ASPCA: “Rescue” By Killing

On June 21st, the ASPCA’s law enforcement arm raided a building in the Bronx. The superintendent of the building was arrested and charged with multiple crimes related to dogfighting – 76 charges in all.

The dogs were paraded in front of cameras by ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement agents – especially the puppies – and the news was all over New York City, with the heroic ASPCA getting credit for rescuing the animals as they trumpeted their success on their website and Facebook. A total of 50 dogs were eventually removed from the building and taken by the ASPCA to a temporary holding shelter just for them as the legal proceedings began.

This past week the ASPCA quietly issued a press release stating that the dogs had been released, mostly to private rescue groups. 33 of them were placed. If we read between the lines of the press release, we find that the ASPCA most likely executed 17 of them – 1/3 of the dogs they “saved”. The animals placed with rescues seem to be largely puppies and young dogs.

The press release contains this old saw, typically trotted out whenever a “humane” organization kills the victims of a criminal:

The unfortunate reality in many dog fighting operations is the propensity for a certain number of the dogs involved to exhibit extreme aggression, and therefore to be very dangerous. Sadly, this proved true in this case. While we have been able to place the majority of dogs, some of the dogs were euthanized. These particular dogs were tragic victims of the brutalities of dog fighting—bred over generations to exhibit aggression, trained to fight with lethal intent, subjected to a life of inhumane treatment, and as a result, showcased highly aggressive behavior. After extensive evaluations, the decisions to euthanize were based on recommendations of multiple behavior professionals who weighed in objectively and independently, with the best interest of each individual animal in mind.

Prior to the Vick dogs, I might have actually believed this statement. But the Vick dogs taught us a lot, and I might suggest that the ASPCA rewrite their statement to be a little more like this.

The unfortunate reality is that the rehabilitation of some animals require an investment of time and money that we, the ASPCA, do not feel will be financially beneficial to us. We may be “Their Voice”, but we still have a bottom line to look out for and the cost of attempting to rehabilitate a dog might leave us a little short for the direct-mail piece we’re planning to blanket the retirement communities of Florida with.

The news reports stated that many of the dogs had likely never left their basement prison. They would need socialization and many were likely frightened to be in such a different environment. How long were they given to adjust? About a month and a half, spent in a makeshift shelter environment – likely a fairly noisy and chaotic place. Not enough. Not enough to decompress, not enough to evaluate, not enough to explore the possibilities for all 50 dogs. With the 22 Vick dogs sent to Best Friends – those judged to need the most rehabilitation – they started with months of 24 hour care and decompression in a warm, supportive, loving environment. For dogs that lack basic social skills, that can sometimes be what it takes – something that goes for many dogs that have been victims of extreme abuse, even puppy mill breeding dogs. Many of the Best Friends Vick dogs have gone on to adoption to the public, but even those that have not have human friends – and some even have dog friends – and live in a supportive sanctuary environment.

Ginger meets Okra. Okra was seized in a fighting bust and then held in solitary isolation for two years before being released to Pets Alive. Note that he is not eating her.

And what of sanctuary, anyway? The ASPCA press release stated that they relied on the opinions of “experts”, likely their own staff – none of whom have any ASPCA experience with long-term rehabilitation of fighting dogs, since the ASPCA doesn’t do any. Did they reach out to people that do? Did they bring in folks who DO have significant experience rehabilitating fighting dogs, like the Best Friends staff? And finally, before judging the dogs unfit for life among people, did they consider the possibility of sanctuary and inquire with sanctuaries qualified to take in these animals?

Based on the history of the ASPCA, I’m going to go with… no. This is the organization that killed Oreo when qualified sanctuaries were literally begging to take her in, and an organization that is well known in the New York City rescue community to be relentlessly focused on the bottom line. Animals in their care who they judge to be “marketable” – that is, those requiring the least effort on their part to adopt out – get to remain in their care. Animals that they judge to be less marketable tend to find their way back to the city pound, the NYCACC, who does the dirty work of killing them.

