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A miracle recovery ended on a sad note Friday as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) put Oreo -- a doe-eyed pit bull mix who captured the hearts of animal lovers throughout the borough as she recovered from injuries she sustained after being hurled off a Red Hook building -- to sleep.
Amid howls of protests, as well as a death threat or two, ASPCA officials opted to euthanize the year-old assault victim because of her “unpredictable aggression.”
It’s unknown if the aggression manifested before or after owner Fabian Henderson, 19, threw her off the roof of his West 9th Street apartment building back on June 18, although it’s believed that the trauma she sustained played a measurable role.
Horrified witnesses said that Henderson first beat the dog in his apartment, which is part of the Red Hook Houses, for about a half hour and then brought Oreo up to the roof to finish the job.
Oreo survived the six-story fall, thanks mostly to some precipitously placed air conditioners she bounced off of as she plummeted to the ground.
ASPCA officials said that when they were called in to help Oreo, the dog’s legs had been shattered by the fall. She was also bleeding internally.
But while Oreo’s body healed at Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in Manhattan, doctors ended up becoming more concerned over her emotional state.
“Oreo began to recuperate from her injuries, only to begin showing signs of extreme aggression — with little provocation or warning,” according to an ASPCA statement. “As is customary at the ASPCA, the dog underwent a series of comprehensive behavior evaluations. In the case of Oreo, we also sought the assessment of an outside veterinary behaviorist.The outcomes of these evaluations were all the same:the dog was not able to be placed in a home.”
ASPCA officials said that despite the best rehabilitation efforts, Oreo would continue to “lunge, growl, snap and attempt to bite.”
Oreo would often lunge at her own behaviorist, only to redirect her aggression toward her handler, officials said.
The situation was so bad that ASPCA officials would not let Oreo socialize with other dogs for fear that she would attack them. Employees were even directed to refrain from making sustained eye contact with her “as to not incite aggression.”
Over the last few weeks, Oreo was put in isolation. Daily contact was kept to a minimum.
Yet despite these findings, animal activists pleaded with the ASPCA last week not to put Oreo to sleep. On Friday, the ASPCA’s New York offices were inundated with calls, e-mails and protestors demanding that Oreo be saved. At least two animal welfare groups offered to take the dog in.
“The aggression thing is a dumb excuse because all dogs can be worked with,” animal rescuer Emily Danks told reporters after she was escorted out of the ASPCA building. Danks said she went inside and asked them to release Oreo to her. “I was just like I can’t let this dog die.”
Animal rights activists were so enraged over Oreo’s treatment that they called upon pet owners to boycott ASPCA activities, a move that at least one group, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals found short-sighted.
“In our collective sorrow that the ASPCA’s heroic, expensive and five-month long effort to save Oreo the dog was ultimately unsuccessful, many seem to have lost sight of the enormous and vital programs supported by the ASPCA, which have saved thousands and thousands of animal lives in NYC and across the country,” President Jane Hoffman said in a statement. “For the sake of the animals — in your sorrow and anger over a tragedy — do not throw the baby out with the bath water. The ASPCA deserves and needs your support.”
Albeit small, dog lovers did see a silver lining in this tragedy. Officials from the Kings County District Attorney’s office said that Henderson pled guilty to animal cruelty and will receive five years probation during his sentencing on December 1.
During that time he is forbidden from owning a dog, prosecutors noted.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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