dog.

I did have concerns however, about rescuing Dutch. His hard stare and stiff body posture along with the poor behavior assessment at the pound suggested a dog that was not going to be an easy adoption by any stretch of the imagination.

Initially, I put Dutch in an Upper East Side boarding facility where either I or one of my volunteers could walk him everyday and get to know him better.

But, over the weeks he was boarded, Dutch became even more wary, defensive, unpredictable and untrusting.

We had to be very careful when handling Dutch. He was extremely uncooperative and stubborn when we attempted to put Dutch back in his little room ("kennel") following a walk.

But, of even greater concern, was Dutch's reactions (lunges, attempts to bite) to joggers, skateboarders or cyclists when out on a walk. On one occasion, Dutch actually nipped a man running too close to the dog and the volunteer walker. Fortunately, the man was nice about the incident and did not seek any kind of compensation.

But, the incident alarmed me enough to contact the shelter again and request the cell phone number of Dutch's former owner. I needed to have a sense of Dutch's "history" and the kind of home he came from.

I was able to get in touch with Dutch's former owner -- which unfortunately helped explain a great deal of Dutch's defensive, insecure and worrisome behavior.

His former owner told me she acquired Dutch when he was only "3 weeks of age" from a friend whose dog had puppies. (Three weeks is way to early to separate puppies or kittens from their mothers. Animals separated this young from moms and siblings often display neurotic or even aggressive behavior later in life.)

"Iris" (Dutch's former owner) also told me that by the time he was a year old, Dutch had already sired two litters of puppies. This said a lot about the owner's lack of awareness and care to the pet overpopulation problem as well as her general lack of responsibility to properly vet, care for and neuter her dog.

But, most of all, Iris failed to properly expose Dutch to the normal activities of everyday life (i.e walk her dog) and socialize him with strangers.

Although Irish swore up and down to me how much she "loved" her "baby," she never once took the time to visit Dutch while we had him boarding in Manhattan, despite my pleas with her to do so.

"He's so stressed," I told Iris. "I realize you can't take him back, but it would really help Dutch to see you."

My pleas fell on deaf ears. Iris was full of excuses.

Finally, Dutch became even too difficult and combative for even the staffers at the boarding kennel to deal with.

I was told I needed to make arrangements to get Dutch out of there.

About this time, I was under added pressure from several people, including one of my own volunteers to have Dutch euthanized. The dog was a "liability."

Feeling conflicted and desperate, I contacted a reputable dog trainer in Manhattan and requested that he come and evaluate Dutch for me.

"Ken" came the following day to the boarding kennel and together, we took Dutch for a long walk. When anticipating Dutch's reactions to joggers and cyclists, Ken gently snapped the leash and gave a mild correction to Dutch. Dutch did respond favorably to the training technique immediately focusing on his handler.

Ken later told me that although Dutch needed "work," he was not beyond redemption and should be saved.

That is when I called Chris in Brooklyn.

The best way to describe Chris is like a New York City version of Cesar Millan.

Chris is a long time dog lover, rescuer and trainer. He has 8 rescued dogs of his own and also works with rescue groups like ours to save, board and train dogs pulled from death at the city shelter.

Chris agreed to take on and work with Dutch.

Upon arriving to Chris' home in Brooklyn, Dutch immediately tried to bite Chris when first removed from the transportation vehicle.

According to Chris, Dutch was one very stressed out and wary dog who required several days to calm down and begin to settle in.

But, since then, Chris has reported back to me positive developments over the months with Dutch.

But, I guess one never actually or totally believes until actually seeing the dog for one's self.

Yesterday, I could not believe Dutch was the same dog I sent out to Chris so many months ago.

Instead of the hard staring, stiff "Don't mess with me" dog I remembered from last Spring, out in the yard bounced a happy, carefree, "I'm in love with life!" Dutch who came up to my friend and me with zest, enthusiasm and total trust.

It took a few minutes for me to realize that I no longer had to be "careful" in handling Dutch. He welcome petting and even some light roughousing as a trusting puppy would on the precipice of life.

It was one of the most amazing transformations I have ever seen in all my years of rescue. -- Something one could never have foreseen or imagined six months ago.

Not only did Dutch welcome handling and affection from humans -- but he fully reciprocated and gave back in limitless abundance.

When my friend, Jane and I finally left after spending half the afternoon with Chris and a bunch of happy, playful, affectionate and balanced dogs a thought occurred to me:

Yesterday, was the first time I had ever seen Dutch smile. -- PCA


Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Heart of the Matter (Guest Editorial --by, Linda Brink)

(Picture left: "Lady" Gentle, affectionate dog abandoned at city shelter for "moving." Wonderful profile from past owners....."Very affectionate dog....loves men, women, children, other dogs and cats." Nevertheless, Lady flunked food part of SAFER test and winded up on kill list. Now rescued and in tempoary boarding, but what of the millions (like Oreo) for who, there is no rescue or "happy ending?" The Guest Editorial by Linda Brink below examines the entire tragic picture.)

All of what everyone writes is correct, of course. But the heart of the problem isn't the killing of animals for space, for temperament judged notcompatible with human living--for whatever reason.

The true heart of theproblem is human behavior --behavior that closes each door, until the one remaining, for millions of animals, is: the kill door.

The heart of the problem is the fact that the human animal is self-centered to such an extreme, a life is judged unworthy, and unwanted, for--the most flimsy ofreasons. "We are moving; we don't like the hair; too noisy; too needy; tooaggressive, wrong color, too"--whatever.

The problem is entirely the human element, of course. The shelter is simply trying to cope in ways that, Iagree, often strike one as demented, with the problems created by people inall walks of life whose priorities no longer, for whatever reason, includethe animal they once desired. The animals they take to the shelters inimpossibly huge numbers. And leave there. Leave there, knowing they willbe killed. For space. Because one cannot house them all; cannot give themall a new life. Because, there are millions.

That's the heart of the problem: the people. Not the shelters.

