A reply to my open letter to Mary Jo White, Chair of the ASPCA Board of Directors

Valerie Hayes
Ernest--That Face

Ernest says, "If the ASPCA wants to be my voice, they're going to have to do a hell of a lot better than this."

Early last Thursday morning, I published  an open letter to Mary Jo White, Chair of the ASPCA Board of Directors, and emailed a copy to her at her law office.  Earlier this afternoon (its Tuesday), I received a reply, not from her, but from the ASPCA Public Information Office.

A form letter.  How rude.  How disappointing.  How unsurprising.  How typical.

I would like to note that although in my original letter, I had specifically requested that my intelligence not be insulted, they went ahead and did it anyway.  Notably absent from this form letter are any links to the full text of the Amy Paulin/ASPCA Quick Kill Bill (the A5449 that the ASPCA is touting below) or to the Kellner CAARA Bill.  That is because anyone of normal intelligence would be able to see that the ASPCA’s bill is comprised of nothing but loopholes allowing the continuation of the status quo, while the Kellner bill would result in genuine reform.

The letter appears to assume that the recipient is some sort of  babe in the woods–utterly uninformed and lacking in even the most basic critical thinking skills.  Perhaps this is who the ASPCA’s Public Information Office is accustomed to writing for–the superficial check-writer who will believe anything she is told as long as it contributes to her desired self-image as an animal-lover.  That ain’t me, as I explained pretty clearly in the letter that got this rot for a reply:


Dear Friend of Animals:

Thank you so much for your interest in the ASPCA.  The ASPCA has always encouraged open dialogue and the thoughtful exchange of ideas, and I appreciate your contacting us with your concerns regarding the shelter access legislation in New York. There is a lot of information circulating on this bill so allow me to explain what it does and does not do.

The ASPCA applauds efforts to foster cooperation and to save lives through shelter-rescue partnerships.  We support shelter access legislation crafted to accomplish the twin goals of saving lives and preventing suffering caused by hoarding, cruelty and neglect, and animal fighting. We think that A. 5449-A and S. 5433-A strike a good balance by instituting some positive procedures to help lost pets find their way home, enhancing shelter care for animals, fostering collaboration between shelters and rescue organizations, and ensuring that animals are not placed in harm’s way by incorporating necessary safeguards to prevent animal suffering.

Here are some of the advances A. 5449-A and S. 5433-A make that will save lives:

1) Establishes new procedures to help ensure that lost animals are reunited with their owners;

2) Requires appropriate vaccinations and emergency care to prevent pain and suffering for animals brought into shelters;

3) Prevents euthanasia if an appropriate rescue option is available;

4) Requires every shelter to establish a list of rescues to notify prior to euthanasia to ensure that as many animals are provided rescue as possible;

5) Strikes current law allowing euthanasia if an animal is “unfit for any useful purpose” and instead requires that the animal be suffering incurably; and

6) Includes safeguards that would help prevent animal fighters or hoarders from being able to pose as a rescue organization, thereby avoiding sending animals to situations that would experience intense suffering and death.

Criticisms of this legislation have been generated by individuals who support a different, competing bill that would require that shelters hand over animals to organizations without the shelter having authority to inspect the facility where animals are taken to ensure their health and well-being. While we support the broader goal of saving as many lives as possible, we believe it must be done with protections that ensure animals are not put at risk and placed in situations where they will experience tremendous suffering. That is why we have determined that A. 5449-A and S. 5433-A is the best way to instigate cooperation and rescue work without jeopardizing our homeless and lost animals.  There has been confusion regarding some of the language in this bill and we are actively working with Assemblywoman Paulin to make amendments.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me again.  Thank you for being an animal welfare advocate and for all you do to help.


