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The Truth About Rondout Valley Kennels

Dear friends, fellow shelter workers, and animal lovers: My family and I have been preparing this statement for weeks now. We are writing this letter in an effort to inform rescues and shelters everywhere of a great injustice being done in the dog world. We spent the last 9 years of our lives working for Sue Sternberg at Rondout Valley Kennels in Accord, New York. Most of you have heard of Sue, for those who haven't she is an internationally known dog trainer and behaviorist. She is also the developer of the temperament test which is implemented in shelters everywhere to determine the adoptability of shelter dogs. Before we continue, let me just tell you we are not bitter ex-employees. We think Sue Sternberg has some wonderful programs. Her radio show is informative and her knowledge of behavior is unsurpassed. Sue was not only our boss, she was an extension of our family. If she heard a noise in the middle of the night, she called us. If we had a problem we needed help with, we called Sue. The incidents leading up to the termination of our employment at Rondout Valley Kennels are serious. We never believed that euthanizing dogs would be more important to Sue than our relationship with her. We were wrong. The incidents leading up to our dismissal at Rondout Valley Kennels are serious. We feel everyone should be aware of them. We have met a lot of you at Rondout Valley Kennels, at APDT conferences and at Sue's seminars. Those of you who know us know we are honest, caring people. Everything we are about to tell you is true and factual, based on our personal experiences, not hearsay or second-hand information. In the years we worked for Sue Sternberg, we not only believed in her temperament test, we believed in her. We truly felt that Rondout Valley Kennels was the best place to surrender a pet or to bring a homeless pet into. The loving care and attention given to the shelter dogs was incredible. We treated them as if they were our own. Presently, the shelter workers have told us that they're afraid to attach themselves to the adoption dogs. They get less personal attention than they did before because they feel they need to distance themselves from the dogs in order to avoid more heartbreak. The temperament test is a valuable tool. It was designed to flush out aggression in a potentially dangerous dog. It was also helpful in determining what behavior issues the dog may have so he could be placed on a program to help or manage the problem. The test was also helpful in determining how a dog should be placed (i.e. no children, experienced home, etc.) When a dog was temperament tested, if he was found to guard a rawhide but not his food, he was put on a program. To try to rectify the guarding, a puppy with signs of dominance was put on a program to put him in his place. I can give examples of both of the above. Flo-Jo is a beautiful Labrador mix who was at Rondout years ago. She never guarded food or toys but she did guard rawhides. She was put on a program and was adopted out to a couple who were aware of her issue. She is very happy to date. Baby Jake would be an example of a puppy with an issue. Baby Jake was an 8 week old Lab mix who had been a stray in Kingston with his litter mate Baby Remy. Baby Remy had no issues. Baby Jake had dominance, food bowl, and possession guarding issues just to name a few. Baby Jake was put on a program and placed in a family where he and the family are very happy with each other to date. I'm giving you these examples so you can see how things have changed. Incoming puppies with dominance or food bowl issues are euthanized. They are no longer placed on programs. The most recent example of this is Scotty. Scotty was a beautiful 7 week old Boxer PitBull mix. He was found in a box outside of a supermarket and brought to Rondout by the family that rescued him. He came complete with toys, a bed, blankets, biscuits and everything else a puppy could possibly want. They were not able to keep the puppy, so they brought him to Rondout. The father consoled the two children as they cried when he handed Scotty over. He had nothing negative to say about this puppy. Scotty was temperament tested by Sue and labeled dominant aggressive and promptly euthanized. No program, no chance...what makes this a particularly bad situation is no staff member saw the temperament test performed. Another example was Rita. Rita was a beautiful Treeing Walker Coonhound. She was at Rondout Valley Kennels for 2 days before a Live Long and Prosper seminar. During the seminar she growled over a rawhide. She was never re-tested, never put on a program...and euthanized the next day. My family does Coonhound rescue and we had brought Rita to Rondout. I will have nightmares over Rita forever. Those of you who attend Sue's Live Long and Prosper seminar that's done at Rondout Valley Kennels are probably unaware of how the demo dogs come about and how they end up. For approximately 2 months leading up to a Live Long and Prosper seminar, Sue begins to gather dogs to use as examples. The more aggressive the dog, the better! These dogs sit in the boarding kennel in what the staff has labeled "death row". They have a red dot on their cage which means "caution", therefore they do not go out to the exercise yard, and are not given the extra attention and love the adoption animals should receive. An example of this would be Bandit, a 10 month old Husky. He was surrendered due to divorce. He had horrible food bowl aggression, he sat in the boarding kennel for 3 weeks: unexercised, just waiting for his turn to be used as a "demo dog" at Live Long and Prosper. After he served his purpose, he was euthanized. 