So, while some progress will be made attacking shelters for their killpolicies, the real flaming arrow should be blazing in another directionentirely. But--where, exactly, when there are so many appropriate targets?The pet industry. Yes, certainly they deserve a cannonball volley for theendless breeding tortures and the whole sales pitch that comes out the otherend: the puppies, the kittens, the chicks, the millions of parentlessbabies snatched away from their nurturing parents and placed, so wrongly,into--cages. And eventually--again, so wrongly--into human hands. The human hand pays the money, and in return, they get the life.

There seems tobe an insatiable craving for babies, and yet, I never look at a baby animalwithout seeing the parents who mourned the theft. The babies are a product:it's big business, selling lives, and it's big business in associatedindustries that market all the bells and whistles that go with that dearbaby, the toys, beds, food, accessories, the groomers, the trainers, theboarding facilities, the vet link--yet another industry--it just goes on andon. Powerful interests, indeed, and they don't want this industry thatendlessly puts all the dogs and cats and birds and reptiles and smallanimals in the shelters and rescues and sanctuaries, when they becomeadults--they don't ever want that industry to go away. It's a living toogood to waste.

And so laws never seem to change to truly protect animals, frompeople--their main acknowledged threat--because all of these industries joinforces to make sure people crafting the laws don't go too far, don't get toocarried away, with animal protection. With passing laws that will impingeon human rights, the right to own animals and essentially do what one wantswith them. The rights of people who buy industry products and pay forindustry services. Moderation, please, in regulating the pet and animalindustries. Touchy subject with legislators everywhere.

I support No Kill shelters. I don't blame Kill shelters. I blame thepeople who bring the animals to those shelters, the industries that providethose animals, the politicians who look the other way. I blame humantolerance for unimaginable cruelty--something Michael Vick understands, sowell--the blood and screams of the dogs all tidied up now--the past, yes?Gotta go now--game time!

I blame all the industries who conspire to keepthings exactly as they are--with the main theme being: animals as aproduct. I blame the society that supports these industries, and demandsthese animals, all new and shiny even as millions languish in cement andsteel cages, begging a new home.

I realize: all shelters have a limit,space-wise and resource-wise. I realize: there aren't enough good homesout there for all the adults, and even babies, who are born and unwanted.I've taken in, myself, both dogs, cats, and birds--all turned loose to fendfor themselves. They are desperate and they are suffering and they areusually, very sick.

So, when No-Kill shelters turn animals away forspace--where do they go? What do people do with them? You can figure itout. Kill or No-Kill, the animal loses for many related reasons, and whileit feels great to have a target--the Kill Shelters--they are, in fact, NOTthe essential problem. They are simply, the end result.

Humans are, everystep of the way, the problem.

Because a huge number of humans aregreedy--both those who sell the babies, and those who must have that cutelittle bundle. They lack empathy. They lack compassion. They aremotivated by--convenience.

Too many humans have no problem at allcontrolling, and destroying, an animal's life. Too many humans are capableof pretense. Too many humans delude themselves. Too many humans: atheart, just don't really care. About the eventual fate of animals once intheir care.

Oreo. Poor, dear Oreo. Judged for her fears, judged for her anger. Neverjudged for what was in her heart. An inconvenience--aggressive dogs are aninconvenience, no matter what causes their aggression. Dangerous tohumans--an ironic conclusion, certainly, in Oreo's case. But no matter:Oreo must go.

The ASPCA could have helped Oreo, and at the same time,gotten an important message to the public about just how twisted the livesof animals can become--because of humanity. They could have gotten the evenmore important message out there: and we must help these animals who areour victims. That is, in fact, our responsibility to these animals--to helpthem.

Instead the message is: just kill them all. Terrible, yes--butjust one aspect of a very large, very convoluted problem that is not beingaddressed at its source: the pet trade and related industries. The lackof appropriate regulation. The lack of laws. The lack of responsibilityand compassion and empathy by a large part of human society, which in fact,makes all of the above problems, issues: a society that eats animals, usesanimals, only wants animals living with them that get with the program, andeven those, are always--expendable.

Move mountains to save the helpless fawn; shoot the adult deer. The humanelement. Prognosis for change: not good.So, the life and death of Oreo--yet another step backward. One that couldhave gone forward, for Oreo, and for perhaps, many animals. But--onceagain, human arrogance, human stubborn behavior, human lack of an embracingof the responsibility owed this dog, to give her a chance--a lack of evenseeing it that way--well, bottom line: Oreo was killed.

The ASPCA deservesa flaming arrow, yes, for setting such a terrible example, for being ananimal rescue organization that clearly lacks a beating heart. Butagain--where is it Oreo came from?Where so many come from. Before the window, the crazed person who flungher, before the ASPCA, Oreo was a baby: she trusted, she expected to benutured, she expected to be loved, by her mother, by something, by someone.All normal expectations, but, in this world so controlled now, byhumans--she expected too much.

For Oreo, it was luck of the draw and likemillions of other individuals, Oreo got dealt: an uncaring human hand.

Things CAN change--there are small victories, more and more. But directyour angst where it will do the most good--at the beginning of the chain ofevents. Not at the end result: the so-called, shelters, their policies,their mistakes. Warehousing unwanted animals is not the answer. It willnever be the answer. Shelters are a symptom. The human element is theproblem, and it's diseased.

Go for the tumor, the cancer--hard as that maybe in a world where so many will do anything--anything--to make a buck.Unite, focus and go for it. The source, the root, the disease. Go forlaws, go for regulations. Demand change. We have to continually attack thepet industry--and animals as food and clothing and lab experimentationindustries--even as we try to open people's hearts and minds to animals asindividuals who experience life much as do we--because that part of thesolution is critical: human understanding of animals as sentientindividuals.

The task is huge. The issue: focus. Unrelenting focus onthe heart of the problem: the uncaring human element. The unaware humanelement. The greedy, self-centered, cruel human element--and this goes forcitizens everywhere--as well as the animals as products industries who caterto their unrealistic whims. A daunting task--but there is, in fact, so muchthat's horrifying to expose.

