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16 November 2009


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Dog Daddo

I have real concern over WHEN the ASPCA decided to do the assessment.

So Oreo was "better," but do we know she still wasn't in pain? What, psychologically, had 6 months or so in a veterinary/shelter environment done to her?

If memory serves the Vick dogs had some real tough issues from being in the VA shelters for that period of time, a change in scenery immediately changed their behavior for the better.

Animals that are victims of abuse just don't deserve to be victimized twice. The second victimization being their last.

Snoopys Friend

This type of thing happens more often than the news media covers.


Thanks for saying so eloquently what needed to be said. It seems as if certain organizations, animal welfare organizations definitely included, once they reach a certain size and notoriety, lose sight of their mission and become more focused on their own perpetuation and income stream. I know plenty of animal organizations that I trust to do right and which desperately need money. Cross the ASPCA off my list.


and yet no tears, not a single post here at PC, for the 160 (and counting) of the 400 dogs "rescued" in the recent multi state bust that have been killed. Including some that had offers of rescue.

If you're going to compare Oreo to the Vick dogs, well first of all, the evaluation guidelines were the SAME (ASPCA was the lead on the Vick evals.) And then, the Vick dogs survived a year in virtual isolation with little socialization.. yet only one was assessed as human aggressive and killed. Most of them had temperaments that survived their post-Vick abuse in the system until they got out into fosters/shelters/forever homes where they could regain (or find) their spirit. If the people who actually evaluated Oreo (as opposed to all the backseat evaluators who never even laid eyes on the dogs) are right, this poor dog would never have recovered to that extent.

And much as I admire and support Winograd's vision, he'll use any stick and any inflammatory language, to beat one of the large organizations that hasn't fallen in line. He seems to have conveniently forgotten that even HE says that "no kill" isn't "no kill" for human aggressive or very sick dogs. In most of the "no kill" shelters he supports, Oreo probably would have been destroyed for the same reason ASPCA gave.

Is it just because it's ASPCA that everyone is so eager to second guess a decision they didn't find easy? The double standards are astonishing.. I compare the silence when a rescue organization linked here posted a similarly selfserving justification for killing an animal (that also had a potential home). I wonder if one of their reps, who does post here, will come on and defend ASPCA for making the same kind of decision they chose to make?

And as with previous posts here, we're not doing "journalism", right.. cause it's just an opinion blog. So the notion of trying to verify whether everything Pets Alive claims is true, while assuming everything ASPCA says is a lie, is a nonstarter.


A qualified sanctuary with ample experience agreed to take her. And yet.

I understand that unpredictable aggression is not a fun thing to deal with, in any dog. It could very well have been brain trauma from, you know, the whole being thrown out of the window bit. I also understand that can make finding a qualified foster home incredibly difficult and dangerous. That said, Oreo had placement with Pets Alive, a group willing to take on the challenges she posed. Whether Oreo would have been happy in a sanctuary setting is up in the air, but she was not given that chance. Her one chance at life was denied her.

mary frances

First - thank you Christie Keith for writing this and the Pet Connection for "connecting" us with information - the truth. Always in life there is a tipping point when the bs overload will just topple something - its happening all around us with the economy - now with the ASPCA, HSUS and PETA - time is not on their side....


"with the ASPCA, HSUS and PETA - time is not on their side…."

Their reputations are not on their side either. They have become business and have lost sight of the goal of helping animals.

Give money instead to the wonderful, struggling small shelters who are the ones that do the good work. The big groups are just bloated giants that have lost their way.


EmilyS, you're getting to be like those commenters who complain that animal rescuers aren't focusing on orphans in India. No incidence of caring or compassion is ever enough for you.

Christie Keith

You know, Emily, you asked me about this on Facebook, as regards a Bad Rap blog post that I hadn't previously read, and why I didn't get all over that. One, I hadn't read it, but two, if I had, Bad Rap and I might disagree on some things, but they don't WHINE. They do the work, state their piece, and take the consequences.

Same thing with the MO bust dogs. Even if HSMO is not doing a great job handling this, they're still doing a hard job and not whining about it, not saying, "It's not us! It's the bad people!"

No one, no individual, no organization, no blogger, is always right or always wrong. I'm not, you're not, Bad Rap is not, HSMO is not. Neither is HSUS or the A. Everyone gets things wrong, everyone gets things right sometimes. I'm not Nathan, and only going to rant and rave at the wrong and the bad.

