ASPCA: Dog thrown from roof too dangerous to live

AP News
Posted: Nov 12, 2009 8:38 PM

Oreo was called a miracle dog when she was thrown off the roof of a six-story Brooklyn building this summer and survived.

But nearly four months later, the 1-year-old brown-and-white pit bull mix growled and lunged at people gathered in a playroom to see her, then turned and lunged at a female handler who had pulled back furiously on the 62-pound dog's heavy leash.

After months of working to rehabilitate Oreo, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it had determined she is too dangerous to ever be placed in a home or even to live among other dogs.

The organization said it plans to euthanize her Friday.

"Everything we've tried to do for her has not worked," said Ed Sayres, the president and CEO of ASPCA. "And she has gotten more aggressive."

Sayres, a longtime proponent of "no-kill" shelters, said it's rare for the organization to euthanize an animal. He said 94 percent of the nearly 4,000 animals the organization takes in each year are placed in adoptive homes and the rest are euthanized because of medical or behavioral reasons.

"The measure of our success around here is lives saved," he said.

Indeed, it was anybody's guess whether Oreo could be saved when she arrived at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital.

The organization said it received a complaint on June 18 that a dog had been beaten on the third floor of a housing project on West Ninth Street in Brooklyn, and then a second call saying that the same dog had been thrown from a roof. She was found with two broken legs and a fractured rib.

Fabian Henderson, a 19-year-old who lived at the complex in the borough's Red Hook section, was arrested in July on felony charges, according to the ASPCA.

He pleaded guilty Oct. 20 to aggravated cruelty to animals and was released on his own recognizance pending sentencing on Dec. 1, court records show.

There was no phone listing for Henderson at the Brooklyn building. His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

After Oreo was brought to the ASPCA, surgeons reassembled the dog's front legs and she recuperated well enough to walk. But during a behavioral evaluation in July, she began to display aggression "with little provocation and little warning."

"The staff should not lean over her or make direct, sustained eye contact," the evaluator's report said.

In further tests, she growled at strangers and bit an evaluation tool called an Assess-A-Hand _ which looks like a mannequin's arm on a stick _ multiple times. She barked and lunged at another dog at a 5-foot distance.

In a second evaluation in October, she continued to act aggressively, even attempting to bite her handler when the dog was distracted by another staff member.

Her behavioral prognosis in October and in a final evaluation on Wednesday was listed as "grave." Over the months the dog had been in their care, Oreo underwent 59 sessions of nearly 45 minutes each that were aimed at modifying her behavior. She did not improve significantly.

Netflix's Wolf Fired Like a Dog
Timothy Meads

"It took very little for her to become very tense and respond in an aggressive way," said Stephen L. Zawistowski, a lead animal behavior expert with the ASPCA who helped evaluate Oreo. "Once that situation had been created, she then showed aggressive responses to a wide variety of things."

He described her anger as causing her both physical and emotional strain.

"Think about if you were constantly angry about something _ punching a hole in the wall angry _ the stress this would place on you," he said.

That she would even attempt to lash out at her handler was another sign of uncontrollable aggression, he said, making it likely the dog would be impossible to handle in an adopter's home. He said a sanctuary was also out of the question because the dog would require her own space and would need to live in relative isolation from other animals.

It came to a point that the staff had to ask itself what Oreo's future quality of life would look like, Zawistowski said.

ASPCA's president said the organization's staff was grieving over the decision to euthanize Oreo.

"We're all upset by it," Sayres said.

The Late, Great USA