Animal shelter behaviorist caught in TikTok controversy says harassment is out of hand
The dog behaviorist at the Town of Oyster Bay Animal Shelter who caught heat over a video she posted on social media spoke exclusively with News 12 to give her side of the story.
Gia Savocchi says a TikTok video that appeared to mock a group of women who questioned her job performance was made in response to more than a year of harassment she has endured from animal rights activists.
"A group of women likes to question every single evaluation, 'How do you even know that he would attack another dog?'" she says in the video, portraying another woman posing the question. "You don't like every person that you meet. So why should this dog like everybody they meet? I certainly don't like everybody that I meet but that doesn't mean I run up to them and try to stab them."
Savocchi says she's received messages calling her all kinds of names and some people have even shown up at the shelter to confront her.
"That video was just a satirical response to harassment that I have been receiving for the past year," she says. "And this is public harassment that is accessible to anyone to see that it was happening."
She says it all boils down to tough decisions that have to be made by shelter workers. She says sometimes dangerous dogs can't be adopted and must be euthanized, leading to backlash from activists.
"The harassment is egregious, it's constant and it's aggressive," says Savocchi.
Animal activist Lori Prisand shared Savocchi's video on Facebook and called for her termination. She denies that she, or anyone else in her group, did anything wrong.
"She says she's being harassed, but that TikTok video was just her harassing the taxpayers," says Prisand.
Savocchi showed News 12 profanity-filled comments from Prisand's page, which call her names, including a "piece of garbage" and a "Nazi."
If Savocchi's name sounds familiar, that's because she was a key whistleblower in a News 12 investigative story last year, which uncovered evidence that dangerous dogs were being adopted at the North Shore Animal League.
Town of Oyster Bay officials say they are standing by Savocchi. In fact, they tell News 12 that a different dog behaviorist and a veterinarian both previously quit their jobs because they were also being harassed. The town is currently investigating the harassment claims.
But Savocchi says she's not going anywhere and plans to keep working at the shelter.
Meanwhile, Prisand is looking for a different outcome.
"Gia's contract is coming to an end, and we hope the town will not renew this contract," says Prisand.