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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.
  • jackie danna says:

    Throw the people who thur Oreo in a pit!!! RIP OREO GOD BLESS YOU!

  • Gretel Rainbow says:

    Sometimes the kindest decision is the hardest one to make. No living thing deserves to suffer. At least Oreo is at peace now and deserves that. Which is more than I can say for the owner….. Great article Teresa. U hit the nail on the head!

  • vegancoin says:

    well said PETA. i find it impossible to understand why commonsense and reason is almost always absent when issues surrounding pitbulls and euthanasia of dangerous animals is discussed. companion animals and pets are not dispensible throwaway luxury items. that simple.

  • Puppy says:

    okay the dog was suffering and had tempermental problems.OKAY HE WAS SUFFERING!!!!! They best choice was to put him down. jeeezzzzzzz

  • Rachel Lite says:

    ASPCA should have waited to see if they could have transferred Oreo to the Animal Shelter in Hudson Valley. I have always supported ASPCA and am beginning to have my doubts. The dog was punished for something it wasn’t to blame for. There was an option. It is heartless for the write to write “No energy should be expended fretting over Oreo’s euthanasia.” Why not? You can indeed spend energy mourning for Oreo and adopt shelter dogs too.

  • Daina says:

    I am in total agreement of ASPCA actions in this case. It is obvious that everything was done in this case to ensure the best outcome with a loving heart. When animals are unsafe the best choice is to put them down humanely when all other options fail. Thank you for caring enough.

  • E says:

    Good article. That Hankins sounds like a joke unbelievable!

  • lauren kelly says:

    Yes no kill sounds great but it is not always so. I volunteered working with the cats at the nearest no kill shelter in my area only to find it extremely overcrowded and to find animals spending 24 hours minus the few minutes their cage is being cleaned each day in small cages some of them are there for YEARS! They did have one or two free roaming rooms but still I would guess about 50100 animals were caged. No kill shelters should also be cage free. Otherwise it’s just cruel.

  • chris says:

    That poor animal was thrown off the roof by the one person who SHOULD have loved and protected her. Of course she would have problems god knows what happened to her before then. That poor dog probably lived in constant fear that the loving workers who took care of her would turn on her like her owner. No wonder she had bouts of aggression she was uncertain and scared. I hope that she’s now in doggie heaven and I hope in owner goes to hell.

  • Coral Giffin says:

    Sometimes the damage done to an animal physically is so extensive that a gentle death is the only option. Sometimes the psychological damage is so severe that the only kind option is release from life. it doesn’t matter how many alternatives are proferred Oreo would have been in an agony of fear and distrust. Who would want to prolong that suffering. I have adopted companions living with me now from both nokill and rspca. They all recieved the best care available in the shelters that housed them. Desex register and microchip all companion animals by law. Increase penalties for cruelty and neglect to mandatory jail terms and fund higher levels of animal protection. Support organisations that support animals.

  • Kelley says:

    The people who knew she was being beaten and did not intervene are just as guilty as the person who beat her.

  • catb13 says:

    That’s a very sad story It sounds strange that the dog failed every test for psychological stability. I’ve heard of something called idiopathic aggression or idiopathic rage syndrome… and dogs can’t recover from it because its a problem in the brain. Maybe that had something to do with the aggression… idk just a thought.

  • Karen Letkeman says:

    “We need Federal laws demanding that people spayneuter their pets of face fines and other penalties to include losing their pets!” This is not the way. I have a dog she was never spayed but she has never produced an unwanted litter either. By your standards I should have lost my dog because of a personal choice. How many unwanted human children are born everyday? Yet we never demand any control over the “right” to breed in humans. Also one must remember that puppy mills and other “breeding operations” thrive on the HUMAN need for animal companionship. Making puppiesdogkittenscats less common will innevitably increase the price of animals especially purebreeds which means even less responsible breeding practices. This makes things worst in the long run. I agree that animal cruelty must be spotted but I don’t agree with the means which are suggested. The idea is to maintain loving homes for pets making people understand that pet ownership is not easy and that it comes with many ups and downs.

