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16 November 2009


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Good evening, all.

Although I seldom comment, I have been a regular reader since 2007.

I agree with 2CatMom that the civility that once was an inherent part of this venue seems to have waned considerably. Some of the comments lately have been especially personal and disrespectful.

It's one thing to be blunt, it's another to be rude. When we cease discussing the topic and begin attacking each other, discourse degenerates into brawling, which gets us nowhere.

And Gina, 2CatMom and I have been here long enough to know this is not a "fluffy" kinda blog. Can't speak for 2CatMom, but that's not what I come here for. :-)

Gina Spadafori

If you find a place where we got the facts wrong, we will correct. We always have, and always will. We have no problem being called out on the facts. We have also been plenty critical of the reporting of others, especially during the pet-food recall when the AP refused to admit more than a dozen pets had died because the FDA wouldn't say so.

What you are unhappy about is that we don't go off on tangents that support your opinions. When that happens it's a given almost to the point of a joke that you will "call us out" on our "journalism."



Comment by EmilyS — November 25, 2009 @ 8:40 am

"To me the only substantive part of the debate is whether human-aggressive dogs deserve “sanctuary” placement."

I disagree. I think the point that this is a dog still recovering from some pretty serious orthopedic surgical procedures puts Oreo into a separate category from simply "human aggressive" or not. That point alone makes her situation apples and oranges different from the scenarios you're discussing in your post.

H. Houlahan

For what it's worth:

Sigh ...


Nevertheless, isn't 5-months post-operative orthopedic surgery still awfully soon to decide a dog is beyond rehabilitation and needs to be killed? Whether PetsAlive was up to the challenge or not?

If ASPCA didn't like something about PetsAlive, so be it. But why the rush to kill Oreo without either spending more time letting her heal during rehabilitation or looking for someone that they DID trust with her ongoing care?

Rushing to kill a dog who is probably still in pain, and probably has been for most of the past 5 months does NOT qualify as doing "everything humanly possible to save Oreo’s life" to quote Mr. Sayres' noble sentiment.

H. Houlahan

I'm not disagreeing with your point, Pat.

Just kind of disgusted with the double-decker crap sandwich that this whole public debacle turns out to be.

Disgusted, but unfortunately, not surprised.

Gina Spadafori

Beat me to it, Houlie. Nice work using Teh Googles on the part of Blue Dog State, by the way.


I still don't know what to say about the comments regarding blog tone. Yes, they bother me because in my mind the people who become too intimidated to comment are often the thoughtful ones who have the most to add.

Selfishly, I want everyone to comment because my own views have been changed by the well-considered points made by others, on so many issues. But I don't want talking points, and people who can't back up what they say because they can't think for themselves are a waste of bandwidth.

Still thinking about this ... and probably will be for days.


as for tone, possibly ASPCA could have kept the dog alive longer. But to accuse them of "relentless torture" or "rushing to kill a dog" just shows less interest in the dog than in rhetoric. And APSCA surely botched the PR aspect. (not that Pets Alive isn't making its own $$$ hay over this dog) But that in and of itself doesn't justify the kind of bashing they're getting (particularly in light of the information BDS uncovered with just a little journalmalism).

To me the only substantive part of the debate is whether human-aggressive dogs deserve "sanctuary" placement. Many of those here who attack the ASPCA believe they do and brush off the issues of resources. ASPCA clearly does NOT believe in sanctuary for human aggressive dogs and from their point of view it doesn't matter whether Oreo had a place to go.

No one here can judge ASPCA on the issue of whether Oreo was indeed irredeemably human aggressive, because no one here saw the dog. Some of the people attacking ASPCA on this issue don't blink an eye at blogs written by other groups describing the same kinds of decisions about killing human aggressive dogs (or in one prominent case, killing a dog because it "developed" dog-aggression). Pit bull rescues have to make decisions all the time and often err on the side of killing rather than keeping alive. The last thing any one needs is a headline rescue ending up biting someone. Every pit bull rescue that has commented on this has supported the APSCA decision.

Gina Spadafori

as for tone, possibly ASPCA could have kept the dog alive longer. But to accuse them of “relentless torture” or “rushing to kill a dog” just shows less interest in the dog than in rhetoric.

Comment by EmilyS — November 25, 2009

You're talking about the tone of some commentors. I'm talking about the tone of the blogging team. And at no point did any of the blogging team say anything remotely like that.

Pets Alive's problems are a side issue. Interesting, but not relevant to the matter of whether or not Oreo deserved a shot at sanctuary instead of just ... The Shot.