But when huge, powerful organizations get it wrong, the effect of that gets magnified by their leadership positions. It demands more scrutiny than the actions of small groups and individuals, even when they might otherwise be ethically the same.

So yeah, when the ASPCA unleashes its huge PR machine in its own defense, and I think they're in the wrong, I'm far more likely to respond to that than to a blog post by a small organization, especially one that I feel walks the walk -- EVEN WHEN I DISAGREE WITH THEM.

As to why we have not covered the fate of the MO bust dogs, I found out about those numbers yesterday, and was still thinking about it.

Besides, they didn't send out a self-centered little whine-fest of a media release and thus propel me into a rant.


thanks for the personal attack, James.

Anne T

I am not trying to dis anyone, but Oreo was offered a chance few dogs get, and no one gave it to her! Those in control of her life chose to take it. There are many analogies I can draw here in this country where we don't give those who offend our behavioral sensibilities a chance, let alone give us the health choices we need to be functioning members of society. Ruh roh. I feel a digression coming. So I will stop. Now.

However, Oreo should have been given the chance that was offered her with knowledgeable folk who might have turned her around. Now we will never know if she could have made it. I suspect much of her aggression was fear driven and she would have benefited from a stable, quiet, steady environment where she wasn't threatened. What a damnable shame. Run free Oreo. I am sorry you never got to experience the goodness and love that people are capable of. All because of bureaucrats. Makes me want to vomit.


The bottom line is that the ASPCA had a choice - and Oreo had the possibility of a future. ASPCA chose to kill her! If they are going to operate that way, then knock off the blame game. There's already too much dishonesty about what's happening to these animals. I also am a fan of the Badrap folks who do "walk the walk"! They are the kind of organization that I want to support!


with regards to Emily S. assertion that the ASPCA did the original Vick dog evaluation and so should be trusted on their evaluation about Oreo...I seem to remember that the ASPCA argued that every single Vick dog should be immediately killed and the only reason they weren't was that someone else (a judge) was in charge instead of Ed Sayres. So if they were so wrong about the many dogs in the Vick case, why in the world would we trust their evaluation of this dog?


Christie, I just don't see the difference between the BR piece (and actually there's another similar one crying tears about the Mo. dogs up as well) and the ASPCA's. They BOTH justify the killing of dogs that have, or might have, other places to go and then publicly cry about it. What makes one a "whine" and the other "taking the consequences" ? What are the consequences for BR in posting that piece? Surely you don't imagine that BR isn't raising money using tears as a tactic? What rescue organization DOESNT? Is it just size that makes that tactic ok? .. ok for the small orgs, but bad for the big ones? Why is it OK for Winograd and the "no kill" movement to support killing irredeemably vicious or sick dogs, but not for the ASPCA to actually kill such a dog? When is it OK to play backseat driver on an individual dog's evaluation, without having seen the animal? When is it OK to assume bad faith on the part of one organization while taking the word of another at absolute face value? BTW, where does ASPCA throw blame on anyone other than the owner for Oreo's fate (same as we blame the dogfighters for the fate of their victims that get killed by "rescues)? Yeah, they whined about those mean bloggers.. .but surely that's not the issue is it? Surely no one is more upset that ASPCA wrote a press release than about the fate of the dog?

Christie Keith

Emily: You and I clearly do not read that press release the same way or we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Christie Keith

Two posts from Pets Alive's blog:



From YesBiscuit!:


Susan Fox

Emily, for starters, the owner didn't kill Oreo, although it sounds like it wasn't for lack of trying, the ASPCA did, on the authority of Sayles. So the burden is entirely on them. Period.

How can they maintain that they were able to accurately evaluate a seriously injured, traumatized dog after having her for such a short time in a high stress shelter environment? But, really, did they? We'll probably never know what the staff thought. Sayles has made it clear that he personally "pulled the trigger".

ASPCA has a sky-high profile thanks to the Animal Planet show that's been on for years now. They need to be held to a higher standard, IMHO.

They now get to deal with an entirely self-inflicted PR s---storm. Boo hoo.

What were they thinking, to hire Sayles, anyway? Does their board live in a cave? Putting him in charge was a disaster waiting to happen.


