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'Commentary on the SS Temperament Test Part 1'

Temperament Testing - Comments and Quotes from Miscellaneous Sources

I’m just back from the No More Homeless Pets Conference. Merritt Clifton editor of Animal People newspaper was a speaker on the discussion panels, and today he said to the room of 420+ people that temperament tests should be done away with, that they are worthless and he has the stats and research to back up his claim.

~Kathy in Pennsylvania, 10/26/03

The temperament test is supposed to weed out aggressive dogs before they even mix with the other dogs in a shelter, much less get adopted. … Catherine Crawmer and Sue Sternberg are two of the leading animal behaviorists in the Albany, N.Y. area, and they have two very different opinions about what a temperament test should be used for. Sue Sternberg’s temperament test is used at the Animal Protective Foundation in Scotia,…as we saw when we did our first report on the number of dogs failing the test and being put down. The Mohawk-Hudson animal shelters takes a different approach. “We can work with the dog here,” says Catherine Crawner. Sue Sternberg says too few, not too many, dogs are being euthanised in Capital District shelters.
“If they are in the Northeast and they have a high euthanasia rate, I would say okay. I know that most of the dogs coming into shelters in large cities are not family pet dogs, they have fight backgrounds and guarding backgrounds,” says Sternberg. Catherine Crawmer says at Mohawk-Hudson, they…test differently. “Our test is more hands-on, we give more time considering we can change a dog’s behavior,” says Crawmer. … The debate roars on over how shelters decide which animals will live and which will die. … Aggression can be in the eye of the tester.

~“Putting the Temperament Test to the Test” (excerpts), WTEN-TV (News 10 ABC), Albany, NY; undated (posted 9/28/03)

Killing animals on the basis of a temperament test is such a horrendous crime that those who do it have to become hardened in their defense of the theory in order to justify their crime. Sue Sternberg is a lousy trainer who justifies her inability by labeling her students as dangerous and uneducable. Imagine the uproar if this were suggested as a way of sorting students at inner city schools.

~Francis Battista, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, 8/11/03
Temperament Testing - Comments from
Attendees at Sue Sternberg’s Seminars

I attended several of Sue Sternberg’s temperament testing seminars here in Los Angeles where she used Pasadena Humane Society dogs. … I found her training a real eye opener. And I was a fan. HOWEVER, back then…the pitch was: “If you are a shelter and you must kill 50 dogs tonight, here is a way to decide which 50 must go.”. … But that is not how these tests are being used here. What has happened is Maddies Fund. Lots of money being waived at shelters who become “no kill.” And now city and county shelters can become “no kill” OVERNIGHT! … This is why I want to see temperament testing in a shelter outlawed. … I think that just working with and watching and observing a dog is best.
~Carol in Los Angeles, 10/8/03

I worked at a local humane society here in Colorado. … I attended Sue Sternberg’s seminar last year. I found her temperament test…educational to see a dog’s strengths and weaknesses. Yet I found her to be a very disturb sick woman. Some of the dogs (all from the shelter) that she evaluated and failed were happy-go-lucky dogs that just failed one part of the temp. test. I found her to be a woman that is very afraid of certain breeds (small and large). It appalls me that this woman goes around the country doing seminars.

~Lisa in Colorado, 10/03

Two years ago…a Sue Sternberg clinic was presented at a well attended conference. Sadly, I think many in attendance saw this as a way to soothe the horrid guilt that goes with the killing done every day. Others who inquired about the “what ifs” - with logical and well thought out questions were put off by Sternberg. She had dogs brought in that day from local pounds. One dog, a very timid girl, didn’t stand a chance with Sternberg. Later in the day, films were shown of the testing tactics. It was not unlike watching torture. The “testing” went on and on until a negative reaction was seen. The pressure these animals were under was inhumane. None of the dogs I’ve ever shared a home with in my lifetime would “pass.” … I see two elements here: the all-knowing Sternberg needs to be called for what she is: a greedy power-monger; and the public needs to know the real cost of “no-kill.”
~Marie in New Jersey, 9/27/03

I have been to one of Sue Sternberg’s seminars. She would have euth’d 4 out of the 5 dogs she used as demos…. Sue even said that her own 5 dogs would never have passed the test, that most of the dogs over 35 lbs. in the NE need to be euthanized, and she very much stressed that adoptions were a business, and what we wanted here was to boost our business….
~Mindy in New York, 10/03
Temperament Testing - Comments from
Attendees at Sue Sternberg’s Seminars

Seminar Attendees - pg. 2

This was not Sternberg’s personal seminar. It was the Petfinder seminar “Adoption Options” I think was the name. … She honestly seemed to get bent out of shape when I started writing. I wasn’t taking notes about the training…. I was taking notes on her comments about how a majority of the dogs in the NE need to be PTS (“put to sleep”; i.e., euthanized.) … Dogs from the LASPCA were brought in. … There was a small Lab- looking mix named Sage. She melted when you touched her but she was as shy as could be. She responded WONDERFULLY to Sue’s training and was wagging her tail for Sue…We took a break…and I overheard Sue…comment about how she would put the dog down. … After the break we sat back down… I had pen and paper and started writing notes. She stopped everything and told me it was NOT necessary to take notes, everyone learned from her without notes. The next dog was Oliver, a little Chow mix about 6 months old. … He was full of energy and love. Because he EAGERLY took a piece of cheese from Sue she indicated that she would choose him for euthanizing, to a loud chorus of gasps from the crowd. … I spent 20 minutes before leaving making sure Sage and Oliver were NOT going to be put down…. Seems even the LASPCA isn’t too thrilled by her methods. Once outside the meeting room Sue avoided me and several others who were trying to question her….
~Tammy in Louisiana, 10/11/03

