ASPCA and St. Hubert’s Kill Scared and Abused Dogs

In 2013, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s announced the opening of a “Behavioral Rehabilitation Center” at the St. Hubert’s-Madison shelter to rehabilitate abused dogs from cruelty cases. At the time, the ASPCA stated:

Dogs admitted to the Center will undergo an intensive rehabilitation regimen, with the goal of improving their well-being and helping them become suitable for adoption.

St. Hubert’s stated the following at the same time:

“St. Hubert’s is proud and thrilled to work with the ASPCA on this groundbreaking initiative to help the neediest victims of animal cruelty and the untold numbers of animals in the future who will benefit from the lessons learned through this program”

The ASPCA announced it would publish a research study about its work at this “Behavioral Center” at the time. On June 30, 2022, the ASPCA published its study.

What did the ASPCA study show? Did the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s do right by these victims of animal cruelty?

Scared and Abused Dogs Slaughtered

The ASPCA and St. Hubert’s program severely restricted the types of dogs it took in. The dogs were victims of animal cruelty or neglect who were fearful or exhibited such behavior. The program would not accept the following types of dogs:

  • Physically unhealthy dogs
  • Dogs with other behavior problems, such as resource guarding, dog aggression and separation anxiety
  • Dogs with offensive aggression

From 2013 to 2016, the study took place at the St. Hubert’s-Madison shelter. In 2018, the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center moved to Weaverville, North Carolina. However, the results did not significantly differ between the two facilities and the authors pooled both locations for their study.

Despite the ASPCA taking in physically healthy dogs and those who didn’t display serious aggression (i.e. offensive as opposed to defensive aggression) and other behavior issues, the organization still killed 61 out of 441 or 14% of these scared and abused dogs (two additional dogs were killed by organizations receiving them from the ASPCA).

Death Panel Kills Traumatized Dogs

The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center’s protocol was limited. For five days each week, the organizations provided a mere 15 minutes of “treatment” a day. In fact, dogs on average only spent 93 days (St. Hubert’s) and 108 days (North Carolina) in the program. Therefore, dogs only received on average 4 hours and 39 minutes and 5 hours and 24 minutes of total “treatment” at the St. Hubert’s and North Carolina facilities. During the the other two days a week, dogs received unspecified in-kennel enrichment. The dogs also received a combination of medicines (selected dogs at St. Hubert’s and all dogs at the North Carolina facility). Specifically, a veterinarian prescribed the anti-depressant, Prozac, and the ant-seizure and sedating pain control medicine, Gabapentin. Thus, the dogs received very little rehabilitation.

Each week, the “Outcome Decisions Panel” decided whether dogs lived or died. Specifically, the study stated the following:

If a dog did not show positive behavior change in response to treatment to meet Adoptability Guidelines and/or continued to suffer from a poor quality of life for behavioral reasons, medical problems that arose while the dog was in treatment, or both, the Panel made the decision to humanely euthanize the dog.

In other words, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s consistently made killing a viable solution.

Killing Sad and Depressed Dogs

The ASPCA and St. Hubert’s death panel used a “Quality of Life Assessment Scale” as one of the two primary criteria for deciding the fates of dogs. Shockingly, the organizations’ instructions explicitly state this life or death tool determines if the dogs are currently experiencing mental anguish and not for predicting whether such mental issues would persist outside of the facility. In other words, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s could kill a dog who is mentally distressed at their “Behavioral Rehabilitation Center”, but would be fine in a home.

At the BRC, this tool is used to help determine if a dog is experiencing a good quality of life based on actual observations in the dog’s current environments. It is not to be used to predict quality of life in another time or context.

The “Quality of Life Assessment Scale” is a tool designed to kill dogs by claiming the animals are “mentally suffering.” If a dog doesn’t play on their own, with other dogs, toys or people, the dog has a “poor quality” of life. If the dog doesn’t socialize with other living beings, the animal must be “mentally suffering.” Dogs that don’t urine mark, chew, dig or roll around must have a poor quality of life that makes killing the only “humane” option. If a dog makes the wrong decision about a fear inducing stimuli, we must kill the dog to put him or her out of their misery. Dogs that exhibit repetitive behavior or are scared and anxious must be killed due to their “poor quality” of life. As a result, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s created a pseudo scientific tool to justify killing dogs for absurd reasons.

“Adoptability Guidelines” Designed to Kill Scared Dogs

The ASPCA and St. Hubert’s provided “guidelines” to its death panel to help them determine the fates of dogs. While the organizations state these are “flexible guidelines”, the instructions explicitly state “dogs should exhibit interest/excitement at best and mild to moderate fear at worst in each category” to “graduate from the program.”

The following serve as flexible guidelines, not criteria, to help the Outcome Decisions Panel determine each dog’s outcome. In general, in order to graduate from the program, dogs should exhibit interest/excitement at best and mild to moderate fear at worst in each category.

The “Kennel Presence” standards doom scared dogs who are experiencing kennel stress. The general guidelines require dogs to act nice in their kennels when a person walks by and approaches their kennels:

The dog can tolerate unfamiliar people walking past his or her kennel.

