'Commentary on The SS Temperament Test, Part 3'
Former Employees - pg. 2 Ann Naumann (continued)
Spring 2002: Excerpts from her open letter, “The Truth About…”
The last Live Long and Prosper that we attended, a horrific 14 dogs were euthanized when the seminar ended. Sue took them all at once, in the Kennel Van, which she dubbed the “death mobile.” This was one of the most devastating days; the staff was asked to bring the dogs out to the crates in the kennel van through tears of absolute devastation. To this day we remember their names….
We were able to work at Rondout for so long because of Sue’s policy. If a dog failed the temperament test, and was unadoptable for Sue’s standards, staff members were able to take the dog home or privately place them. Sue’s main concern was always liability. Over the years we have adopted…and placed plenty of them. The dogs we placed privately have had no problems to date. I don’t know what brought about the change in policy, but as of September 2001, the staff was no longer allowed to take home or place any dog Sue found unadoptable. (If Sue found a dog to be unadoptable, it was going to die.) If we questioned her, her reply was always “I’m a professional.”
Valentino was a beautiful Beagle. From day one, Sue did not like Valentino. He passed the temperament test but Sue found him “unsocial.” On one particular day, Sue scheduled Valentino and another dog Sasha for euthanasia. Sasha was a beautiful…high-strung Shepherd mix. She did not do well in the shelter environment. Sasha passed her temperament test. On a particular day, we managed to move Valentino out. Sue returned late, missing her 5 o’clock appointment to euthanize the two dogs. The trainer told her of Valentino’s rehoming and asked her to please take Sasha out and demonstrate what Sasha was being euthanized for. Sasha was promptly euthanized. The trainer told me the next day Sue had become very angry about Valentino being rehomed, and she felt “Sue needed to kill a dog that day.”
The temperament test has been revised. What was once a tool to flush out aggression in a potentially dangerous dog was now a weapon that condemns the average dog. A basic tooth exam, one of the first parts of the test, which was traditionally done five times for five seconds in a row is now done repetitively until a dog resists. Any sign of resistance is a sign of dominance. This dog is now unadoptable, and he will die. I feel this is borderline abusive. If a person pokes you in the arm over and over, won’t you eventually say “stop it!”
If a dog ignores Sue, it’s labeled dominant aggressive. … We watched Sue temperament test Lady a 5-yr old owner-surrender Shepherd mix in the kennel office. She had no issues, however she was preoccupied looking out the window (possibly owner-searching). She ignored Sue. Sue labeled her “dominant” and “independent” based on this, and slated her for euthanasia.
From September 2001 to January 2002, nine out of 10 dogs coming in were labeled dominant aggressive and were euthanized. How is this possible? Sue would temperament test the dogs in the office, and the staff would watch. … The dog would usually fail. … The trainer designed her own version of the temperament test for small dogs. This way she could tell Sue that she temperament tested the dogs and they passed. She just didn’t tell Sue that they passed her own test. They never would have passed Sue’s test.
One of the best employees Rondout had, quit after four years because of the amount of senseless euthanasia. … This worker…walked into Sue’s office…and was horrified to find the bodies of several dogs that Sue had the veterinarian…euthanize. None of Sue’s workers support what she does…what does that say about her euthanasia policies?
When I was having two Pit Bulls and a German Shepherd mix transported from Long Island where they were slated to be euthanized, I felt they would be given a fair chance here. Sue said “don’t get your hopes up, there are no adoptable dogs in Long Island.” I thought she was kidding…I’ve since learned otherwise. Sue told my daughter “don’t get attached.” Needless to say, these dogs were all euthanized. I don’t feel they were ever given a fair chance; they were labeled unadoptable before they even arrived.
One red flag was all the lying that was being done. On many occasions, most related to Sue’s Training Wheels program, people were convinced to surrender their dogs to Rondout so that they could be rehomed. Sue never had any intention of rehoming any of these dogs.
Sue promised a backyard breeder that 5 or 6 Great Pyrenees dogs surrendered to Sue would be rehomed. These…malnourished, neglected dogs were driven directly to the vet and promptly euthanized. They never came into the shelter or got a bath, a meal, or a warm place to sleep. What makes this particularly horrific is the staff was directed to lie whenever the breeder would call and check on the dogs. We were told to tell her that the dogs were placed, and that they were fine. The staff never even met the dogs.
Sue, in conjunction with AWAN (Animal Welfare Adoption Network), visited a man in Sullivan County who had many dogs, mostly tied to dog houses, and convinced him to surrender some of his dogs, under the pretense that they would be rehomed. Sue drove these dogs directly to the veterinarian where they were promptly euthanized. The next morning there were at least four phone messages on the machine from Holly of AWAN, begging Sue not to euthanize the dogs; she had foster homes for them. They never had a chance…it was never intended for them to have a chance.
What started out to be a wonderful program - going into the community, handing out training supplies, and giving advice - turned into a program of talking people into surrendering their pets, and the pets being euthanized, and most of the time the people were unaware of the fate of their dogs.
What gives Sue the right to play God? Why should she decide who lives and who dies? What gives her the right to lie to people about the fate of their pets, because she decides that they would be better off dead?
