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A survivor no more: ASPCA euthanizes Oreo

oreoDespite a last-minute barrage of pleas from animal rights supporters, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals today euthanized Oreo, a pit bull that survived a six-story plunge after being thrown off a Brooklyn rooftop.

Despite four months spent trying to modify her behavior, Oreo was too dangerous and aggressive to be put up for adoption, the ASPCA said.

Oreo was recovering from the two broken legs she sustained when she was tossed from the roof of a six-story apartment building in the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn. Her owner, Fabian Henderson, 19, pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court last month to a felony charge of animal cruelty and will be sentenced on Dec. 1.

But because of all the abuse she underwent as a pup, the 1-year-old dog was unfit to be around people or other dogs, the ASPCA said.

Shortly after she was euthanized this afternoon, and amid continued messages of outrage from those hoping the dog would be placed in a sanctuary, ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres issued a lengthy press release, which appears here in its entirety:

On June 18th, a one-year old Pit Bull Mix named Oreo was thrown off a 6th floor Brooklyn roof top by 19-year old Fabian Henderson. Oreo sustained two broken legs and a fractured rib in the horrific incident.

Amidst a flurry of media coverage and public outcry, Oreo was taken to the ASPCA hospital to be treated for her injuries, and Mr. Henderson was placed under arrest by ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Agents. The circumstances that led to this most difficult and heartbreaking of decisions are not widely known. In fact, details such as these are usually closely guarded. And yet, what is even more tragic about this story’s ending is that it is an all-too-familiar outcome in shelters across the country. It is the true face of the fight against animal cruelty.

Oreo was a victim of cruelty at the hands of Mr. Henderson. The details surrounding these incidents are largely unknown. However, after Mr. Henderson’s arrest in July, it was learned that several of his neighbors reported hearing the sounds of the dog being beaten for at least 20-30 minutes — and the dog whimpering as a consequence.

After arriving at the ASPCA’s facility, Oreo began to recuperate from her injuries, only to begin showing signs of extreme aggression — with little provocation or warning. As is customary at the ASPCA, the dog underwent a series of comprehensive behavior evaluations. This evaluation system has been used to assess many other dogs and is used to determine the rehabilitation programs needed to prepare them for foster care or placement.

In the case of Oreo, we also sought the assessment of an outside veterinary behaviorist. The outcomes of these evaluations were all the same: the dog was not able to be placed in a home.

Despite extensive behavior rehabilitation efforts undertaken by ASPCA staff, Oreo continued to lunge, growl, snap and attempt to bite. She would lunge at a behaviorist, only to spontaneously and unpredictably redirect her aggression toward her handler. She could not be socialized with other dogs for fear of an attack — her aggression toward other dogs was clearly evident during her evaluations.

For the safety of the individuals at the ASPCA, the other animals, and Oreo herself, she had to be kept in relative isolation, and daily contact with her was kept to a minimum of essential, and highly-trained, personnel. In fact, employees were even directed to refrain from making sustained eye contact with Oreo so as to not incite aggression.

Because adoption was not an option, the ASPCA looked at placing Oreo in a long-term resident facility. However, because of the aggressive behavior displayed, it is almost certain that Oreo would have lived out her entire life in seclusion from other dogs and people. Her contact with the outside world would have been minimal at best. Her quality of life would have been reduced to virtually nothing.

Thus, we arrived at the painful yet clear decision to humanely euthanize Oreo. While Oreo’s plight has garnered a plethora of media attention due to the sensational nature of her injuries, the decision to euthanize her is not a novel one. These are decisions that we have had to make before — and will undoubtedly have to make again. And as painful as these choices are, they are the same ones that face dedicated shelter workers throughout the country each and every day.

However, these outcomes are made all the more tragic because they are often preventable. Animals that suffer cruelty at the hands of their owners often face tragedy beyond that which they have already endured. Animals like Oreo are abused every day. These cases often don’t make headlines; in fact, most people don’t even know this abuse is quietly occurring in their backyard. But this abuse is all too frequent, and despite more rigorous efforts by law enforcement across the country, shows little sign of completely abating.

Sometimes these animals are fortunate enough to escape the confines of their abuse and are placed in loving homes. Sometimes, they die as a result of the abuse. And sometimes they retaliate from their abuse in the only way they know how: aggression. It is this last unfortunate circumstance that places shelters in the precarious position in which we find ourselves now.

We have done everything humanly possible to save Oreo’s life; yet, as a result of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Mr. Henderson, or for other reasons we may never know, she has come to a place where she can no longer be around people or other animals. We make this decision — and others like it — with a heavy heart and a complete understanding that had she been treated with love and respect, Oreo’s fate would be much different.

People know that the ASPCA is in the business of saving animals’ lives — it serves as the very core of our 143 year-old mission. Yet, the moment this statement is picked up, we will feel the repercussions of the difficult decision we know had to be made. We will receive angry phone calls … profanity-laced e-mails … and we will likely be vilified by tweeters and bloggers across the country. And the rallying cry of these missives will all be the same: the ASPCA failed this animal.

If the ASPCA has failed at anything, it is shielding America from the true face of animal cruelty for far too long. Animal cruelty isn’t pretty and doesn’t always have a happy ending — it is ugly and sad and, ultimately, tragic. As a community of individuals committed to the welfare of animals, we have to be more proactive and insistent in raising our voices against cruelty — and hope that the nation is ready to listen.”

Comments

Comment from Oggie
Time November 14, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Thank you for posting this. This, the day after, is a very sad day. May Oreo’s abuser be punished justly.

Comment from James
Time November 15, 2009 at 2:20 am

The ASPCA had an offer from a sanctuary to take her and spare her life. They chose to kill her instead. Disgusting. Another national org not getting one thin dime from me.

Comment from James
Time November 15, 2009 at 2:20 am

Oh, and the headline is incorrect. Oreo was not euthanized. Oreo was killed.

Comment from Starla
Time November 17, 2009 at 4:25 pm

That poor girl was so mistreated that she did not trust humans & who could blame her? The ASPCA did a lot to help her recover from her injuries, both inside & out. Sometimes the kindest thing is to let them go. Run free at the bridge Oreo. You are at peace at last. No more pain. May her abuser rot in jail.

Comment from John Carroll
Time November 18, 2009 at 12:01 am

I adopted an incredible Boxer from rescue who had been abused. Despite 3+ years of trainers and other experts he would still lash out at my family when I was gone. Unfortunately I had to put him done. It was terrible, aweful and I didn’t sleep well for weeks. However, I could not trust him when I left and I had to do it. I literally spent three years trying to undo what his previous owners had done. It just didn’t work! Very sad!!!

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