The dog can tolerate an unfamiliar person approaching the front of his or her kennel and pausing for up to 30 seconds to look at the dog. 

Additionally, dogs who show barrier reactivity fail the test and presumably are destined for killing:

Lunging and barking, charging the front of the kennel, growling, and showing teeth in the kennel are not acceptable. 

In reality, barrier or kennel aggression has no relationship to aggression in the real world. It is shelter specific behavior relating to the stress dogs, especially abused and traumatized ones, experience in an unnatural environment. During my times volunteering at shelters, I knew countless dogs with kennel aggression that were perfectly fine in a normal setting. In fact, Dogs Playing for Life, which is an expert at providing enrichment to shelter dogs, states barrier aggression should not be used to assess a dog’s aggression:

Staff will learn that a dog’s behavior on-leash or in their kennel (such as leash reactivity and barrier reactivity) is not an accurate indicator of a dog’s social skills. A dog that may be labeled aggressive because of kennel behavior may exhibit healthy social skills in play group.

The ASPCA’s and St. Hubert’s “Social Behavior/Interaction with People” guidelines require abused dogs to be social butterflies. Dogs should eat out of a familiar person’s hand and follow them around or greet them. One has to to ask, how many people, let alone those experiencing several emotional trauma, could pass such tests?

The dog can eat from a familiar person’s hand.

The dog can eat in the presence of an unfamiliar person. The unfamiliar person can toss treats on the ground/floor.

The dog exhibits behavior indicating that he or she has developed a social relationship with at least one person. Behavior may be subtle: positioning the body near the familiar person, following the familiar person around a room or pen, wagging at or approaching the person to sniff/greet when he or she enters a room, etc. Demonstrative social behavior is not required (e.g., jumping up on the person, play bowing, licking the person’s face).

In fact, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s explicitly state dogs who move away from their owner more than 50% of the time or urinate or try to escape exhibit “unacceptable” behavior (i.e. code word for deserve to die).

Mild fear when interacting with a familiar person in other ways is acceptable. However, moving away 50% of the time or more when a familiar person attempts to come into close proximity (within arm’s reach) of the dog is not acceptable unless the dog immediately returns to the person after the initial move away.

Extreme fear is not acceptable (e.g., loss of bladder or bowel control, escape behavior).  

The guidance for putting on a dog’s leash sentences many abused animals to death. Dogs have to let both familiar and unfamiliar people put a leash on. If it takes more than 5 seconds to put the dog’s leash on, the dog is doomed.

The dog allows a familiar person to leash and unleash him or her using a slip lead and clip lead in a variety of environments, including the dog’s kennel, a “Real Life Room”, and an outdoor play yard. The use of a drag line to facilitate leashing is acceptable if the dog is in a larger room or outdoor space.

The dog also allows an unfamiliar person to leash and unleash him or her using a slip lead and a clip lead in a variety of environments without the presence of a familiar person or a helper dog.

A person shouldn’t need to use “stealthy,” skillful handling techniques to apply the leash. The dog doesn’t have to stay in one place during the leashing process, but it doesn’t take more than 5 seconds to apply the leash.

If the dog pees, shakes, tries to get away or bites the leash, the dog fails these tests and is destined for killing:

Moderate fear and extreme fear are not acceptable (e.g., loss of bladder or bowel control, escape behavior, violent trembling, catatonia).  

Aggression directed toward a person or the leash (snapping or biting at the slip lead during leashing) is unacceptable

The ASPCA’s and St. Hubert’s “Leash Walking” guidance is designed to kill traumatized dogs. If a dog is even the slightest bit reactive, the dog fails. Specifically, the guidance states a “dog can tolerate both a familiar person and an unfamiliar person walking him or her on-leash in the following contexts”:

The dog can walk on-leash past at least one unfamiliar person without a helper dog present.

The dog can walk on-leash in an unfamiliar area without a helper dog present.

The dog can walk up and down stairs, both indoors and outdoors.

The dog can walk through thresholds without balking, panicking, or fleeing.

The dog can walk on-leash in a park-like setting and in a neighborhood with moderate distractions, like occasional passing cars and foot traffic.

In fact, a dog fails and is likely sentenced to death if he or she gets scared for more than a minute by a car or a sudden sound. If the dog panics, chews on the leash or stops walking, the dog fails and the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s will likely kill them.

Mild fear throughout is acceptable. Moderate fear (e.g., startling or stopping when hearing a sudden sound or when a car drives past) is acceptable if the dog recovers, showing a decrease in fearful body language/behavior, within one minute.

Extreme fear is not acceptable (e.g., panic, escape behavior, “gator rolling,” chewing on the leash, becoming completely immobile, and refusing to continue walking).

The “Handling” guidance dooms even dogs who don’t come from abuse cases. Abused dogs must allow strangers to touch them. Furthermore, traumatized dogs have to allow “familiar” people to grab their paws, ears and muzzles and allow those people to give them a bear hug for 10 seconds. If the person has to work to do these things, the dog fails.