ASPCA Public Information

P: (888) 288-0028

The information contained in this e-mail, and any attachments hereto, is from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) and is intended only for use by the addressee(s) named herein and may contain legally privileged and/or confidential information. If you are not the intended recipient of this e-mail, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, copying or use of the contents of this e-mail, and any attachments hereto, is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please immediately notify me by reply email and permanently delete the original and any copy of this e-mail and any printout thereof.
Reply from the ASPCA to my Open Letter to their BOD Chair

The ASPCA's reply to my appeal to Mary Jo White, their Board Chair to do the right thing. Click to enlarge.

I’ll plod through it paragraph  by paragraph.  Care to guess how many lies I’ll find?

Paragraph 1:  The ASPCA does NOT encourage discussion or the open exchange of ideas.  They block anyone on their Facebook page who questions or criticizes them.  They call shelter reform advocates ‘extremists’ and work both publicly and clandestinely to fight desperately-needed reforms.  They have yet to engage in any meaningful discussion with anyone on the issues of Oreo or rescue access or the deplorable state of NYCACC or any of a host of other issues.  I do get a kick out of the “There is a lot of information circulating on this bill so allow me to explain what it does and does not do” line.  A lot of information.  And just who is ‘me’?  This form letter is not signed with a person’s name.  Will no one at the ASPCA take responsibility for the Quick Kill Bill or even this stupid little pack of lies form letter?

Paragraph 2:  The folks in Austin had to fight the ASPCA tooth and nail for the reforms needed there.  I don’t think that what the A tried to do while Fix Austin and Austin Pets Alive! were trying to save animals and reform the shelter would be characterized by them as “applause”  nor would they be likely to call it “fostering cooperation.”  As if that weren’t enough, they trot out the “rescuers are hoarders and dog fighters in disguise” argument, because lobbing baseless insults at rescuers is such a good  way to promote cooperation and lifesaving.  Everyone just loves it when you insinuate that they are mentally ill or criminals.  The Quick Kill bill does not “strike a good balance”  (love that phrase!) between anything.  It leaves all of the power in the hands of those who have shown themselves least able to use it responsibly–the shelters that kill as a means of population control.  It grants none to those who would take responsibility for saving lives, those who would speak out about the abusive conditions they witness when visiting shelters to pull animals–the rescues.   Then there’s the hidden subtext–why do we need shelter reform and shelter access legislation now?  Where has the ASPCA been all these years?  Shouldn’t the mighty A have demanded years ago that shelters be true to the name, that they save lives, work with rescuers, and refrain from abusing the animals in their care?  The ASPCA is reacting to something, not leading.

Paragraph 3:  The ASPCA bill does none of the things listed.  If anything,  it does just the opposite.  That is why numerous animal advocates have characterized it as dangerous.   The points advocates have found most objectionable are those that allow animals deemed to be in “psychological pain” to be killed immediately, and rescues to be excluded from a shelter’s list of approved rescues for arbitrary reasons.  This would allow frightened and lost family pets to be killed before their families could possibly get to the shelter to reclaim them.  Points 5 and 6 are perhaps the most egregious lies on the list, as the bill does not require that an animal be suffering incurably to warrant euthanasia, and it is not aimed at keeping animals out of the hands of abusers, but would allow shelters to retaliate against rescues that speak out against abuses they witness at the shelter by excluding them from rescuing, thereby keeping them out of the hands of people with a conscience.

Paragraph 4:  Actually criticisms of the Quick Kill Bill have “been generated” by a great many individuals and organizations.  Furthermore, we support CAARA, which is not a “competing bill,” but the original bill in this scenario.  The Quick Kill Bill was put together by the ASPCA to compete with it, not the other way around as they are trying to imply.  Furthermore, CAARA spells out specific, standardized,  and meaningful requirements for rescues, and it does not require shelters to just hand animals over to just anyone.  They go on to qualify support for saving as many lives as possible, a classic “yes, but” statement.  Whenever someone consistently makes “yes, but” statements, particularly when they make the same ones over and over despite having the “but” part of the statement addressed or refuted, I am forced to conclude that they do not really want change, at least not this change.  What do they really want?  They want us to shut up and go away, but keep those checks coming.

