Articles ASPCA

The Need for Oreo’s Law


Sandy* supports Oreo’s Law. She used to rescue cats from a shelter in Texas, where most cats and kittens are put to death. For years, Sandy rescued and placed hundreds of animals every year. She no longer can, because she was kicked out of the shelter for “criticizing” it. After years of broken promises that things would improve—that animals would be fed regularly, that sick animals would be given their medication, that programs which would save more lives would be implemented, that customer service would improve, that abusive staff would be removed—she was tired of looking the other way, so she went public with her concerns, and was “fired” as a volunteer. The cats she could be saving are now being killed.

Sarah and Mike* support Oreo’s Law. They live in Washington. They still rescue, but at great personal emotional cost. They don’t dare criticize; they don’t dare try to reform the shelter, because they have seen what happens when others tried. They have seen rescuers turned away and the animals they were willing to save be killed instead. So they go into the last place on earth they feel comfortable going as animal lovers: a regressive shelter that mistreats the animals and needlessly kills. They see evidence of neglect all around them: a dog bleeding in his kennel who is not getting any care. A cat who should be on twice daily antibiotics but is receiving none, her nose encrusted shut, her eyes barely open. Sarah and Mike have been told that they cannot provide care to these animals themselves because of union rules. And as long as staff is walking around, they don’t dare. They are allowed to save a precious few, and for those animals, they look the other way, smile when they want to cry, and quietly go about their business.

I’ve been doing shelter assessments for six years. I’ve assessed shelters in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and elsewhere. I have also worked with rescue groups and shelters in virtually all parts of the country. As part of my work, there is one question I have always asked of rescuers:

Do you look the other way at inhumane treatment of animals in the shelter for fear you will lose your ability to rescue?

And the answer, invariably, is “Yes.” They describe how other rescuers were barred from saving animals as retaliation for complaining about the shelter, even if they first offered suggestions and when those were ignored, went public. And so rather than see the animals killed, rescuers have learned to keep quiet. To see the dog bleeding in his cage but not complain. To see staff playing cards in a back room or socializing up front while the animals languish in their own waste, fail to get treatment for their medical conditions, or see cruelty calls ignored by officers who are not being held accountable. In Philadelphia, rescuers who complained found that the animals they called about and stated they were en route to pick up would be dead, killed out of spite, by the time they arrived.

Read “Courage & Cowardice in the Fight for a No Kill Nation” by clicking here.

Because the ASPCA is exploiting people’s fears about hoarders in order to derail Oreo’s Law, the No Kill Advocacy Center has offered an amendment to defray these concerns and still save thousands of lives every year from regressive shelters. Read the letter by clicking here.

Both of these documents and more are available in one central Oreo’s Law page. Click on the “No Kill” tab above and then scroll down to “Oreo’s Law.” Or click here. The page includes background, a copy of the bill, interviews, and more. It will be periodically updated.


* The names have been changed at their request to protect them from any or further retaliation. Sandy hopes to return to the shelter some day. Mike and Sarah are quietly saving those they can.