The dog tolerates both a familiar person and an unfamiliar person gently handling non-sensitive areas of the dog’s body (chest, shoulders, back, etc.). The dog does not have to appear to actively enjoy or solicit petting.

The dog tolerates a familiar person gently handling sensitive parts of the dog’s body (e.g., paws, ears, muzzle).

Touching the dog shouldn’t require the use of “stealthy,” skilled handling techniques or forced proximity (confining the dog to a small space in order to corner him or her).

The dog tolerates a familiar person gently restraining him or her (picking up the dog or performing a vet hold) for 10 seconds.

The dog doesn’t need to stay completely still when the person attempts to pick up or restrain him or her. However, the handler shouldn’t need to reposition the dog more than one time to accomplish the task.

If the animal shakes, tries to get away or urinates during these trauma-inducing actions, the dog fails and likely faces a death sentence.

Moderate and extreme fear are not acceptable (e.g., loss of bladder or bowel control, escape behavior, violent trembling, catatonia).   

If the dog growls or muzzle punches when someone touches a sensitive area, the dog fails and is likely slated for death.

Growling, snapping, muzzle punching, attempting to bite, or biting during gentle, pain-free handling of non-sensitive or sensitive areas is not acceptable.

If a dog resists in anyway when putting on a muzzle for a veterinary appointment or won’t wear the muzzle for more than three minutes, the dog fails and likely faces being poisoned to death by the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s.

If restraint or handling sensitive areas in a veterinary context provoke an aggressive response, the dog can tolerate wearing a muzzle for a minimum of 3 minutes. A familiar person can easily apply the muzzle, and the dog does not panic, paw at the muzzle, or thrash around after it is secured.

The ASPCA and St. Hubert’s even slate dogs who don’t like being in crates for potential death. According to these organizations’ “guidelines”, dogs must go into a crate within 10 seconds or resist being put into a crate for three seconds or less. If a dog barks or whines in their crate for more than a minute during their first 30 minutes in a crate, the animal doesn’t meet these ridiculous guidelines.

The dog can go into an airline or wire crate within 10 seconds. He or she may do so by following a tossed treat, responding to a cue (verbal cue or hand signal), or moving into the crate when gently guided by the collar. If guided by the collar, the dog does not balk or attempt to back up for more than 3 seconds.

The dog can be left alone inside a crate for at least 30 minutes without barking or whining for more than a total of 1 minute at a time. The dog does not paw at the crate, bite at the crate, or attempt to escape from the crate.

The guidance dooms dogs who shake, pant heavily, “excessively” drool” or attempt to escape from their crates. If a dog barks for more than five seconds while in their crate after a person startles them, the animal fails the test. In other words, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s view these as capital offenses worthy of the death penalty.

Moderate and extreme fear are not acceptable (e.g., trembling, panting heavily, excessively drooling, attempting to escape).    

If a person suddenly enters the room and startles the dog, alarm barking alone is acceptable if the dog stops barking within 5 seconds.

The guidelines for how the dogs respond to getting into and riding in cars is deeply disturbing. The ASPCA and St. Hubert’s expect traumatized dogs to allow people to boost them or pick them up to put the animals in cars. Also, dogs must be able to ride in a car restrained by a seat belt, inside a crate or behind a barrier. Apparently, dogs who don’t like to ride in cars are worthy of the death penalty in the ASPCA’s and St. Hubert’s eyes.

The dog can get into a car by jumping up into it, by jumping up partway and then allowing a handler to “boost” him or her into it, or by allowing a handler to pick him or her up.

The dog can ride in a car, restrained by a dog seatbelt, inside a crate or behind a barrier. 

Dogs who are scared in cars get no empathy from these kill first organizations. If a dog becomes startled for more than 30 seconds when a loud truck passes or when the car makes a sudden movement, the animal fails the test. If the dog shakes, attempts to escape or bites the leash when getting near or into a car, the dog is deemed unfit. Similarly, if a dog barks for more than five seconds after someone suddenly appears and startles the dog in a car, the dog fails. If a scared dog lunges, barks, growls and shows teeth while being scared in the car, the dog fails. Thus, the ASPCA’s and St. Hubert’s guidance sentences dogs to potential death for the mere crime of being scared to ride in cars.

Moderate fear (e.g., startling when a loud truck passes by or when the car makes sudden movements) is acceptable if the dog recovers (shows an obvious decrease in fearful body language/behavior) within 30 seconds.

Showing extreme fear (trembling, attempting to escape, biting at the leash, etc.) when approaching a car, getting into a car, or riding in a car is not acceptable.  

If a person suddenly appears and startles the dog while he or she is in the car, alarm barking alone is acceptable if the dog stops barking within 5 seconds.

Lunging and barking, growling, and showing teeth at any time are not acceptable.

