Articles ASPCA

Oreo and 60,858 Others

Today is the three-year anniversary of the ASPCA’s killing of Oreo, an abused dog, who a No Kill sanctuary offered to save. Since the ASPCA killed Oreo and then killed Oreo’s Law, legislation which would have made it illegal for NYS shelters to kill animals who rescue groups were willing to save, 60,858 animals who had an immediate place to go have also been killed.

Excerpted from my new book, Friendly Fire:


Meet Oreo. Oreo was a one-year-old dog who was thrown off the roof of a six-floor Brooklyn apartment building in 2009. Oreo suffered two broken legs and a fractured rib. Several of the neighbors in the building reported having heard the sound of her being beaten. The ASPCA nursed her back to health and arrested the perpetrator. They also dubbed her the “miracle dog” and fundraised off her plight. But the miracle was short lived.

According to ASPCA President Ed Sayres, when Oreo recovered from her injuries, she started to show signs of aggression. After the money was counted and safely deposited into ASPCA bank accounts, Sayres made the decision to kill her. (Although there were videos taken of Oreo, the ASPCA has refused to release them and the only public documentation of Oreo is photographs of ASPCA employees hugging her—their own faces inches from hers—which do not demonstrate any aggression). The New York Times reported the story the day before Oreo’s scheduled execution. The reaction among animal lovers was strong and swift.

If it was true that Oreo was still traumatized and untrusting, who could blame her? She needed time. Although the ASPCA could have cared for Oreo as long as it took to get her to trust again, Sayres refused. But others came forward to offer what the ASPCA would not: time and space to learn that not all humans are abusers. Pets Alive, a No Kill sanctuary near the ASPCA which specializes in rehabilitating aggressive dogs (and, if that proves impossible, safely caring for them for the rest of their lives), contacted the ASPCA to ask if they could save Oreo. They made numerous telephone calls and sent numerous emails. They were ignored, hung-up on and lied to. Two volunteers of the group even went to the ASPCA but were escorted out after Sayres and others in charge of Oreo’s fate refused to meet with them.

On a cold, Friday November morning in 2009, Oreo was killed; not by her abuser, but by those whose mission it was to protect her. The kennel that the sanctuary readied in anticipation of her arrival lay empty and unused that day, filled with a soft bed, a pool of water and several toys for her to play with. Instead, Oreo’s body was discarded in a landfill.

As word spread among animal lovers about what had happened, the furor and condemnation of the ASPCA was severe. No Kill rescue organizations, tired of shelters killing animals they wanted to save, adopted Oreo as their mascot and sought the introduction of a bill that would make it illegal for a shelter to kill an animal a rescue organization was willing to save. The New York State legislator who introduced the legislation dubbed it “Oreo’s Law.”

Although Oreo’s death was the catalyst, the legislation was desperately needed statewide. A survey of New York State rescue groups revealed that 71 percent had been turned away from shelters, which then killed the very animals they had offered to save. In one case, a rescuer described how the shelter manager specifically walked a dog her group wanted to save right past them and into the room where animals are killed. It was estimated that if Oreo’s Law passed, roughly 25,000 animals a year—most of them young, friendly and healthy—would be saved rather than killed by New York shelters.

Ed Sayres—spiteful over the backlash against his killing of Oreo—declared that he would use his leverage in the State Capitol to defeat the bill. And although the public support for the bill was overwhelming, with calls to New York legislators shutting down the email servers in the Assembly not once but twice, Oreo’s Law was defeated by a coalition of shelters and other organizations including Best Friends Animal Society, spearheaded by the ASPCA…

Since then, 60,858 animals who rescue groups were ready, willing and able to save have been killed by NYS shelters instead.

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