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« Weekly Roundup - Week Ending 2/14/10 | Main | No Kill Communities vs No Kill Shelters -- and why confusing the two endangers the movement »

February 15, 2010


H Houlahan

The objection about mandated release of any dog not proclaimed dangerous BY A COURT to any "rescue" with an EIN number and no criminal charges is not just about the fear of hoarding and Animal Planet style cruelty and neglect.

Some rescues may be okay to place ordinary run-of-the-mill dogs in pet homes, but totally out of their depth, and running entirely on emotional projections, when faced with a "death row" dog that may be unfixable, or if fixable, needs absolutely EXPERT, clear-eyed, unsentimental intervention for training, rehab, and an ultimate decision about placement.

I had serious concerns about Pets Alive's ability to handle a truly dangerous dog, based solely on the sentimental, dog-ignorant rhetoric on their own website, before their history of institutional neglect and hoarding, and their serious financial troubles, came to light.

Whether or not the A did the right thing for Oreo (who was a she, BTW), I strongly suspect they had the same take on Pets Alive as I did, but based on more knowledge.

Just as with individuals. There are plenty of nice people who could provide a good home for a friendly abandoned beagle, and would be a disastrous placement for a sharp male Malinois with a bite history. It is a disservice to the dog, the adopter, and the community to let them lead with their emotions and adopt such a dog anyway.



I continue to remove myself from commenting on the specific case about Oreo - I clearly don't know the dog's temperament and what evaluations were done and I amn not terribly familiar with Pets Alive.

And I think that that is probably one of the biggest hangups on the whole thing is because the natural tendency is to instantly relate back to how the law applies to specifically the namesake of the law.

Sure, there would be a limited number of groups that would be capable of handling a "sharp male Malinois with a bite history". But I also don't see many of those groups standing in line to try to save one either. There may be an instance from time to time of a naive organization trying to do-so -- but I think that that is certainly the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of organizations try to shy away from these types of cases because the dogs are not highly adoptable.

While I don't want to completely discredit the opposition's point of view -- I do think they have valid concerns - -I think they're concerns represent the extreme exceptions that are unlikely to come up on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, the law itself seems to address a very common rule of animals being unnecessarily killed in shelters on a daily basis.

Which is why I tend to be more supportive of the law than less supportive, because the law addresses a common, every-day problem, where as the opposition reflects extreme and abnormal circumstances that may or may not really ever happen.

Social Mange

Brent, thank you very much for summarizing the major issues in "Oreo's Law". I hadn't really been able to get my head around the issues, this helped. I know your blog focuses on dogs, but my experience in Ontario is that cats are much more at risk of euthanasia in shelters and pounds because of sheer numbers, and many shelters are unwilling to work with rescues to save the cats. The current Ontario government is not animal-friendly (see Ontario's draconian breed-specific legislation) so I can't see them passing something this sensible; will have to push it when the next government comes in.


Thank you for this excellent post, Brent. It's a tremendous help for those of us who haven't been able to keep up w/ No Kill.

Like you, I can't claim to know Oreo's true temperament. However, it seems no suprise to me that a dog who has been neglected, abused and thrown off a high rise, might be temperamental and erratic.

And we have no way to know if he was given a fair chance at rehabilitation.

It just seems like more of the same as w/ BSL. We punish (and kill) dogs for what their owners have done to them. Admittedly, often it has to be done. But, morally, it I believe that every other option must be exhausted, and if there is none, this must be done in sorrow, with deep regret, and hope for forgiveness.

Thank you for the link to Winograd's piece. I believe it is a must read for anyone concerned w/ Animal Welfare and No Kill.


This is the exact same crap we heard from CA shelters when Hayden's Act was introduced in California.

Somehow, for more than a decade, us Californians have managed to avoid the pitfalls opponents of Oreo's Law keep bringing up.

Perhaps the act would be better served w/ a name change so that the highly emotional and irrational behavior people exhibit when they hear "Oreo" will go away. Still, folks will oppose this Act because it affects the status quo and well, shelters don't like it when that happens. It's appalling the A is taking such a stupid stance on this act since it mirrors almost exactly California's law...which AGAIN, has not proven to be an issue and has, in fact, saved countless lives (especially of the Pit Bull variety).


To me, it seems like the law would clearly do more good than harm. If a case came up where someone had to turn a dog over to another shelter under the law and they felt this was "a fate worse than death", I have no doubt the law would be challenged to sort it out.


YB! - there is a great quote out there (and I can't find it right now, but I'll paraphrase) that says something to the extent that it is bad policy to try to create a law to deal with the one-in-a-million type of event. In this case, it seems that the opposition to the law seem to oppose it because they are trying to eliminate a very low-probability event whereas the law, is trying to prohibit common events. And I agree, while the opposition's points of view are not without some merit, the law seems as if it would clearly do more good than harm -- by a substantial amount.

And thanks Rinalia for pointing out the success of Hayden's law in California - which is the basis for the New York law.

And, BTW, I did change the language in the original post to note that Oreo was indeed a female dog.

H Houlahan

No argument that animals are unnecessarily killed in shelters.