Dogs who are scared of other dogs get no reprieve from the behavior Nazis at the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s. If a dog shakes a lot, urinates, tries to escape or becomes frozen in fear when seeing another dog, the dog fails the test and likely faces a death sentence. Dogs that bark for more than 10 seconds when seeing a dog off-leash fail the test. If the dog is on leash, the dog fails if the handler can’t lead the barking dog away in five seconds or less. Upon greeting another dog, the dog fails the test if the dog growls, barks and shows teeth for more than five seconds. If the scared dog lunges forward and barks and growls at another dog, the dog fails and is slated for death. Even if another dog attacks the scared dog, the dog fails if it defends itself and continues after the aggressor dog backs down. Thus, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s expect traumatized and abused dogs to be perfect with other dogs or face a death sentence.

Extreme fear is not acceptable (e.g., loss of bladder or bowel control, escape behavior, violent trembling, complete immobility). 

Alarm barking alone may be acceptable when the dog sees another dog from a distance (8 feet away or more) or when another dog comes into view, as long as he or she stops vocalizing in under 10 seconds, and, if the dog is on-leash, an average handler can lead him or her in another direction within 5 seconds or less.

Lunging or charging forward toward another dog, along with barking, growling, and/or showing teeth, are not acceptable in any context.

When greeting another dog, growling, barking, showing teeth, and snapping are acceptable as long as these behaviors are brief (under 5 seconds) and inhibited: the dog stays in place or moves away from the other dog. Appropriate “corrections,” such as loudly barking and snapping at another dog that jumps on the dog or persistently solicits play, are acceptable. Biting (causing one or more puncture wounds) is not acceptable.

All aggressive behavior is acceptable if the dog is responding to aggressive behavior initiated by another dog—unless the dog continues to aggress after the aggressor stops (lies down, tries to move or run away, rolls over, yelps, and shows fearful body language, etc.).

Most disturbing, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s killed dogs with “moderate” fear who improved. According to the ASPCA guidance, these dogs were not “extremely fearful” during the majority of their evaluations, showed brief social behaviors with a familiar person and did not bite or attempt to bite. Specifically, the dogs the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s killed on average improved from having “severe” to “moderate” fear. Thus, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s killed dogs who progressed and clearly were capable of living their lives without harming anyone.

Program Utilizes Scientifically Invalid Temperament Tests

The ASPCA’s and St. Hubert’s “rehabilitation” program is based off flawed temperament testing. While the tests were more expansive than those in the ASPCA’s SAFER program, many of them are still based on behavior in an unnatural shelter setting. Scientific studies show these tests are inaccurate. In fact, the authors of a 2019 study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior concluded:

This argues against use of any behavior evaluation to make important decisions for shelter dogs, especially if the behavior(s) of concern were only observed during provocative testing.

In fact, the ASPCA itself wrote a “Position Statement” in 2018 arguing against using its SAFER test in most circumstances:

For these reasons, the ASPCA recommends that, unless aggressive behavior during an assessment is egregious*, shelters should consider it valid only if corroborated in another environment.

*”Egregious” aggression should be defined by the individual shelter, but some defining characteristics could be (a) a bite that requires medical treatment, (b) an injurious bite that the dog could have avoided inflicting but opted to bite rather than retreat, (c) an injurious bite delivered without obvious warning, or (d) an attack in which repeated injurious bites are delivered.

The authors of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior study criticized the ASPCA’s limited use of temperament tests:

However we would argue that even if used in such a fashion, it must still be recognized that the clinical importance of the behavior(s) remains subjective and should not be interpreted as a scientifically validated indicator of future behavior.

Despite this, the ASPCA continued using scientifically invalid temperament tests at its Behavioral Rehabilitation Center even after it wrote its position statement arguing against using such tests. Specifically, the ASPCA published it position opposing temperament tests in 2018 and continued to enroll dogs into its study using such tests through 2020.

ASPCA and St. Hubert’s Hypocrisy

The ASPCA’s killing of more than 60 abused and traumatized dogs contradicts its TV ads about the organization saving abused animals. When one considers the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s deliberately did not accept dogs who displayed serious aggression (i.e. offensive) and those animals with concerning medical issues, these killings become even more disgusting. Simply put, the ASPCA dupes its donors into thinking it is saving abused dogs when it is in fact killing significant numbers of these creatures.

The ASPCA’s killing becomes more abhorrent when we consider the immense wealth this organization has. According to the ASPCA’s most recent year Form 990, it took in $325 million of revenue. At the end of its most recent fiscal year, the ASPCA had $407 million of net assets. The ASPCA’s CEO received $966,004 of total compensation in its most recent reported year. As a result, the ASPCA killed scared and abused dogs after short periods of time while it had massive amounts of money available and paid its CEO exorbitantly.

The ASPCA’s corruption is consistent with a CBS News expose last summer. The news organization found the ASPCA only spent 40% of its money on the animals despite its TV ads portraying that is where the money goes. Additionally, the organization took advantage of the public belief that the ASPCA and local SPCA shelters are the same organization, when they are not, to garner fundraising dollars for itself.

