ASPCA Defends Its 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.

by Ed Sayres

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


Judy L.
Judy L.6 years ago

HELLO.My name is Raven.I have lived across the street from AAWL & ASPCA for 9yrs. now. You all might have seen the cute little house that i restored? IT's the only one directly across the street with the beautiful garden and tiki's I hand carved. It used to be a real eyesore 9 yrs. ago, with about a dozen undesireables residing there. I completely restored this house and have lived there happily, until now.I am being forced out with barely any notice. I was denied cash for keys, and all the repairs I have done will not be refunded, (approx $4,000) It is litterally hours before now before the Constible shows up and I've no where to go. I am being treated as a criminal,and bound to be homeless inwhich I will loose my job of 10yrs. I recently buried my only child, therefore my finances are nill. They have bulldozers parked next to my house to demolition it. I don't have a problem with moving, I simply don't have the funds. if anyone can help me please call at 602-366-9129.or email me at, Thank you & God Bless.

chris b.
chris b7 years ago

The first law of defending the indefensible is to vilify the opposition whether in court, politics or advertising! Justifying the destruction and killing of animals after spending a fortune repairing them and after months of evaluation only to make a decision that would have been more humane and acceptable when the dog was originally discovered smashed up is indefensible. It would of course have been better to have passed him on to an organisation with the time and temperament to to succeed rather than offer nothing but obfuscation and rewrites of history and attempting to undermine one's critics to deflect the blame! Many tiny local shelters and rescue centres put more effort into the animals than big animal welfare organisations do as a percentage of their cost. Far too much of the cost of big organisations is expended on posh HQs and salaries for the non frontline staff!

Camille H.
Camille Hankins7 years ago

Tia before adding to the confusion and misinformation, you should check out the facts. The facts are that I was running a sanctuary that was on 14 acres of land in the Carolinas. The large majority of the animals were in clean large outside runs and chain link enclosures with igloo type doghouses. There was plenty of high quality food, clean water and clean straw in the runs. The sanctuary and the animals were photographed and videotaped by independent press less than 48 hours before they were seized.

Sadly, after rescuing and rehoming hundreds of death row animals, my group could no longer afford to run the sanctuary and I made the mistake of calling an animal rights group I had worked with in the past, to help us find homes for the animals in our care. They accepted my invitation, but instead of coming to help place the animals into waiting homes (many already had adoption applications that just needed to be approved), they came with a different solution in mind. We now know that this is not unusual for this particular organization, as we now know that they routinely kill homeless animals.

How interesting that this group would remain quiet for 15 years only to post the information about me, in support of the killing of Oreo by the ASPCA. One would have thought that like most other animal rights organizations, this group would have been outraged at Oreo's execution.

Tia, you can believe whatever you wish about me, and I am sure that your opinion is not colored by

Tia F.
Tia F.8 years ago

I totally agree Ed Sayers is horrible! Oreo shouldn't have died. But lets be honest about everyone involved in this. This lady Camille Hankins is responsible for horrific animal cruelty. She is one of the protestors. If the ASPCA hurts animals and the person protesting them does too...then who can we trust? Who can the poor animals trust?

Diana C.
Diana C8 years ago

What I DESPISE about big animal rescue organizations is the huge salaries that the CEO pockets out of donations that people think are going to the animals.
I don't know the story of Oreo. Sorry.

Sue L.
michelle m8 years ago

ASPCA And Ed Sayers you are a pack of shit heads.May you vile scum rot in hell. What a load of bullshit. I vote that Ed Sayers be euthanised. How dare these loosers do this.Your organisation has zero credability.Smame on you.All you care about shitheads is making bick bucks not the welfare of animals.YOU ARE A DISGRACE!!! .
Yes to Oreos law. I live in Australia and we are able to transfer animals from one animal organisation to another if the need arises as in Oreos situation.

Helen C.
Helen C8 years ago

Is this supposed to make me feel better?

chris b.
chris b8 years ago

It's perhap fortunate for me that I'm not a canine!

chris b.
chris b8 years ago

Seems to be a deal of misinterpretation of the word sanctuary here! Killing an animal and lets not be shy about using the word kill instead of some apolgetic euphamism, should not be an option for a healthy animal whose only crime is being the victim of maltreatment! It would appear thet the corporate mindedness o Sayres and co is perhaps more to do with face saving and the difficulty of possibly years of emotional rehab for this dog! No doubt the escalating bills for surgeries and the potential to burn more cash with keeping the dog played some point in the scenario. With hindsight it might have been better to kill they dog when it was already smashed up then the claim could have been one of kindness and care! Putting the dog through painful surgery and then deciding it's aggressive is maybe not the most sensible decision! I'de be pretty aggressive if my life experience was being chucked off a building and then hospitalised for months in strange surroundings! How I would long for the green grass of a sanctuary with or without companions!

Bob P.
Bob Pomilla8 years ago

Oh! Now that I know that the time of Oreo's execution was mis-stated by your critics and that Pets Alive is not a member of the Mayor's Alliance, I feel a lot better about Oreo's execution.

Weaker than water, those excuses, if that's what they are
supposed to be. And your scurrilous condemnation of Camille Hankins, has absolutely nothing to do with your handling of poor Oreo's fate. You misrepresent an incident of many years ago and think that's somehow supposed to justify your pitiless snuffing of Oreo's life and also, discredit the opinions of the thousands of us, repelled by your actions?

You then go on to state that "groups like Pets Alive" are engaging in "empty rhetoric" when commenting on Oreo's situation, because they "had no access to Oreo or her evaluations". But it was you, Ed Sayres who denied that access.The empty rhetoric is found in your self-serving contentions.

Now, the ultimate disgrace - your ego motivated opposition to "Oreo's Law", a bill modeled after California's Hayden's Law, which you supported and fought for, when you were in San Francisco. A law, further, that has worked well up to expectations, in the years in has been in effect. Why the obvious contradiction in your positions? Let's face it Ed, you're opposed to "Oreo's Law", because it would stand as a monument to your unseemly behavior in ending Oreo's life, forever reminding people that this law came to be as a result of your inexcusable behavior.