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: Ely, Rebel, Seymore, Shamrock, Clover, Wacka, Demon-Seed, Nella, Chloe, Champ, Bandit, Storm, and two last-minute surrenders who weren't even brought down to the adoption kennel. One of the reasons we were able to work at Rondout for so long was Sue's policy. If a dog failed the temperament test, and was unadoptable by 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 many of these dogs and also 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, the staff was not 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." The staff was no longer able to contact a rescue group. The staff was not even allowed to contact the people who surrendered the dog originally, unless it had been expressly written on the surrender contract. Unfortunately, frequently we were aware of a person wanting to be contacted, but we forgot to write it down. One very recent example of this was Valentino, a beautiful Beagle. From day one, Sue did not like Valentino. He passed the temperament test and the staff routinely dressed him up in sweaters, t-shirts, and carried him around. Sue found him "unsocial" and altered his cage card to read: "I am not a pet, I do not like people." We still have this card. Valentino did not like to have his feet touched, he wouldn't bite down, but he would make a lot of noise if you touched his feet. This was only on isolated occasions. The Rondout Valley Kennel Receptionist/Dog-Trainer said that she felt he would never bite. He was basically telling you to leave him alone, and trying to get away from you, not get "at you" for touching his feet. On this particular day, Sue had scheduled Valentino and another dog Sasha for euthanasia. The Receptionist/Trainer and I pulled his file. The trainer said that she remembered his owners saying to call them before euthanasia, however, she had neglected to write it down. She called his owner anyway, and was instrumental in preventing his euthanasia and rehoming him. Now, let me tell you about Sasha. Sasha was a beautiful, yet high-strung long-haired Shepherd mix. She did not do well in the shelter environment. She had been placed in a home with a woman who had no problems with her, other than she did not have the time to care for her. The Receptionist/Trainer and Sue temperament tested Sasha, and Sasha passed. She was put up for adoption. She would play too roughly with Sue's Japanese intern, however, she would not repeat this behavior with any other staff member. Sue thought this was enough to substantiate euthanasia. On this particular day, we had managed to move Valentino out. Sue returned late, actually missing her 5 oclock veterinary appointment to euthanize the two dogs. The trainer told her of Valentino's rehoming, and asked her to please take Sasha out in the field with her and demonstrate what Sasha was being euthanized for. The Japanese Intern was also present. Sasha demonstrated the rought play with the intern, and would pay no attention to the trainer or Sue. Sasha was promptly euthanized. The trainer told me the next day, she felt she had sacrificed Sasha in order to save Valentino. She said Sue had become very angry about Valentino being rehomed, and she felt "Sue needed to kill a dog that day." (as of this time, Valentino has been placed in a family with a 13-yr old boy and a cat, with no report of any aggression incident) 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 temperament test, that was 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!" This is the best comparison I can come up with. If a dog ignores Sue, it's labeled dominant aggressive. An example of this is Lady. Lady is a 5-yr old Shepherd mix. She was a surrender to the Town of Rosendale (frequentlly Sue works with the local dog control officers, temperament-tests the dogs they have, and will take the dogs for adoption if they pass the test. If they fail, the dog control officers have the option of taking the dog back, or allowing Sue to euthanize them.) We watched Sue temperament test Lady in the Kennel office. She had no issues, however she was preoccupied with looking out the window into the agility field. (possibly owner-searching) She ignored Sue, Sue labeled her "dominant" and "independent" based on this, slated her for