Posted by: Linda B | August 25, 2015

What can you do about Memphis Animal Services?

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…

heart paw

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:

JosieFeb 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.

There are more quotes and sound bytes about a Jewish employee having to defend her faith, a staff member still on administrative duty while they await their serial rape trial

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.

heart paw

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.

#TurnOFFtheAC

Posted by: Linda B | August 24, 2015

honor the warrior

Ginger & Maggie

Ginger & Maggie

Almost fifteen years ago I fell in love with not one but two “pitbull like” dogs in a short amount of time.  One came from a Baltimore shelter, a “yellow lab-pit mix” curled up and quiet at the back of her chain link kennel, and the other “mix” entered our life shortly after from the streets, defiant and abused but not yet broken – and it was only then that I learned what it means to be the companion to this amazing canine creation.

See, whilst defending yourself from being sat on, licked and loved into submission, you are immediately thrust into this world you may not have known existed; the world where renting an apartment becomes more difficult, sudden eviction can occur without reasonable cause, retaining your insurance becomes an operation of misrepresentation or outright lies and people even cross the street when you approach with your dog(s).

And for some of those reasons, when you become the guardian of a “bully” breed you no longer snap on just a leash – you snap on battle armor (called Awareness, Experience, Knowledge) on each walk or outing – whether you want to or not.

And you will want to.

Because once you spend time in the presence of these beautiful beings, these “inherently good” Angels among us, you will want the rest of the world to know their love, their silliness, their light.

Because even though strides are being made to increase awareness to battle abuse/cruelty, breed specific legislation (BSL) and discrimination, the fact continues to be that ignorance is prevalent in communities across every income and education level

Because they deserve our efforts to right the wrongs committed against them.

So when you see a noble soul with a “pitbull like dog” or a “bully breed” at the end of a leash or in their car or anywhere … you are looking at a champion in battle armor.

Respect the canine, honor the warrior.

Posted by: Linda B | August 23, 2015

Euthanasia: a mask for cruelty at Memphis Animal Services

Euthanasia. It is a word meant to be filled with reverence and mercy; a selfless decision to release a loved one from their suffering and likely the hardest thing you will face concerning your pet. It is the ultimate gesture of love for another living being.

It is not the word you should see printed at the top of a spreadsheet to reflect the shocking volume of companion pets killed at your local shelter and it certainly should not be the mask to acts so heinous that once uncovered criminal indictments and convictions of cruelty are handed down.

But in Memphis, that is exactly what happens.

~

I relocated from Baltimore to Memphis mid-2010 and as I made my way into the city on a major interstate, I spotted a pack running along the tree line – two dogs and a pig.  Yes, a pig.  I had no idea what to think about that but it seemed bewilderingly funny at the time.

Two weeks later I had counted four deceased dogs roadside and even more strays that flirted with the same fate.  It became less funny.  No amount of barbecue, music fests or trips to Graceland could erase the images.

Within a month one of those strays showed up in my yard and I wouldn’t know for another 24 hours that I’d made my first mistake in Memphis.   I called Animal Control.

It took them hours to arrive but I was proud of myself for doing a good deed – surely this long-haired, affectionate fellow would soon be reunited with his family or adopted! I patted myself on the back for saving a life.

The next morning I found my mailbox stuffed with articles from a concerned neighbor about my call to Memphis Animal Services – the place I’d just sent that friendly dog – and the advice to “just leave the next dog loose”.

The articles were from February 2010 regarding a raid on the local animal shelter resulting in the Director, Shelter Supervisor and veterinarian of Memphis Animal Services (MAS) being indicted for animal cruelty.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  I still had the notion that shelters are relatively good places, offering a safe haven for (most) pets, filled with caring people who want to find homes and care for the homeless, putting only the worst of cases of illness or injury to death if given no other choice.  Right?