The first person to speak at the MPDRA Conference was Sue Sternberg. … The only thing she chose to speak about…was dog-on-dog aggression. She…brought out three shelter dogs she had never met before. … The test was basically to see how long it would take a dog to key off a…happy dog. … Later I went to Assess A Pet…to learn a new way to handle dogs. I have yet to have any opinion on Temperament Testing at all, let alone AAP…. We got 45 minutes to learn as much as possible about Assess A Pet. … Most importantly Sternberg does not believe any animal under 35 lbs should not be put down…and she attempted to clear up several other rumors. … Several times she made reference to a tape recorder (“move closer so it can come through clearer” and “you can turn it off now”), also other statements such as, with her eyes referring to those taking notes, “be sure to take this down” while she was clearing up the rumors. … I learned that setting up a program to kill dogs can make a person an insane amount of money if done right. … I mainly learned that I should have stayed with the trainer that I had already found and been happy with. … What bothered me most is I have NEVER been to a seminar, class or conference…where questions Were Not Welcome. I raised my hand ten minutes before the end and was completely blown off and never approached later.

~Sarah in Michigan, 10/23/03
Temperament Testing - Comments from
Attendees at Sue Sternberg’s Seminars

Esther Lotz of Vermont

Seminar Attendees - pg. 3

10/09/03: Excerpts from her letter to an ASPCA officer who attacked unnamed individuals who “circulate unsubstantiated rumors over the Internet about Sue Sternberg and her programs”:

My thoughts & concerns relate to a Sue Sternberg Seminar, held in Burlington, Vermont, & attended by myself on 7/28/01. … To the best of my knowledge, [my] words accurately describe the seminar content. …I must say, in defense of Sue, the written material that I have reviewed & the radio shows featuring Sue that I have listened to are absolutely wonderful - completely different material from the frighteningly extreme verbal seminar rhetoric I experienced.

The “frighteningly extreme verbal seminar rhetoric” included Sue referring to herself as “Hitler,” Sue quoting Joseph Stalin, Sue relating tales of soliciting owner surrender (through the Rondout Training Wheels program) of dogs, with assurances offered to the public of re-homing (with the one & only goal consisting of euthanasia), Sue relating tales of misleading…shelters into turning dogs over to her under the guise of good homes lined up for the dogs, again, with the one & only goal consisting of euthanasia, & Sue advising the audience attendees to conceal her euthanasia ideology from shelter donors - in the event they chose to implement her ideology in their shelter operations.

It is hard to convey accurately how frightening I found this individual’s seminar rhetoric. Our nation’s largest animal advocate organizations HSUS, ASPCA, Petfinder should not be endorsing someone who advocates misleading the public, other shelters & shelter donors. Our nation’s largest animal advocate organizations should not be endorsing someone who refers to herself in a public setting as “Hitler,” a nickname many are sure to find offensive & frightening.

The concept that up to 75% of the dogs in one region of America today could be branded as unplaceable appears not to be a sound one, according to the Animal Control Officers & geneticists I have discussed this statement with throughout our nation. I personally find this to be a preposterous & fallacious claim.

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

Seminar Attendees - pg. 4 Esther Lotz of Vermont (continued)

3/23/02: Letter to the president of the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS):

Sue stated in the seminar that her goal is to destroy up to 75% of the dogs available to the public in the Northeast. At the point in time that Sue accomplishes her goal, she will transport into the Northeast the excess dogs from the rest of the country to place into homes. She states that the Northeast has had the benefit of spay & neuter public education for some time now, & so now we own the “dregs of the dog world - the difficult, dangerous Northeast dogs,” whereas the rest of the country is still haunted by
terrible companion animal overpopulation statistics, & is putting down “small,” “submissive,” “good,” “easy,” & “safe” dogs. At the point in time that she has transported the excess dogs from the rest of the country into the Northeast for placement, she will implement her breeding program. Sue stated that she is amassing a gene pool from which she plans to start breeding & disseminating dogs to the dog owning public that she feels they should own. This gene pool consists of “under 35 pound, submissive, mixed-breed dogs,” the only type of dog that she feels should be kept alive, & that she feels is “safe” in today’s society. Sue feels that dogs over 35 pounds are potentially dangerous because of the damage they can do if they bite a person or another dog. She feels that they should be owned only with a special license like a firearms license, renewable each year following yearly testing of owner proficiency, as they are so potentially dangerous. Sue is also very, very anti-“Bull Breeds.” My understanding of Sue’s presentation is that she had designed her temperament test to accomplish her euthanasia goals & her breeding plan.

Post-7/28/01: Excerpts from a PSA titled Dog Bite Epidemic which her Dalmatian Rescue of Vermont ran throughout New England following the 7/28/01 seminar:

In the interest of safety, have your puppy or dog temperament tested or evaluated thoroughly by a certified dog behaviorist before you bring a companion animal into your home! Professionals in the Northeast are currently being urged by a nationally known dog expert to destroy up to 75% of the dogs (all breeds & mixtures of breeds) available to the public in the Northeast, in an effort to make dog ownership safer & easier for an “uneducable” public. This nationally known dog expert feels that dog ownership should be “dumbed down,” & made “fail-safe,” to the point that only “submissive, timid dogs weighing under 35 pounds” should ideally be kept alive & subsequently made available to the public for adoption. This nationally known dog expert feels that dog ownership “should not have to entail dog training or dog bite prevention.”

Although this approach is not without some merit, in truth, almost all dogs can be owned safely - although there is no such thing as a “safe” dog.

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