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A Pit Bull’s Merciful Death Ignites Controversy

Written by PETA | November 18, 2009

The case of Oreo, a pit bull who inspired headlines and received an outpouring of public sympathy when her “owner” tossed her off a Brooklyn rooftop in June (she fell six stories and broke both of her front legs), has ignited a controversy. Oreo was nursed back to health by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), but during her recovery, her caretakers noticed that she was prone to bouts of severe, unpredictable aggression. If anything, the ASPCA goes overboard in trying not to euthanize any animal, but Oreo was beyond their help and had failed every test for psychological stability that the organization had put to her. So with great reluctance, the ASPCA made the tough decision not to put children, other animals, or anyone else at risk and euthanized Oreo.


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Oreo’s peaceful death at the hands of people who cared about her has brought unjust criticism down on these individuals’ heads from some “no-kill” advocates who believe in life at all costs—no matter the pain or the price. Oreo was deeply disturbed, perhaps because of head injuries or beatings—who can say? But I ask anyone who is upset that they could not “rehabilitate” this “celebrity dog” to please remember that she is at peace. Unfortunately, many thousands of other wonderful dogs who will never hurt anyone are still going to have to be euthanized in New York City every year. If you have a good home to offer, there’s an equally worthy dog waiting for your help. Instead of picketing the ASPCA, go adopt one of these caring animals. And remember, there are hundreds of thousands—maybe millions—of pit bulls who remain in the custody of cruel people who see them as little more than cheap burglar alarms or punching bags. No energy should be expended fretting over Oreo’s euthanasia when action needs to be taken in their behalf.

When I recognized a name on the list of the protesters who came out against the ASPCA’s action, I felt compelled to come to the defense of shelter workers who have to make heartbreaking decisions every day and sent the following letter to the organization’s blog:

The nice-sounding but damaging “no-kill” movement exposes its lunacy by attacking an agency (the ASPCA) that took in an aggressive pit bull named Oreo from extreme abuse, paid to fix her two broken legs, and then, when she turns out to be far too dangerous and unpredictable around people, affords her a peaceful and dignified exit from the world that has miserably failed her (“Oreo is Dead,” Nov. 13).

Leading the critics is Camille Hankins, the Director of Win Animal Rights, who was convicted of cruelty to animals in 1995 when nearly 100 animals were found stuffed into a tiny, filthy trailer rented by Hankins. Many of the animals found there were dying from contagious illnesses and many were literally scratching themselves to death and had bloody, seeping wounds from severe untreated mange infestations. Two cats removed by police from Hankins during the service of a search and seizure warrant were treated successfully and lived at PETA’s headquarters for more than 10 years (you can read the details of the case here:

The only humane way to achieve a “no kill” nation is to create a “no birth” nation by mandating spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to stop the flow of unwanted litters into our nation’s shelters. We also need to penalize those who fail to act responsibly toward animals. In the meantime, those who make the toughest decisions, who have to euthanize animals for want of a proper home, and so carry out the hardest work of all, deserve respect and gratitude, not criticism. Learn more at

Written by Teresa Lynn Chagrin
Animal Care and Control Specialist

Commenting is closed.
  • Tricia says:

    Rest In Peace Oreo

  • Amanda says:

    Amen Luke. For all of you who think otherwise Pets Alive is NOT a reputable sanctuary and no shelter with scruples would send an animal there to suffer.

  • Luke Thomas says:

    The only thing disturbing about this BILL forcing places like ASPCA to relinquish the dog to another facility willing to take itis that I have been seeing a LOT of animal “no kill” shelters lately having been accused or were convicted of animal cruelty due to neglect I’m not saying all of them are like that but there are those who ARE like that lack of funds means less food and less litter. Trust me I seen PLENTY of examples lately it would have been a much better fate if the animals were put in the pound and euthanized rather than slowly starve to death or live in diarrhea infested cage and slowly die of diseases. Yeah they don’t kill themthey let them starve to death or die of diseases. According to the story Oreo completely recovered from his injuries six months after. Oreo was a vicious dog. I thought it appropriate to euthanize this pit bull mix though I thought originally considering the dog was tossed out of a six story window why didn’t they euthanize him from the very beginning. Point is Oreo was clearly a vicious dog. There are plenty of others that need rescuing who aren’t vicious. INSTEAD OF COMPLAINING ABOUT EUTHANIZING A VICIOUS DOG GO TO YOUR LOCAL DOG POUND AND GET A CAT OR TWO OR DOG OR TWO AND SAVE THEIR LIFE. THEY WILL BE KILLED IN SIX DAYS OR LESS. OR SOLD FOR HIDEOUS VIVISECTION EXPERIMENTS.

