An Open Letter to the Editor of the New York Post From Ed Sayres, president & CEO, ASPCA
NEW YORK, October 22, 2007
For the second time in two weeks, Elizabeth Wolff (most recently in conjunction with James Fanelli) has written articles on dog fighting that reek of bias, innuendo and point the finger of sloppiness and callous disregard at the ASPCA (“Dogfight Capital of the World,” October 14; and “Dogfighting Lair,” October 21, with James Fanelli). Despite being given information by many of my staff over the past several weeks, Ms. Wolff seems unable to distinguish fact from fiction, misquoting ASPCA personnel and completely misrepresenting the true state of dog fighting in New York City.
Contrary to Ms. Wolff’s October 14 article, neither the ASPCA nor the city of New York has seen arrests for organized dog fighting and related activities in recent history (in at least the last 10 years); therefore, we believe that organized dog fighting is not widely prevalent in the area. We communicated this to Ms. Wolff on several occasions, but she seems bent on insinuating otherwise. On occasion, our agents have certainly seen the peripheral effects and elements of dog fighting, which include injured dogs and dog fighting paraphernaliaand we react accordinglybut certainly nothing on the massive scale the Post implies.
For a city that the Post describes as the “dogfight capital of the world,” your earnest reporter has located only one alleged dogfighter, who in yesterday story is shown in a photo apparently lavishing affection on his dogs. If New York City were the dog fighting capital of the world, surely there would be more evidence, or at least more complaints, of this brutal activitybut again, our officers do not receive many reports of suspected dog fighting activities.
It is interesting that yesterday’s article does not quote anyone from the Bronx District Attorney’s office which, according to the Post, is investigating Reyes, nor anyone from the Humane Society of the United States’ National Animal Fighting Task Force, which apparently provided Ms. Wolff with the information that Reyes ‘operates the city’s top dog fighting ring.’
Last week, Ms. Wolff’s story cited anonymous informants and Web sites that we have repeatedly said are not credible. Yet both stories end with statements attributed to the ASPCA’s Joe Pentangelo, assistant director of our Humane Law Enforcement division, who was called out in the more recent article as “confirming” that the HSUS “tipped them off to the Big Apple kennel last year.” This is completely inaccurate. When Ms. Wolff asked Mr. Pentangelo if he had heard of Ralph Reyes, he responded “no.” When she asked him if he had ever heard of Big Apple Kennels, he responded “yes.” This attribution is not only incorrect, but oddly out of place, since information for both Ms. Wolff’s articles was supplied by sources outside of the ASPCA. Further, the “lead” that was characterized as a “tip-off,” purportedly supplied to the ASPCA in 2006, according to last week’s article, was, in fact, looked into by ASPCA personnel, but when they asked for further, credible information, none was supplied. We also provided this information to Ms. Wolff, but she apparently chose not to print itas she chose not to reference practically all the information we provided her.
For the past several months we have answered Ms. Wolff’s numerous questions to the best of our ability while maintaining the appropriate boundaries of professional responsibility by a law enforcement agency. Yet she persists in implying that the ASPCA has fallen short of its law enforcement responsibilities. The fact is, we cannot divulge information about persons or places that may/may not be the subject of an investigation unless we make an arrest, or the case is closed and is public information. This would be irresponsible and undermine the integrity with which we conduct our casesalso a fact that we have repeated several time to Ms. Wolff, to no avail. As such, there seems to be no point in further communicating with her.
You have certainly provided Ms. Wolff an ample forum to broadcast her beliefs. I expect that you will do the ASPCA the same courtesy but this time, print the accurate facts I have provided to you two weeks in a row. As the country’s oldest animal welfare organizationone that was specifically founded as a law enforcement agency and is proud of its legacyyou owe this to us, as well as the New Yorkers we are so proud to serve.