And “instigate cooperation and rescue work”?  I have to see that as a Freudian slip.  The word “instigate” is generally used in reference to getting negative things started–riots, strife, stuff  like that.  So the A really sees cooperation and rescue work as negatives.  That explains a few things.

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.

Paragraph 5:  Contact who, precisely?  And why?  Do you have other form letters I might want to add to my collection?  And what do you think you’re thanking me for?

Signature:  “ASPCA Public Information,” I doubt that is what your mother calls you, just as I doubt your sincerity and that of the Chair of your Board of Directors, and that of your CEO.

So, Mary Jo White got my email but failed to get its message.  Rather than take responsibility for replying herself, she passed it along and “ASPCA Public Information” got my email but failed to get its message.  To both of them I say:  You cannot choose to hear only the ‘ka-ching!’ of money rolling in, the sound generated by all of those sad-eyed puppy ads, that self-reflective sound you yourselves have orchestrated, that fun-house mirror you hold up to ask “who is most humane of them all?”   To both of them I say:  The sounds of checkbooks slamming shut, of people demanding real change, of people making real change happen, these sounds are growing louder every day.

Listen to them, even if it is only out of enlightened self-interest.

12 Responses to “A reply to my open letter to Mary Jo White, Chair of the ASPCA Board of Directors”

  • Debbie Smith Says:

    Fabulous!!! (As always)

  • Joan Says:

    Thank you for your open letter and for blowing open the curtain of lies and deceit the ASPCA has been using for years to rake in the money from true animal lovers! I hope the animal lovers do as we do and vow to never donate again to the ASPCA, HSUS, PETA or any of the other murdering groups posing as caring animal groups! Also, Amy Paulin is a dishonest, unfeeling automaton!

  • Rena Says:

    Still waiting for my form letter and even though I asked not to be insulted, I’m confident this will happen.

  • Denise LaChance Says:

    I ended all ties with the ASPCA when they killed Oreo. Even before that I had already begun supporting my local SPCA when I found out that the ASPCA was raising money for its “shelter” in New York that did not benefit local SPCA organizations. The ASPCA’s position about animal-saving legislation confirms both of these decisions with regard to the ASPCA. I am realizing I need to get additional information about my local SPCA’s relationship with rescue groups before I donate any more money. Thank you for the clarity of this letter.

  • Sloan Von Spiessbach Says:


  • Kay Riviello Says:

    Awesome to have and meet so many animal advocates coming together now like never before. Your note is hard-hitting and we need that badly. Unfortunately the last ten years have proven to elected officials that there is none or little animal advocacy here in NYC by passing 0655/059 and now this ASPCA/Paulin shelter hijacking bill. For so long, there has not been a major presence of thousands of people in one place coming together. We at the NY-ARAA hope to change that here in NY. On May 12th, we have Fordham Plaza in the Bronx reserved so that anyone who cares about animals, all animals, can come together and tell NYC, New York State and the entire country that we are not going to take it anymore. This is the National Protest Against Kill Pounds in America. We seek massive awareness with almost 20 locations nationwide, legal action against anyone who abuses animals namely the shelter system including the NY ACC and political action (such as has now been seen with the shelter hijack ASPCA/Paulin bill). I hope this awareness is turned into action. I thank you so much and I hope we can work together to get this revolution off the ground. Kay Riviello, Co-Founder, NY-ARAA

  • Eva Says:

    I received a similar, meaningless reply to my email to Ms White (pres of the ASPCA Board of Directors). Granted my letter wasn’t as eloquent as yours but it was polite, to the point. I asked specific questions. None of them was answered. They could not be in a form letter right? so – why bother? But how can I communicate my disappointment with the organization which obviously failed in its mission to help animals?

    I hope the world is paying attention. Animal lovers and activist certainly are!

