Thursday, February 18, 2010

Flip This Dog for Profit: Mandatory Edition

HT to Fugly Horse of the Day.

Here's how dogs pulled from the Los Angeles pounds are carefully "placed" by a charitable animal rescue "organization:"

Well, at least the price is high enough that it's unlikely anyone is buying them for animal experiments or fight bait.

Check out rescues as carefully as you would vet a private breeder. A pretty website is not the same thing as a solid reputation.

Now -- will the ersatz rescuers in California stop sending dogs to this woman for resale? Or is it "out of sight, out of mind?"

I'm taking some heat from other animal welfare advocates about my skepticism regarding the proposed "Oreo's Law" in New York State.

Please note that word. Skepticism. Not opposition. Though that could change.

The way to convince a skeptic is, possibly not to scream about how everyone who is agin' us eats puppies for breakfast.

Advocates for the proposed law claim that the requirement that "rescues" have a 501(c)3 designation and their principles have no criminal convictions or active complaints for animal abuse are sufficient safeguards for the dogs that would be subject to mandatory no-questions-asked release.

Do they have any idea how rare convictions for animal abuse are? How many serial abusers dodge conviction over and over through no virtue of their own?

In fact, most animal welfare advocates do know how rare and difficult it is to get a conviction, especially when an abuser or hoarder has set him or her self up as a "rescue." They are the first to open up a litany of tales of the ones that got away, and are still out there running scams and inflicting cruelty.

Some claim, presenting no evidence, that the ASPCA maliciously killed the proposed law's namesake out of spite -- and not, as the A claims, because the dog was too dangerous to keep alive.

Concerns about the competence and stability of Pets Alive, the upstate rescue that went media-nuclear when ASPCA declined to give them this dog, are countered with "Well, it's not really about Oreo and Pets Alive."

Um, yeah ... it is.

The bill as it is currently proposed would have required the ASPCA to turn over what they say was a very scary dog to an organization that thinks this is a great story about their ability to rehab a "difficult" animal.

I'm not a huge fan of the ASPCA -- mostly because of their deceptive and manipulative fundraising practices. But they do seem to do a pretty good job at behavior intervention and assessment for the dogs in their NYC shelter. And they are a friend to the pit bull.

The only way the ASPCA could prevent the dog from being taken over by people who were surprised that chasing a feral around a pen trying to pet her didn't work out as a rehab program would be to have her adjudicated as a dangerous dog. Pronounced vicious by a court.

Of course, the NY court system has nothing better to do than review testimony about whether or not every dog in a shelter is or is not vicious.

This would certainly not take years in each and every case, forcing the publicly-funded shelters to keep dangerous dogs alive in conditions that cannot possibly provide an acceptable quality of life. Oh no, these cases will jump to the front of the dockets and be resolved in days! And the scrabbling sound in my attic these days is leprechauns!

The standard for a court of law to declare a dog vicious and order its death against the will of its owner should be very high.

The standard for the owner of an animal -- including a shelter -- to make a decision about potential danger from, and quality of life for, that animal has always been significantly different.

Does any animal owner really want to change either of those principles? How will that improve animal welfare?

Here's a thought. If I could not, by force of law, make a decision to euthanize a rescue animal that I had determined to be dangerous and/or incapable of enjoying an acceptable quality of life -- an animal that I, or my organization, owns -- then I wouldn't do rescue. Period. Let someone else have all the responsibility and none of the authority.

I don't think I'm the only one. Work your way forward for the unintended consequence of the week.

People who dismiss objections to sloppy thinking behind novel legislation with the assurance that "the courts will provide recourse" have no idea how long the courts take to do anything.

Nor the expense and disruption involved when a nonprofit or government agency must contend with nuisance actions, including maliciously-brought actions. Money and time that should be devoted to caring for animals gets diverted into lawyering.

I perceive that I am playing Cassandra when it comes to most animal welfare advocates. I'm used to that in every area of life by now. What's worse is the revisionism a year or ten later, when I should be able to pull out the toldyaso.

I join the irrepressible Fugs in the title of this post.


