Supporting Documentation – The Waggin’ Train Affair

Waggin’ Train saves a lot of dogs. All of us in the New York City No Kill and rescue community are grateful for that. I am grateful for that. This isn’t about that – and in the end, it’s not even about them. It is about one dog, an individual, and what we owe that individual. There are some who say we should not worry about dogs who have special needs while perfectly healthy ones die in shelters nationwide. I do not share that view because as a No Kill advocate, I know that we can and should save them all. So when an opportunity comes to save a life, when that dog is in front of us, when that animal is in our care, our ethical obligation is to save that life.

When the ASPCA planned to kill Oreo, the calls for mercy rang out throughout New York City and the world and the outrage continued after her execution. When they proposed killing dogs in “psychic pain,” the New York rescue community recoiled in horror and fought to defeat that bill wholeheartedly. Now the arguments for death once put forth by the ASPCA here in New York are being recycled by the people who once fought against them, only because they have a personal connection with the group who made the decision to kill. The real question is if Nikki had an opportunity to be saved and was denied that opportunity.

She did and she was.

Nikki is Oreo. Only the players have changed.

Before being killed, Waggin’ Train was offered, at no cost, a qualified behavioral evaluation by accredited professionals with significant experience with fear-based behavior who would be capable of giving Nikki a prognosis for rehabilitation and a corrective plan, as appropriate. They said “No.”

They had more than one offer to take Nikki, including a facility they had used before and this offer was communicated to Waggin’ Train. They said “No.”

They had an offer of evaluation for possible admission for Nikki from a qualified sanctuary that is also recognized by the New York City shelter system as a fellow “New Hope” rescue, and had that sanctuary accepted Nikki after her evaluation they would have assumed all costs, all liability, and would have provided maximum quality of life. That sanctuary has experience with aggressive dogs, does not believe in social isolation, and has successfully rehabilitated dogs deemed dangerous by others – and where rehabilitation has not been possible, they have given those dogs a lifelong home where they have as much social contact as possible from dedicated volunteers and their progress is never given up on. They said “No.”

None of the options involved would incur them any cost, as a donor had generously offered to cover any and all of them. Although Waggin’ Train did not and would not seek other options for this dog, the rescue community rallied in an incredibly short time to come forward and provide three life-saving options:

1. Expert assistance for Waggin’ Train to save Nikki,
2. Transferring Nikki to another rescue for saving,
3. Evaluation for possible placement in a sanctuary.

They said “No.”

A dog’s life is worth more than “No.”

Waggin' Train – The Death of Nikki

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  • There have been so many back and forth that I’m afraid I’d need much more specific info. Who offered what, when, and how was the offer made?

    • You may want to download the 18 page .pdf featured above.

      • Pardon me, but I still don’t see any correspondence from another rescue saying that they were prepared to take Nikki–maybe I missed it? And I do a remember a post from someone from Pets Alive saying pretty clearly that they were not offering to take Nikki. Was there someone else that contacted Waggin Train? I don’t know any of the people involved but just going on the things I read….All I’m looking for is a viable alternative–an actual placement that Nikki could have gone to.

        • No offer was going to be made by anyone before an assessment could be done.

          That wasn’t allowed, though.

          • Exactly, if these people who are defending Waggin’ Train want to nit pick and parse words, then let them. They are only showing their true colors. But most of us can see that Nannette refused/ignored/did not pursue ANY other alternatives PERIOD. She made up her mind and didn’t appreciate anyone who dared to question her. I don’t know what she was thinking in this case, as she refuses to explain herself, which only makes her look worse. She deserves all the heat she is getting. If she had any real integrity she would explain herself and allow differing opinions. This, “my way or the high way” attitude is very bad. That’s where she really alienated a whole lot of people.

            And to those defending Nannette and Waggin’ Train, stop acting like juveniles. We get nowhere in this world without critical thought and debate. NO ONE should be above having to explain themselves when it comes to life or death decisions. And no one is stropping any of you from still supporting Nannette and Waggin’ Train either. It’s your choice and the rest of us have the choice NOT to support them too.