So I’ve said it before and I’m gonna say it again: when you raise tons of money, when you hold yourself up as an example, an expert, and a role model, I expect you to act the part. The ASPCA will only advocate for bust victims who they think they can take directly from the care center once their legal hold is up to the adoptions floor. Frequently not even their own adoptions floor.

How much more could they accomplish for the welfare of animals if, instead of taking victims out of the frying pan and into the fire, they worked to rehabilitate them – to develop the expertise they claim to have and to advance the knowledge, processes and procedures of animal welfare overall instead of going for the quick turnover and the fast PR hit, collateral damage be damned?

This is Lucas. Lucas is Michael Vick’s grand champion, a dog who was once considered by the courts the most violent of a group of dogs one animal welfare leader – another “expert” – called “ticking time bombs” and “some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country”. Lucas is one of only two Vick dogs court ordered to live out his life in sanctuary care. This picture is one I shot of him in a hotel on his first overnight, where he slept happily in the bed beside me until it was time for breakfast and belly rubs. The worst I can say about Lucas is this: he snores.

Lucas is alive today because of an exploration of what was possible. There is no reason the ASPCA cannot perform the same process of exploration and perhaps in doing so advance our understanding of what it takes to save these dogs – or, barring that, to at least give them a chance to live by exploring sanctuary placement.

They simply choose not to.

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  • They also list the receiving shelters, one of which stands out in my mind–Columbia Greene In Hudson. That was the place Elizabeth Hess wrote about in her book ‘Lost and Found’. For the animals’ sake, I hope it has changed dramatically since then.

  • Meredith

    Your rewriting of their press release is spot on. ASPCA is in PR and/or fundraising business, not in animal advocacy or rescue. I wish the mainstream media do their job and do the follow up to the story, reporting what happened to ALL the dogs “rescued” from the fighting ring.

  • karen timmons

    I rescued a wolf-shepherd hybrid. She was 4 1/2 and had no socialization. She had been neglected on the ranch where her owner lived. She was tied to a tree in the hot California August sun without food or water. Two days later the landlady found her; owner disappeared. Her landlady, an 81 year old, didn’t know what to do with Daizy. She was going to have her euthenized. I would watch Daizy run through the fields and she was so beautiful I took her. It took 1 1/2 years for her to trust me enough to allow me to “examine” her and administer medicine. She finally decided that she had a real home and a human who loved her. Little by little she gave in to trust. Two vets said she’d always be a fear biter. She proved them wrong. She became our “wild girl from the North,” no longer wild, of course, but a loving trusted member of our pack. She lived to be 14 1/2.

  • This also reignites my anger at all the unequivocally sweet and non “dangerous” cats,dogs, kittens, and puppies they not only don’t assist but send to their abuse and deaths at the NYCACC hellhole. Further they placate the killers by massaging them with “compassion fatigue” support and classes ( that they and their brethren charge for) and reinforce the worn notion that this is all the irresponsible public’s fault, and how dare the public make the shelters workers ill by forcing them to kill.

  • Chris

    And of course, one could never ask if any of the money that ASPCA raised on “behalf” of these dogs actually went along with those dogs that went to other rescues/shelters. No doubt, ASPCA made a good deal of money off this story–no doubt very little actually went for the dogs….

  • db

    How do we put these people out of business? I read about the horrors in so many “shelters” – and so many animals who pay with their lives.
    No doubt those dogs who were killed – make no mistake, they were NOT euthanized, they were KILLED – were never given a chance. They were fighting dogs, so they had to die.
    Shame on all those people who keep these atrocities happening.
    Shame on all those who could stop it, but choose not to – not just here, but everywhere that innocents die because people like to kill them or just because they can.
    What a sad commentary on human beings.