How many of them had rescue groups clamoring to take them, and the horrible cruel shelter killed the dog "for spite?"


The one interaction I've had with a public shelter in NY State was when I sprung an English shepherd with a bite history.

Normally that dog -- a return that had been adopted out once by the same shelter -- would have been put down automatically based on the history.

But a canny employee smelled a rat, got the real story (a totally justified "bite" that resulted in no injury -- a "bite" that any one of us would PRAY our family dog would deliver in the same circumstances -- and a family forced to give the dog up because of it, against their will) and made him available to a qualified rescue.

This little paragon is now in a fine home with young kids, because that's where he belongs.

I have a strong suspicion that under a law that by its name and intentions creates an adversarial relationship between shelters and rescues, we would have never heard about Teddy. When the shelter sought us out, they made sure that we were going to assess rigorously and train thoughtfully before considering adopting him to anyone. They would be deranged to put themselves into a position where we could have demanded the dog even if we were a bunch of kooks ourselves.

It's interesting that people assume that anyone with reservations about this proposed law is "on the side" of pounds.

I'm the behavior director for a national breed rescue organization.

I don't want to be viewed as an adversary by pounds and shelters. I don't want them to circle the wagons.

And I don't want dogs that might be more complicated than the friendly stray beagle to be killed quickly and quietly -- without ever appearing on the adoption floor or online -- because the shelter fears that if they make the dog "public" they will be subject to demands from 501(c)3's who have no ability to do the right thing for and with such a dog.

I don't see how this law would prevent a pound that is either committed to evil, or made paranoid by the prospect of demand releases, from just keeping the dogs and their deaths anonymous. It doesn't mandate any sort of publication of the dogs in custody, viewing opportunities, hold period for owner turn-ins, or adoption hours.

Eric Goebelbecker

It's interesting how you say that the two sides are coming to different conclusions based on the same idea. Winograd seems to disagree. According to him, the morals, ideals and motivations of anyone who dares question the law must be suspect. He even gets so busy questioning the legitimacy of ALC that he misses that he's responding to a *reprint* of an article he already responded to. ALC didn't write it.

As far as the law doing more good than yourself have criticized that position in the past, haven't you?



There are shelters everywhere that for a variety of reasons have decided that killing animals is preferred to working with rescue groups. One of the reasons Tom Skeldon got ran out of Toledo is because the various rescue groups were annoyed that he preferred to not work with the rescue groups and kill the animals instead. Our own shelter in KCMO in the past year tripled the number of animals gotten out of the shelter - -in large part because the new privatized group was more willing to work with rescues.

And then, there are the shelters that will not adopt out, or release to rescues, any animals of particular breeds. These scenerios are commonplace in other parts of the country, and I would find it pretty amazing if it did not exist in New York (even if the ASPCA, who is in question here, may not the biggest offender).

The law does require any animal that is planned to be killed must be made public in advance of the killing -- so there would be no ability to legally hide killing an animal. And the shelter is only subject to the demands of 501c3s if they make the decision that they are going to kill the animal.

Eric, Winograd's opinions on other people's motivations are his, and not mine. I do not know any of these people well enough to speak to what may or may not be their true motivations -- so I am basing this purely on their written statements.

As for your other idea, I think I was questioning whether the law was really doing more good than harm...


I don't get why people will support law after law that give AC the power to seize/kill and yet when a law is proposed to give people the power to save, its opposed. All by the same group of people who CLAIM to be animal advocates.

I'm also not seeing real debate on the wording of the law to improve it - its outright opposition. This law will create an advesarial relationship between shelters/rescues?? That's non-sensical to me...a caring shelter will be a caring shelter and this law will change nothing for them. What is stopping the rescues spouting "dog ignorant rhetoric" from doing these disasterous mis-deeds now?

Rinalia's post says it best - this law in the end will just shed a little more light on the killing in NY and offer a minimal amount of protection for these animals.


Stepping outside of the debate of Oreo's law itself for a second (and I hate the name!)- I have to say that I want to second HH's original comment- it's not just about the overplayed fear of the extreme case of placing a potentially dangerous dog with a known-but-not-charged hoarder. I've worked in several different shelters and gotten to know several different "less than reputable" rescues. And while I've rarely seen the Hayden Bill "abused," I've seen it used a few times in ways that I was sorry about. People will always disagree about rescue ethics and practices, but because of the Hayden Law, I always feel it's a little shady when open door/public shelters deny/turn down/won't work with private 501c3 rescues/limited intake facilities. Basically, I'm not sure they have the right to, whether they like their rescue practices or not.

Every shelter I know personally (in California) has certain rescues they "won't work with." And I'm not sure this is legal, because of the Hayden Bill. If pushed, I think animals would have to be released to these rescues. I only know of one case where this happened, and it worked out fine. But I know plenty of cases where there were good reasons, and the shelters choose not to air the bad blood/dirty laundry of the reasons, but still are making good choices *for the animals. These choices aren't necessarily death sentences- they may mean adoptions or alternate placements, but I still think they're not legal. This may be some of the queasiness.