It's just sad and frustrating that things like these are real and that there are some people who are not even taking any blame on it.


When I first heard, my first question was did they even call Best Friends? Then I read the NYT article again and I thought 5 months, 5 lousy months to heal all those broken bones and spirit? I wondered, if someone at the ASPCA had been in the same position, they would have been given a lot longer to heal and learn to walk again without pain and to work on healing their damaged soul and mind. They gave Oreo a lousy 5 months to 'get over it' before they decided to 'end her misery'. Makes you wonder what the ASPCA would do with the wounded warriors at Walter Reed if they were in charge.


An aggressive dog without a home was painlessly euthanized.

This isn't even news, let alone a reason for villifying an organization that exists for the sole purpose of helping animals.

Christie Keith

Why should a dog die because she's aggressive and homeless?


Our rescue, the one my husband serves as treasurer for and I volunteer for fostering etc... does, as do all, get in the dogs who cannot now, nor likely ever will be, adoptable due to unpredictable or intractable aggression.

If it is rage type syndrome, there is little to do, and the dogs usually progress with the seizure type episodes to the point that no one is safe with them and they are euthanized.

The ones who were tortured, starved, beaten, burned and who are mentally broken to the point that they will never be reliable in the real world? Those suck. They will usually bond with someone given time. And in carefully controlled environments they are happy and reliable.

Some end up in permanent care of the two members who can safely home them (no kids, no unexpected visitors, off the beaten path with space to quarantine them from the stresses that bring on panic and aggression), but those spaces are very very limited and most are put down.

If we had a sanctuary, one with good credentials, willing to assume all responsibility for one, even once a year or once a decade? Hell yeah. A big fat "yes" with gratitude on top.

Gina Spadafori

Why should a dog die because she’s aggressive and homeless?

Comment by Christie Keith — November 16, 2009

Actually, I can think of quite of few reasons why a dog should die because she presents a real danger to people. But Christie, our views on this are colored by our personal experiences:

Yours by owning a spectacular dog by the name of Colleen who might maybe not have been allowed to be adopted out in some shelters but whose early issues you managed and finally helped her to overcome.

Mine by growing up with a neighbor child whose life was utterly changed and pretty much ruined when her family dog (a socially isolated, 24/7 chained accident-waiting-to-happen) ripped her face off.

I have no problem whatsoever, in general, at giving the needle to a dog who has and likely will again hurt someone seriously. But for me the issue of Oreo is considerably more complicated, since having made her a cause celebre, the ASPCA owed her better than she got.

In other words, if you're going to raise publicity for the cause of raising money on the backs of abused pets, you owe those animals more than all the nameless intake snarlers at the end of a catch pole who never get a chance at all. Because these "celebrity" abuse victims, who are in the public eye, can really offer a chance for epic shifts in the way all pets are treated, both in the community and in the shelter industry.

The Vick dogs are, of course, the most sterling example of this.

I'm certain that there's a large contingent of traditionalists within the A (and the larger shelter industry) that doesn't really get what the fuss is all about with regards to Oreo, in the same way that the HSUS was set back on its heels by what they considered a sensible course of action regarding the Vick fight bust dogs: Take credit as heroes for "saving" them and then push for them to be killed.

This was -- and in many cases remains -- the orthodoxy within the traditional shelter industry, which has a long history of defining "adoptable" rather narrowly (a view the informs, interestingly enough, the shelter industry attacks on the No-Kill movement, in questioning its successes or charging it with "warehousing" pets).

As part of the continued reform of the shelter system, the powers-that-be need to take dogs like Oreo and see if they can do better. So that perhaps they can then learn to do better by all pets, in keeping with the mission from which so many in the shelter industry have long since drifted.

But even in the best shelters in the most progressive no-kill communities we someday hope to see everywhere, there will be dogs whose proven potential for harm makes them unsuitable for normal placement, and whose inability to handle sanctuary makes them poor prospects for that as well.

The problem with Oreo is that we can pretty safely bet the first case was true (after all, the A does have some very good behaviorists on staff), but the second we flat-out do not know, because she was never given the chance to find out.

The death of a dangerous dog is not something I oppose. The failure to provide her the chance for sanctuary when one was offered is, for me, the unfathomable call made by Sayres.