A daunting task, but not, even in this darkhour, a hopeless one. Focus--it's essential. People do become aware. Andpeople do change.We became aware. We changed. And now we must truly focus, all together, onthe very heart of the matter.

Linda Brink Director,
Sunnyskies Bird & Animal SanctuaryWarwick,


"SAFER?" Or, Mostly Lethal (for dogs)? -- Reply

(Picture Left: Chance (i.e. "Puppy Boy"). One of my two personal dogs, Chance was rescued from shelter Euthanasia list last year after displaying "extremely aggressive" ("severe") behavior in shelter. And yet, relatives who turned Chance into shelter when owner became ill, indicated Chance to be "protective, loving, good with children." Which description was ultimately correct? Information from past home was totally accurate -- as it is in most cases. Who knows the animals best? Past owners, NOT artificial "tests.")

Crazy Runner Writes: I hate the SAFER test. The first time I saw it, I knew what a crock it was and how dangerous it was. So many wonderful dogs have been killed because they reacted poorly to a fake hand constantly poking them while they're trying to eat. After reading this, I will never give another dime to the ASPCA. It never ceases to amaze me to hear the insane expectations people put on animals. They're supposed to take horrific abuse and still be happy. They're supposed to instantly heal from a horrible life with no help or reassurance because heaven forbid a person has to take time and effort into training and helping their new pet. Animals have to be more saintly and patient than Mother Teresa to please many people.

Reply: Very well said.

The ASPCA rarely suggest that it is human behavior that needs to change.

Instead, it is the animals who need to change for us.

I have had dogs for all my life. Never in more than 50 years of having dogs have I had reason or occasion to put my hand in the dog's food bowl and shove his/her face out of it.

Nor, do I pinch my dogs' feet or sides.

What is the ASPCA's justification for these "tests" on dogs?

"We have to know if a small child does these things to a dog or steps on the dog's foot, the dog won't bite."

By that logic, we should also be able to guarantee a dog won't bite, when hit in the face with newspapers if peeing on the floor or kicked by their human owners. What about those people who have burned dogs with cigarette butts? Should we not also burn dogs to "test" their reactions? Should we not yell, scream or hit at dogs as many human owners do?

Reality is, that it is almost impossible to "predict" how any dog is going to behave in any home or under any and all circumstances. As Cesar Millan says, almost everything depends upon the owners. "Every home has its own energy and vibe," says Millan. He is right.

The best predictors of future behavior is past behavior.

When the subject is dogs, if we want to have a sense of the dog's general temperament and/or past history, the people who best know this are the past owners.

But, what if past owners aren't available to question? Such as in cases of arrest, eviction, abandonment, death or hospitalization of owner?

What if the dog was picked up as a stray?

In those cases, it is important to gather as much information as possible concerning the circumstances of the dog arriving at the shelter. When a dog is picked up from a location, it is often possible to get information from neighbors, landlords and area residents. They can often indicate whether a dog lived with children or other pets. They often have information regarding the dog's general temperament. If the dog was a stray, was it friendly to strangers or shy, for example?

There is in fact, much information that can be gathered when either questioning past owners or investigating the circumstances from which a dog was picked up from.

That information is far more "predictive" of a dog's general demeanor and behavior than artificial "tests" done on dogs, usually under very stressful and unnatural shelter conditions.

In saying all this, it is not to totally poo poo any evaluations at all on shelter dogs.

Sure, we want to have a sense of how a dog may be around other animals or if s/he has particular "issues" with food, toys or bones.

Walking a dog on the street or in a yard near other dogs gives a sense of animal to animal "reactions." Observing a dog when s/he eats or attempting to walk close to the dog's food bowl can usually show if a dog has particular "guarding" issues with food, bones or toys.

In my opinion, there is no justification for plastic hands shoved in a dog's face while the animal is attempting to eat. I think it safe to say most humans would "bite" or at least become very pissed, were someone to shove a hand in our dinner plates while we're eating.

Nor, do I see justification for pinching a dog's feet or sides -- or "tag" games for that matter. I think it reasonable to assume many if not in fact, most dogs being dumped in shelters have probably never engaged in a game of "tag."

As currently conducted, it seems the SAFER temperament tests as developed and promoted by the ASPCA have been designed to cause many, if not in fact, most dogs "tested" to fail one or more parts of it.

They therefore serve mostly has justification for euthanasia, rather than any true barometer or "predictor" of animal behavior. -- PCA


Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Arrogance and Callousness of ASPCA

(Picture Left: "Oreo" --A dog who seemingly never knew a happy day in her life. "Rescued" only to suffer and ultimately be executed for the sins of her abuser.)

It is the ASPCA that developed the so-called "SAFER" (temperament) test that is now used to condemn hundreds of AC&C dogs a year, as well as it pacify's and numbs a naive public and media into believing that the only animals being killed in shelters are "old, sick or vicious."

The "SAFER" test as currently conducted at our city animal shelters attempts to "predict" a dog's behavior in a home according to the way the animal "reacts" to various stressors performed on him or her when newly arriving in the unnatural environment of an overcrowded, municipal shelter. These include pinching the dog's feet and sides, forced engagement in so-called "tag" game (which can frighten some dogs not familiar with the activity), shoving a plastic hand in the dog's face while the animal attempts to eat and a forced, unnatural encounter with another ("tester") dog.

One of the reasons cited by the ASPCA for yesterday's destruction of Oreo, (the young, horribly abused Pitbull thrown from a rooftop last January) was that she charged when the plastic hand was dangled in front of her face.

In a show of incredible arrogance and callousness, the ASPCA refused to allow Oreo, to go to Pets Alive (which offered to take Oreo and keep her for life if "unadoptable") -- or any of the other reputable and potential rescue opportunities.

If the ASPCA had some bone to pick with Pets Alive, one needs to ask if they attempted to contact Best Friends in Utah ("Dogtown") that ONLY takes medical or behavior cases from other shelters or even Cesar Millan?

The ASPCA's seeming lack of empathy for Oreo -- a dog who in her short life, never knew a happy day -- is also something to be seriously questioned.