  • Luke Thomas says:

    A word of advice You should not have mentioned this. If you support it don’t mention it. It’s just going to piss off a lot of people and they are the ones donating. I quit donating to the ASPCA years ago because they oppose spayneuter legislation and say breeders can be “responsible”. HOW can breeders be responsible when 10 to 15 million a year die because there aren’t enough homes for them all. When people buy a dogthey kill a shelter dog. California alone spends a quarter of a billion dollars a year on animal control and puts to death a half million dogs cats puppies and kittens. So no there is no such thing as “responsible breeding.” TOO MANY ARE DYING AND GETTING KILLED. So my donations to the ASPCA has ceased.

  • Dawn B. says:

    Death is a last option. Oreo deserved a chance with a reputable group. I appriciate PETA’s undercover work but I believe in No Kill

  • Marie Edwards says:

    as a owner of a bull terrier who has mood swings and has a aggressive nature I dont feel any animal should be put to death because of this. My Amy has never bite anyone we have learnt to deal with her mood swings and have managed over the years to learn more about them and what is the course of them. She is the most loyal and lovable 24kg lap dog. I trust her 100 and know she would never bite me.I do not put her in a position to feel threatened so she can not harm anyone or anything. The trick is to find the right people for these special needs dogs.

  • Susan t says:

    It is incredibly tragic that Oreo had to be euthanized. But consider her feelings first. No one could really know how she was feeling. Just because her injuries were treated and appeared to be healed is no reason to assume that she still wasn’t in constant pain to a degree. How could she not be? She was thrown from a 6th story building!!! It is astounding that she survived. How tragic that kind people worked very hard to help her heal but the damage to her psyche proved to be insurmountable. She is at peace now. For a few months she was able to receive love tenderness and kindness and I’m sure she realized that not all humans are vicious as was her pieceofgarbage owner. My biggest concern is what will happen at the trial of that disgusting slimeball Fabian Henderson? Will his bottomfeeding public defender use this information to plead for probation arguing that the dog was inherently vicious and he reacted out of fear by throwing her off the roof? I shudder to think of what will happen during the trial. All we can hope for is that the judge will look at his act as senseless and truly cruel and sentence him to a meaningful jail term regardless. 25 years would be good but I must be realistic. When it comes to animal cruelty rarely does the punishment come anywhere close to the depravity of the crime. New York needs to hear from its citizenryLOUD AND CLEAR! Let the complaints and outrage begin! Abuse an animal and you will do prison time!

  • ms says:

    I want to make this brief because so many points that I think are important have already been stated by so many. What troubles me is this why did not the ASPCA hand over Oreo to other caring and reputable groups who so readily offered their assistance? I believe that the ASPCA did everything humanly possible and exhausted every avenue to help Oreo but why choose to put him down when others who are are also professionals and experts were willing to take him in? Why not give Oreo another chance or chances at rehabilitation? What did the ASPCA have to lose? The decision to euthanize was in the process of being made why go through with it if helping hands were reaching out? Im stumped by this! Maybe Oreo needed more time much more time maybe Oreo would have benefited from a different environment and additional expertise of others even a slim chance is better than death once again what did the ASPCA have to lose? If this question could only be answered it would help me understand better. And whats more forget the defense that Oreo was a threat and danger to society hes not roaming the streets! I think a mistake was made by putting him to death. And because of this we will never know what his true outcome would have been and could have been.

  • Susan Davis says:

    BRAVO PETA! I’m 100 with you on this one! Unfortunately a lot of people are not looking at the future for dogs like Oreo only looking at the here now. Oreo would have had to have MULTIPLE handlers for the rest of her life because of the extensive injuries and even though she COULD be rehabbed she wouldn’t necessarily STAY that way when new handlers or Doctors come on the scene and the other thing people are not looking at is the first time someone gets bitten they will shoot these dogs first ask questions later I do wish people would see the reality of this!

  • stephanie gillis says:

    i have a 7 month old pitbull she is the most amazing dog in the world. she is so kind and full of kisses it upsets me to read this kind of stuff because this is NOT RIGHT. these dogs are just like any other dogs they just need to be in the right hands. with kind people who really do care. they are not mean animals… i also have a 2 year old mini schnauzer and they LOVE each other. i wish people would take into consideration that these dogs need help imagine how many are out there today RIGHT now being hurt starved and beat. this poor puppy was trained wrong did not trust man kind… i can not blame her.. what a thing to go through the pain and being scared of everything. it is sad that she had to be put down i hope that they tested her for months to see if she could change becauise they ALLL can just because they are mean and you cant take the chance doesnt mean she could of changed .. she just needed to be shown love. for longer than a month.

  • Antigone1000 says:

    I am not an advocate of life at all costs and I do agree that if an animal cannot have a decent quality of life euthanasia might be the best option. However here a sanctuary named Pets Alive that specializes in rehabbing dogs like Oreo offered to take her. Please read their side of the story before you all rush to defend the ASPCA. There is plenty of information on the web.