Most insidious, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s are trying to pass laws to force innocent pet owners accused of neglect and abuse to surrender their animals to them and/or their partner kill shelters. Under these bills, shelters can force owners accused of neglect or cruelty to surrender their animals before a case is decided if those owner can’t pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of fees. After shelters take ownership of these pets, these facilities can kill the animals. As we see with the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s own study, this is a very significant risk. Even if the owners are ultimately found innocent, they cannot get their animals back. According to Connecticut’s Office of Legislative Research, only 18% of 3,500 animal cruelty cases in the state from 2008 to 2018 resulted in a finding of guilt. Thus, the ASPCA and St. Hubert’s push these laws to raise money off these cases and then often kill the pets when their fundraising use ends.

Unfortunately, the ASPCA seeks to kill more dogs who are “mentally suffering” under proposed New York legislation. While vaguely worded, the bill would essentially force shelters to kill mentally or emotionally ill dogs they couldn’t treat. When we couple this with the ASPCA’s and St. Hubert’s pet seizing cost of care bill, we can see shelters seizing innocent pet owners dogs, fundraising off them and then killing them because they couldn’t “treat” them. In other words, these bills would codify the ASPCA’s and St. Hubert’s abhorrent practice of killing scared dogs.

The ASPCA authors of this study stated the following:

This program represents a significant investment of time and expertise; we acknowledge that only well-resourced animal welfare agencies can provide a comparable program for moderately to extremely fearful dogs.


Although the treatment time required was not insubstantial, we hope this report will encourage well-resourced organizations to invest in the recovery of homeless animals who fit this population’s behavioral profile.

Frankly, no organization, wealthy or poor, should implement a “program” that kills more than five dozen scared and abused dogs. Imagine if you were an abused dog in a facility with people looking for ways to kill you? How much fear would you experience when behavior Nazis were provoking you to become more fearful and lash out? People who sought to make you so scared you urinated or defecated on the ground, trembled and became catatonic. Simply put, these are sociopathic actions and no organization who cares about animals should ever replicate them.

St. Hubert’s Kills Newark’s Homeless Dogs

March 11, 2020 Update: I revised this blog for additional data I had received. While the dog statistics improved slightly, the overall conclusions remain the same. The additional cat data suggests St. Hubert’s had a good cat live release rate as opposed to my previous uncertain conclusion. However, St. Hubert’s cat live release rate was largely driven by a very high amount of rescue assistance.

Newark has long had severe problems with Associated Humane Societies-Newark. Over 50 years ago, the modern form of AHS-Newark began with a corrupt contract that a court threw out and resulted in AHS long-time Executive Director, Lee Bernstein, being sentenced to jail. In 2003, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation issued a scathing report on AHS that found the organization raising massive amounts of money and failing to properly care for their animals. Over the years, state health department inspectors found horrific problems and former Mayor Cory Booker tried to build a new no kill shelter to replace AHS-Newark.

My analyses revealed this shelter was high kill and broke state law. In 2015, I published a blog about how animals primarily impounded from animal control in Newark during 2014 fared at the shelter. Remarkably, 84% of dogs and cats, 93% of cats, 70% of dogs and 81% of pit bull like dogs with known outcomes lost their lives. Subsequently, I posted a blog about AHS-Newark violating state law left and right and requested the New Jersey Department of Health inspect the shelter.

The New Jersey Department of Health found horrific problems at AHS-Newark in 2017. You can read the August 22, 2017 inspection here, the September 26, 2017 inspection here and the October 20, 2017 inspection report here. Overall, the problems were so severe that authorities charged Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, with animal cruelty. Ultimately, the prosecutor and Roseann Trezza entered into an agreement in or around May 2018 to supposedly bar Ms. Trezza from the Newark shelter for two years and make her pay a $3,500 fine in exchange for dismissing the charges.

In 2018, Newark and AHS had several contract disputes that created major crises. In March 2018, AHS attorney, Harry Levin, sent a letter to Plainfield and Belleville stating it suspended providing animal control and sheltering services to Newark. While AHS and Newark ultimately came to an agreement, the arrangement fell apart in the Fall of 2018 and AHS-Newark refused to accept Newark animals after November 7, 2018.

Newark and Large Animal Welfare Organizations Exclude Animal Advocates from Process to Replace AHS-Newark

After AHS-Newark decided to stop taking in Newark’s homeless animals, Newark officials scrambled for a solution. During October 2018, Newark officials considered sites to build a city owned shelter. Two of those sites are listed below.

Newark Proposed Shelter Site 1

Newark Proposed Shelter Site 2

Additionally, Newark’s then Deputy Mayor and Director of Economic and Housing Development, John Palmieri, stated a shelter would cost $15 million, which would be funded by municipal bonds. Furthermore, the Newark official said the city could get the shelter built within 15-18 months. However, Mr. Palmieri noted finding an operator was an issue given Best Friends declined to run a city owned shelter.

On October 31, 2018, Newark held a meeting with large animal welfare organizations. As you can see below, the attendees included two St. Hubert’s executives, the Humane Society of the United States New Jersey Director, Best Friends Northeast Regional Director, Liberty Humane Society’s Executive Director, New York City Mayor’s Office Animal Welfare Liasion and several members of the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness. Most notably, the meeting did not include a single animal advocate.