Not only was this dog beaten and thrown off a roof by her former "owner," but then had to undergo painful surgeries, daily stress and long term confinement in a cage at the ASPCA.

Where was the concern for this dog's SUFFERING over most of her life? Did the ASPCA seriously expect Oreo to act like Lassie or to pass her SAFER tests with flying colors under these extremely adverse and unnatural circumstances?

Where was the ASPCA's appreciation and concern for all the thousands of dollars in donations that were sent for this dog's care and ultimate placement? Would hard working people generously donate to an organization that apparently decided to kill Oreo months ago? What was the point in putting Oreo through so much oppression and suffering only to kill her in the end?

Indeed, the ASPCA merely completed (slowly and torturously) the "job" that Henderson (Oreo's psychotic owner) started.

And while Henderson will most likely walk free after a ("community service?") slap on the wrist, it is his victim who is, instead, labeled, "aggressive," unworthy to be in society and ultimately executed.

Something is wrong in that picture.

The ASPCA needs to held accountable for this one.

It is not just the blood of Oreo on the ASPCA's hands, it is the blood of untold thousands.of animals -- Especially when once considers the ASPCA's abysmal record of killing when running Animal Control in New York City, as well as its development of so-called "SAFER" ("temperament") tests (now used to condemn thousands of dogs) and finally, its blatant lies in promising a "No Kill" New York City. --PCA


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Sad Saga of Oreo and the ASPCA

Personal Comment: Regarding the comment and reference to the NY Times article about Oreo and the ASPCA, below is a letter that is being circulated over the Internet pressuring the ASPCA not to kill the dog, who months ago, was thrown from a roof.

Personally speaking, I don't feel I have enough facts in the case to render a just judgment on the situation, the ASPCA or the dog.

I will however, say this:

The ASPCA has a long history of distorting facts and in some cases, outrightly lying to fit their own PR image and agenda.

When the ASPCA ran Animal Control in NYC, it was forever claiming to the media and the public that it was mainly putting down, "Old, sick and vicious" animals, which was a total lie. Truth was, the ASPCA was killing about 80% of the cats and dogs that arrived at its shelters, including many thousands of kittens, homeless pets and even puppies. To claim that the great majority of the animals were "old, sick and vicious" was distortion at its very worst.

Earlier in this decade the ASPCA was among the biggest offenders in putting out the "New York City on the Road to No Kill!" message. Even worse, the ASPCA lied when leading New Yorkers and the press to believe NYC would be "no kill" by 2008 and then later, 2010 and 2012.

Due to criticisms by some in the animal community, the ASPCA has since toned down the Disneyworld message and no longer seems to cite actual dates for the NYC to become "no kill." But, as cited in this blog repeatedly, there is no way NYC can become "no kill" at all as long as the city refuses to build adequate and humane Animal Contol shelters, perferably, in every borough.

Unfortunately, when an person or organization like the ASPCA has a history of manipulating or hiding facts to fit personal or organizational agendas and public image, then we need to be skeptical of other claims as credibility has been seriously damaged.

Is the dog, "Oreo" so vicious, dangerous and beyond any kind of rehabilitation that he must be euthanized?

I don't know as I personally have never seen the dog.

From the facts that we do know, the dog did not have a good owner as he was an obvious victim of cruelty. Oreo has also spent months primarily in a cage at the ASPCA.

These sort of situations would render many, if not in fact, most dogs highly stressed and apt to act out in some aggressive or defensive manner.

One wonders if the ASPCA attempted to contact someone like Cesar Millan or Best Friends in Utah ("Dogtown") who took many of the Michael Vick dogs?

Have all avenues for Oreo been exhausted?

Unfortunately, knowing the ASPCA's long history of seeking justification for the killings of hundreds of thousands of animals (i.e. "blame the victims") I tend to suspect not. --PCA

Below, the letter currently being circulated by "Win Animal Rights" for Oreo:

****Cross Post Freely, Widely & Quickly****OREO - ONLY HOURS LEFT TO LIVE

On November 3, 2009 in a WAR action alert, we asked the question "what ever happened to Oreo", the young dog (i year old) that was thrown from the rooftop of a 6 story Brooklyn building? Many of you wrote to the ASPCA and many of you forwarded the ASPCA's written replies to WAR. Mr. Sayres tell those who wrote that Oreo is doing well, still healing and that a decision has not been made about what to do next.

Now the whole ugly truth is starting to come out, as the ASPCA frantically tries to spin the story, in a way that will protect the ASPCA from scrutiny.

See the New York Times story that was just published: can post a comment to the NY Times article and we encourage you to do so, as we are sure that the ASPCA will be reading those comments.

Please write to or phone Ed Sayres immediately. Ask them not to kill Oreo and to find a suitable rescue or rehabber for her. Mr. Ed SayresPresident & CEOAmerican Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)424 E. 92nd StNew York, NY 10128-6804e-mail: esayres@aspca.orgTelephone: 1-212-876-7700 Ext. 4600His secretary, Christine is at: 1-212-876-7700 ext. 4600After 7:00 am on Friday, November 13th you can call: 1-212-876-7700 extension 2500 and ask to speak to the person in charge.

Following is an open letter to Mr. Sayres from Win Animal Rights:

Open Letter to Ed Sayres:

Dear Mr. Sayres,

I represent the animal rights/animal liberation group Win Animal Rights based here in New York City. Win Animal Rights has both national and international affiliations.

It was at our invitation that many activists contacted you at the ASPCA to ask about the status of the young pit bull that was thrown from a Brooklyn roof and "rescued" by the ASPCA. Many of our readers have forwarded your responses to us. Many initially believed the misleading information you sent them. Mr. Sayres, why are you lying to people?We both know that the implication, in your e-mail responses, that you are holding Oreo until the end of the criminal action against Fabian Henderson, is untrue.

Mr. Henderson relinquished ownership of Oreo to the ASPCA many months ago. If you had to hold her for legal reasons, why is it that you have given the order to kill her on Friday, November 13th?