  1. I am glad to read all reasonable opinions on Oreo's Law, just like any dog issue. I draw the line at extremes but I don't get that from your view. I think the concerns you have are valid but for me, the potential benefits of this law would seem to far outweigh the potential pitfalls. I think with any legislation, there are going to be valid concerns about how it might not be all it's cracked up to be. Heck we can't seem to get agreement on what you would think are very basic issues (see Al Franken's anti-rape amendment to defense contractors bill) so I expect thoughtful consideration of all aspects of Oreo's Law. I can understand too the concern that you mention about wanting to have the final say on a dog you've rescued. But in the end, since we are not talking about dogs who are suffering and medically hopeless, I would rather err on the side of saving the dog, even though it contains inherent risk.

  2. Thank you Heather. I know personally of a least 2 rescues that I cringe whenever I hear about because of the lack of care and fast turn around of dogs all the while proclaiming to "rehab" them. We must remain inquizative and skeptical for the dogs sake in case like this.

  3. Dammit, Heather, I wuz gonna write almost the same thing.

    Wait ... now I don't have to.

    You know, you being snowed in may suck for you, but we're sure enjoying the increased blogging. :)

  4. 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, lazy 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 this 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.

  5. I did not fill out an application form for Maddy. I'm not sure if that makes me a bad dog owner or not.

    I do not know how a law can substitute for good judgment.

  6. Go ahead -- let these non-profits take any and every dog they want out of any shelter in the U.S., despite the non-profit's level of training and expertise in animal behavior, or the level of training and expertise in animal behavior of the shelter staff. (I'd love to see a list of shelters who refuse to turn "adoptable" animals over to ethical, reasonable rescuers. Might be a more productive conversation.)

    Within five years, we'll have dozens of laws (amendments?) popping up in every state, demanding that the rescue business -- because, for-profit or not, rescue IS a business -- be legislated so tightly, no one will be able to assist animals in any capacity without, minimally, a permit. How many bites does the "rescued" dog get before these laws arrive? I'm guessing one or two apiece on children's faces, with photos plastered across the television and blogosphere, will do the trick.

    When a dog arrives at a shelter and is behaviorally unadoptable, guess what? Not the shelter's fault. While it's fantastic that there are folks who care enough to work with these animals, time, energy, laws and resources are better spent attempting to resolve the issues that led to the dog being at the shelter in the first place, rather than demonizing folks who, to put it mildly, have their hands full.

    OR, go ahead and pass a law saying EVERY rescue and shelter in existence must adhere to Open Paw guidelines ( Now we've got a measurable standard by which to declare, "That organization didn't even try."

  7. Sarah -- part of the problem -- perhaps all of it -- hinges on the definition of "adoptable". Sue Sternberg has one, but you might not want to use it.

  8. Rescue is the new pet store.

    It's easy, and you can do it too! Just change up your business model (to warehouse and retail; buy low and sell high) and tap into precisely the same consumer behaviors that put the dogs trouble in the first place: facilitate impulse purchases, rely entirely on pathos in all marketing materials and make up colorful backstories for every dog; don't forget the sad photos).

    Having relocated the impulsive and emotional consumer from the local Petland to your attractive retail facility, do everything you can to leverage what you know about American consumer behavior to move dogs as quickly as possible.

    Justify this by publicly disdaining 'their' motives, and referring to yours as (what does Winograd call it?) 'redemptive'.

    Do it well enough, and often enough, and soon you will have your own private airplane for transporting dogs across state lines, just like our local 'no-kill shelter' does.

  9. I am lucky to live in a county where the local SPCA is actively trying to be no-kill, where they work with owners in over their heads instead of turning them into media events, where they contact breed rescues themselves rather than waiting for the rescues to contact them, and where they will give animals they want to put down a second chance based on my evaluation of their "rehabability".

    That being said, I think Oreo's law can be a good thing - but only if it includes some fairly stringent requirements for inspection and certification of the shelters/rescues eligible to pull these dogs. It does them no good to be pulled by some fluff-brained do-gooder and spend the rest of their lives in a tiny crate because they are truly dangerous - or even because they are beyond the expertise of their "rescuer". Death is NOT the worst thing that can happen.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. One other point that is possibly valuable here -- the Cold Noses Warm Beds story starts in California, which is, I suppose, part of the point of this exercise because Oreo's Law is modeled on the California law (IIRC known as the Hayden Act locally). But as the old saw goes, the plural of anecdote is not data, and I have to wonder how common this sort of laundering/resale operation really is.