  • Peta says:

    Was this dog prone to be aggressive because her two front legs were broken??? Possibly!Poor darling. RIP

  • Ashley says:

    No kill sounds great but it definitely is not always possible. Just because the ASPCA can make hard decisions that y’all couldn’t if put in the same position does not mean they’re wrong. People shouldn’t be angry with them they should be angry with the owner. If you aren’t fit to take care of and love an animal you should not own one!!

  • Smita asrani says:

    Great article Teresa! Very well said and so true…

  • Kiki says:

    No Kill is now getting support from and is involved with breeder lobbies like the AKC. These breeders make money breeding dogs that are aggressive and don’t want to admit their dogs are dangerous. So they have joined with No Kill to help dangerous dogs kill more people and pets. No Kill is helping these pit bulls suffer get warehoused get abused at hoarders and helping pit bull breeders breed more dogs to abuse through fighting or to sell. The No Kill community stopped caring about the animals a long time ago!

  • Jade says:

    The only time an animal needs to be put down is if it’s suffering to the point that NOTHING can be done to help it or if there is NO WAY the animal can be retrained. Unfortunately this is the case here the animal couldn’t be trained to be safe around animals. But blame the owner not the dog as far as this animal’s death. He didn’t teach the dog to be good and yes the animal didn’t learn good skills. All this said any animal can become like this if taught that way not just a pit bull I have been attacked by a poodle who flipped its lid so if you don’t feel like you can teach a dogcatother pet to be loving and kind toward anyone don’t have a pet.

  • Marilyn says:

    I have heard from Oreo and I felt sorry so sorry for her death. Now she is in the dogs paradise I hope! The owner has to be punished for doing such a terrible thing to her dog! I feel bad to see Humans acting like this towards animals. It is disgusting. Shame on them!

  • Michelle says:

    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.

  • Arden White says:

    I happened to know Camilla Hankins as i was once part of WAR but this woman does nothing but moan and moan and more about other animal rights and protection groups she’s forever on a power trip with very few people in her life and is run with ego. Get out of the movement your not wanted Hankins.

  • Shari says:

    Thank you so much for telling it like it is. People always want to blame the last person that couldn’t save the animals instead of ALL THE PEOPLE who hurt neglected and abused them throughout their entire suffering life. Thank you again for putting the spot light back onto the abusers where it belongs!

  • Brad King says:

    Again PETA is the voice of reason. Thankyou.

  • Jessica says:

    It is a hard ending to swallow. Shelters have the responsibility to protect the public and the animal itself. Sure they could rehabilitate her and she could be a perfect dog with them but that’s not saying she will be perfectsafe in a new family. Pit bulls are a powerful breed and there fore need experienced and breed knowledgeable owners. Dogs need consistency in exercise discipline and affection. They are pack animals and have to have direction otherwise they feel the need to control situations which can have bad results. Pit bulls are beautiful and loyal dogs eager to please. It hurts that so many are put into cruel situations the ultimately make it impossible for them to be adopted because of the risks involved. No decision to end an animals life is taken lightly and it effects the workers as well just watch animal cops on animal planet. I plan to open a rescuerehabilitationadoption center for animals with behavorial issues or special needs. I want to try my best and work with the animals to give them a chance to show they do not need to be euthanized but I know all can not be saved due to safety issues. I would much rather have them go in peace than to be tortured and die alone.

  • Mirta says:

    Amen to you Teresa Chagrin. The problem are irresponsible pet owners that need to be punished.

  • Miss Beck says:

    It angers me that the attention has been centred on the animal shelter when in fact the source of the problem is the owner. If the owner had not of mistreated the dog the dog would not be afraid and defensive. If the dog had recieved love from its owner and not been thrown from the home six storeys high. The animal would not have been injured and ended up in the care of the animal shelter. And if the public had acted sooner and reported this abuse then none of this would have happened!