We give the commentors a lot of leeway here, including the amount I give you for constantly trying to "educate" a syndicated newspaper columnist, long-time newspaper editor and former college journalism prof about "what journalism is."


Gina: I really appreciate your taking the time to think about where the blog is going. I have asked for answers to my questions because I want to understand the other point of view. I do understand the desire to save Oreo. I think the ASPCA didn't do everything they could.

But to say that Pets Alive should have had a chance with her regardless of their reputation, is something I just can't fathom. Would you give a child to a suspected child molester cause they were the only resource that stepped up?

I have to admit that I already had heard something about them not filing apropriate forms and being a questionable rescue. But I don't have resources or talent to investigate or substantiate these allegations.

I put this info out to see if anyone, anyone at all actually gave a shit enough about Oreo to see whether Pets Alive would be a place you would want this dog to go.

And what did I get back. Lot's of screaming about the murderous ASPCA and not one word or one minute of care to see where actually the dog was going to go. Lots of yelling about 'unsubstantiated claims,' but no one stepping up and seeing if there was any merit to the claims.'

That's not caring about a dog. That's an emotional reaction to a terrible tragedy. Understandable, but not appropriate for professionals. And I'm sorry, Christie - I guess I'm pointing the finger at you. You are an 'experienced journalist' as your biography on this site states.

I don't think I am being unreasonable when I hold you to a higher standard of conduct in terms of what you chose to publish and how you choose to react to information that doesn't fit your view of the situation. A journalist has a moral duty to get the facts, ALL THE FACTS before writing an article.

You got half the story right - the ASPCA screwed up. I don't agree with their stance (if this is their stance) that a dog should not be turned over to a sanctuary. I do not however, agree that any animal should be turned over to a rescue or sanctuary if they are not well thought of. There may be a very good reason why the ASPCA didn't bother to return their calls. Because you don't call the suspected child molester back even if they promise the child a good home.

Now, please use your talents to find out the rest of the story. Investigate Pets Alive for yourself and let us know what's going on there. Believe me, if I had the connections, I would. You're the professional and I think you owe your readers, the ASPCA and yes, Oreo a full and fair report.


My post above crossed with Gina's so I want to add one more thing.

IMHO, Pets Alive is not a side issue. Not anymore. Not when so many of the comments have been about the ASPCA not returning their phone calls or how Pet's Alive should have been given a shot to work with Oreo regardless of their reputation.

Gina Spadafori

Good thing Christie lives two hours away from me, or at this point I think I would be at risk of physical harm for e-mailing her last week to ask: "Hey, could you write about the ASPCA's handling of Oreo?"



yeah Gina, I understand that journalists cannot be challenged: they always do that fact checking thing... that's why we never went to war in Iraq.

oh wait...

maybe you could factcheck "constant" as referring to my comments about journalmalism? I've made dozens of posts here, and perhaps 3 relate to whether the authors factchecked before publishing a blog, after one of which you asserted that it didn't matter because PC is an opinion blog, not a newsblog.

Kristy B

"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." Snoopys Friend

I agree. Some are lucky enough to find a rescue willing to work with them-but most. . .

Asthetics is a common one too. How many sweet, loving, non behavioral cases have I seen put down because they have had frost bite up here in the north that has claimed a Tomcat's eartips, or a Dog's eartips, even rodents with mangled tails from their wheels. If they don't look cute and fuzzy after a bath-here comes the needle. God how many times do we have to swoop in and save a ferret who has adrenal disease from kill shelters who will kill them for their naked wasted bodies rather than talk about treatment to potential adopters. . .(Oh but the cute kitten in the front with liver danamge and kidney failure is up for adoption)


Ok, yawn away. That's exactly the kind of conduct I was talking about when I said this blog was losing its civility.

If I can't trust you to look at the issues and see what's going on, if you just repeat what others have published, then you are no different from the AP.

Sorry, I'm done with this site Gina. and like the pet food companies that didn't play fair with the public, I won't be back.

And frankly I won't let the door hit me on the way out, so you can save your snarky responses for someone else.


“But to say that Pets Alive should have had a chance with her regardless of their reputation, is something I just can’t fathom.”

Can you show me one blogger or commentator here who said that? What we keep saying is that the ASPCA should have found a group who was qualified to work with Oreo instead of executing her. The persistent misinterpretation of what we said does tend to spark a bit of peevishness.

