ASPCA Elaborates on Pit Bull Evaluations--Announces Bad Rap as Partner

Public Interest in Fate of Seized Dogs Overwhelming
August 28, 2007

NEW YORK, August 28, 2007—With overwhelming public concern in the fate of the dogs seized from Michael Vick’s Surry County, Va., property, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today provided the following information on the upcoming evaluations of the dogs, as well as the nature of assistance it is providing to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, CAAB, executive vice president, National Programs, and science advisor for the ASPCA, will be leading a team of several other certified applied animal behaviorists (trained animal behavior experts who have been certified by the Animal Behavior Society) in conducting behavior evaluations of the pit bulls seized during the course of the investigation.

As part of this process, BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls), a San Francisco-based non profit organization that is an educational resource for pit bull owners and the shelters that house them, will be working with the ASPCA-led team to help identify dogs that can be absorbed into experienced foster programs for further observation and possible re-homing into appropriate homes—one of several possible outcomes for these dogs.

“We greatly appreciate the trust placed in us by the USDA to ensure that these dogs are given every opportunity to have a second chance, and take this phase of the investigation very seriously,” said Ed Sayres, ASPCA president & CEO. “Fighting dogs obviously face a lot of challenges when considered for rehabilitation or placement but we will make sure they get the professional, thorough and detailed evaluations that they deserve.”

Said Donna Reynolds, BAD RAP executive director, “We’ve seen time and time again that by pooling resources, we can get more accomplished for animals. We’re honored to be a part of the ASPCA’s team effort and look forward to giving our best to the dogs. After all they’ve been through, they certainly deserve a fair trial.”

The ASPCA-led evaluation team will conduct several tests on these dogs, including their response to humans and other dogs, as well as their general reactivity and comfort with being handled. No further details on the specifics of these tests can be released at this time.

Once the evaluations are completed, the ASPCA will provide a final report to the USDA, which will contain the team’s collective recommendations to the USDA on the disposition of the dogs. Other than possible re-homing into appropriate foster homes, recommendation options may include rehabilitation as law enforcement dogs, placement in sanctuaries (which will need to meet USDA facility standards), or euthanasia. However, euthanasia is not the only recommendation or option that will be considered, as has been reported in some media accounts—the results of the evaluations will determine what those recommendations are. No dogs will be placed in private homes at this time. All placements will be made with, and through, experienced rescue, foster and sanctuary groups.

The USDA will review the report, and then pass on its recommendations to a federal court. However, much like the sentencing of a defendant, the final disposition of the dogs will be decided by a federal judge. At no time will the ASPCA take possession of the dogs; they will remain property of the federal government until their disposition has been determined by the government.

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