We both know that Oreo is not still healing. If anything Oreo is now suffering from emotional abuse that she has suffered since being "rescued" by the ASPCA. She has sat in a cage with very limited human interaction. She wears an elizabethan collar 24 hours a day, seven days a week.....not because she needs it, but, because it makes her easier for your people to handle. This alone would make a dog crazy. How can you be so cruel?Speaking of cruel, no doubt the ASPCA had the best of intentions when you "rescued" Oreo and put her through extensive surgery and a lengthy and painful convalescence, or did it have something to do with the media attention on the story and the thousands of dollars that have been received in donations for Oreo?

Do Oreo's donors know that you are about to execute her? How do you think they would feel about their donation dollars being wasted and more donation dollars used to put her to death?

Why is it that you did not report, to those who wrote, about the ASPCA behaviorist advocating that Oreo was, in her opinion, aggressive and a liability and that she could not be rehomed?

Why is it that you did not tell anyone that a second behaviorist has since been brought in (as ignorant as the first) to support the ASPCA's decision to kill Oreo? Did you think you could keep this information from the public?How is it that you tell some that Oreo is getting plenty of daily human interaction when you tell others that she is vicious and cannot be handled by anyone? Seems like you are getting caught in the web of your own lies.

Is Oreo vicious and unable to be handled, as your behaviorist claims, or is she getting plenty of love and human interaction?

It has been reported to Win Animal Rights, that the decision to kill Oreo was made some time ago and that only the ASPCA's fear of negative publicity has kept you from executing her so far. If negative publicity is a deterrent to killing, we would be happy to provide you with all of the negative publicity you can handle.

This letter and the facts of the case are being broadcast to every journalist, every blogger, every social networking venue and every animal friendly list in the world. If Oreo is executed, we will not forgive you and we will never forget such a shameless act of betrayal. You have my personal word on that.Every individual life is precious. Please live up to your name, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and your mission statement.

If the ASPCA cannot rehabilitate Oreo and undo the damage of over 5 months in solitude in an ASPCA cage, at least find a group that can help Oreo. We both know that there are rescue groups and sanctuaries that work with dogs with behavioral problems. I am sure they would be happy to release the ASPCA from all legal liability.

We would be anxious to assist you in finding an appropriate rescue. You can reach me at: centcom@war-online.orgUntil all are free,Camille HankinsFounder/DirectorWin Animal Rightshttp://war-online.orgPress OfficerNorth American Animal Liberation Press Officehttp://animalliberationpressoffice.orgIf you have any questions, comments or suggestions feel free to contact us at: centcom@war-online.orgVisit the WAR Calendar for future events: the WAR MySpace page: WAR on Facebook:

For more info contact Win Animal Rights at: winanimalrights@optonline.netCall: 646.267.9934 or visit the WAR website at: http://war-online.orgW.A.R. (WIN ANIMAL RIGHTS) is an independent non-profit organization not affiliated or associated with SHAC, SHAC USA or any other group or organization and does not conduct or incite any illegal activity. The above information is not meant to incite or request any illegal actions or illegal activities of any kind. If you have any questions about the legality of any act, we encourage everyone receiving this (or the) action alert(s) to check your local laws and ordinances before proceeding to do anything.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Social Implications and Importance of Urgency

(Picture Left: "Tiki" --Delightful and loving "lap dog" with shelter volunteer. Could anyone think a dog like this could be on shelter "euth list?" Well, he was. But, Tiki is safe now. Currently in boarding at a local vet. Question is, can we find a committed and responsible adoptive home for this popular breed dog, as easily as pulling the animal from a kill list? Unlikely, as so many of the people seeking these types of dogs buy them instead.)

Yesterday I wrote about an encounter with a woman who, over a decade, seemed to undergo some kind of "metamorphous" from one time helping to save animals to now contributing to animal abuse (however unintentionally).

But, was it a matter so much of personal change or more a situation of someone being unduly influenced by pop culture, media hype and community trends?

This is an interesting question in terms of assigning responsibility and trying to understand how these setbacks to animal welfare truly occur.

"Wendy" (the woman in question) is a typical Upper East Side, Manhattan resident: Well to do, educated, cultured, successful, seemingly happily married with two teenage sons. One might suppose the family contributing to popular liberal causes (without becoming emotionally involved) and regularly reading The New York Times.

The community in which Wendy resides (Park Avenue, Upper East Side) is one which rarely sees a stray cat or dog or any outward signs of animal abuse or neglect. It is well sheltered from the miseries of city animal pounds, (located in poorer areas of the city) inner city overbreeding of Pitbulls or midwest puppy mills. As the Pitbull is the breed of dog most closely associated with the poorer and tougher parts of the city, the Shih-Tzus and Maltese seem to be the breeds of choice among Manhattan's elite. And yet, because these small breeds have become massed produced through puppy mills and are easily available in pet shops (or through backyard breeders) many of them arrive in city pounds on a daily basis. -- Usually, in filthy, matted and neglected conditions.

The only way residents of Manhattan's loftier neighborhoods get any inkling as to what is really occurring in city animal shelters, or puppy mills in the Midwest or Pennsylvania is if they read about these issues in the New York Times or see a report on CNN.

But, major media rarely covers these issues.

And those times the local media grants any time to our animal shelters, it is usually a quick and positive, one minute time-filler highlighting a few particularly cute animals for adoption.

Local media virtually never mentions the term, "euthanasia" or the fact that our animal control shelters are underfunded, overcrowded (especially with half the Manhattan shelter being closed for more than a year) and having to kill hundreds of cats and dogs a week primarily for lack of space and lack of available homes for the animals to go to.

If local media covers the "issue" at all, it is usually to parrot all the "positive spin" from shelter leaders and PR flaks: "Adoptions up! Euthanasia down! New York City on the road to no kill!"

Thus, why should people like Wendy get any sense of urgency or even social responsibility in terms of trying to save adoptable animals dying at our city pounds, rather than buying them? Why should they even be aware that mass produced (pet shop sold) Shih Tzus, Maltese and other small beed "lap dogs" routinely come into city pounds?