euthanasia unless the dog control officer wanted her back. The dog control officer took her back, and placed her herself and has had no problems to date. From September to January, 9 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 Shelter Receptionist/Trainer, who has studied under Sue for years, would also watch the tests. If the dog would fail, which was usually the case, the trainer would say how unfair the test was, or how she didn't see the "look" Sue said she saw (in the dog). Some of the dogs she felt, just needed a program. Unfortunately, she would never voice her opinion in Sue's presence for fear of losing her job. She still works there, we voiced our opinion...we don't. The trainer has also 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. Recently, I read an e-mail from someone who described Sue's staff as "cheery." I'd like to know the last time they were at Rondout. The last few months we spent there were filled with crying and employees who became physically ill as a result of the euthanasia. One of the best employees Rondout had, quit after four years because of the amount of senseless euthanasia. (her goal is to one day open her own sanctuary and rescue facility for animals of all types) This particular worker on the day of a rabies clinic, walked into Sue's office to take care of some quarantined cats, and was horrified to find the bodies of several dogs that Sue had the veterinarian that was running the rabies clinic euthanize, while he was there. The staff wasn't even aware of what was going on. To date, all employees of Rondout Valley Kennels have voiced their disapproval to us on Sue's ideas, and none of Sue's workers support what she does...what does that say about her euthanasia policies? The first red flag that I saw was 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. When I told Sue about it, she 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. When these dogs arrived, as my daughter was unloading them and bringing them into the kennel, Sue passed her and said "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. The second red flag was all the lying that was being done. On many different occasions, most related to Sue's training wheels program, people were being convinced to surrender their dogs to Rondout Valley Kennels so that they could be rehomed. Sue never had any intentions of rehoming any of these dogs. One example would be a backyard breeder who had many Great Pyrennees dogs. She did not keep these dogs in good conditions, many were underfed and neglected. Over the years she had surrendered plenty of these dogs to Sue and they had been placed. On this particular occasion, she surrendered 5 or 6 dogs to Sue; Sue promising the dogs would be rehomed. These dirty, malnourished, neglected dogs were dirven directly to the vet and promptly euthanized, they never came into the shelter and got a bath, meal, or a wam 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 they were placed, and they were fine. The staff never even met them. Another example would be a man in Sullivan County (I don't remember his name) who had many dogs on his property, mostly tied to dog houses. The man had very little, basically all he had were these dogs. The local shelter would call him when a dog was going to be put down, and he would take them. He cared for these dogs the best he was able to...they knew nothing else. I personally visited these dogs and this man; at the point that I was there, the dogs had toys and bedding in their houses, along with water and food (most of the toys were supplied by training wheels.) Sue ,in conjunction with AWAN, (Animal Welfare Adoption Network) visited this man 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. When I came in the next morning, I played the messages on the machine, there were at least four 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 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 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? Recently somebody sent out an e-mail saying that I was a caring person, but I allowed a dog named Agnes to suffer needlessly, I feel I have to tell you about Agnes' story. We all loved Agnes. She was part of Rondout years ago, and returned to us when her owner died. She was a big old Dobe Shepherd mix, about 12 years old, we all loved her dearly, and treated her as if she were our own pet. In Agnes' last days, she developed a heart-ailment which caused her to be weak in her hind legs. She was not painfully arthritic, she was weak. She had been put on a new medication and the veterinarian asked us to wait a week or two to see if she responded to it. While Agnes was in the office, she lunged for a small dog, my daughter grabbed her collar to prevent her from hurting the dog, Agnes twisted and fell and dislocated her hip. I was not there for this, I was not even aware of it until the next morning when I found Agnes on the floor of my office, unable to get up. Sue had been aware of it. We called the veterinarian and were