  • Sara Zena says:

    How could people do this. Dogs are loving amimals. Being a god owner my self i could never image that happending. Reat In Peace Oreo. we will miss you

  • Kyleigh says:

    You are so right. No kill No birth. Thank you so much for writing!

  • Helena Vasco says:

    You have my support. Due to circumstances what other choice did you have? Either euthanizing Oreo allowing her to have a dignified death or taking the risk of having her attacking humans or any other living creatures. Unless she was under a muzzle or kept away 247. Further more what kind of a life would Oreo have with two broken legs? Would they ever heal?

  • Helena Vasco says:

    You have my support. Due to circumstances what other choice did you have? Either euthanizing Oreo allowing her to have a dignified death or taking the risk of having her attacking humans or any other living creatures. Unless she was under a muzzle or kept away 247. Further more what kind of a life would Oreo have with two broken legs. Would they ever heal?

  • Eve says:

    Thanks for posting this anyone who takes a black and white stance such as “nokill” clearly can’t see the larger picture. No animal rights activist working for these orgnizations EVER wants to euthanize an animal and I’m sure it is always done with a heavy heart but in some cases it is what is best for the animal and the human population. I look forward to the day when all animals are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve and we no longer have to have this debate. Thank you to you all for all that you do to support the animals and empower us to help them

  • Ashay Doshi says:

    I feel that the ASPCA did not make the right decision. They should not have euthanized Oreo. It is questionable how the ASPCA came to the conclusion that it would be “best for Oreo and the Community” that she be euthanized. This is an ethical issue that needs to be addressed and dealt with! Why decide to euthanize her after she had been through most of that painful healing process already? It has already been so painful for her I bet. How much worse do you think it can get? Don’t you think Oreo would have chosen life over death? It hurts me to deduce that this was solely done for the benefit of the community.

  • Carla* says:

    I’m sorry but I’m torn on this one although I support Animal Birth Control 110 I do believe in my heart Oreo deserved a second chance. Seeing what the little guy went through we should of fought for him. Rest In Peace now little buddy.

  • Taylor says:

    This is disgracfull someone that would do this to a poor animal! But at least she isnt in pain anymore. God bless you Oreo!

  • amani says:

    Why would SPCA claim that they are NO KILL shelter then they kill this dog!!!? This is sooo sad……I supported SPCA because they were a no kill shelter…

  • monica marin says:

    In Chile we have this problem every day but we don’t count with the help of institutions like ASPCA. Now they are trying to bring out a law where all the dogs that are found on the streets will be kill so they can stop the “problem” of street dogs. I think we are the only country where the director of our national instution against animal cuelty is in jail because of killing all of the animals that where kept there. We need your help we need to teach people of this problem and that we can do something for animals. i’m a volunteer in an animal shelter but now we have about 250 dogs and are getting out of resources. Please help us! best wishes from Chile. Sorry for my english but we speak spanish!

  • Ginger says:

    I am posting with what I posted on my FB page yesterday. People need to get their priorities straight. Don’t whine once the damage is done stop the damage from happening! This was my post The only reason that I am posting this is because… Neighbors HEARD this dog’s owner beating her for 2030 minutes before he threw her 6 floors off the roof. Are humans REALLY that cold? The dog a messed up pit bull will now be put down… Now people are pissed. I find it hard to believe that only 2 people who …ignored it heard the yelping of this dog for 2030 minutes. At least she doesn’t have to worry about being abused any more. Maybe this story will keep you from sitting acting like you don’t hear anything. I am done ranting.

  • Darla Tyler says:

    As we say in the “VETERINARY FIELD” “Better a KIND DEATH than a CRUEL LIFE”

  • A says:

    oh such a sad story I don’t know whether or not the dog should have been euthanized but it’s clear it was agressive because of the abuse it endured for years… people the community should be more aware of how their fellow men treat their pets and make a stand whenever they suspect abuse… then there would be less heartbreaking cases like this one… RIP Oreo

  • Shelley Reese says:

    Exactly! Well spoken Teresa!

