New York, NY - It was recently reported that a pit bull, named Oreo, who had been thrown off a Brooklyn rooftop last summer, was euthanized by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Once hailed as a "miracle dog" for surviving the fall, Oreo's aggression following the healing process proved to be unmanageable. Ed Sayres, the society's president and chief executive said, "Oreo's aggression is triggered by, basically, everything."
"Society officials said a major factor in their decision to put Oreo to death was that she was unpredictable -- so unpredictable that she even attacked her handler, someone she saw regularly. Oreo had to be kept in relative isolation for the safety of society employees and other dogs at the society's headquarters at 424 East 92nd Street, between First and York Avenues."
The issue of Oreo and the ASPCA brings up a number of concerns that directly relate to our cause of preventing future violent pit bull attacks. We do not have a bone to pick with the ASPCA for euthanizing a very unstable and aggressive pit bull that attacked its handler and bit a fake hand during a behavioral test -- though the "No Kill" movement, headed by Nathan Winograd does1, despite the fact that the ASCPA put the dog through 59 training sessions, at nearly 45 minutes each.
We do have a bone to pick with the ASPCA regarding several other items, however.
#1. Pit Bulls in the Shelter Environment
In the ASPCA's PowerPoint presentation, "The Care of Pit Bulls in the Shelter Environment," several of the screens discuss the need for pit bulls to be stored in isolation from other dogs and shelter employees. Page 10 even recommends that a "panic button" be installed in rooms housing pit bulls. We remind readers that the ASPCA strongly opposes breed-specific laws, yet as demonstrated by their own safety guidelines, the group is very specific in the handling and housing of pit bulls.
#2. 49 "Were Immediately Adoptable" (?)
In the Times article about Oreo, Mr. Sayers makes a terribly inaccurate statement concerning Michael Vick's dogs. He said that the ASPCA evaluated the Vick dogs and that, 49 of the 50 "were immediately adoptable." As stated on the Best Friends website, of the 47 Vick dogs, 25 were classified as "sanctuary" dogs -- dogs too unstable to ever be adopt out -- by a U.S. federal court. As the president of the agency that evaluated the Vick dogs, how could Sayers make such a huge error?
"Of the 47 surviving dogs, 25 were classified as sanctuary dogs; Best Friends received 21 of those. (The 22nd dog that Best Friends received was assessed as being highly adoptable.)
The resulting stipend to Best Friends was $388,775. The other rescue groups, who took in four sanctuary dogs and 21 adoptable dogs, received $178,100.
The court paid the remaining $361,198 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which was responsible for the dogs during the legal proceedings. That amount includes the cost of transportation, care and feeding; $31,051 for the ASPCA's behavioral assessment; and $100,000 in hourly payments and travel expenses for Huss."
#3. "Rehabilitated" Fighting Dogs
Following the announcement to euthanize Oreo, the ASPCA launched a Ready for Adoption "rehabilitated" fighting dog campaign. Perhaps the timing of the two was to appease "No Kill" forces and pit bull advocates, who criticized the euthanization of Oreo. The ASPCA made the correct choice in euthanizing Oreo, but that choice still forced them into a corner by zealous groups that wanted to "save" the dangerous pit bull by consigning it to a lifetime in isolation, which is less than humane.
DogsBite.org does not believe in the "rehabilitation" of fighting dogs -- pit bulls seized in dogfighting raids. They are too unstable and present substantial risk to the public and our pets (See: Explanation: The Policy of Not Adopting Out Fighting Dogs). Moreover, there are too many behaviorally sound dogs that are euthanized today because they cannot find homes. This reality, however, has not stopped the ASPCA from jumping onto the "rehabilitation" bandwagon led by Best Friends.
4. Unreliability of Temperament Testing
Lastly, we must also mention behavioral assessment (temperament testing) that is done by animal groups to determine if a shelter dog is a safe candidate for adoption. According to a study published by Applied Animal Behaviour Science in 2007, "Aggressive Behavior in Adopted Dogs that Passed a Temperament Test," a considerable number of dogs passing temperament tests exhibited aggressive tendencies in their new homes within 13 months of being adopted.
"Despite the limitations, this study strongly suggests that signiﬁcant numbers of dogs with certain types of aggression have the potential for escaping the notice of shelter workers even when employing a standardized temperament test and combining its results with shelter observation, histories, and strict euthanasia policies. The majority of dogs with aggression-associated behaviors were in the low aggression category (barking only); however, many of the dogs were in the moderate category (growling and/or lunging) and some did exhibit high levels of aggression (biting/snapping)."
Dogs examined in the study were common shelter dogs -- not pit bulls seized in dogfighting raids that are likely products of multi-generational breeding for the purposes of dogfighting. (See: Dogfighting 'Godfather' Ed Faron Pleads Guilty to Felony Dogfighting to learn why Michael Vick's dogs did not meet this criteria.) Recent examples of rescued pit bull temperament testing disasters include: Kip Leggard, 5-year old Frankie Flora and an 8-month old infant.
07/12/09: Zupf: Interested in Pit Bull Adoption?
06/19/09: Pit Bull Attacks Owner 24 Hours After Adoption from Humane Group
05/30/09: Sports Columnist Michael Felger Blasts Pit Bull Owners and "Nutty Dog Crowd"
04/22/09: Wappingers Boy Suffers Life Altering Injures in Pit Bull Attack
02/18/09: Dogfighting 'Godfather' Ed Faron Pleads Guilty to Felony Dogfighting
02/06/09: Babysitter's Pit Bull Attacks Infant in Newport News; Critical Condition
02/01/09: Nick Foley Approaches High School; Mother Denounces "Rehabilitating" Fighting Dogs
01/23/09: Best Friends Steps into the Ed Faron Dogfighting Bust to "Save" Unstable Dogs
01/15/09: Explanation: The Policy of Not Adopting Out Fighting Dogs
11/03/08: Flashback: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Refuses Care of Pit Bulls
06/02/08: ASPCA Pushing Pit Bull Adoption: Adopt-A-Bull Contest