After Lena Dunham announced on Instagram that her rescue dog Lamby had been given to someone else due to behavioral issues and the shelter refuting some of her claims, an internet firestorm broke.
Recently, the actress rehomed her adopted rescue dog, citing aggression as the main reason. “Lamby was and is one of the great loves of my life,” says Dunham on her Instagram account. “I did what I thought the best mother would do, which was to give him a life that provided for his specific needs.” She claims that the dog suffered abuse as a puppy, had three previous homes before she adopted him and his behavioral issues became too much to handle.
Dunham decided to rehome Lamby once again to a trainer at Zen Dog. “Lamby went to live at an amazing professional facility in Los Angeles where an awesome person (who is educated in a rescue dog’s specific trauma) loves him so hard,” she wrote.
Right before Dunham gave up her dog, she had brought two puppies she bought on the Tonight Show. While Dunham is known as an advocate for animal welfare and frequently posts pics of adoptable rescue dog on her Instagram page, the shelter that adopted out Lamby, Brooklyn-based BARC, says her story isn’t adding up.
“We are saddened to learn that Lena Dunham’s dog has been given away for showing aggressive behavior towards the actress in the month’s leading up to her surrendering the animal to a facility out of state,” BARC founder and director Vincent Spinola told This Dog’s Life. “When the dog was here at BARC, where he lived with us for just under a month before he was adopted, he was mild mannered and very well behaved. There were no signs of bad temperament or any kind of aggression. Actually, the dog became a favorite of our staff and volunteers during his stay here, but of course, we were all delighted to see him go off to a loving home.”
Spinola also disputes Dunham’s statement that the dog came from an abusive background, citing “no time” as the reason Lamby’s former own surrendered the dog. Plus, according to their records, Lamby did not have three other homes as Dunham claimed.
In a Washington Post article, Robert Vazquez, a spokesman for the BARC shelter, says, “We would have told her if the dog had issues. We are a no-kill shelter. We don’t lie about the dogs’ histories because that gets them returned — and mentally it’s not good for dogs.”
BARC’s mission to provide “a safe haven for abandoned animals and to find permanent loving homes for them.” This includes providing quality food, shelter, medical attention and lots of love. It is a favorite of actress and Broadway star Bernadette Peters.
“We followed our normal protocol whenever adopting out an animal here at BARC,” says Spinola. “As part of our procedure during our 32 years of operation, we had reached out to follow up with Ms. Dunham after she adopted the dog to check on how they were all settling in — but we never heard back from her.”
Like many shelters, BARC’s policy is that adopters must return the dog to their shelter if they decide the situation isn’t working out. “If a family of an adoptee reaches out or expresses any unhappiness or behavioral concerns about the animal, we have an open-door policy here and ask that the dog be returned to our shelter,” says Spinola. “Unfortunately, that was not the case with Ms. Dunham.”
When the news broke of the rehoming and conflicting stories about the dog’s past, the internet went crazy. Hundreds of media outlets reported on it, while thousands of people either lashed out at the actress on sided with her.
“She adopted a puppy that didn’t have issues and made it an Instagram star and put it in all kinds of stressful situations. If that poor dog has issues she’s the one that messed it up. Sounds like a convenient excuse to dump a dog she doesn’t want anymore and pick up 2 new dogs,” Jo Howe wrote.
Whereas, Rachel S. Rowe said, “My story of rehoming 2 dogs when trying to leave an abusive marriage. Sometimes rehoming is the best choice. And it’s so much better to rehome than dump, which is what far too many people do.”
Dunham isn’t the only celebrity to take heat for rehoming a rescue dog. In 2007, Ellen DeGeneres gave her recently adopted dog, Iggy, to a friend because the dog couldn’t adjust to life with her three cats. The situation escalated to an actual police standoff at the friend’s house that only ended when police were able to remove Iggy from his new home and return him to the rescue, Mutts and Mom.
Earlier this year actress Anna Faris and her husband Chris Pratt came under fire after it was reported that they too gave away a rescue dog they adopted from Kinder4Rescue . Later it was found on the streets, emaciated. Faris was blocked from every adopting a dog from the facility.
Dunham has stated that she is crushed by the negative media attention she’s getting over Iggy. “Lamby was and is one of the great loves of my life…. I have weathered a lot of micro-scandals but this one hurts MOST, because of the vulnerability of letting people know Lamby and my story, and because I miss him so damn much.”
According to The New York Times, “Matt Beisner, the founder and an owner of the Zen Dog, the training facility that took Lamby in, said he was living a peaceful life with a new owner in Southern California.”
While noting that she wouldn’t never say anything bad about the staff at BARC, she asks, “Why should this story be subject to scrutiny and anger? It is willfully misunderstanding the truth. I hope those judging can imagine the incredible pain of letting go of your favorite creature on EARTH because you know you can’t help them be healthy and happy.”
Despite the shelter’s policy that their dogs must be returned to the shelter rather than an individual rehoming, Dunham stands by her decision, saying that there is always an alternative to sending a dog back into the shelter system.
However, BARC is also standing by their point-of-view. “We regret we did not have had the opportunity to consult with Ms. Dunham as the care of our animals and their owners is our utmost priority,” says Spinola. They have also stated that if Lamby had issues, BARC wouldn’t have allowed Dunham to adopt him, as at the time of adoption Dunham was a “new star,” and they wouldn’t have exposed the dog to that kind of home situation.
In defense of Dunham, there are situations when an individual can responsibly rehome a dog, including rehoming to an adopter who is knowledgeable about and experienced with dogs and when returning the dog to a shelter system is not the best course of action. The Humane Society of the United States agrees.
“Every dog is an individual with unique needs and all are deserving of a family or guardian in an environment in which he or she can thrive. We are deeply grateful to Lena and Jack [Dunham’s boyfriend] for finding Lamby a loving home where he can do just that,” wrote vice president of The Humane Society of the United States, Michelle Cho, in a statement via Dunham’s reps. “Lena is a wonderful advocate for dog adoption and we hope she will continue to use her platform to spotlight the homeless animal crisis and urge her legions of fans to consider rescuing.”