A New Hampshire humane society had a lot of dogs from…Virginia [and brought] some to us. … One seemed a little too hyper. I asked them if they would consider taking this dog back with them and giving us a different dog. The way Sue had been lately, I knew she would not like this girl. Then it hit the fan. Sue arrived and became enraged that I would send the dog elsewhere because the dog wouldn’t like her. Sue jerked the dog around on a leash and angrily proceeded to temperament test her outside the New Hampshire shelter van after this poor dog had been in the van for 7 hours. This goes against everything Sue says about temperament testing. She broke her own rules to make a point. I’m 100% sure she sealed this dog’s fate. The poor thing never had a chance.
I was fired for my inability to agree with her euthanasia policy. My husband and children were fired for being related to me. Sue will not tolerate opposition.
At a recent seminar in Vermont, Sue was quoted as saying her goal is to euthanize 75% of the dogs in the Northeast. ... Recently I had a conversation with a friend and fellow trainer of Sue’s about this comment. She said she felt the number was too low; if she had made the statement she would have made it 85% of the dogs in the Northeast.
(Note: This friend of Sue’s is now the manager of Rondout.)
Apparently this has been Sue’s goal all along. She has nicknamed herself Hitler, and is basically having her own Doggy Holocaust, practicing “genocide” on all Northeastern dogs, right under all of our noses. Just remember, Sue has a goal, and I haver known her to change a goal. What she is doing is very dangerous for animals everywhere, especially in the Northeast.
Christina Adams, Rondout Valley Kennels employee for 7 years
10/12/03: Excerpts from her letter to an ASPCA officer who has attacked unnamed “former employees” of spreading “distressing rumors” about Sue Sternberg and her program:
I am not a disgruntled ex-employee. I was very close to Sue. She was considered to be part of my family. I have done temperament evaluations with Sue. I do believe that many times we have to choose euthanasia for shelter dogs. I do not believe Sue Sternberg’s method is correct or humane. I can say this because I worked there, and witnesses many brutal tests, unlike many people who choose to defend her methods but have never witnessed her real tests.Sir Thomas…was a WTC (World Trade Center) dog. Sue took advantage of that for publicity reasons, and as soon as everything with the WTC died down, guess what? Sir Thomas all of a sudden became dominant aggressive. He was put up for euthanasia. Thanks to my family, Sir Thomas is living on a farm with 8 children, with no problems to date. My family and I have also successfully placed many other dogs while with Sue (ones which she wanted euthanized)with no problems.
Anyone who saw the documentary “Shelter Dogs” may have or may not have caught on to the extremity of Sue’s temperament test. In one of the scenes, a cocker spaniel named “Beau” is surrendered. Before she ever began a temperament test, she tells the staff that the dog is aggressive and not to get attached, without…the dog even giving an aggressive reaction to anything. That goes against everything she teaches, now doesn’t it. She tells everyone at her seminars to let the dog settle in before testing and judging the dog. This is why it is so hard for people to believe how extreme she is.
For a person to kill 14 dogs in one day in a shelter that can only house up to 30 dogs, I mean, come on! 14 out of 30 were so aggressive they had to be killed? She really is a killing machine.
Temperament Testing - Quotes from
Sue Sternberg’s Former Employees
Dana Adams, Rondout Valley Kennels employee for 7 years
Sue has changed quite a bit…and I’m not sure why. … She used to LISTEN to our suggestions, comments, ideas on how to save an animal - then she stopped. SHE decided when a dog was bad. SHE decided what dogs would be put down. SHE would even sneak dogs out of the kennel (to euthanize them) without anyone knowing where they went, until it was too late.
I worked there for 7 years…and the changes we saw in Sue are incredible. I don’t think she is trying to reach the same goals she used to - which was to place her shelter animals in the best home possible. It now seems like all dogs fail the temperament test and aren’t given a fair chance - they are then euthanized.
My entire family was fired from Rondout…for our “opposing views on euthanasia,” as Sue put it. My mother was the manager there for years.
One dog, a 120 lb. Redbone coonhound…was labeled by Sue to have “a look” and could turn out to be dangerous. Dangerous? I think not. This dog now lives with 12 other dogs, 5 kids, my parents…and we all adore him to pieces. Our household revolves around this boneheaded hound - it’s hard not to love him! Every one of our friends falls in love with him - he is a wonderful, magnificent pet - but…he is “dangerous” according to Sue. And that is how he and many other dogs from Rondout ended up in our house.
Sue has started seeing “looks” in dogs’ eyes, which really don’t exist.
I do not totally oppose temperament testing, but the way it is being conducted in many shelters is not right or fair to the animal. … Sue’s temperament tests used to be done correctly, to help us understand what kind of dog we were dealing with…they are now only used to determine a dog’s fate - which, in almost all cases where she is the one conducting the temperament test, is euthanasia.
Jennifer Adams, Rondout Valley Kennels employee for 9 years
10/03: Sue said “there are no good, adoptable dogs in the tri-state area.”…We need to…put an end to the unjust euthanasia …and stop Sue’s radical campaign to put an end to all these good dogs.