    • Uh, the 18 pages is pretty darn specific. If you want to know, then take the time to READ.

  • YesBiscuit

    “I do not share the decision making process with anyone.” Tells me all I need to know.

  • This kind of puts a damper on that whole claim that, “Nannette never received any offers to take the dog…Nada…None….Not by phone, email or carrier pigeon” I’m paraphrasing here, but I think some of us will know who I’m quoting.

    I knew that John wouldn’t make claims that he could not prove. PERIOD.

  • It’s amazing how some people “get off” having just a little bit of power. And when someone has life or death power over another living being it’s just evil when that becomes twisted into a feeling of “being God”. It appears this was a big power play and someone did not like their decisions being questioned. My question is what could anyone possibly have had against this beautiful dog. She looks as if a lot of love and time would have made her blossom. How sad that all this power is put into 1 persons hand – this is why we should always question and demand answers from those in power. Nobody should ever have this much power over another living being. RIP poor Nike – I wish you had the loving life you deserved. I also wish this had been made public and in the news media before it became too late. We should always keep these types of people transparent.

    • I agree, which is why we need some legislation, like CAPA passed asap! That would have made this decision illegal. Checks and balances always need to be put into place, especially when lives are at stake. Any real rescuer would never object to such legislation, only those on the power trip.

      • Actually… it would not. Most CAPA type legislation applies strictly to public, municipal shelters. Private rescue groups are subject to very, very few regulations under the law.

        • Really? Ouch…Thanks for the clarification John. Obviously, some type of checks and balances should be put in place that applies to rescues as well. Or, at the very least, people who pay attention to what these rescues do and hold them accountable. Like you did.

          • I thought the same as you, Lucy, and certainly the CAPA model could and should be broadened to include any rescue organization insofar as needing to accept help and offers of shelter and/or sanctuary from any other qualified organization, as imo this embodies what we are trying to accomplish. CAPA itself is more a model than an institution anyhow right now, sadly, but these experiences will only help make its wording better.

        • Nathan’s latest blog addresses this issue in detail. Yes, rescuers should be held to account just as municipal shelters should.

  • Excellent work, John. Waggin Train looks more and more like a Waggin Wreck.

  • We adopted a “vicious” dog with no history. He was found as a stray and taken in by a rescue. The rescue marketed that this dog would need a special adopter who would be willing to work with and love him. We spent many months working with this dog, The people living in my household all received bites from this dog in the first year he was with us. We had to let company know not to pet Charlie. Even though he did stop biting us eventually we never took risks with anyone else. He never gave the vet one ounce of trouble and eventually we no longer felt a muzzle at the vets was necessary. Charlie lived a long life with us in a happy home with lots of love. He passed due to complications of diabetes that he developed in his old age. I can’t even imagine him having been killed in rescue.

  • Excellent post and documentation about a terrible situation, one that was obviously avoidable, and seems to have ended very badly for everyone concerned, most of all Nikki, and now potentially for the other dogs that might have been saved by Waggin Tails. The post starts with a very clear mention that “Waggin’ Train saves a lot of dogs. All of us in the New York City No Kill and rescue community are grateful for that. I am grateful for that. ” I wonder if there is a way that Waggin’ Train can hear loudly from the public on our views on this situation, and the fact that we aren’t willing to fund them if they operate in this way, while encouraging and acknowledging them for the good work they have done and not losing another good rescue resource over what might be an isolated bad decision? I’m just curious if as a community we might find such a resolution? I’d hate to put Waggin Train down without giving them another chance….and this type of publicity will make or break them. Let me be clear – the attitude and opinions and presumed actions of Nannette are really unacceptable, but if the overall results of Waggin’ Train have been good, I’d like to see them rewarded for that behavior, guided if they are open to it, and continue their good works while ceasing these decisions. Ultimately, Nanette made it very clear that it’s her way or the highway…so how open to that she would be is questionable.

    • There are still very clear ways for them to… well, I can’t say make it right, but to acknowledge it and move forward. Any simple PR crisis-response study will tell you how. They have elected to wait it out instead.