    • Valerie Hayes Says:

      Apparently they are sending this letter to anyone who writes to Mary Jo White or to the ASPCA and mentions the Quick Kill Bill. Eventually the ASPCA will have to come to terms with their declining reputation. The problem is that they have such a relentless marketing machine that has become their driving force, rather than the welfare of animals, which should be their driving force. They can delay their day of reckoning by continuing to solicit funds from the ignorant, so the best thing to do is make sure that everyone you know is not among the ignorant. I do believe that by pursuing the Quick Kill Bill and opposing CAARA, and by ignoring constructive criticism from animal advocates, they are hastening that day of reckoning. Eventually, and it may be sooner than we think, the hastening will outstrip the delaying. It really seems like an organization that is working against itself as well as working against the animals and animal rescuers.

  • Mary Ann Toy Says:

    What an awesome and factual letter! I applaud every animal friend that can see the transparency of the ASPCA. Cry me a river ASPCA as you lie to the public and then kill our animals. Each day your being exposed for what you really are, a money hungry killing machine! You can bet everyone I meet in the public is being made aware that their hard money is going into your pockets and not for the animals. Hopefully everyone will unite and join the NATIONAL PROTEST AGAINST KILL POUNDS on May 12th. The time has come to fight back for all the abusive killing of our animals. I will be with hundreds of animals friends standing united! I will also make sure that many many people will stop donating to the ASPCA! The time has come for NOTHING LESS THAN A REVOLUTION! Mary Ann Toy, member of the NY-ARRA

  • Donna Bloomer Says:

    I received a ‘carbon copy’ of the ASPCA’s letter, and had almost exactly the same responses to it. THANKS for dissecting the letter for us!

  • Death Row Dog Rescue Says:

    I so agree but so many of the public were never aware of what really is going on–Thank you so much for being in the front line and doing what very few will-Diana

  • Dale Swisher Says:

    Valarie, thank you for your work. I am a volunteer at the Caboodle Ranch, which was raided by the Madison County Florida Sheriff’s Dept and the ASPCA on Feb. 27, 2012. The 650+ cats and two guard dogs who lived in the largest outdoor cat sanctuary in the world (Guinness Book of World Records 2012) have been confined to cages in a warehouse in Jacksonville, Fl, every since. Recently, the ranch lost its custody case and the animals will probably be put up for adoption–or I should say, parceled out to be killed in kill-shelters. We will appeal, but you can imagine our pockets are not deep. We have thousands of supporters at Caboodle Ranch Fan Page & Caboodle Ranch Inc, in Facebook. The raid was politically motivated by PeTA to influence the discussion on the Florida Animal Rescue Act, which would have required kill shelters to notify no-kill before doing the kill. As you know, PeTA would prefer all companion pets die. The ASPCA is so disappointing because it could have been a partner in a wonderful new type of sanctuary. The ranch has water, electricity, AC, fencing, separate facilities for cats with FIV. Fate was against us the day of the raid, as the weather was horrific–teeming rain, and the outdoor cats came in. Litter boxes were full at 8AM, as the cleaners had not arrived. One of the ASPCA investigators, said “the majority of cats were in dire need of medical attention.” Later that day another investigator, Dr Dick Green, said the majority of cats were not in dire need of medical attention, and the majority of cats did not look like those in the PeTA video. I went to CR twice last year from NJ. It was not as depicted in the PeTA video. The PeTA spy took five months to find cats with URIs and was deceitful in filming a refrigerator that was not used, a three-legged cat that she chased so she could show how it in its worst light (we have been told that that cat was killed at the shelter. It was not sick when it was taken.) I was hoping to also reach Mary Jo White, but realize she will probably not be accessible. Cats that had a happy life at CR will now probably be sent to kill shelters. The cats were left at the ranch because owners could not keep them for various reasons–some were behavioral reasons. These cats are doomed, as are the unadoptable ferals. I have been working for months as a volunteer to try to find a way to make the ASPCA realize what a benefit it would be to their organization and Madison County Florida to make the ranch better, not to destroy it. But I am finding the ASPCA’s goal is to make money, not save lives. I remain hopeful at the moment, but the appeal is probably our last chance. Thanks for the opportunity to make this statement and thanks for your wonderful efforts.

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.