Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two Pieces from 'USA Today' on Oreo

USA Today has an interview with Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, a behaviorist with the ASPCA who worked with Oreo. He is asked about the opposition to releasing her to a sanctuary instead of killing her:
"Unless she was put in virtually complete isolation," she'd live a "life of constant stress," he said. She was so reactive to so many things that she was almost always agitated. "We tried to desensitize her, and that tended to make her more reactive. The kind of love, attention and handling that has worked with so many other dogs made her more hostile," he said. Drugging her might have lowered her aggression, but if drugs succeeded, "you have to be certain someone would always maintain and monitor this treatment for the next 12 to 14 years … and there can be organ damage over time." And finally, complete isolation from all people and animals is "not a quality of life we can accept."

In another piece, USA Today heads down the well worn path of rationalizing killing while pepetuating the myth of pet overpopulation:
In shelters across the country Friday, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dogs met Oreo's fate for the same reason she did: They were too violent — because people made them that way. At least Oreo got the benefit of months of efforts to try to make her capable of living peacefully in this world; most of the rest did not because most shelters haven't the time, resources or expertise to work with such animals.
[A]lso on Friday, thousands of perfectly friendly dogs lost their lives in shelters simply because of the numbers reality: No more animals could be crammed in, but more are always arriving because people get bored with them or don't feel like training them, or let them create litters. So discarded pets must die to make room for more discarded pets.

At some shelters, the kill rate is 90%, and the vast majority aren't too vicious or too sick to save. They're merely victims of overpopulation.

The piece suggests that compassionate people must come to terms with these "truths" even though it may be uncomfortable. The truth is that there is no such thing as pet overpopulation. The truth is that shelter pets do not have to be killed in order to make room for more. The truth is that we are a no kill nation of people who care about pets and know they deserve better.

Facing these truths may be uncomfortable at first for some, but the nature of life is change and evolution of thought. Thinking about the value of the lives of shelter pets and changing how we go about saving those lives is one way forward.


EmilyS said...

compare this:

In this area, good pit bulls find homes readily; troublesome pit bulls can find homes after some work; bad pit bulls get dead.

Any outrage about this?

(crickets crickets crickets)

It's what every responsible pit bull rescue does.

Brent said...


Yes, every rescue does this. The difference is, in 99% of the cases the rescue is the last end resort for the dog. There is nowhere else to go. Euthanasia is used as a last resort when there are no other options.

But in the ASPCA case, there WAS somewhere else for the dog to go. There WAS another option. That's why there is outrage -- and that's why it makes it different.

Falen said...

the one thing i did like about that article was that they emphasized that people were the reasons the dogs were "violent" (did anyone else find that an odd word choice?) and it wasn't *shock* due to breed

Cait said...

I guess what I find frustrating about that story is that in my expeience, if desensitizing is stressing out the dog, you are moving WAY too fast. Given how severe Oreo's injuries were, how early COULD they have started doing desensitization work? Was she ALWAYS so fearful of humans that she could not be handled? And what's wrong with anti-anxiety drugs for reactivity?

I also wonder about the word choice of violent. I really wish there was a published case study or two about Oreo's behavior and specific human aggression.