Should Sculptor Who Shot Dog Keep $750,000 Art Contract?


Tom Otterness is well-known in two areas. He’s a popular sculptor with projects all over the world, and he is the infamous man who adopted a stray dog and shot and killed it in the name of art.  San Francisco just awarded Otterness a prestigious contract to design statues for the city’s subway system. Activists are blasting the plan.

Animal rights groups are not ready to forgive Tom Otterness for his cruel act in 1977. They are calling his $750,000 contract to design 59 bronze sculptures for the Central Subway a “slap in the face” for the city “whose namesake is St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.”

The San Francisco Examiner reported the Municipal Transportation Agency approved the contract, but was unaware of Otterness’ controversial past. The agency relied on the recommendation from the Arts Commission.”

Susan Pontious, director of the San Francisco Arts Commission’s public art program said in a statement, “Tom Otterness is a world-renowned sculptor who has been commissioned by government agencies around the world to create major permanent public art projects. The Central Subway Artist Selection Panel chose Otterness based on the strength of his proposal and his impressive portfolio of past sculptural work.”

Otterness has become famous for his whimsical animal sculptures that can be seen in New York City subways. He recently finished a project involving bronze lions for the New York Public Library.

Throughout his career, the sculptor has been haunted by his past actions. Even the New York library project created controversy when 11,209 people protested his commission with an online petition.

Over the years Otterness has repeatedly apologized for his cruelty, but the subject comes up each time he receives a publicly appointed job.

The Shooting

In 1977, Tom Otterness adopted a small black and white dog from an animal shelter. He chained the dog to a fence and shot and killed it for an art film he titled, “Shot Dog Film.”

Reports state Otterness has shown remorse for the senseless killing. In April 2008 he told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Thirty years ago, when I was 25 years old, I made a film in which I shot a dog. It was an indefensible act that I am deeply sorry for. Many of us have experienced profound emotional turmoil and despair. Few have made the mistake I made. I hope people can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”

If you are wondering if there is an expiration date for holding someone accountable for their actions, groups like In Defense of Animals aren’t going for it.

Anita Carswell, director of the Guardian Campaign for IDA said, “It’s going to be offensive to everybody that rides the subway, a reminder: ‘People who shoot dogs for stupid reasons get rewarded.’”


Earlier today San Francisco Mayor, Ed Lee put a hold on the Central Subway art project. He called for an investigation of the commission. He said, “I understand the incident was 34 years ago, but it certainly is disturbing and so we’re going to take a look at it.”


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Two Men Charged With Cruelty Death Of 15 Primates

Photo from mwichary via flickr


s. ryan
p. q5 years ago


Linda G.
Linda G.5 years ago

He's not sorry about killing his dog and never will be. He's just sorry he got caught in the court of public opinion. I hope he was prosecuted in an actual court, or should be, to the full extent of the law. His art is nothing remarkable, There are plenty of talented artists out there who are not animal abusers in the name of art. This nut case deserves oblivion and no more commissions ever.

Michelle B.

Rochester is protesting his inclusion one of his "whimsical" creation in our new Centennial Park...
Please add to our petition a list of 2200 plus who want Otterness out of town....

or join us on facebook...Rochesterians Against To Otterness,,,,

Joy Dantine
Joy Dantine5 years ago


Maria Gloria Salinas Pico


Rosemary Graf
Rosemary Graf5 years ago

This person shouldn't make any money off his action of killing his pet dog. Let him suffer.

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan5 years ago

Has he been held accountable for his actions? No,I don't think he has.As for being sorry,I think that he is only sorry that people remember.

Joy Jin
Joy Jin5 years ago

I think that everyone deserves a second chance.

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S5 years ago

I want to be clear that I am not more upset because this guy is somewhat famous. If I knew about or witnessed anyone at all doing anything inexcusable such as this, I would be incensed. I would probably even draw enough attn to myself to endanger my own life, but people hurting something defenseless is my number 1 major button.

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S5 years ago

If he was 25 when he decided considered murdering an animal as art, why has he not been held accountable? There's controversial discussions about him and that's it? He was an adult, and you know, if it was a human mammal instead of a canine mammal that he did this to, do you think this would even be a discussion? It's pretty sick what people can get away with doing to those with no voice. This guy clearly has mental problems that cause harm outside of himself - he's no Da Vinci. He should have been locked up in an institution, medicated, and kept in a straight jacket NOT profiting all this time because he has a talent. Everyone has a talent in something, but fame for the talent does not excuse psychopathic behavior.