Houlahan, very nice work finding out the dirt on Pets Alive. This is extremely useful info, even though it’s irrelevant to the main issue here. However, there were other blogs at that site with info that is relevant:

To summarize the info here: Laura Maloney was the Chief Executive Officer at the Louisiana SPCA in 2005 when they seized 57 Pit Bulls from a man they accused of dogfighting. Within 24 hours, they executed every single one of the dogs. The owner was quickly acquitted of the charges but suffered a heart attack shortly after learning that all of his dogs had been slaughtered.

You would think that Maloney's career at humane societies would be kaput. Not so, thanks to the ASPCA. To quote the blog (dated October 26, 2009):

“ASPCA shelters Maloney from the storm

Moving on to the present. . . Maloney's feeling no pain. She's got a nice new job at the ASPCA.

Delicately referring to Maloney's "national recognition for managing high-profile dog fighting cases" the ASPCA placed Maloney in charge of various business units including Humane Law Enforcement, Veterinary Forensics, Government Affairs/Legislative Initiatives, Field Services and the New York City Anti-Cruelty Center.

Some gig, huh? ASPCA Veterinary Forensics. Dang.”

The other blog:

To summarize the highlights (quoting here from the blog):

"For 12 hours on October 28, 2008, the Woodall family watched helplessly as agents of the Humane Society of the United States, Norred and Associates, the ASPCA, local humane societies and local law enforcement swarmed over their property.

Among those executing the Woodall raid were: . . .

Melinda Merck, the ASPCA's "forensic veterinarian." . . .

The Woodall home, barn and wooded property was searched for nearly 12 hours. Their 13 American Pit Bull Terrier dogs -- eleven adult dogs and two puppies -- were seized on suspicion of dogfighting. . . .

The Woodall family, with good reason, feared that their dogs would be summarily killed as a result of their "rescue". Joe and Tracy's two young sons were devastated by the loss of their special pet dog, Purdy, who slept with them each night.

Yet after the dogs were loaded into Merck's ASPCA paddywagon and taken to another county several hours away from their home, and despite news reports, Joe was never arrested. He was never charged with a crime.

It took the Woodalls two months of frantic effort, and a court order, to get their dogs back. When they did come home, they arrived in sorry condition after eight weeks of "assessment for dogfighting." All had open sores. The gleaming, flawless coats evident in Joe's videos on the day of the raid were gone. Two of the dogs had more significant health problems, especially one of the pups. All of them showed signs of stress and trauma. . . .

Eight weeks of "assessment" failed to identify any evidence of dogfighting in any of Joe Woodall's dogs.

You'd think that the ASPCA's so-called forensic expert could have established that the dogs were in excellent condition, and had beautiful, very friendly temperaments in something less than eight weeks, wouldn't you?

Or was Merck's only purpose to sign off on the seizure of dogs--any dogs--and let the chips fall where they may? . . .

Nothing about what happened to Joe Woodall's dogs demonstrated care about their welfare. Nothing. HSUS's and ASPCA's only interest was in seizing the dogs.

Joe Woodall thinks their purpose is to exterminate all "pit bulls." I think he's right. . . .”

The more you dig into the ASPCA’s actions, they more they stink.

I have, however, changed my mind about donating money to the ASPCA. I have a large jar full of coins that I will personally donate to Ed Sayres, with only one condition: He’ll need a proctologist to extract the money.

Christie Keith

And I’m sorry, Christie - I guess I’m pointing the finger at you. You are an ‘experienced journalist’ as your biography on this site states.

I see that later down in the thread you say that you won't be back, but since you called me out by name, I'm going to respond.

Yes, I am an "experienced journalist." But this is a blog, which is not a license to not do due diligence, but rather a venue for discussion and open-ended posting. And the standard of "due diligence" for posting things for discussion in a public venue is different than that for a feature article, a news story, or even an opinion piece.

Blogging is a very specific kind of journalism, and I think we practice a very high standard of ethical blogging here. We put out what we think, we correct ourselves when we're wrong, we listen to our readers and change our minds when someone presents a convincing differing viewpoint -- that is, in my view, ethical blogging.

I realize many things have been alleged about this case by commentors here and bloggers elsewhere, but I'm not responsible for defending other people's positions. If there is something specific that I said here that is factually wrong, point it out and, if you're right, I'll be the first to correct my misstatement.

If, on the other hand, you simply feel that my opinion is wrong, well... that's not a matter of due diligence. That's not a matter of ethics, as long as I don't silence dissent. That's just what blogging IS.

As to the tone on the blog, like Gina, I've been thinking about what you said, and will continue to do so. But again, speaking only for myself and what I say, I don't feel I was particularly snarky or unkind anywhere in this thread. If I thought I was, I'd apologize for that, too.