As for the ASPCA's whining, self-pitying public statement? It's more of the extinction bursts of a shelter industry whose behavior is being forced to change by communities who have had enough of the status quo.


For me, the bottom line to this story is the ASPCA had what appears to be a dangerous dog and a sanctuary in their area (with a proven track record on working w/aggressive dogs) offered to take her. For the ASPCA to kill the dog *without even considering the offer of sanctuary* was wrong. I know there are many shelter dogs in our country deemed hopelessly aggressive who have no such luck in getting an offer from a qualified sanctuary. Oreo was one of the lucky few. But ASPCA stood in her way and opted for death instead.


The BIG difference I see between Oreo's fate and the fate of the BadRap dogs who are euthanized is that the BadRap dogs would likely be placed IF there was a place available for them to go. ASPCA had a place available and chose not to send her there. To me, that's a huge difference! HUGE!

Christie Keith

I don't disagree with you, Gina. If there were no sanctuary placement available for Oreo, it would have been completely different. But there WAS, and as you said... that and the whining press release were the problem.

I certainly don't advocate adopting a highly reactive biter out into anything but a sanctuary situation, or the hands of an experienced rehabber who could work with and evaluate the dog for possible future re-homing.

In fact, I pretty much agree with every word you said. But it doesn't change the question I asked: Why should simply being homeless and aggressive mean you have to kill a dog? It's a knee-jerk response that ignores the sanctuary movement entirely. That is what I was trying to elicit from the person I was responding to -- to abandon the knee-jerk "conventional wisdom" and ask, and answer, that question.


Also, the fact that they publicized this dog, made her an icon, got money from all that from people who were touched by her story, and then still killed her instead of realizing what a huge PR disaster (if nothing else) that would be. When they singled out a specific dog as an icon of a problem and then go and kill her in the end instead of replying to the sanctuary's offer to take her, it shows how much the ASPCA still has their mind in the past. People won't stand for that anymore. They don't swallow the 'Killing is the greatest kindness' B.S. line anymore. They will question, they will nitpick, and they will demand BETTER.

And it's about time. Because without more and more people standing up and questioning the status quo, these giant, complacent animal welfare groups will continue doing the same old outdated things over and over, and animals will continue to die that don't have to.


What sort of life would Oreo have had, in a sanctuary? A pitbull is not like a zoo animal who may do fine in a large enclosure.

A pittie needs a *real life*--the kind that involves walks and games, lying at their owner's feet, sleeping on the bed at night. This is a DOG, perhaps the most social and man-made one out there. Pits undisputably do NOT do well in "storage".

It seems pretty clear that Oreo is being used to make a point &/or further an agenda.

Snoopys Friend

It really seems a shame that the sanctuary offer was not accepted. The easier road is to put the dog down - doggie heaven is so great we'll help achieve this end sooner rather than later - ugh!


How come nobody wants a pitbull until they get thrown off a roof???? and gets all this publicity. NOBODY wants to adopt a pit, I am sure they have tons of pits that can be adopted in lots of shelters through out the country.. All these people who are saying the ASPCA is bad, should shut up, go out and make a difference and adopt a pit...instead of something cute and little.

Christie Keith

Hi, Kat. New here?

Christie Keith

What sort of life would Oreo have had, in a sanctuary?

That's a good question to ask BEFORE you kill the dog.


Pai, there is not a single rescue on the face of the planet that doesn't highlight individual animals in order to raise money. Some raise money highlighting animals they've already killed. If you believe that ASPCA always intended to kill Oreo after taking her in, and spending months and $$$ on her care, then your cynicism seems over-the-top.

Now my perhaps-over-the-top cynicism leads me to ask: ASPCA kills 2-3 dogs/week. Is Pets Alive following up on their concerns over ASPCA's process and Oreo's fate to offer sanctuary to those animals? Have they offered to take any of the Missouri bust dogs (about half of which were killed and in some cases surely only because of lack of sanctuary resources)? Have they offered to rescue any pit bulls from the hellholes of Toledo or Denver or...? How do they choose which dogs to take into their "sanctuary", since they can't take them all. Why choose Oreo (who would have been killed for human aggression in any shelter her owner had taken her to, if he had done that instead of throwing her off the roof)? Are they going to refrain from raising awareness of their organization and raising money using Oreo as a case study?