That is, in fact, the difference between now and ten years ago when Wendy and her family fostered pound-rescued cats for our organization.

Ten years ago, there had been a plethora of truthful and informative media exposure to the plights of animals entering our city pound system and the fact that most of them died there. There had also been much more activity among animal "activists" and even rescuers (like us) to bring these issues (as well as those dealing with pet shops and puppy mills) to the general public.

But, in the last few years there has been either dead silence or worse, "positive and distortive spin."

Residents of the city's more affluent areas are thus "sheltered" from most of the realities occurring to animals entering and dying in our city pound system.

"Out of sight; out of mind" one might say. (Unfortunately, complacency and naivete can and often is, deadly.)

Many, if not in fact, most of New York City's otherwise well educated and upwardly mobile residents wind up buying their pets either from breeders or (like Wendy's family) from a pet store.

The real tragedy is that the wealthy and affluent are often in the best position to be able to provide life-long committed homes. They can well afford costly veterinary care, grooming and when necessary, training and boarding.

That the affluent in New York City so often make the destructive choice to buy a dog or cat (from back yard breeder or pet store) rather than adopt is something we in the animal community need to be seriously looking at.

Something in our message isn't getting to the people in best position to actually help and make a difference to New York City's lost, stray or abandoned pets.

We have seemingly lost or abandoned the sense of urgency that is so often necessary in motivating people to do the right thing. -- PCA


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Metamorphosis (Or, Where Have All The Good Homes Gone?)

(Picture Left: "Tiki" --Abandoned from a home for "cost," Tiki ended up on Euth list at city pound. We pulled Tiki from date with death, but only to send him into boarding at our vet. Where have all the good homes for animals gone? -- Perhaps an answer today.)

Earlier today, I was walking my two dogs when I ran into an old acquaintance.

"Wendy" is a Upper East Side woman in her mid 40's with two (now) teenage boys, a husband who is a doctor and a spacious and luxurious apartment on Park Avenue.

About ten years ago, Wendy and her family fostered a couple of cats for me over a period of several months.

The cats were eventually adopted.

And although the experience of fostering was, according to Wendy a very positive one, different things got in the way of her fostering again. The family traveled frequently, especially in the summer. Wendy had knee problems at one point. And eventually, the family adopted an adult, Cocker Spaniel from the ASPCA.

I would occasionally run into Wendy over the years as we live in the same neighborhood. We always exchanged pleasantries and I would sometimes ask if she could foster again. But, as noted, different things seemed to get in the way. -- The time just never seemed right.

It was OK by me. I realize many people "having done their thing" for animals at one time or another usually move on.

Today, when meeting Wendy again, she was walking a small and obviously very young, Shih-Tzu dog. The puppy was about six-months-old.

My dogs, Tina and Chance are very friendly with other dogs and warmly greeted Wendy's seemingly new charge.

"Hi, Patty," Wendy said pleasantly. "How are you? Are you still doing rescue?"

"Well, as much as I can," I answered. "You know its rough these days with the economy and all. A lot of animals dying at the city shelter and its much harder to find the homes for them."

Wendy looked a bit uncomfortable with my matter-of-fact statement.

"That's too bad," she replied. "Unfortunately, I can't help because we have this little one now....." Her voice tailed off.

"I understand," I answered, a little surprised with Wendy's seemingly defensive posture. I wasn't asking her to foster or adopt. I was simply answering a question.

Wanting to change the subject to something more pleasant, I said, "Your puppy is very cute. Where did you get her?"

Wendy hesitated in answering.

"Well,,,,,you know, after our other dog died, my husband wanted a puppy.....We,,,,,well, we got her from Pets on Lex."

"Pets on Lex" is a pet shop in the East 70's that most assuredly gets its dogs from puppy mills, though it claims to get the animals from "private breeders." (Technically, a puppy mill is a "private breeder.")

The shock must have registered on my face.

I'm not sure what I expected to hear when asking the conversation-making question of Wendy. I guess I expected to hear, "ASPCA," (where the family adopted their last dog from) or one of the small-breed rescue groups.

The last thing in the world I expected to hear was that a family who had previously fostered and adopted animals and was fully educated on the horrors of puppy mills and pet shops would ever purchase a dog or cat from a pet shop.

For one of the few times in my life, I was totally at a loss for words

Wendy, in seemingly full damage control mode attempted to further explain.

"My husband really wanted a Shih-Tzu......You know, we have done our part to help animals.....fostered, adopted......."

"I can't hear it." I answered adamantly and with finality, while leading my dogs away.

I wasn't going to stand there and listen to bullshit. It was merely to add insult to injury.

I could still hear Wendy trying to make excuses as I walked away......"She needed a home, too!"

I realized there was nothing I could say that would make this (formerly respected) woman realize the full impact of her actions.

Not only does the purchase of animals from pet shops condemn adoptable animals in shelters to die (as well as already "rescued" animals to languish in boarding facilities rather than finding homes), but even worse: IT CONDEMNS THOUSANDS OF DOGS TO SUFFER AND DIE IN "CONCENTRATION CAMP"-LIKE PUPPY MILLS.

How in God's name could anyone who portends to care anything about animals SUPPORT such a cruel and predatory industry? -- Especially, someone who once fostered animals as a way of saving lives? Someone who, in all other ways is highly educated, aware and intelligent?

I felt very hopeless and defeated when finally returning home with my two formerly rescued from death, dogs.

I thought of the thousands of dogs dying everyday in shelters around the country. I thought of the thousands more languishing in "no kill" shelters or boarding. I thought of the countless "breeding machine" dogs of puppy mills, suffering and dying unheard and unseen. -- By the millions over the decades.

Where does it all end?

And how does one say to all that, "We did our part to help animals."

When and where did the part to save and soothe turn into the part to, instead, contribute to abuse and death? -- PCA


Monday, November 9, 2009

Dark Days in New York City

Very dark day for animals in New York City.

First, there is the story all over the local news about a woman in Long Island who allegedly stole neighbor's pets, tortured and killed the animals and buried the bodies in her back yard. The woman was reported and turned in by one of her own sons who referred to the home as a "concentration camp for animals." Several live dogs in poor condition were confiscated from the home, in addition to numerous dead animals dug up from the property.

