The ASPCA: Too big to care?

Valerie Hayes
ASPCAPro logo

Whose voice are they?

Two years ago, the ASPCA killed Oreo, the abused ‘miracle dog’ whose survival story had inspired so many people to get out their checkbooks and send in donations.  Last week, they gave us a glimpse of what they do for an encore by posting some rather incriminating documents in the worst hiding place ever invented.

Two documents in particular precipitated responses from Extremists here, there, and everywhere.   In case you missed it, “The Tactics of the Extremist Agenda” and “Engaging Public Officials” appeared briefly on the ASPCAPro website, the mission of which is:

To provide tools and resources for animal welfare professionals.

Once again caught with their pants down, they have proceeded to ignore some very fundamental issues.  There has been no apology, no press release, only a lame reply on Facebook.  In the interests of burying this issue and in appearing to respond while not substantively responding, the ASPCA did not issue the reply as its own free-standing post, much less a press release, but relegated it to a comment on another post, hiding it from most potential donors.  Pertinent questions from advocates remain unanswered.

I guess there is such a thing as bad publicity.

ASPCAPro Crisis Response 1

What passes for an official response, part 1. Click to enlarge.

ASPCAPro Crisis Response 2

What passes for an official response, part 2. Click to enlarge.


ASPCAPro Crisis Response 3

What passes for an official response, part 3. Click to enlarge.


ASPCAPro Crisis Response 4

What passes for an official response, part 4. Click to enlarge.


ASPCAPro Crisis Response 5

What passes for an official response, part 5. Click to enlarge.


‘Round and ‘round it goes…

I used to live near the ASPCA’s home turf of New York City, and I’ve known the ugly reality hidden behind the cute calendars for many years—since the early-mid 1980s, to be more precise, when I first heard the parable of the accountant and the veterinarian*, which I recounted in a previous article about the ASPCA’s opposition to Oreo’s Law.

The ASPCA has long been a nice comfortable killing machine.  It’s really quite amazing how times have changed and not changed…

An accountant was visiting his client, a veterinarian who worked for the ASPCA in addition to his private practice. In fact, he seemed to spend a lot more hours at the ASPCA than he devoted to his private practice, even though they weren’t paying him all that much. The accountant was at the vet’s office wrestling the books into some semblance of order and a very friendly dog with a badly scarred and misshapen head came galumphing over to be petted, and the accountant obliged him. The dog was friendly to the point of making a pest of himself by attempting to be an oversized lap dog. The accountant shooed him away so that he could get some work done. He could hear the clop-clop of the dog’s paws on the floor as he went down the hall, around a corner, and back up another hall to reappear at the opposite door of the office he was working in, with a look on his scarred face that said “Hi, I’m a different dog than the one that was just here a minute ago, pet me too”.

The dog had come to reside temporarily at the vet’s office as a result of the vet’s work for the ASPCA. He’d come in as a badly injured stray. Someone had apparently beaten him and he had multiple fractures to his skull, which the vet, who is well-respected for his considerable skills as a surgeon, had spent hours in surgery wiring back together. He practically donated some very fancy surgery to them because that’s the kind of person he is. They wanted to kill the dog after all that–”a friendly dog who wouldn’t win any beauty contests”, as the accountant described him. The vet removed the dog from their custody instead. The accountant told the vet that while he admired the work he did on behalf of this dog and other animals at the ASPCA, it was his responsibility as accountant to advise him to leave the ASPCA and concentrate on his private practice, and frankly, he couldn’t understand why he took that kind of abuse from them, and for so little money. The vet’s reply was impossible to argue with: 

“The animals need me.”

One protector in the killing machine was better than nothing at all. I can’t imagine how he did it for as long as he did. The tradition of killing animals for being there and abusing those who would do otherwise is a long one there. I am perpetually amazed at people who see it as a benevolent place. Apparently their marketing has done its job, but it would take a lot more than some nice packaging to remove the image of that dog my father described so vividly and what the ASPCA wanted to do to him, and to the vet.

I hadn’t thought of that dog in years, but recent events have made him restless. He’s been making his circuit down the hall, around the corner, and up the other hall, to reappear at the opposite door. Always the same question:

“Will it be different this time?”

When will it ever be different?

How long can a stagnant and retrograde organization maintain a positive public image (and a steady stream of donations) held together by cognitive dissonance and an aggressive ad campaign, in the face of rapidly changing times?


The last picture of Oreo.

The last picture of Oreo.

*Shortly after the events described therein took place.  At that time, the ASPCA held the animal control contracts for New York City.  The contracts have been held by the NYCACC since its creation in 1995 by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

2 Responses to “The ASPCA: Too big to care?”

  • A reply to my open letter to Mary Jo White, Chair of the ASPCA Board of Directors | Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World Says:

    [...] As for the alleged “confusion” about this bill, that “confusion” is not on the part of its critics.  We’re critics of it because we care about animals and we can read.  And Assemblywoman Paulin did not cook up her bill by herself.  It was written by and for the ASPCA.  Please do not persist in insulting advocates’ intelligence like this.  It makes me testy. [...]

  • Catherine Davis Says:

    I have been a member of the ASPCA for years thinking that they were a great rescue operation that was doing so much good. Why did they kill Oreo? That is enough for me to bow out of supporting them; killing an innocent dog when I give them my hard earned money to save them? I don’t think so. I’m done.

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