Subsequently, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced a deal for St. Hubert’s to provide sheltering services through the end of 2018 and that the city and Liberty Humane Society were negotiating a contract for 2019 (Liberty Humane Society ultimately did not enter into an agreement with Newark and St. Hubert’s continued its arrangement in 2019). At the time, I was happy to see Newark ditch AHS-Newark, but was concerned that St. Hubert’s would also kill animals. These concerns were based on my personal experience with St. Hubert’s, stories I heard over the years about the organization’s behavioral evaluations and the fact the shelter primarily serves areas with few challenging dogs. After reviewing St. Hubert’s contract with Newark, I publicly asked St. Hubert’s to provide details on how it would handle Newark’s animals to avoid killing them. Subsequently, I expressed deep concerns about St. Hubert’s not publicly disclosing what the outcomes of its Newark animals were and the City of Newark not making progress on building its own shelter.

At the end of April 2019, St. Hubert’s terminated its arrangement with Newark citing “financial hardship.” Furthermore, St. Hubert’s stated the “homeless animals in Newark will be best served by a centrally located facility that can provide ample resources and care.” However, St. Hubert’s also told NJ Advance Media that “The needs for a city that size are bigger than we can sustain without being a detriment to our other programs.” Ironically, St. Hubert’s admitted it continued with its “regularly scheduled rescues and transports throughout New Jersey and the United States” during the time it contracted with Newark. In other words, St. Hubert’s was not serious about saving Newark’s homeless animals since it interfered with their transport based pet store business model. As a result of St. Hubert’s move, the City of Newark had no animal shelter provider for a day. With no other alternative, the City of Newark contracted again with AHS-Newark at around a 50% greater monthly cost than it previously had with AHS-Newark.

What kind of job did St. Hubert’s do with Newark’s homeless animals? Did St. Hubert’s live up to the progressive ideals it portrays to the public? What effect will the St. Hubert’s and other animal welfare organizations’ arrangement have on Newark’s homeless animals in the future?

Data Reviewed

In order to get a better understanding of the job St. Hubert’s did with Newark’s homeless animals, I requested the intake and disposition records for each individual dog and cat the shelter took in from Newark during its contract term. Unfortunately, the City of Newark did not give me records for every animal. However, I did get records for a significant number of animals that gave me an understanding of how St. Hubert’s handled the Newark contract. You can see those records here and here.

St. Hubert’s Kills Large Number of Newark’s Homeless Dogs

St. Hubert’s had large percentages of their Newark dogs lose their lives. Overall, 35% of all dogs who had known outcomes lost their lives. If we just look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners, 54% of all these dogs lost their lives. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only had 1% of its dogs and 2% of its nonreclaimed dogs lose their lives in 2018. Thus, St. Hubert’s had its Newark dogs lose their lives at 35 times and 27 times Austin Animal Center’s rates for all dogs and nonreclaimed dogs.

Newark pit bulls fared far worse at St. Hubert’s. 47% of all pit bulls and 68% of nonreclaimed pit bulls with known outcomes lost their lives. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its pit bulls and 2% of its nonreclaimed pit bulls in 2018. As a result, St. Hubert’s had its Newark pit bulls lose their lives at 47 times and 34 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

St. Hubert’s also had too many small dogs and other medium to large size breeds from Newark lose their lives. Overall, the shelter had 18% of small dogs and 25% of other medium to large size breeds with known outcomes lose their lives. Frankly, shelters should be able to save nearly all small dogs due to the fact such animals cannot seriously injure dog savvy adult owners. Even the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive facility, only had 1% of small dogs lose their lives in 2017Austin Animal Center only had 1% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size breeds lose their lives in 2018. Thus, St. Hubert’s had both small dogs and other medium to large size breeds lose their lives at 18 times and 25 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

Since St. Hubert’s did not have known outcomes in many of the records provided to me, it is useful to do an adjusted analysis assuming some of the ending population animals were adopted out. The table below assumes all dogs placed into foster homes or dogs adopted on a trial basis were adopted out. Under these assumptions, the death rates for all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs were 29%, 39%, 14% and 21%. The nonreclaimed death rates using these assumptions were 40%, 53%, 17% and 38% for all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs. Thus, St. Hubert’s Newark dog statistics were still terrible even when assuming large numbers of dogs were adopted out.

The final dog analysis assumes St. Hubert’s adopted out all Newark dogs in the ending population. While I believe this is unrealistic, it is useful to see how St. Hubert’s performed using the most generous assumption. Under this assumption, the death rates for all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds were 16%, 20%, 9% and 13%. The nonreclaimed death rates using these assumptions were 19%, 23%, 11% and 17%. Thus, St. Hubert’s Newark dog statistics were still awful even when the shelter received the most favorable assumption.

Cat Data Suggests Good Performance Due to Rescue Assistance

St. Hubert’s overall Newark cat statistics indicated death rates were slightly high. Overall, 11% of all cats, 11% of adult cats and 13% of kittens with known outcomes lost their lives. The nonreclaimed death rate was 13% for all cats, adult cats and kittens.