So far, the woman is only charged with misdemeanor animal abuse and is already out of jail. Depending upon what autopsies on the dead animal reveal, the woman could potentially be charged with a felony.

The reason for highlighting this story is to illustrate the actual responsibility in owning pets, one of which is to insure to the best of one's abilities, the animal's SAFETY at all times.

Opening one's doors and allowing the family cat to wander all over the neighborhood is NOT looking after the pet's safety. Nor, is leaving the family dog unattended in an insecure yard.

One of the neighbors of the accused woman complains that over the past year, "Three of our family pets have disappeared!" (one Chihuahua mix and two cats).

One has to wonder why this family did not get a clue after the FIRST pet "disappeared" and learned to keep the other animals inside and safely protected?

Whether the animals were killed by cars, ended up dying as "strays" in the local pound or were actually stolen and killed by the mentally deranged and criminal neighbor really doesn't make a difference to the pets who presumably are now dead -- the main cause being owner failure to properly protect.

There is, of course no law mandating that pet owners are required to properly protect pets for the animals' safety. But, if we truly love and care about our animals, then safety should be a top priority as it is with our children. We need to consider the world we live in. While most normal people would not deliberately harm a cat or dog, there are always those who may, out of maliciousness, neighbor dispute or mental defect, hurt or kill a wandering pet cat or steal an unprotected dog from in front of a store or in a back yard.

Safety and protection are not things to be assumed or taken for granted. We actually have to take responsibility for them.

The other reason its a "dark day for NYC animals" are the Euth lists from our city shelter system today.

45 cats and more than 20 dogs, including several small dogs and numerous non-pits. A number of animals on the death list for admitted (lack of) "space."

As noted in this blog numerous times, it is rare that the shelters actually have to admit to killing adoptable animals for "space" because almost every cat and dog entering the overcrowded, poorly ventilated and inadequate NYC Animal Control shelter system is destined to become sick within days of arrival.

Thus, the most common reason for putting down otherwise healthy cats and dogs is (shelter acquired) "illness." (Usually treatable Upper Respiratory Infections.)

The other reason commonly cited for destroying animals is "Behavior."

However, it is so difficult to properly assess animals for "behavior" in an overcrowded, stressful and overly taxed city shelter system that the "Behavior" label has become almost meaningless in terms of "evaluating" or guessing how the cats and dogs might behave in a home situation.

Fact is, most animals abandoned to or first arriving at city shelters are frightened, nervous, insecure, confused and disoriented. Many dogs and cats, if allowed time and a fairly peaceful environment will calm down after a few days in which a "Behavior Test" might hold some value. Unfortunately, due to the crowding and lack of space, most dogs arriving at the AC&C are "SAFER tested" only a day or two after arriving. Test results under those stress circumstances need to be seriously suspect and quite frankly, have little if any value at all.

It is this writer's view that the "Behavior Evaluations" as currently conducted in our city shelters serve more as palatable excuse for putting animals down than actual predictors of behavior and temperament in a home.

After all, it is far more acceptable to the public and the press to say we are putting animals down for poor "behavior" than to admit we are destroying thousands of cats and dogs a year simply because the city doesn't want to build more shelters to properly care for, accommodate and correctly evaluate the animals.

I called the New Hope number this morning in attempt to pull two of the smaller dogs off the kill list. But, I called after the specified and required time of 6 AM.

I have to hope that the dogs were either pulled by another rescue or that my call came in time to save them.

But, even if the latter case, the fact is, I don't have immediate foster or potential adoptive homes to send the dogs to. My only option would be boarding and we already have a number of dogs in boarding for many months.

Another criticism of the way our city animal shelter system is currently operating:

They put far too much pressure on and rely almost exclusively on animal rescue groups to "solve" a problem that the public creates and city officials have dismally failed to humanely and properly address.

We (ideally) need fully functioning and humane animal control shelters in every borough -- or even just ONE in any borough of NYC.

Sadly, we don't even have that. -- PCA


Sunday, November 8, 2009

In Search of Humpty Dumpty (Reply)

Anonymous Writes: Boks promises no kill but has never delivered. Perhaps it's time to look elsewhere.

Reply: It is always annoying and irksome when some people leave anonymous and negative comments on a blog without bothering to identify themselves.

One thus needs to be skeptical of the motivations and personal agendas of those leaving nameless attacks on someone else's character and competence.

It is virtually impossible to go through life and especially when in any high profile position (such as running an Animal Control shelter in a large city) to not make any enemies. The exception to that statement might be those who simply smile their ways through life, blow smoke up others' behinds, never challenge the status quo and never make waves.

During the history of the AC&C, most of its Directors have fit the latter category:

Smiling bureaucrats with low profiles who go along to get along, learn quickly how to "spin" and never make waves.

The exception to that in New York City was Ed Boks.

That Ed Boks might have made some enemies here in New York or LA does not surprise (particularly among the Board of Directors of the NYCACC or some in the NYC Mayor's Alliance).

Boks did not "walk the walk and talk the talk" while Director of the NYCACC some years back. Nor, did he quietly shrink back in the shadows.

Rather, Boks was "out there" to the press constantly promoting the adoption of shelter animals, trying to fight the negative public perception of Pitbulls, fighting for greater shelter funding and heavily decrying the need for people to spay and neuter their pets.

While Boks spoke of the one day IDEAL of a "no kill" city, it was never a Disneyworld promise (unlike the ASPCA and the Mayor's Alliance).

Rather, Boks spoke numerous times of the many obstacles in the way of a "no kill" New York and of the need for many people to be involved with the no kill cause.

Is it possible that Boks made "mistakes" when Director of the NYCACC or the shelter in Los Angeles?

Sure. Animal Control shelters in any large metropolis are going to have to "euthanize" many thousands of animals a year -- especially when the cities choose to under-fund those shelters and in the particular case of New York City, refuse to build enough of them.

