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ASPCA was right to euthanize Oreo, the pit bull that survived a six-story fall, says PETA

November 27, 2009 |  9:38 pm

OreoAfter the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made the controversial decision to euthanize Oreo, a pit bull that made headlines over the summer when she survived being thrown from a six-story Brooklyn, N.Y., building, many animal lovers were outraged.  Oreo had recovered from her physical injuries after the incident but, according to ASPCA staffers, had aggressive tendencies so severe that they felt they had no choice but to end her life. 

For some in the animal-rescue community, though, that explanation just wasn't good enough; after all, a New York sanctuary that specializes in cases of animal aggression, Pets Alive, had offered to take Oreo off the ASPCA's hands when the latter announced its decision to euthanize her. 

But the ASPCA wouldn't budge; according to the group's president, Ed Sayres, life in a sanctuary would still have been torture for Oreo because her behavior problems would have required almost complete isolation from both humans and other dogs.  "Her contact with the outside world would have been minimal at best," Sayres said in a statement. "Her quality of life would have been reduced to virtually nothing."

While Pets Alive supporters and others dispute Sayres' claim that Oreo could never have been rehabilitated -- Pets Alive staffers mince no words on the group's blog, calling Sayres "simply a coward" and Sayres and other ASPCA officials "arrogant, overpaid, unfeeling" -- the ASPCA president now has an unlikely ally in the form of PETA. 

In a letter to the editor of the New York Times' City Room blog, which covered the story of Oreo's death, PETA's animal care and control specialist, Teresa Lynn Chagrin, described the so-called "no-kill movement" as "nice-sounding but damaging." The movement, Chagrin continued, "exposes its lunacy by attacking an agency (the ASPCA) that took in" Oreo after her ordeal and exerted great expense and effort to help her to recover.  

"The only humane way to achieve a 'no kill' nation is to create a 'no birth' nation by mandating spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to stop the flow of unwanted litters into our nation’s shelters.... In the meantime, those who make the toughest decisions, who have to euthanize animals for want of a proper home, and so carry out the hardest work of all, deserve respect and gratitude, not criticism," the letter concludes.  (It's been posted in its entirety, with a personal note to Sayres from Daphna Nachminovich, PETA's vice president for cruelty investigations, on the ASPCA's blog.)

Chagrin expanded on her position in a post on PETA's blog, in which she pleads with those animal lovers who are angry over Oreo's death to "please remember that she is at peace. Unfortunately, many thousands of other wonderful dogs who will never hurt anyone are still going to have to be euthanized in New York City every year. If you have a good home to offer, there's an equally worthy dog waiting for your help. Instead of picketing the ASPCA, go adopt one of these caring animals."

PETA's support of the ASPCA isn't likely to do much to quiet Pets Alive; in nearly the same breath that the group skewered Sayres on its blog, it also referred to PETA as "a joke," so the animal-rights organization's thoughts on the matter probably won't carry much weight. (In case you're wondering, the Humane Society of the United States has also incurred Pets Alive's wrath, so it seems no large-scale animal organization is safe.)

Meanwhile, an "Oreo Will Not Be Forgotten" group has sprung up on Facebook, with several hundred members as of Friday; Pets Alive's online petition demanding Sayres' ouster as ASPCA president has received more than 2,000 signatures; and New York state Assemblyman Micah Kellner has announced his plans to introduce "Oreo's Law," which, if approved, would "allow animal welfare organizations the right to request animals be given to their care when a shelter is planning to euthanize them," according to Kellner.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Oreo is held by her handler Nov. 12.  Credit: Stephen Chernin / Associated Press

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