St. Hubert’s Newark cat statistics assuming live releases for all cats who were adopted out on a trial basis or placed into foster homes were good. Overall, the death rates using these assumptions for all cats, adult cats and kittens were 8%, 10% and 4%. The nonreclaimed death rates were 9% for all cats, 12% for adult cats and 4% for kittens.

The data suggests transfers to rescues and/or other shelters played a significant role. Overall, transfers to other organizations exceeded adoptions for both all cats and adult cats. For adult cats, transfers exceeded adoptions by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. If some of the trial adoptions and animals sent to foster homes ultimately were transferred and not adopted out, transfers to rescues and/or other shelters would have played an even larger role. Thus, St. Hubert’s seemed to disproportionately rely on other organizations to save the cats it took in from Newark.

St. Hubert’s cat statistics assuming all cats with no known outcomes were adopted out were very good. Overall, the death rates using this assumption for all cats, adult cats and kittens were 5%, 6% and 4%. The nonreclaimed death rates were 6% for all cats, 7% for adult cats and 4% for kittens. However, this generous assumption likely is not right since shelters frequently kill cats who stay at shelters for longer periods.

St. Hubert’s Absurd “Community Outreach” Claim

St. Hubert’s asserted Newark had a “pet overpopulation” problem and the organization was “dedicated to getting to the root cause” of it in its Spring 2019 newsletter. Newark Animal Control’s data showed AHS-Newark impounded 3,281 dogs and cats from Newark or 11.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 people during a 12 month period in 2017-2018. As a comparison, no kill communities in Kansas City, Missouri, Lake County, Florida and Austin, Texas took in 21.8, 17.4 and 15.1 dogs and cats per 1,000 people in 2019. Thus, St. Hubert’s claim that Newark has a “pet overpopulation” problem is not true since communities taking in significantly more animals on a per capita basis and in total achieved no kill.

St. Hubert’s attempt to solve this so-called “pet overpopulation” problem was inadequate. In that same newsletter, St. Hubert’s stated it provided free spay/neuter to 238 cats (who they said were mostly outdoor or community cats) and 33 dogs during a one time event. While I’m happy St. Hubert’s offered this service, these numbers would never make a dent in the dog or community cat population in Newark. Based on the methodology from St. Hubert’s own analysis from May 2014, the City of Newark should have between 20,896 and 47,015 community cats and 22,311 dogs. Therefore, St. Hubert’s spay/neuter effort would have sterilized 0.5% to 1.1% of Newark’s community cats and 0.1% of the city’s dogs. While a St. Hubert’s press release stated a slightly higher number of dogs and cats received free spay/neuter services (375 animals), this would only modestly increase these percentages. Based on a recent study showing sterilization rates of 60%-80% of a community cat population being needed to make a substantial reduction in the population, St. Hubert’s spay/neuter efforts clearly were not sufficient. Similarly, the low percentage of the Newark dog population sterilized at the clinic also shows this will have no real effect on dog intake at AHS-Newark. While St. Hubert’s claimed they would do more clinics if they got funding, I’ve not seen the organization make a substantial effort at doing this. Thus, St. Hubert’s spay/neuter effort is a public relations ploy rather than an effective no kill strategy.

Dog Data Consistent with St. Hubert’s Killing “Rescued” Newark Dogs

Recently, St. Hubert’s shocked animal advocates after it killed four dogs it “rescued” from AHS-Newark. St. Hubert’s killed the four dogs, Avery, Sumo, Bowser and Andy, after holding the animals for just 18 days. While St. Hubert’s claimed these dogs were severely dog aggressive, all the dogs were Associated Humane Societies-Newark “event” dogs. When I was a volunteer at AHS-Newark, we typically took the best behaved dogs to adoption events due to the obvious behavior challenges these events posed (i.e. many people, other dogs, etc.). As you can see in the pictures below, and by the fact these dogs participated well in these events, St. Hubert’s reasoning makes no sense. Additionally, AHS Assistant Executive Director, Ken McKeel, also came to the conclusion that these dogs could have been placed. Furthermore, animal welfare groups saved nearly every dog from the Michael Vick dog fighting case (i.e. proving organizations can even safely place many dogs used for fighting). Given St. Hubert’s operates a huge dog training facility, this organization had more than enough resources to do great things for these dogs.

The reality is St. Hubert’s did virtually nothing, but poison these dogs to death. How do I know? The shelter killed ALL four dogs on the same exact day after less than three weeks in their so-called shelter. In fact, the AHS Assistant Executive Director stated St. Hubert’s would not place these dogs after just nine days. Frankly, it defies logic that St. Hubert’s would conclude ALL four dogs were beyond help at the exact same time and after such a short period.