It is always then convenient to "blame the Director" of the shelter, whether it be Boks or any other figurehead at the top.

But, the fact remains when Boks was Director of the NYCACC, he was respected and well liked by most of the staffers, volunteers and most in the rescue community.

He was passionate about the mission and always responsive and welcoming of input from staffers and those in rescue.

He initiated many positive changes. Changes that DID eventually result in lower kill numbers at our city shelters.

Can ANY Director turn NYC into "no kill?"


Not as long as the Mayor and the city refuse to create adequate and fully functioning shelters in every borough and the ASPCA and Mayors Alliance insist on spinning the truth to the people.

To quote Dr. Phil: "You can't change what you don't acknowledge."

New York City has yet to acknowledge its colossal failures to build adequate and healthy environment shelters in New York, as well as failures in Humane Education in the schools and lack of address to the problems of dog fighting in New York resulting in a huge and seemingly unsolvable overpopulation of Pitbulls flooding our shelters everyday.

We are a long long way from "no kill" in New York City and as long as we keep deceiving and denying the "ideal" becomes ever father away.

The one refreshing thing about Ed Boks was that he was not a "spinner" but rather, someone willing to roll his sleeves up and try to tackle a problem with honesty and earnestness.

That he was not Superman or Jesus Christ is regrettable, but does not justify the scurrilous attack that "Anonymous" chose to post to this blog.

One imagines s/he will be happy when we get another "go along to get along" Humpty Dumpty as new shelter director.

And yes, inside of two years or so, s/he can be expected to once again, "have a great fall" as all others have gone before.......PCA


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Of Elections and Animal Shelter Directors

It is apparent I wasn't the only New Yorker turned off by the endless barrage of negative campaigning leading up to yesterday's election.

Bloomberg won narrow reelection for Mayor yesterday in one of the lowest turnout votes in NYC history.

I was no fan of Bloomberg -- especially following his decision earlier in the year to kill more than a thousand local Canadian Geese as a kind of "knee jerk" reaction to the sad collision between a few migratory birds and a plane, which wound up on the Hudson river.

I vowed at that time not to support Bloomberg in the November election.

But, fact is, I don't know how Thompson would have responded to that situation had he been Mayor. There is nothing to suggest his actions would have been different.

Democratic candidate Bill Thompson is a good man, but his campaign failed to present him as any kind of "mover and shaker."

Continually harping on Bloomberg's successful reversal of term limits quickly became old and tired. Yes, we got the point that Bloomberg masterfully finagled his way to a third term despite the spoken will of the voters on term limits. But, what ultimately determines whether someone hauls themselves to the polls to pull down a lever for a candidate is the hope or perception of what that candidate will actually DO if elected.

And Thompson failed to come clear on that.

In the end, voters will often go with "devil we know, as opposed to the devil we don't" unless the challenging candidate is able to distinguish himself clearly and decisively as a leader in "change" and "making waves" -- presuming the wave-making or shaking things up is something people seek and need. Thompson failed in that effort.

Speaking of the "devil we know as opposed to the devil we don't," there is some possibility that we might get Ed Boks back as Director of the AC&C.

I fully support that possibility not because I think of Ed Boks as any kind of "devil" at all, but because he really was the best and most competent of all the Directors who have run the Animal Care and Control shelter system since its creation in the early 90's from former control by the ASPCA.

Boks is a dedicated animal advocate who is skilled, experienced, competent and caring. While very positive, idealistic and optimistic in attitude and goal, Boks is, at the same time a realist in the true challenges and obstacles that we face in New York City in terms of ever becoming a "no kill" city at all.

Boks was never one to deceive, "spin" and exaggerate. He always spoke honestly and directly to the overwhelming task of trying to find loving homes for the tens of thousands of animals flooding into an underfunded and inadequate shelter system each year.

Boks cared deeply about trying to maintain high morale among shelter staffers, volunteers and rescuers and was always welcoming of and responsive to suggestions and input.

Most of us in the rescue community, as well as shelter staffers and volunteers liked Boks.

Among some of the positive changes Boks instilled when running AC&C were assigning attractive names to the animals, proper breed identification, heavy promotions of shelter animals for adoption, advocacy and education for Pitbulls and a myriad of other positive actions.

It is hard to imagine that were Boks Director again, he would tacitly accept the current "showing" of adoptable animals at the Manhattan shelter in a poorly lit, cramped and understaffed, refurbished garage. He understood well, the importance of promoting and showing animals in a good and welcoming (to the public) light.

There is little doubt Boks would take quick action to change this abysmal situation in whatever positive ways were available to him.

Of course not everyone is on board with the support of Ed Boks returning to the AC&C.

One suspects there are those on the AC&C Board or at the Department of Health who do not want any kind animal "advocate" running the shelter. Moreover, there are those in powerful positions at other closely related animal organizations who might view Boks as either too honest and direct or representing potential competition to them for media attention and high profile.

Among activists in the animal community, there is also lack of cohesiveness and organization.

Many activists seem to imagine and demand a masterful "someone" who will come charging in on a white horse to save the day and magically turn NYC into "no kill."

Well, that simply ain't going to happen.

With the exception of Ed Boks, the history of the AC&C is to pick political hacks, dog breeders and brown nosers. -- Directors, who, in other words, "don't make waves."

Unfortunately, "waves" is what we need right now.

That and at minimum, a fully functioning animal control shelter in Manhattan with attractive and ample Animal Adoption areas.

Ed Boks can't personally build a brick and mortar shelter from the ground up or even shift adoptions from the garage to the main building in the Manhattan shelter (which is still under "renovations" for more than a year.)

But, he can and presumably will make waves. Boks has a history of doing so.

Yesterday, Bloomberg was reelected as Mayor in New York City despite controversial manipulations of law regarding term limits. He was reelected because, despite the criticisms, he has been a mostly strong, competent Mayor who shakes things up and keeps the trains running on time.

Ed Boks is a "mover and shaker" and like Bloomberg, we already know what he can and presumably will do.

Sometimes, reality calls for getting back to basics, but with flair, competence and wave-making. -- PCA