Friday, November 20, 2009

ASPCA Defends Its Handling of Oreo

posted by: Samer R. 1 day ago

by Ed Sayres

Ed Sayres is the President and CEO of the ASPCA. In this post, he defends the organization's handling of Oreo:

A great deal of misinformation regarding Oreo's euthanasia has been passed around on the Internet -- everything from what time Oreo was euthanized (it was 3 p.m.) to Pets Alive's credentials (they are NOT a member of the Mayor's Alliance). In addition, critics have seized on Oreo's plight as an opportunity to discredit the ASPCA -- which is interesting when you consider that one of our most ardent critics, Camille Hankins, the Director of Win Animal Rights, was convicted of animal cruelty in 1995 when nearly 100 animals were found stuffed into a tiny, filthy trailer that she rented.

While I certainly think all of these issues merit rebuttal, I believe it is critical that we address the questions and concerns regarding our decision not to send Oreo to a sanctuary.

It is first vital to consider the very definition of "animal sanctuary." The mission of animal sanctuaries is generally to be safe havens, where the resident animals are given the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible in a protective environment. Due to the extreme emotional and physical strain Oreo suffered, her living conditions at a sanctuary would have been anything but "natural," and her quality of life would have been poor at best. She would have been forced to live a life of isolation with extremely limited human contact and virtually no animal contact. For an animal that is distinguished by sophisticated social cognition and communication, such an existence could hardly be defined by the word "sanctuary."

Many groups like Pets Alive dispute that this would have been Oreo's fate. But how can that be anything but empty rhetoric when these groups had no access to Oreo or her evaluations? We had our own professional behaviorists, as well as an independent veterinary behaviorist, conduct numerous evaluations, and in our experience, the findings were not consistent with sanctuary placement. We spent five months with Oreo -- day in and day out -- not only evaluating her behavior but trying to rehabilitate her. This is central to the ASPCA's mission. Just since 2003, when I joined the ASPCA, we have rehabilitated over 1,200 animal cruelty victims at a cost of over 5 million dollars. Why would Oreo be any different?

The fact is... she wasn't. Despite the sensational nature of her injuries, she was treated with the same love and respect -- and given the greatest of care and rehabilitation -- that we afford all of our animals. But at the end of the day, and more often than the animal welfare community discusses, we made the most humane decision we could.

There is no "Oreo conspiracy," as some have claimed. This is simply, and tragically, the case of a heartbreaking decision made all the more difficult by the ignorance and hypocrisy of a few.