I truly believe I was just very passionate about what I think.

Bottom line: It seems to me you want a full-on investigation of Pets Alive, but I don't agree with your evaluation of that being the story here.

I genuinely think that investigating Pets Alive is a distraction at this point, unless the A says that they lied when they claimed to not have ever heard of them and comes out with a new story that the problem was their lack of qualifications. THEN it would be part of the story.

Until then, the story is that ASPCA didn't consider giving Oreo a second chance elsewhere, to the point that they said they HAD NEVER EVEN HEARD OF one of their own Alliance rescue partners who does sanctuary work.

If and when ASPCA blames their decision on Pets Alive's reputation or qualifications, or if some one leaks a story that was the reson they shunned their offer, then my journalistic opinion would be that they'd be a suitable target for further digging.

But right now, it's kind of like investigating whether a rape victim was a virgin, isn't it? Turning the focus of the investigation off the PROCESS STORY about the ASPCA and its handling of Oreo into being an investigation of Pets Alive doesn't make sense to me as a journalist.

The story would have to change for that to make sense to me. Otherwise, it would be just scurrying off after a distraction, to take the heat and focus off the ASPCA.

Again, if Pets Alive's reputation or qualifications become relevant to what happened to Oreo, either by ASPCA statement or credible leak, I'll be all over it. Until then, it's not that I'm a bad journalist or a mean person, it's that I have an honest difference of opinion about what I should be investigating or writing about.

And this is not me being nasty. It's just an even-toned explanation of my thought process, and one I'm perfectly happy to explain, discuss, and even reconsider. But this is how I see it right now.

Kristy B

I also wanted to comment on the idea of Oreo's recovery time and the orthopedic devices/methods used in her recovery. I suffered a catosptrophic knee injury 4 years ago. One of the many repairs that had to be performed required a screw to be set in my tibia and that screw is near the surface of the skin and hurts to this day when touched, or exposed to any temperature variations. I have physically recovered-but that pain is still there. I will venture a guess that the orthopedic screws and equipment were causing pain for Oreo hence the "aggressive" behavior.


I just wanted to say that despite the overly emotional and/or caustic nature of some of the discussion here, there has been more interesting and relevant info. dug up and more thoughtful commentary about this case than I've seen anywhere else.

Back to lurking.


I wonder... given the cruel history poor Oreo endured, the terrible physical trauma she suffered, the extensive healing process that her "corrective" surgeries required, and the likelihood of a lifetime of pain (as per the comments posted here), was "saving" her the right choice to begin with? She had no one she'd ever been able to trust and, apparently, was unable to connect with any of her caregivers even after she was rescued. Was the decision to operate rather than euthanize done for her benefit, or for ASPCA PR purposes?

And once the decision was made to go forward with the surgeries and the rehab, why the change of heart only five months into it? They had to have known this was going to be a long-term rehabilitation; what could possibly justify quitting only a few months into it?

They should have either euthanized her to begin with, or carried through with her rehab and given her a chance for health (both physical and mental). Whatever the ASPCA's reasoning, poor Oreo's entire life consisted of suffering, five months of which is on their hands.


I think there are a set of widely held beliefs within the pit bull rescue community that are perhaps coloring part of this discussion without everyone realizing it.

While this may be slowly changing, it's generally been the case that pit bull rescues consider it unethical *not* to euthanize any dog that shows any aggressive behavior towards humans - no matter the circumstances of the aggression (that is, including aggression in response to pain or extreme fear etc). I would say that this is due to 2 beliefs:

1) The idea that human aggression under anything but a life or death threat to owner or dog is a serious temperament flaw in a pit bull, indicative of a fundamentally unstable dog (this is sort of the inverse of the mass media pit bull stereotype - here, pit bulls are supposed to be super dogs, willing to withstand any level of pain and abuse rather than bite a human)

and generally more importantly

2) the idea that whether or not the individual dog was justified in its aggression and/or can be rehabilitated, it's wrong to risk another black mark on the breed's reputation via the media storm that will occur if someone messes up in the management or rehabilitation of the dog, and a bite occurs. I think perhaps people outside the pit bull community don't realize how prevalent this idea is - putting an individual dog down "for the good of the breed" is said quite regularly. The belief is that while other breeds can afford to have imperfect dogs, fearful dogs etc. and perhaps rehabilitate them, there's no room for imperfect behavior from pit bulls anymore.

Here's a link to the pit bull rescue code of ethics endorsed by several prominent rescue groups:

Note the section on the standard for pit bull temperament. People take the last line about "is never aggressive to humans" very seriously (as evidenced in part by the note about not rescuing the puppies of temperamentally incorrect dams).