  12. Pit bull laundering went on for years in CA. ie, pose as nice rescuer willing to take your foreclosed/evicted/stray/can't-keep-anymore dog off your hands and for the bargain basement price of $200, said rescuer will turn it around and find your dog a quick, magic home. Sure she will. Haven't seen 'her' advertise around in a while, but that doesn't mean she's stopped. That was super easy money and a very low priority, hard to trace crime.

  13. I'm leaving Laurie's boilerplate up as an example of how NOT to engage in thoughtful political discourse.

    It might work better if you READ the original post.

  14. Rob said...

    I did not fill out an application form for Maddy. I'm not sure if that makes me a bad dog owner or not.


    No fear. Helen did. You rode her coattails. Little did we know what kind of shady character she kept back home.

  15. Donna, do you mean that some character was charging people $200 when they surrender a dog, and then sorta making the dog go away?

    I just want to make sure I got that straight.

  16. My skepticism encompasses humane societies that conduct high profile seizures; rescue groups that charge exorbitant fees; rescuers with holier-than-thou attitudes - and people who adopt damaged pets so they can feel like anointed, evolved beings and brag about it to their friends. Toss in show dog fanciers who breed physical and behavioral crap to win ribbons and people who think that saying 'no' to your dog is tantamount to abuse - and you have a big, fugly cross-section of what's wrong with the World of Dogs today.

  17. Yes, that's right Heather. She operated out of the Sacramento area and ran a website that advertised her as a rescue. We intercepted on a few cases where people had sent or where about to send her dogs. A number of her 'saves' were found tied to a fence, dead or nearly dead (Tia Torres ended up with a few from that case) Not a nice lady, but unfortunately not the only one who's taken advantage of a pit bull owner's desperation.

  18. Heather,

    It's a well-reasoned post. I think it's probably unfortunate that this bill was proposed following an incident where the more reputable organization was denying a dog to the one with the more questionable reputation...and I think that changes how people view it. If this had been because a rescue in, say, Toledo were going after Tom Skeldon for not working with rescues I think people would see this differently. Maybe not.

    While I don't want to dismiss the legitimate concerns you bring up here, and sort of in response to Sarah's comment, there are numerous city-run shelters out there that prefer to not work with rescues. They feel like rescues take all the adoptable dogs so they are left with only "non-adoptable ones", they fear that rescue people that enter the shelter will rat them out, or it just takes them time that they'd rather spend doing something else vs saving animal lives. There are a large number of city-run shelters out there that really don't care about saving animal lives (Toledo was a prime example).

    While I realize that there are concerns about the "rescue organizations" out there that would be bad for animals -- I would prefer to do something that would FOR SURE help animals in situations they couldn't get out of vs the Possibility they could end up in a bad situation.

    But it is good that people are having a rational dialogue about this...

  19. The fact that this happened following an incident where the more reputable organization was denying a dog to the one with the more questionable reputation means that the tough questions are being asked. That's a good thing.

    It would have been too easy to approve a law that gave all of the benefit of the doubt to rescues - and none to shelters - in a place like Toledo. The concerns are clear, so it makes sense to address them (as some of the amendments have) instead of pushing the law through and hoping for the best.

  20. What shows in the video is exactly what is going on in NH (and much of New England) today with what appears to be dozens of 'rescues'.
    People and local shelters are making huge profits on these dogs.
    One local shelter bought dogs from AL for $24,000 (this included all vet costs and transport) and sold them for over $190,000 in 2009 as shown on their 990 tax form.
    The people placing the dogs have no clue about the dogs, their history, and do not check much beyond ability to pay in their adopters.
    We see many dogs for resale or dumped in local shelters (when the shelters will even take them as they are always 'full' despite there being few locally produced dogs in need) from this transport broker business that it is scary.
    Even scarier are the diseases coming in with these dogs that the rescues don't check for - a full load of 'vetted' pups with parvo showed up in two states this year already...
    Lotta Chien


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