The motives people have for saving or choosing not to save an animal are not always "pure"... and not always "evil" either.

Snoopys Friend

Kat - My sweet adopted from the SPCA Pitty died this year from Lymph Cancer - she was a good member of our family for over 12 years. I think little cute dogs are nice even though all my crew are large(er) and pills in training.

Christie Keith

My hope is not based on choosing one dog over another (though as a shelter worker we have to do that every day).

I honestly don't agree that you "have to" do that.


It's a difficult decision to make. I'm sure the ASPCA didn't make it lightly, based solely on the fact that no one wants that kind of PR- euthanizing an animal that has made huge media news.

Does anyone know if Pets Alive euthanizes hopeless cases? It's easy to say 'what kind of life would Oreo have in sanctuary', but what would've the actual results have been if Oreo did not thrive in sanctuary but in fact had actually languished? Do they have a solution for a dog that is continuing to suffer? Because a dog that is biting staff and unable to enjoy a normal life (meaning locked in room or a run or a kennel for staff safety), well, that doesn't seem like much of a life to me.

I support sanctutaries for some animals, but i don't feel they are the right match for every animal. How you determine which animals fit into that category- that's the kicker.

I hope another animal that faces euthanasia will now get a chance at life due to the vacancy that Oreo left behind.


Kat, she was not available for adoption.

Has anyone criticizing the ASPCA ever spent time in their behavior dept or met any of the dogs they work with and their different levels of aggression? Any experience with the Mayor's Alliance and the various groups involved?

Emily, where did you get the ASPCA's kill number? And do you know how many of them were ones that were actually in the Behavior program that Oreo was in?

Pia, the news is who made Oreo an icon. Tends to happen with dogs that get thrown off the roof in NYC. People tend to notice . . . . Oreo is not the first and will not be the last.

Christie Keith

I hope another animal that faces euthanasia will now get a chance at life due to the vacancy that Oreo left behind.

And I'm tired of the idea we have to save one and not the other. Let's save all the ones who can be saved, and stop cherry picking the "nice" ones or the adaptable ones.

The Vick dogs at Best Friends are in a sanctuary situation, and I can't imagine a dog who wouldn't do just fine in that environment. If Pets Alive, Best Friends or any other sanctuary provides something close to that, and a space was available, killing the dog because she "might" not adapt to sanctuary life is wrong.

Gina Spadafori

Emily, honestly, did you just wake up to this realization? Who lives and who dies is so capricious as to be God's idea of a long-running joke.

I worked with a cynical newsie who once observed that the best thing that could happen to a kitten in terms of getting a great home would be to be trapped in a sewer grate or fall down a well -- as long as the news media was there for the rescue, film at 11.


My hope is not based on choosing one dog over another (though as a shelter worker we have to do that every day). My hope was that Pets Alive extends their vacancy offer to another needy animal now that Oreo isn't taking it.


"If you believe that ASPCA always intended to kill Oreo after taking her in, and spending months and $$$ on her care, then your cynicism seems over-the-top."

Where did I say that? The fact that they thought it was okay to kill a high-profile dog in front of people who offered to rescue her and who donated money for her care didn't have to be 'premeditated' to be obscene.

Snoopys Friend

It simply was wrong of the ASPCA to deny sanctuary for Oreo and opt to kill her. Since when is death the better course of action rather than a life in a controlled good environment. Maybe we should ask the dog what would be preferred.


Well, when you have 20 dogs coming in, and have 5 kennel spaces, and you offer 15 dogs to other rescues, and they all say no, they're too full, well then you start to look at whose behavior is immediately inappropriate.

Granted, this happens more so with cats than dogs. And our euthanasia rate is well below the national average (39%, not including owner requests).

And i would say choosing one animal over another doesn't automatically mean euthanasia is the end result. When you have limited resources (people, cages, food, money), you have to choose how to spend them. That may mean you have to choose which dog gets the cherry eye surgery, and which dog gets adopted as is. or who gets speutered today and who has to wait a week. or who gets to be the featured pet, and who gets the big cage and which litter goes to foster first.

