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'Comentary on SS Temperament Test Part 2'

Temperament Testing - Comments from
Attendees at Sue Sternberg’s Seminars

Seminar Attendees - pg. 5 Esther Lotz of Vermont

This extreme seminar experience, for me, really was pretty hard to understand…to make trying to understand it even more difficult, Sue called herself “Hitler,” quoted Joseph Stalin, & was even incredibly angry, & brutally cruel to anyone in the audience who asked civil, polite questions about her ideology. … I have been told by many people I have spoken to across the country that she gets increasingly extreme each year in her seminars. During this seminar, the bathrooms on the breaks contained people who locked
themselves into stalls & sobbed, & people who vomited into the sinks. Every dog Sue temperament tested was recommended for euthanasia…& subsequently destroyed… including a little yellow Lab mix puppy who wagged his tail the entire time, but appeared distracted….It is my understanding that three of the dogs who were destroyed after this seminar, almost unbelievably, had adoption paperwork in place! So close to making it out of the shelter alive…

It was unbelievably extreme, in my opinion. The overall reaction…was divided - the participants seemed to be polarized between those who were committed to supporting Sue as a friend, regardless of her message, & those who were appalled & infuriated by her message….. Sue’s friends & supporters vehemently denied that her message was extreme, & rallied fiercely in her defense… … Everyone seemed to either love her or hate her…exactly where our humane community in Vermont was left after her seminar.

My life ended as I had known it with my experience in this Sue Sternberg seminar. This was the personal attack: Sue told the audience at this seminar that I must be the type of woman who enjoys domestic abuse because I own a dog…who must be handled in a behavior-supervised bite prevention program…never mind…that this dog is now 14 & has never had an aggressive incident. … Sue told the audience that I was probably one of the “crazies” - one of the crazy women who had contacted the Unibomber in prison with offers to marry him - since I was obviously so attracted to violence & danger - because I own…a dog who must be managed in a bite prevention program. Sue made even more ridiculous comments about me personally…simply too disturbing to mention. Quite an attack for a person who had never met me or my dog prior to the seminar.

This was the professional attack: Change in Operation of…Dalmatian Rescue of Vermont. On 7/28/01, I attended a Sue Sternberg seminar sponsored by the Humane Society of Chittenden County in partnership with the University of Vermont, & held at the Billings Student Center here in Burlington, VT. Although this rescue had operated for 12 years in this community without incident, nevertheless, this rescue was condemned by Sue Sternberg within this seminar. As a result, Dalmatian Rescue of Vermont has lost the community support, approval & reputation it once enjoyed. We are no longer taking Dalmatians in for placement, although we will continue to sponsor emergency
consultations with no-corrections, no-punishment trainers & behaviorists for Dalmatian owners in crisis. We are now viewed with hostility & repudiation, & are now estranged from all other professionals in the dog community & in the Vermont humane world. This was an incredibly damaging & destructive seminar experience for this rescue. We simply
cannot subject adopters to the current negativity from the professionals in the community
the atmosphere in the wake of this seminar is replete with anti-aggression fear & hysteria. Belief in operant conditioning & management of dogs is now wholly gone -
replaced with the opinion that any dog that can be harassed or provoked into defensiveness or aggression (including “cold, hard looks” directed at the dog’s handler) should be destroyed.

Sue, in answer to a question from a member of the audience, alluded to the fact that she is amassing a canine gene pool with which she plans to provide the type of dog to the public that can be owned more safely (than the dogs the public currently owns) in the future. Much of this seminar consisted of frighteningly extreme stories of aggression by dogs over 35 pounds, & by the “Bull breeds.”

Sue’s euthanasia recommendations appear to have been, sadly, embraced wholeheartedly by almost all of the other shelters & rescues in the State of Vermont (with the exception of this one).

We are retaliating in the only way that we know how…through public education… The implications of Sue Sternberg’s temperament testing & subsequent euthanasia recommendations are profound & far reaching. Our opinion on this subject is that you can go about creating safer & more responsible dog ownership, & a reduction in our nation’s dog bite epidemic by killing vast numbers of dogs through anti-aggression fear & hysteria, OR you can educate the public on safe & responsible dog ownership, with an emphasis on bite prevention.

We are now running PSAs throughout New England as a result of this seminar, in an effort to counter the Sue Sternberg recommendations for a regional dog massacre.

Temperament Testing - Quotes from Rescues

I am a rescue person…and have had three cases where I dealt with Sue Sternberg, handing the rescued dog over to her when she had Rondout Valley Kennels, thinking she would be able to help - and each time she labeled that particular dog “dangerous.” I was able to reclaim each dog and subsequently find excellent homes for each one, and my follow-up found each dog living happy, obedient and fulfilled lives!

~Sharon in New York, 9/29/03

A fellow rottweiler rescuer in the north east has taken several Sue Sternberg Temperament Test failures and found them to be, without exception, wonderful dogs who all got wonderful homes. Interesting enough, Sue called her one day to ask if she could take “an outstanding rottweiler who had passed Sue’s test with flying colors.” My friend did, and not too long thereafter the dog bit someone on the arm. Another confirmation Sue is full of sound and fury signifying nothing - nothing positive that is. She certainly signifies the death of many innocents - but never enough to sate the feeding frenzy that is her ego.
~Arlene in Michigan, 9/29/03

Many Colorado shelters are testing and killing dogs that rescue would be happy to take. Recently a six month old Border Collie was killed after I had been called to take her. The shelter claimed she “sort of growled” at an employee. … This was terrified puppy!

