The response garnered on my blog post this week about Memphis Animal Services has been overwhelming – over 2000+ shares across several pages and still going.
When I started writing the post, I wanted to capture what has been going on in Memphis since before I moved here (and continues to this day) and the awful details of the battle others had been fighting well before I arrived.
Quite honestly I was not prepared for some of the questions sent back – “why are the petitions closed?” or “what can we do?” being the most important one.
The first question I can answer easily. Some of the petitions are closed because they have no impact. The most recent one initiated by SOS Memphis has nearly 6500 signatures and Mayor AC Wharton declined to meet with them, sending an assistant instead. And there was no discernible positive outcome… like all the others.
The second question’s answer depends on if you live in Memphis or not and there are options at the bottom of the page. But before you go…
The photos I used were those easily found through blogs and media sources and were of employees already convicted for the horrible crimes they committed (the sentences never enough…) because they most closely represent what goes on behind the mask Memphis wears regarding it’s shelter practices and the column label “euthanasia”.
The photos reflect the legacy of Memphis Animal Services and the issues arrive with frustrating frequency even still. These horrors, no matter how they mask them, will continue until leadership is changed and a new Mayor truly cares about what happens is elected. A Mayor with a solid plan and a true interest to fight for the animals – not a Mayor that promises a “worst to first” shelter and allows a trail of terror for companion pets to continue thereafter.
In May 2011 the Mayor made a statement abut the puppies in the trash bin:
“While this may be an isolated instance of poor judgment, we apologize for the perception this photo has created. Our webcam captures approximately 63,000 images each day or 2 million images per month. While we are not ignoring this single image, we can assure you our employees are well trained and compassionate. Further, we are looking into this matter. Should we conclude that disciplinary action is needed, we will take the appropriate action. The city of Memphis has made great improvements to the facility and will continue to do so,”
But just a month prior there was a national furor over “Little Suitcase Dog“.
Two months later an animal control officer is charged with 2 counts of animal cruelty.
The new facility wouldn’t have the transparency of webcameras.
In 2012 the Mayor is quoted as saying
“…we can assure you our employees are well trained and compassionate. The city of Memphis has made great improvements to the facility and will continue to do so.”
That same year: a shocking audio recording is made public, where a member of the Mayor’s administration is heard issuing an order to staff members at the Memphis Animal Shelter to specifically “euthanize every pit bull or dog that looks like a pit bull…” (video)
Three Memphis Animal Shelter workers are arrested and indicted for aggravated animal cruelty stemming from allegations of inhuman treatment to animals prior to “euthanization“. All three were later convicted.
Lead veterinarian officially written up for cruel and inhumane treatment of a puppy that later had to be euthanized.
In 2013 a new group, Memphis Pets Alive!, starts photographing pets at the shelter, and posting them on social media outlets, in an effort to increase adoptions. They face several battles over the next two years to continue taking photos of ALL animals (including those hidden in the stray hold area).
2014 & 2015– dogs are “mistakenly” killed, clerical errors cited. Two examples:
Feb 2014 – Memphis Animal Services Administrator James Rogers: I regret to inform you that “Josie” Female Pit Bull, ID # 263120 was accidentally euthanized due to human error. This unfortunate accident provided an opportunity for us to review our processes and take immediate steps to lessen the likelihood of this happening again.
Dec 2014 – Memphis Animal Services Administrator James Rogers: It is with sincere apology and deep regret that, unfortunately, MAS mistakenly humanely euthanized Pet ID# 273747 on Saturday, December 20, 2014. It is true that Vickie Carter came to MAS with an injured dog on December 16, 2014 and requested time to network the dog. MAS failed to document Ms. Carter’s request in our system. With no information in the system of her request the pet was humanely euthanized on its review date.
There are others; at least four more that are known about.
Photos and evidence accumulate. Petitions written, signed and attempted to be presented. Protests. Letter writing. Cruelty cases consistently for years.
Mayor Wharton recently stated in response to the ongoing issues at Memphis Animal Services and his decision to overturn the Director’s suspension (a result of a “mistakenly” dog euthanized that was to be highlighted in a magazine for adoption).
“If somebody knows somebody better for that job, hey, we’re hiring, send him to me. I want somebody to put up or shut up,” Wharton told the station.
The problem is – the Mayor refused to interview qualified candidates that were previously sent to him.
So, what can you do?
Memphis needs a Mayor, a Director and staff that gives a damn about animals. The homeless pets of Memphis need leadership that values life and are willing to make changes that matter. Someone like a Veteran Police Officer in Seagoville who had no experience running a shelter, but knew he wanted the killing to stop. And made it happen. Someone like Dr. Ellen Jefferson and Ryan Clinton and Mike Martinez out of Austin who just said enough is enough – and they carved an amazing path for others to follow if they would just make a stand and TRY. Someone like Nathan Winograd who redefined animal advocacy in the United States – because he cared. Because he decided it was the right thing to do… and he went and did it.
If you live in Memphis – get out there and vote. Word on the street is that Jim Strickland is the man for the job, others on the ballot have shared their plans as well regarding Memphis Animal Services. Get involved. Get educated. Get to the polls in October.
If you don’t live in Memphis – you can share! You can act! Tell people what you’ve read and what Memphis is really like (and where it is failing) when it comes to the protection of the innocent. If you have friends/family in Memphis, tell them to VOTE. If you know a shelter director that is up for a challenge – have them apply for the job and let others know they are applying. We need them. If you know a reputable organization that can help effect change, notify them – share our story. We need them. If you’re really inspired, click here to take action and speak out!
And whether you are local or long distance… you can also foster, adopt, volunteer, and donate to local rescue groups that are on the ground daily. Share the photos Memphis Pets Alive! posts and help get these highly adoptable cats and dogs into the home they deserve. ♥
I’d like to say “Thank you!” to Show Your Soft Side for sharing the original post and illuminating the battle animal advocates like Community Action for Animals, Yes Biscuit! and SOS Memphis have been fighting for years and to Turn Off the AC – a recent page dedicated to ensuring the public knows the track record of our current Mayor (AC Wharton) as we head into election season.