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 >>>

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