  • Mel says:

    Of course she was aggressive she was in pain. And yes sadly people have to euthanize dogs that are a danger to people. That’s the way people trained them and sometimes Note SOMETIMES it’s irreversible. In this case it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the case. BTW you go from the dog being a hero to suddenly the dog being aggressive in your response to the nokillers. Isn’t this a bit odd? Hmmm?… However that’s NOT always the case some dogs if properly retrained can be gentle and help out others. What disappoints me though PETA is that reading this you imply that you support the killing of animals no matter if they’re healthy or not because it’s more “Humane.” Death is death there’s nothing humane about it. BTW any dog can be trained for aggression not just pit bulls. Why and be honest here do you guys just focus on the dog instead of all breeds? Do you want to eradicate the species still?

  • Michelle says:

    It is so sad to hear of this kind of people it’s disgusting to think of them as HUMAN BEINGS!! Rest in peace Oreo .

  • Diane Field says:

    I support no kill and would love if that could be the standard but I am also not naive enough to think that euthanasia can always be avoided. Anyone who has worked in rescue is aware of how HUGE the problem is. There is only enough money and resources to go around and sometimes is a last resort unfortunately. It is very unrealistic to beleive that every single rescued unwanted abused and homeless animal could be housed and cared for. There is simply WAAAAY to many of them and not enough of us and not enough room. Sad but true. Lets focus on the breeders who continue to produce puppies the industries that support overbreeding racing etc and the petstores and customers who keep them in business. PETA and the ASPCA are NOT the enemies!!!

  • Patrice says:

    I don’t care how aggressive an animal is I do not agree with euthanasia do we do that to people? No so why should we do that to an animal get your trainers involved….

  • Ginny Emery says:

    sounds like the PRO CHOICE movement talking. Making martyrs out of murderers

  • Rhonda Clements says:

    We need Federal laws demanding that people spayneuter their pets of face fines and other penalties to include losing their pets! We need to close the puppy mills nationwide and install some real penalties for animal abuse enough is enough this lunacy needs to stop we can make a big difference by being responsible people!

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    This leads me to ask Did Oreo’s owner throw her off the roof because she was naturally unpredictably aggressive or did the owner make her aggressive which backfired on him one day causing him to throw her off the roof?

  • Shelly says:

    I’m confused as to why Peta is endorsing this story. Merciful Death? What was the excuse? Bouts of unpredictable and severe aggression? Gosh I know people like that and you’re right instead of working with the aggression I think we should just kill them. I mean HELLO?! The dog was thrown off a building … OF COURSE he has bouts of aggression!! He doesn’t trust people! And then what do we do? Go and kill him? Wow … real humane ASPCA. Did you try finding a shelter? Have you contacted any dog sanctuaries that might be able to help? And Peta I’m ashamed you’re supporting this. Dogs are more than play toys for humans. They deserve a life too even if they have a hottemper.

  • AAG says:

    I am a member of PETA but don’t support all of their policies regarding the other animals particularly their stand on nokill shelters and pitbulls and asking KFC to kill the birds in a controlled atmosphere to me veganism should be promoted not a different method of killing. I will always support nokill shelters and the right of pitbulls to exist I only support education about going vegan not different methods of killing. It is a shame for the animals that even among their advocates there exists so much disagreement. Put egos aside and advocate for the animals. Go vegan!

  • Kelly says:

    No kill sounds great dosn’t it? But in the real world sometimes it IS the kindest thing to do. At the end of the day I’m sure that after spending all that money to save Oreo the ASPCA didn’t decide on a whime to end the pups life for no reason. It is a terrible turn of events but at least now Oreo will be at peace not chained in a back yard not locked in a shelter kennel alone. Don’t breed and these problems will shrink to near nothing.