  • CCM

    To have allowed those poor dogs who suffered their entire life to have an opportunity to be examples and role models such as the Vick dogs would have been the right thing to do. The ASPCA could well have afforded to show kindness to these poor creatures who had known only cruelty. However, every day happy, healthy trained dogs are destroyed in the City’s “shelters’. It is a nightmare and there is no change in sight sadly. Shouldn’t we all wonder why the people who have lived with the dogs and cats that “time out” in the shelter system knowingly subject those poor creatures to several days of the worst life in the cages and then they go on to their death? It seems that being destroyed is the answer to all unwanted animals. There is a very big need for big wealthy origanizations to spend some of their money addressing these issues which seem to be getting worse rather than better. No matter how much money animal lovers donate, there never seems to be any answers or any solutions. All of us must make our voice heard and our actions must be as a huge group in order for changes to get started.

  • Dee

    I hope you all have read about what the ASPCA and Peta did to Caboodle Ranch. I hope enough people hear this stuff and quit supporting these organizations.

  • mhwhat01

    Not all of the Vick dogs were rehabillitated. I’d rather have shelters err on the side of caution with agressive dogs. If such dogs were adopted out and killed a child, the bad press would hamper adoption programs at shelters across the country. Look what media reports have done to the reputation of pit bulls even though the majority of them are loving animals.

    • All but one, who was killed on order of the court. So that’s one out of what, 45? Not buying into 1/3 non-rehabilitatable, especially when no effort is made to try.

  • Glanville Phillips

    That bastard Vick should have been thrown into a lions den…..I would have been happy to do so. ASPCA are a lying bunch of scumbags. To think that I used to donate to them !

  • They are nothing but a bunch of money grubbing low lifes that use innocent animals for ‘bait’ to make their money.

  • marge scott

    Along with PETA the ASPCA are now renown for their killing of shelter animals.this was brought to light when they went into Caboodle Ranch in Florida and virtually destroyed a cat sanctuary that was the life blood of Craig and his helpers, the cats lived the most idyllic life their ,wanted/fed/vet cared for,they lived in harmony many given up by owners who could no longer care for them and didn’t want to see them go through the rescues that will PTS after 14days,these cats were those who nobody else wanted to be bothered with.Craig gave his lifesaving to make a home for them till they wandered off to rainbow bridge.PLEASE look up Caboodle ranch and see how these cats lived such a wonderful life.until the ASPCA and PETA broke down the gates,,

  • Hail, the kitten below was brought in by the ASPCA to NYCACC.

    The below was from her “medical card” Read down to the fourth line from the bottom for the “smoking gun” proof that this bloated organization deceives the public everyday in their advertising. The ASPCA averages $100,000,000 a year in donations and boasts the management one of the great American Animal Hospitals, the Bergh Memorial, which resides in the same building these poor kittens should have been safe in.

    The ASPCA sent Hail and her two siblings to the ACC and their certain death — just blocks away in the richest city in the world.

    Hail was was euthanized at the ACC along with her two siblings. But not before they were terribly betrayed by one of the largest “humane organizations” in the world — the ASPCA.

    _Begin New Hope Alert_________________________________________________








    Jess Van Brunt, New Hope Coordinator, Office: 212-722-4939 x225; Cell: 646-210-5404; Email: (Work Schedule: Sun-Thursday, 10am-8pm)

    KimberlySmyth, New Hope Liaison, Office: 212-722-4939 x228; Cell: 917-578-7263; Email: (Wed-Sat 9am-6pm)

    Emily Tanen, New Hope Liaison, Office: 212-722-4939 x228 or x225; Cell: 917-578-6372; Email: (Work Schedule: Sun-Thurs., 10am-6pm)

    Lisa Sheard, New Hope Liaison, Cell: 917-682-5616; Email: (Work Schedule: Friday-Tuesday 10am-6pm

    3 Hoarding Case Kittens need vet care ASAP!!!!!

    Hail A867133, female, 13 weeks




    slightly hydrated,thin easily palpated ribs

    ocular discharge and nasal discharge

    mm-pale/pink crt=2sec

    third eyelid overlappingo.u

    fleas tx: frontline spray

    came in with iv catherter on right front leg from aspca with 86733, 131, 129,32

    good appetite


    rec dvm

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