These events prove new St. Hubert’s Chief Operating Officer, Michelle Thevenin, was the wrong choice for the job. Ironically, Humane Rescue Alliance, the Washington D.C. based organization that recently acquired St. Hubert’s, announced Michelle Thevenin’s hiring on the very day St. Hubert’s conducted its fake “rescue” of these dogs and fundraising ploy. Ms. Thevenin previously ran a shelter in New Hampshire, and more recently, a limited admission shelter in Georgia. Humane Rescue Alliance stated the following in its press release:

Thevenin is deeply committed to growing St. Hubert’s best-in-class WayStation transport program.

Additionally, the Humane Rescue Alliance press release said:

She is committed to growing the WayStation and building capacity to help more animals and people.

Michelle Thevenin proved that she is firmly committed to St. Hubert’s and Roger Haston’s transport driven pet store business model. In other words, transport the easy to adopt dogs to raise money and receive large adoption fees, and kill the local dogs (i.e. adult pit bulls) that may require just a little work. This philosophy aligns with Humane Rescue Alliance’s own terrible performance with large dogs and pit bull like dogs in Washington D.C. and Humane Rescue Alliance celebrating Roger Haston last year.

Clearly, New Jersey legislators, animal advocates and animal welfare organizations should not consider St. Hubert’s an authority on any animal sheltering issues. Simply put, St. Hubert’s is controlled by an out of state organization looking to make itself, and its CEO who made $335,698 in fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, rich rather than helping New Jersey animals.

Simply put, St. Hubert’s views large dogs, particularly pit bulls, as expendable. St. Hubert’s own data from its Newark contract, its treatment of Avery, Sumo, Bowser and Andy prove that.

St. Hubert’s and National Animal Welfare Groups Enable AHS-Newark to Continue Doing Business as Usual

While I believe the national organizations involved in getting St. Hubert’s the Newark animal sheltering contract had good intentions, the end result made things worse for the city’s homeless animals. In November 2018, the City of Newark faced immense pressure to replace AHS-Newark. Given the very public and heated dispute between the City of Newark and AHS-Newark at this time, the City of Newark was unlikely to continue contracting with AHS-Newark. In other words, the City of Newark would likely have had to come up with an alternative, including running the shelter itself. Thus, the national organizations and St. Hubert’s brokered a deal that allowed the City of Newark to avoid taking this necessary action.

Unfortunately, St. Hubert’s own data and actions prove it never wanted to solve Newark’s animal sheltering crisis. Instead, it got some good news headlines and gave the City of Newark and AHS-Newark the political cover to continue contracting. After six months and St. Hubert’s abruptly walking away from its arrangement, the City of Newark made the case AHS-Newark changed and could be a viable sheltering solution:

The Associated Humane Societies (AHS) has a new board and both a vision and approach to achieving its mission to support the health and welfare of animals at risk,” said Dr. Wade. We are looking forward to a progressive relationship with them as we continue to canvass the city for a facility and location that would be appropriate for animal sheltering and in turn provide us with a long term solution.

As with past promises to build a new shelter, the City of Newark is unlikely to act without a sheltering crisis. Based on the New Jersey Department of Health’s refusal to inspect any animal shelters in over a year, we will probably not get the state health department to inspect AHS-Newark anytime soon. Since bad inspections historically drove media coverage of failing shelters, the City of Newark will face no pressure to replace AHS-Newark.

Sadly, AHS-Newark is regressing to its old ways. Last November, AHS Assistant Executive Director, Rob Russotti, resigned due to the AHS board refusing to allow him to make positive change at the shelter:

“I can unequivocally state that I was disappointed with my expectations of support, and an ongoing antiquated culture by certain members of the board,” Russotti said. “I did meet with internal resistance and undermining to my progressive initiatives which were supported by respected animal welfare organizations and the community.”

Recently, new AHS Assistant Executive Director, Ken McKeel, stated he will not allow rescues to pull small dogs, kittens and puppies unless they “take an older longtime resident or two.” As I stated in a Facebook post, this policy will increase killing at this regressive shelter for the following reasons:

  1. Not allowing rescues to pull more adoptable pets will lead to these animals staying at the shelter longer and cause less resources to go towards saving the harder to adopt animals.
  2. It will increase the shelter’s average length of stay (since AHS-Newark does a poor job with adoptions) and that will result in more sick animals and pets with behavior issues.
  3. Rescues are not likely to pull more hard to adopt animals just to get some easier to adopt pets. These rescues will simply go to other shelters.
  4. AHS-Newark is destroying its relationship with rescues who it will desperately need when the shelter becomes full.
  5. Many rescues will likely not pull animals since they have to make an appointment with an organization that is notoriously difficult to deal with.

With Roseann Trezza’s two year probation period barring her from officially running AHS-Newark expiring this spring, AHS-Newark will likely continue its decades long practice of regressive sheltering. Furthermore, AHS-Newark now receives around 50% more money from the City of Newark than before the St. Hubert’s contract. As such, AHS-Newark will surely feel emboldened to do whatever it wants.

Clearly, the St. Hubert’s debacle proves the animal shelter establishment in New Jersey and the United States cannot implement real shelter reform. Instead, as in most no kill communities, no kill advocates must engage in a long political campaign to force Newark and the other AHS-Newark contracting municipalities to create a real no kill shelter.