~Karen in Colorado, 9/27/03

I have been actively involved in Lhasa Apso rescue for about ten years. I am not a professional trainer nor am I a behaviorist. I do, however, know my breed very well. While I believe in the use of temperament tests done properly as a means of evaluation for the purpose of developing a training or re-training program, I do not believe that it should be used for determining whether a dog lives or dies. … I know that at least 90% of the Lhasas I’ve taken from shelters over the past ten years would have failed the Sternberg temperament test and probably others as well. My own personal well bred, good temperament dogs wouldn’t pass those tests in a shelter environment…. My group does not place truly aggressive dogs, and I have had dogs euthanized if they proved to be so dangerous that neither I nor our volunteers could handle and properly care for them without risking our own safety. We don’t use temperament tests to justify our own failure to solve our breed’s problems or the overall problem of animal overpopulation. Shelters in my area are embracing the concept of these temperament tests, I believe…with the primary purpose of trying to make their adoption rates more acceptable to the community. … Someone has to make it known that this is indeed what is happening.

~Linda in Mississippi, 10/03
Temperament Testing - Quotes from Rescues

I just saw…Sue’s “Shelter Dog” documentary. … I am a rescuer, currently assist homeless Shiba’s and MinPins. Most of the dogs I get in rescue were destined to die at a shelter because they are “dangerous.” They are not, they just don’t put their best paw forward in a shelter environment. … We are having a great debate here in Canada, after many of us watched the documentary. Here’s what I don’t see: An adoption application. Requests for volunteers. The mention of fostering. The mention of working with rescues. How long she might give a dog a chance in the “shelter.” If she actually takes time to try and work through the problem the dog has. … Assess-a-Pet™ doesn’t take the breed or health of the animal into consideration. … So once again an “expert” has developed yet another method for assessing dogs assuming they are all the same, as we all know they are not. I also see no mention…on her site…of the importance of spay/neuter or training your dog and being a responsible pet owner. … I see her running a business, and I see her as a glorified shuffler.

~Mia in British Columbia, Canada, 10/8/03

I am primarily a Miniature Pinscher rescuer, although I assist with Doberman and German Pinscher rescue. I have rescued these breeds for about 20 years. Minpins do not do well in shelters, whether they use Sue Sternberg’s temperament testing or not. They act out terribly, and then turn into lambs the minute they sense they are safe. … Three minpins have been killed…at the Memphis shelter for temperament problems - AFTER I had “adopted” them, and I have confidence that it was entirely unnecessary. Shelter workers can get angry and vindictive toward dogs who threaten them. … Shelters do not recognize that our dogs are special needs, because we have bred them to have special temperament and health needs. … No dog should have a life or death evaluation while under the stress of a shelter, and purebreds should be evaluated by those knowledgeable of the breed. I am tired of these hell holes - and even the best of them are little more than hell holes - calling themselves “shelters.” What a euphemism. They are no more shelters than killing due to overpopulation is euthanasia. We need to call it what it is, killing excess property, and quit hiding behind words like “shelter” and “euthanasia.” …
Sadly, I don’t think the public is going to give this the deep thought we do. “Save the dogs” isn’t going to win the day. However “Save the people (and our liability policies) from dangerous dogs who slip through a test which also kills dogs that aren’t vicious, and is therefore worthless” might.
~Linda in Arkansas, 9/27/03

Temperament Testing - Quotes from
Sue Sternberg’s Former Employees

Ann Naumann, Rondout Valley Kennels shelter manager; 9-year employee

I am glad that people have begun to realize that I was telling the truth. I know Sue very well, probably better than most of her friends and family. … My problem is with her assessment of shelter dogs. I was never disgruntled, only disgusted. I still have nightmares about some of the experiences I had at Rondout…especially…near the end of my employment there. I am grateful for the wonderful failed dogs I was able to rescue from euthanasia before I left. To this day not one dog I left with and placed has had any issues.

10/11/03: 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 was disturbed…by the e-mail circulated by you and the ASPCA. I was never disgruntled…I was disturbed. … Unbeknownst to you, Sue was always super stressed whenever you attended a seminar. The shelter staff always had to frantically clean before you arrived…things that weren’t normally cleaned. It was a red alert if you were attending a seminar. What you don’t seem to realize is that quite a few of Sue’s staff have quit…not everyone was fired. Things are not what they seem to be. Do your own investigating. Ask for stats. Do you know how many puppies were euthanized? … This is not a vendetta. I merely disagree with the turn her temperament testing has taken. Please be your own judge…arrive unannounced, ask the vet for stats…do not dismiss what I say because I was fired. Sue did not want me to leave…. Currently I live with 6 dogs Sue found unadoptable. No problems. I placed more than 6 dogs that Sue found unadoptable. No problems to date. I merely ask you and others to think. Sue is not God! And not always right. I welcome any reply.

Spring 2002: Excerpts from her open letter, “The Truth About…”

The incidents leading up to the termination of our employment at Rondout…are serious. We never believed that euthanizing dogs would be more important to Sue than our relationship with her. We were wrong. …

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…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.
Temperament Testing - Quotes from
Sue Sternberg’s Former Employees

Spring 2002: Excerpts from her open letter, “The Truth About…”

Scotty was a beautiful 7 week old Boxer Pitbull mix. He was found in a box outside a supermarket and brought to Rondout…. Scotty was temperament tested by Sue and labeled dominant aggressive and promptly euthanized. No program, no chance…what makes this particularly bad…is no staff member saw the temperament test performed.

For approx. 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 is Bandit, a 10 month old Husky. … 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.

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