~

Then I saw petitions, blog pages and news clips highlighting the tragic conditions at MAS.  Just months prior, reputable groups such as the ASPCA and American Humane Association were involved in a raid and qualified, skilled investigators that has assisted with the Michael Vick case found Memphis pets deprived of basic care such as food and water. Media reported that several starved dogs had to be euthanized as a result of their condition. The photos are painful to view.

justice

And when you see and read about Memphis Animal Services… you do not think of the word euthanasia. You think ineptitude. You think cruelty. You think abuse. You think murder.

And then you stop thinking for a while – because the overwhelming feeling of horror prevents rational thought.

The terrible truth about Memphis’ animal control is hard to accept and impossible to understand because, even if you could manage to ignore the horrific counts of abuse/cruelty, the reality is that in less than 3 years nearly 16,000 animals have been killed by “euthanasia”.

Sixteen thousand homeless pets thrown away in black plastic bags.

For most, a number like that is hard to relate to – but try imagining 8 out of every 10 seats at a Grizzlies game being attended by corpses, imagine the Autozone Park propping up 1.5 body bags per seat.  Stadiums of homeless animals killed for space… time… too young, too old…

It leaves you incoherent with disbelief and outrage. It leaves one with the decision to get involved and be their voice, or … believe the mask.

See, in Memphis the column labeled “euthanized” is not the “isn’t-it-sad-about-the-over-population-problem” where shelter staff sit in front of a computer screen frantically searching for a rescue to save any of the incredibly adoptable pets or desperately dialing multiple contacts because they are truly bereft that they could not find an adoptable dog or cat a home.

It’s about..

The shocking list goes on.  There are more links below, including the gut wrenching report from the undercover detective who had to endure being a witness to some of these illegal and immoral acts.

indicted-march-2012

It’s been five years since that first opening of my eyes [and how I wish I could close them] to the ongoing tragedy in Memphis and the devastation and frustration our community feels every day has not diminished. There continues to be no accountability for this “Canine Concentration Camp” called Memphis Animal Services and Mayor A.C. Wharton was recently quoted as telling the public to “put up or shut up” with regard to the shelter’s management as he continues to support the current administration.

Memphis Animal Services is notoriously acknowledged across the globe for its history of cruelty and abuse – it is not for the weak of heart or stomach – and the only way back from this vicious cycle of indifference is a new mayor, a new director and new leadership across the board when it comes to animal welfare in Memphis.

While the protests continue, global online petitions are created (and ignored), advocacy groups demand meetings with the mayor (only to be pushed off to an assistant to handle) and rescue groups struggle daily to save the lives of homeless pets (while animal control culls them for financial ground) – pets are still being killed.

I ask each of you refuse the word euthanasia on spreadsheets. Call it what it is.

It is the uninspired, unimaginative, unwilling shelter leadership that results in the unnecessary death of highly adoptable companion animals.

It is merciless, blue-liquid death administered fatally through a syringe and it is catastrophic – for the pets and for those who desperately want to save them.

It is killing. It is not euthanasia.

~

Resources and additional articles at…

Online petitions

Posted by: Linda B | August 23, 2015

23 AUG | LIGHTING [up my soul] | #fmsphotoaday

IMG_6270[1]

lighting

Posted by: Linda B | August 22, 2015

22 AUG | PATH | #fmsphotoaday
[discarded along a path]

IMG_6266[1]

path

Posted by: Linda B | August 21, 2015

21 AUG | M is for  | #fmsphotoaday

[Make a Wish]

M is for ...

M is for …

Eli is going to on vacation to meet Stitch!

Posted by: Linda B | August 20, 2015

Posted by: Linda B | August 19, 2015

19 AUG | HAT | #fmsphotoaday

hat(s)

hat(s)

Posted by: Linda B | August 18, 2015

18 AUG | LOGO | #fmsphotoaday

logo [yoobi]

Posted by: Linda B | August 17, 2015

I tried this in 2013 It lasted approximately…

I tried this in 2013. It lasted approximately 4 days. Let’s see if I can do better…

17 AUG | INSIDE | #fmsphotoaday

inside

inside

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