So i would respectfully disagree with your asertion that we don't 'have' to choose one animal over another. I would say most rescues do it in many ways every day

mary frances

My hope is that one day there will be no need to choose one dog or cat over another - the fact that people are in "shelters" and have to choose one life over another is perverse - this process of deciding which dog or cat dies, dehumanizes the chooser (some part of a person's soul dies), the killing dehumanizes us as a society that this is what we have for the SHELTERING of dogs and cats.....and then the ASPCA, HSUS and PETA who should advocate for this to end but rather perpetuate the killing....well to shamelessly steal a line I read here.....where are we going and why are we all in this handbasket?????


Just wanted to mention that although Nathan Winograd currently defines No Kill as saving all but the hopelessly ill or vicious (dogs) he is the first to acknowledge that as the sanctuary idea grows then we will need to reevaluate our idea of No Kill. When someone is willing to take on a dying animal for hospice care or a sanctuary is willing to give life time care for an aggressive dog, we need to consider that.

Snoopys Friend

A dog does not have to be aggressive to be put down - shy will do it - sweet and shy. There are no rooms for scared dogs, sweet, shy, and afraid.


Can you elaborate on your comment some more Snoopys Friend?

It sounds like you are saying no shy/sweet/fearful dogs are ever placed for adoption


Rather, lots of them are killed for not having the immediate winning charm that shelters like yours define as "adoptable." Not euthanised; killed. Often on the grounds that they are "aggressive," because in the scary, high-stress environment of a shelter, when backed into a corner by a big, scary, unfamiliar human, they may snap.

But even if they don't, even if they just cower away from the perceived threat, they're deemed "unadoptable," and that's a death sentence.

If your shelter got hold of my dog, her fear and stress in a kennel setting would produce behavior that "shelters" like yours deem "unadoptable": cowering from unfamiliar people, and fear-aggressive towards other dogs. You'd kill her, not euthanize, the word is kill, and pat yourselves on the back for having been so "kind" when you did it.

But that cowering, barking, snarling monster, all fifteen pounds of her, outside of a kennel setting, is sweet and friendly, incredibly enthusiastic and patient with children even when they're pulling her ears or tail (no, I don't permit that, and stop it immediately when a child tries), and is a welcome visitor at a nursing home in our area as well as at my mother's senior citizen housing complex, because she is so gentle and loving, and totally unfazed by wheelchairs, walkers, and portable oxygen.

No, not every shy or fearful dog is killed by every shelter. But too many of them are, by people who think their job is choosing who lives and who dies, rather than saving every animal possible.


Just to clarify one point which upon reflection I realize may not be clear to Anne: It's the difference between what a dog is like in a normal setting, especially with someone present that she knows and trusts, and what a dog is likely in the artificially high-stress environment of a kill facility. The dogs that show well in that environment are very confident animals. The sweet, the shy, the fearful--this is not where they will show well. They'll be too stressed, they will cower, or they will try to defend themselves.

And too many of them die for it.


straybaby: the 107 number is in the NYTimes article:


As for people comparing to the Vick dogs.. not valid and proves the opposite point. ONE was killed for human aggression and NO ONE questioned that decision. The Vick dogs that will live out their lives at BF's "sanctuary" have other issues, but mainly dog aggression. A savvy pit bull rescue not under court order to hold them in sanctuary would probably have found homes for most of them by now. No pit bull rescuer wants to devote limited resources to human aggressive dogs. 160 "fight bust" dog victims were killed recently.. most/all were probably NOT human aggressive; they were killed because there was apparently no place available at the time for dogs of marginal temperament and health. Cry for them, not for any dangerous dogs saved at their expense. You CANT save them all. Not now, not in the future no kill nirvana.

There will always be dogs that need special help: the ones that can be rehabilitated, the shy ones and the very bold ones that don't do well in temperament tests. And there will always be the few truly dangerous, human aggressive ones. ASPCA didn't make the decision that Oreo was dangerously human aggressive over night.. they had custody of her for months. No one here, or at Pets Alive, has access to the evaluation (which I would like to see ASPCA make available) so there is no evidence to disprove their assessment. Or prove it for that matter. Some choose to believe that ASPCA acted entirely in bad faith. I don't.. at least not in this case.

Keeping dangerously human aggressive dogs alive in a sanctuary must mean that a difficult but not dangerous dog will not have a spot. Oreo would have taken a spot Pets Alive could have given to a dog that can be rehabilitated. What's the value in that?

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