    • YesBiscuit

      “I’d hate to put Waggin Train down without giving them another chance….” Like how they did Nikki.

      • YesBiscuit – I hope that my attempt at irony and sarcasm (?) wasn’t taken in the wrong way – that was my intended point – obviously this is what they did to Nikki.

        My singular point is that John mentioned in his post that Waggin Train has done good work in the past. This incident and its repercussions – thanks to the excellent and well documented reporting by John and others – will likely make a dent in the Waggin Train operation, fundraising, etc.

        The positive of that is that Waggin Trains bad decisions and Nannette’s mindset are being exposed. Unless, as John mentions, they hussle with some real crisis PR, acknowledgement and a clear commitment to avoid this type of thing happening again, they will be held accountable by those of us who contribute financially and otherwise to animal welfare.

        The negative is that if in fact they are overall a “good” organization, we will lose some of the good with the bad.

        I have no tolerance or support for their actions in the case of Nikki, I think it’s deplorable, and that’s why I am commenting. Perhaps that got lost in my attempt to try to find an opportunity for positive results from this tragedy.

  • So many animals are executed for all the wrong reasons. I guess I will never understand how a “rescuer” can kill the animal that was rescued when there are other options available.

    • It’s hard to understand because it is so illogical. Rescuers save lives, not end them. I said it before and I will say it again, Nannette probably needs a vacation…..She may be burnt out. I don’t know, but she clearly made a grave error that cost Nikki her life. And that is inexcusable.

  • shut down waggin train, they are suppose to save dogs and cats not kill them when they had options. some needs to put them down

    • They DO help and save a lot of dogs. I do not think they should be shut down. We are not the angry villagers wielding torches.

      However, this is a needed discussion, and it would be great if everyone could communicate, learn, change and move forward armed with a better understanding of what is expected and offered.

  • Wow. Dogs like Nikki take A LOT of work. Often rescue groups don’t have the time or resources to commit to this work. However, when you have others who are willing to step up and help, why would you say no? I have a very fearful dog who thankfully chooses flight over fight. He too can be very unresponsive and is definitely a work in process. But that is okay, we continue to reward the good choices and every day I get better and better at seeing small changes. There was no mention of meds. Sometimes meds can get a dog on a more level playing field to make them easier to work with. This is so unfortunate and very hard to swallow.

  • EVERY option should be exhausted before taking a life – isn’t that why the poor soul is rescued to begin with??? To save a life???

  • John Sibley vilified, threatened, and tried to ruin the reputation of ‘ Waggin Train’ no-kill rescue, who pull hard to place dogs out of kill shelters and have a 96% save rate because of a their heart-wrenching decision to euthanize a dog named Nikki, who despite almost three months of efforts on their part, the dog continued to be fearful, aggressive, and a bite risk.
    Susan Houser from No-kill News stated this on Nathan Winograd’s face book page: “From Just as a point of information, the e-mail that John sent to Nanette is logged as sent at 1:47 AM on December 27, the day Nikki was scheduled to be killed. This appears to have been Nanette’s private e-mail, and there is no documentation that she read the e-mail before Nikki was killed. Earlier in the chain she mentioned that she was behind on e-mail. John’s e-mail also makes this threat: “I can make sure that Nikki’s story is prominently featured in web searches for Waggin’Train in perpetuity, or we can work together to save a life, I’ll pull the petition and theblog post, and everyone comes out a winner.” Waggin Train would have every right to sue you for your threats & damages you have created for Waggin Train.

    • Yes, and they’d lose. The offer was made by voice as well around 3am that morning. They were well aware of the offer. Almost three months! My goodness, after 2 1/2 months of working with amateurs any dog should be fixed!

      That was less of a threat than it was some strong advice. 🙂

      • She doesn’t care that Dunaway is a loon. Julie is a loon too. And they threaten lawsuits on everyone. It’s comical. I’m on the list to be sued. I can’t wait.
        Bunch of losers, is it any surprise they all gravitate to one another?