Anyway, this might be in part informing some of the discussion of the criteria for labeling a dog as human aggressive, and in deciding what should be done with a dog who has been declared human aggressive.


well, this all baffles me, because I thought what was important was a dog, not whether ASPCA has a "process" that recognizes a different organization that may (or may not) have experience with a human-aggressive dog. I'm also rather stunned that the proprietors have allowed to pass without comment so many truly vicious and unjustified accusations about ASPCA (though they have chosen to criticize me and other dissenting commenters, which is their right, of course)

Be that as it may, I will suggest as backup to monkeypedia's post that those who are interested in supporting physically abused pit bulls WITH undoubtedly outstanding temperament consider sending some $$$ to the rescuers of "Faye" from the recent big dogfighting bust. Faye is a dog whose lips were ripped off (either by dog or human) leaving her with a scary appearance and dangerous medical condition. Despite this, her eager-to-love behavior COMPELLED people to try to save her:


well, this all baffles me, because I thought what was important was a dog, not whether ASPCA has a “process” that recognizes a different organization that may (or may not) have experience with a human-aggressive dog.

That lack of process would appear to be what killed the actual, (previously) living, breathing dog.

Gina Spadafori

Anyway, this might be in part informing some of the discussion of the criteria for labeling a dog as human aggressive, and in deciding what should be done with a dog who has been declared human aggressive.

Comment by monkeypedia — November 25, 2009

Great background. Thanks for adding it. It does provide some missing context, to be sure.


Hmmm. Maybe the ASPCA started off with good intentions, then came to believe Oreo was in more pain (mentally or physically) than they had expected and/or could handle. If that were the case, though, you'd think they would just admit it and either ask for help or publish the details that led them to this conclusion so those who have been following her progress and donating for her care would understand their choice. Especially in light of the publicity Oreo's case has already received.

With the information currently available, their final choice doesn't make sense. They've got to know that, too, so why aren't they providing the necessary info?

Gina Spadafori

I have a very dear, long-time friend (my "consigliere,"I call him) who is one of the world's top experts at crisis communications.

Over the years he has saved the behinds of many a Fortune 500 company, top exec, celebrity, etc. He believes many organizations that are actually quite good at day-to-day public relations really blow crisis communications, the expert practice of which can be counter-intuitive to "normal PR" in many ways.

My suspicion is that as far as crisis communications go -- and that's what the A was dealing with in this case, all other issues aside -- the A just didn't have the expertise someone like my friend has. Nor, frankly, could they/should they have hired him given their non-profit status, since he doesn't even answer the phone unless guaranteed a retainer that's more than than the annual income of most U.S. households.

Public relations aside, there's no doubt that many animal advocacy organizations are now struggling with the changing expectations of animal-lovers who no longer accept killing of pets by "shelters" as unquestionably the job of those organizations alone to decide.

Susan Fox

Granted that all you say is undoubtedly true and that Ed Sayles should never be allowed near an animal, but I still have trouble believing that ASPCA could use a dog like Oreo to raise buku money, kill her and then be surprised that people are upset, all other things aside.

It also seems that the whole "dog aggression" issue may have wandered into "what everyone knows" territory without a definition based on empirical evidence. As in "we know it when we see it.", but do we?


Comment by Susan Fox — November 25, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

It also seems that the whole “dog aggression” issue may have wandered into “what everyone knows” territory without a definition based on empirical evidence. As in “we know it when we see it.”, but do we?

That's where I find myself being most reminded of the saying I mentioned earlier, that "the only thing two dog trainers can agree upon is that a third trainer is wrong".


There's a long thread on Dogster right now, discussing exactly what counts as "human aggressive," and whether fear-based biting counts.


Interesting background, monkeypedia. However, if this were part of the ASPCA's "reasoning," I think they would have included it in their whining "justification"--something like, hey, we only did what some of the Pit Bull rescue groups do and recommend. But they didn't say a word about this.

I think it's far more relevant that the ASPCA was happy to hire a mass murderer of Pit Bulls, and to send out their forensic "expert" to seize and injure a family's good-natured, well-cared for Pit Bulls.

The arrogance of the ASPCA throughout this disgraceful episode has been unbelievable. Sooner or later, they need to understand that they are accountable for their actions, especially since they take money from others. The Fatal Plus that was used to execute Oreo was paid for by donors who had no idea their money would be used this way. They thought they were sending money to save Oreo, not to execute her.

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