FW: Sue Sternberg, Temperament Testing and Rondout Valley

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FW: Sue Sternberg, Temperament Testing and Rondout Valley

Post by John F Richards » Sat, 04 May 2002 06:13:06

I will for the moment forego comment on the following
letter regarding policies at Sue Sternberg's shelter, since
I don't want to assume as fact assertions made by only
one side in this brewing controversy. I have, however,
seen "temperament testing" devolve into abusive searches
for lame excuses to put dogs down elsewhere. (I have not,
on the other hand, seen anyone get so irrationally peeved
over the fact that a dog isn't giving her immediate attention
as Sue Sternberg did in her ultra-lame Pit Bull tape.)

~~~~~~forwarded message~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is important to read.  Many of you refer people to Sue


facility. You might, after reading wish to reconsider this.

Please feel free to cross post.

Posted with author's permission.

 -----Original Message-----

Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2002 10:04 AM

To: Meachum, Amy S.

Subject: The truth about Rondout Valley Kennels please post !

---------------------- Forwarded by Nancy Skluth/NYC/Merrill/US on

04/30/2002 08:11 AM ---------------------------

Subject:  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


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


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


wonderful programs.   Her radio show is informative and her knowledge


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


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.


of you who know us know we are honest, caring people.  Everything we


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  


Kennels was the best place to surrender a pet or to bring a homeless


into.  The loving care and attention given to the shelter dogs was

incredible.  We treated them as if they were our own.  Presently, the


workers have told us that they're afraid to attach themselves to the


dogs.  They get less personal attention than they did before because


feel they need to distance themselves from the dogs in order to avoid



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



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


with signs of *** 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


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


Remy.  Baby Remy had no issues.  Baby Jake had ***, food bowl,


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


each other to date.

I'm giving you these examples so you can see how things have changed.

Incoming puppies with *** or food bowl issues are euthanized.  

They are

no longer placed on programs.  The most recent example of this is


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


him.  He came complete with toys, a bed, blankets, biscuits and


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


cried when he handed Scotty over.  He had nothing negative to say

about this

puppy. Scotty was temperament tested by Sue and labeled ***


and promptly euthanized.  No program, no chance...what makes this a

particularly bad situation is no staff member saw the temperament test


Another example was Rita.  Rita was a beautiful Treeing Walker


She was at Rondout Valley Kennels for 2 days before a Live Long and


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


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


and how they end up.  For approximately 2 months leading up to a Live


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


what the staff has labeled "death row".  They have a red dot on their


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


An example of this would be Bandit, a 10 month old Husky. He was


due to divorce.  He had horrible food bowl aggression, he sat in the


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



The last Live Long and Prosper that we attended, a horrific 14 dogs


euthanized when the seminar ended.  Sue took them all at once, in the


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


staff members were able to take the dog home or privately place them.  


main concern was always liability. Over the years we have adopted many


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


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


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


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


only on isolated occasions. The Rondout Valley Kennel

Receptionist/Dog-Trainer said that she felt he would never bite.  He


basically telling you to leave him alone, and trying to get away from


not get "at you" for touching his feet.   On this particular day, Sue


scheduled Valentino and another dog Sasha for euthanasia.  The

Receptionist/Trainer and I pulled


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FW: Sue Sternberg, Temperament Testing and Rondout Valley

Post by Adrienne Caldwel » Sat, 04 May 2002 14:11:40


> I have, however,
> seen "temperament testing" devolve into abusive searches
> for lame excuses to put dogs down elsewhere.

Like the Brooklyn CACC for instance.  Long story short - a sweet tempered
pit was found roaming the streets.  A rescue person brought it to the
CACC only a couple of blocks away informing them she'd be back to pick it
up after making arrangements for transfer to her rescue group.   When she
returned they refused to release the dog claiming it "failed" their
temperament test and labeled her food guarding issues as "food

For the most part I've come to view the "temperament test" as an ***
retentives dream and a dog's worst enemy.

Fortunately after much fighting the woman got the pit back, feed it a
good hot meal and with a regular source of food has never again shown any
"food aggression."



FW: Sue Sternberg, Temperament Testing and Rondout Valley

Post by Adrienne Caldwel » Sun, 05 May 2002 15:01:11


> Hello Adrienne,

> Nice to hear from you again.

Hi Jerry.  Thanks.  I took a break from rpdb when I quit smoking.  It's now
been two years since I lit up.

Check out photos of Lewis (my pit bull/beagle mix) at http://www.k9fitness.com.

Take care.