going to bring Agnes right in, however it was too painful for Agnes to be lifted. All of us together decided it would be best for Agnes to be put down. The veterinarian gave me a choice of 1pm or after 7pm when he would be able to come and euthanize Agnes at Rondout. My husband went to the vet's office and picked up pain-killers to get Agnes through the day. We asked the veterinarian to come at 1, or as soon as possible, so Agnes wouldn't have to suffer too long. Sue called the veterinarian and asked him to come after 7, then she called the two film-makers who had been doing a documentary on Sue and Rondout Valley Kennels. She kept Agnes allive on the floor in my office, in pain, as each of the staff members came in and sobbed over her. This poor dog had her last hours spent with bright lights and cameras in her face, just so Sue could have a "dramatic" documentary. My family and I protested and had nothing to do with this, even the veterinarian had asked me why she had him come so late. I didn't respond. About two weeks before we were fired, Sue and I had a conversation in her office. She told me she needed me to back her up when she decided a dog needed to be euthanized. I told her I didn't think I would be able to do that, because I had problems with the reasons she chose to euthanize dogs...I offered to quit. She asked me to give it a month, I tried. It was two weeks after this conversation that we were let go. Here's how it all came to a head... A New Hampshire Humane Society picked up a lot of dogs from a county shelter in Virginia. They were bringing some to us. First of all, Sue was pissed because "they were only giving us the fuc**g hounds" (her words). She left before they arrived, so I waited for them. What I didn't know was that Sue had instructed her Japanese Intern to put the hounds in her house so I wouldn't see them. This way if they were unadoptable by her standards, they would be euthanized without me ever seeing them. Just for the record, Sue herself told me, Karl (my husband), Christina (my daughter), and the women from the New Hampshire shelter this was the case. As the dogs came in, one seemed a little too hyper. I asked the New Hampshire shelter if they would consider taking this dog with them and giving us a different dog. The way Sue had been lately I knew she would not like this girl. Then the shit hit the fan. Sue arrived and became enraged that I would send the dog elsewhere because she wouldn't like her. At this point Sue sent her intern into the house to get the dog, jerked the dog around on a leash and angrily proceeded to temperament test her outside of the New Hampshire shelter van after this poor dog had been in a 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. After the spectacle, Sue went in her house, and we went home. When we showed up for work the next day, Sue greeted us at the car and said "guys, I need you to take the day off. I need a break. If any of your girls are working in the afternoon, have them take the day off too." She also sent the kennel Receptionist/Trainer home. I thought she knew of the trainer's involvement in rehoming Valentino, but she must have had another reason for sending her home. We were called in the next day and fired. 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. Years ago when Sue wanted to go non-profit, her biggest concern was that a board of directors would have the final say over how the shelter was to be run. Her way around this was to assemble a board of directors made up solely of family and life-long friends. In a nutshell, people that would never challenge her. We were her euthanasia opposition, we were fired. At a recent seminar in Vermont, Sue was quoted as saying her goal is to euthanize 75% of the dogs in the Northeast. I find this statement disturbing, to say the least. 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 Norhteast. Apparently, this has been Sue's goal all along. She has nicknamed herself Hitler, and is basically having her own Doggy Holocuast, practicing "genocide" on all Northeastern dogs, right under all of our noses. Just remember, Sue has a goal, and I have never known her to change a goal, what she is doing is very dangerous for animals everywhere, especially in the Northeast. Dedicated Advocates for Animal Welfare, Ann, Karl, Jennifer, Christina, Dana Naumann We would like to dedicate this e-mail to all of the defenseless animals who were wrongly euthanized at Rondout Valley Kennels: Arlo, Rita, Butch, Bear, Joey, Bo, Regis, Bandit, Sasha, Pepper, Deegan, Lucky, Swan, Selma, Damien, Bessie, Domingo, Alfredo, Scotty, Sugar, Seymore, Chew-Baka, Rocky, Dominick, Goofy, Layla, Doobie, Rebel, Travis, Shamrock, Champ, Otto, Cisco, Zeus, Xi, Gracie, Bart, Emma, Butler, Jeeves, Calhoun, Betty, dozens of others never even brought to the kennel, and too many others to name (especially the 20 from this past February.) For more Information, Visit http://hometown.aol.com/chicaanaranjada/

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