Again, I'm not denying that this is a possibility -- but, a thought and a question:

1) If they are a known to be hoarders, but not convicted, there is at least a law there to go after these organizations. It may not always be successful, but there is a safety net of sorts.

2) Do you think there are the number of animals that you feel like went to situations you were "sorry about" is even close to the number of animals that would have been killed by less than reputable shelters had the law not been in effect?


the proposed law might have a better chance if its supporters, and proposers didn't insist on calling it "Oreo's Law" which only increases the suspicions that this is about bashing ASPCA and not about saving dogs. Read any of Winograd's posts on this subject for confirmation.

All the evidence is that ASPCA made the RIGHT call about Oreo. No one.. even the so called "no kill" advocates.. believes that dangerous dogs MUST be saved.

Shall we make this debate about whether "no kill" actually means "no dogs ever get dead" or about whether society can afford to keep alive dangerous dogs (at the inevitable expense of other, more worthy dogs)?

Or about those mean nasty huge organizations stealing resources from those oh-so-sincere, infinitely experienced and reputable-because-they-say-so small organizations? Or about those mean nasty huge organizations deliberately and willfully killing animals that can/should be saved? Or about front line advocates slandering/libeling the leaders of those organizations, and writing blather without ever actually asking ASPCA to explain its decision about Oreo?

There's a difference between PETA killing virtually every animal it takes into its "shelters", HSUS advocating that all fightbust dogs get dead and ASPCA making a difficult call in this one particular case.

Why should I trust the authors and advocates for this law any more than the organizations in question? The clear history of laws like this is that they have BAD unintended consequences.

Go back and start from the beginning with a law that will try to accomplish what you want rather than driving away organizations and people that support the goal of saving animals that should be saved. (a number that by winograd's own estimate is 90-95%. NOT 100%).



I agree that the law would likely garner less resistance if the name were changed. In many ways, that was my reasoning for this post, because I think at this point, in part because of the name of the law & criticism of the organizations the ASPCA has dug their heals in in opposition to the law -- even though the law has been amended to cover off on all their sticking points.

My goal of the post was to go back and try to look at this -- I think fairly objectively - because I feel like both sides have let emotions get in the way in this case.

And no, nobody is saying that all animals will be saved in No Kill -- it is that no healthy or treatable animals will be killed. This certainly includes dogs with aggression issues that are not seen at treatable (which, of course, creates a bit of a gray area).

In fairness, there is only one example of a law like this -- which is Hayden's Law, and it really hasn't had "BAD" unintended consequences.

Laurie Bleier

Oreo's Law is not just about aggressive pit bulls!

Every day across the state, litters of puppies, kittens, and friendly and healthy adult animals are killed by town boards and shelter managers who refuse to allow local rescue organizations and sanctuaries to take animals out of their facilities.

The bill, which is to be introduced to the State Legislature seeks to limit the virtually unrestrained power of non humane shelter professionals, from Oneonta to Montauk, to kill animals and to heap hostile and vindictive treatment on the dedicated and hardworking rescue groups who wish to save them.

Too often, these bureaucrats are either too detached or incompetent to provide any real collaborative outreach with alternative rescue resources in their own communities.

Reputable groups everywhere must hold their breath as they witness the routine, inhumane treatment of homeless animals. Fear of reprisal or suspension from saving animals at their local kill shelters, even right here in NYC, have driven rescue groups and individuals from speaking out about horrific conditions that exist there. Oreo’s Law will change all this and save thousands.

In response to the Oreo tragedy, New York State Senator Thomas Duane and Assembly Member Micah Kellner introduced Oreo's Law, (A9449), a state wide bill that will grant legitimate animal protection organizations the right to request that healthy and treatable animals be transferred to their care when a shelter is planning on killing them.Recently, an abused dog named Oreo was killed by the ASPCA in New York City. An offer from Pets Alive, a nearby sanctuary, to guarantee Oreo’s rehabilitation and lifelong care was completely rejected.

Modeled after a successful. ten-year old California law, Oreo’s Law will help reform repressive shelter systems that operate as death rows with taxpayer money.

We need your help.

We can never bring Oreo back, but we can make sure this never happens again in any New York State shelter. Oreo's Law will save thousands of dogs and puppies, cats and kittens (including feral cats), rabbits, and pocket pets currently being killed in shelters despite rescue groups willingness to save and re home them.

That is why No Kill leaders like Nathan Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center, Michael Mountain, founder of Best Friends Animal Society, the nation's top animal law professors, and the nation's most successful shelter directors have endorsed Oreo's Law. Read more.

What can you do?

We need your letters, telephone calls, and e-mails now! The bill is sitting in the Agriculture Committee. Click here to email Agriculture Committee Chair William Magee and urge a “Yes” vote for Oreo’s Law.

Contact your local Assembly Member and Senator and urge them to co-sponsor or vote “YES” on Oreo’s Law. You can find out who they are in seconds by clicking here.

Look under Governors and State Legislators.

Make it Personal: Legislators respond more if the e-mails and letters are unique, rather than part of a mass mailing.

Start with "My name is __________ ____________ and I vote in your district.

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