  • Susan Hoppler says:

    If people were responsible and spayedneutered their companion animals and then took care of them for life instead of considering them disposable we wouldn’t even be having this argument. I completely agree that having to euthanize animals because there are no homes for them is horribly sad. But what is the alternative? Keep them in “no kill” shelters where once they are filled animals who might be adopted are turned away to whoknowswhat fate and the animals in the “shelter” live in a cage for the rest of their lives?There are millions and millions of stray animals and a no kill nation can only happen in a no birth nation. Thank you to those hard working animal advocates who do the dirty work of caring and humanely euthanizing animals with no future. Those of you so outraged volunteer at an animal shelter and see the truth. I HATE that it is this way but the ugly truth is we made this situation and need to do the responsible and compassionate actions to have any chance of changing the future.

  • Patricia Gonzalez-Powell says:

    … did anyone contact Cesar Millan?? He has truly rehabilitated dogs that had NO HOPE!!! .. I must say that this in the heels of the Memphis disaster leaves LITTLE if NO credibility for the SPCA …

  • Bethany says:

    I’m a newbie at owning a Pit Bull and I’ve had my little George for over a year now from a puppy. He is the most amazing unique dog I’ve known. He has no sign of aggression towards any animals or people. He especially loves kids and my ferrets. I didnt buy him but got him from a local person who had puppies by accident with her two dogs. He is pure and just knowing what I know now about these beautiful loving dogs makes me wonder how anyone could not want the best for them. I agree with the ASPCA on what they did for Oreo. Who know’s where that poor dog would have ended up and think of the many wonderful dogs that need a home. The ASPCA is a wonderful organization. Please support it

  • Susan says:

    Pets Alive is a nokill animal shelter located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains about 1 12 hours from New York City. Thier mission is to rescue rehabilitate and place animals in need. Victims of neglect abuse and violence many of them have special needs and have been rejected by other organizations. Animals at the sanctuary range from dogs and cats to farm animals exotic birds and many others. Many of the animals at Pets Alive are older have special needs or require special care.Shame on you PETA.

  • Janet says:

    It’s seems to me like the ASPCA tried evertyhing possible to save Oreo. Her passing was peaceful. The ASPCA euthanized her in a compassionate and loving way. Think of the millions that are euthanized in barbaric gas chambers or are injected by inexperienced employees at shelters. As sad as it is to put down any animal I believe that the people at the ASPCA are kind.

  • Jorge Gusmà says:

    One day human kind will raise to a state of conciseness in witch we can see our deeds as a race living up to our condition of human beings! In that day we will have evolved enough to look at todays activities regarding our relationship with the planet and other species as brutal egoistic and barbaric as other middle aged activities we engaged in the past. Evolution is a matter of free will and the right motivation to walk the talk.

  • Rachel says:

    I dont know all the details but to have gone to all the trouble to save this poor animal who probably became aggressive at the hands of humans I think a person like Cesar Milan could have helped this dog. Many said that the Michael Vick dogs could not be rehabilitated and they were wrong!!! The right people believed they could and were!!!

  • sergio says:

    erf…. One thing is obvious we cannot assume the right to “judge” on animals or other beings than us human as long as we wont be able to fully communicate or understand them. It is a very difficult matter and we should not take decisions so “easely” I’m talking about this poor celebrity dog the rest of unfortunate and punishable crimes is another story right nowabout to end or not a life… This dog as stated could be aggressive SIMPLY because of his injuries OR MAYBE because of FEAR andor TRAUMA generated toward HUMANS after the NICE LAST EXPIERIENCE he had to live in the hands of one of them. Did any canine “PSI” at the ASPCA took that into evaluation? Well I don’t like to judge of course but life has taught me that many times we humans become quite incompetent in some matters… Maybe it was easier to SACRIFICE the dog instead of spending many years to come to rehabilitate the dogs trust towards humans

  • Jennifer says:

    I agree with Michelle’s post I honestly believe that euthenasia is one of the kindest gifts man can give to an animal who has lived a life full of broken promises neglect and abuse. Death is sometimes the only comfort an animal receives in its lifetime. She is in good hands now in doggy heaven I am sure…

  • Charles Curtis says:

    I Think this is a terrible person for taking advantage of another life person or animal!!! Some people think life is just a big jokeif that person was tossed carelessly off a building six stories off the ground they would probably understand the pain and anguish that dog went through.I would not trust a person either and be a little more than trying to eat everything in my path

  • Jana says:

    I work with a group and on my own rescuing abused animals dogs cats horses. It is a sad sad world out there a lot of suffering at the hands of humans. Help your local animal shelters by donating money and time and love your pets. If you can’t take care of them or love them PLEASE find someone who can and will!! Don’t throw them away and don’t let them starve to death!! Thank you.