More on Memphis Animal Shelter Cruelty

The Memphis Animal Shelter raided by law enforcement this week has been returned to the city’s control. Whistleblowers have reportedly been complaining about cruelty at the shelter for a long time:

Cindy Marx-Sanders, who was appointed to the shelter’s advisory board by then-Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, spent a year before her appointment and the two months after telling shelter administrator Ernie Alexander and his director about problems at the shelter located at 3456 Tchulahoma.

“Nothing was ever done,” Marx-Sanders said. “I’ve brought in complaints, numerous complaints with specific employees, cage numbers; everything they needed, and still nothing was done.”

She wasn’t the only one complaining. Volunteers and other citizens have called and written City Hall about problems at the shelter for years. One of the tips led to the search warrant executed Tuesday by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office to investigate charges of animal abuse and cruelty, something the shelter is supposed to police for the city. [emphasis added]

That’s about the crux of it. The people paid to provide care for pets in need and prevent cruelty in the community are cashing their paychecks while abusing animals themselves. Shelter pets are a special brand of vulnerability – they have no chance, no choice and no hope beyond what their caretakers give them. And when those caretakers are abusers, shelter pets have no owner, no neighbor, no good Samaritan or Vet to speak for them. They are pets who must rely completely on the mercy of shelter staff which is why it’s so tragic when the shelter fails them.

193 dogs and cats fell over dead in their cages at the Memphis Animal Shelter in 2008. Who will stand up for them so that the abuse is ended and the shelter reformed? I will be watching with interest.

Treats on the Internets

Dog adoption event called a “black eye” for rescue in OK

AKC registration and puppy mills: here, here, here, and here.

Wysong’s talking about more mold

The lawsuit filed by a LA Pitbull breeder whose dogs were all killed immediately upon seizure involves a high level employee of the ASPCA

Mastiff in MA ordered killed after two biting incidents – owners to appeal

A short educational video on reading dogs’ body language

Balance IT site sells recipes for homemade dog and cat food – get a free recipe using promotional code

Pet food research and packaging facility fined by OSHA to the tune of half a million dollars

Two dogs stolen from home, shot to death and laid out along railroad tracks in PA – Reward

Troubled TN Shelter Raided by Authorities

Sheriff’s deputies in Shelby Co, TN executed a search warrant this week at the Memphis Animal Shelter:

According to the search warrant, “detectives have learned that some animals have been deprived of food and water while at the Memphis Animal Shelter,” and while in the shelter’s care, “some dogs have been starved to the point of requiring euthanasia.”
District Attorney Bill Gibbons said an investigation into practices at the shelter was launched after his office received a tip from a citizen earlier this month.
Gibbons said one or more people could face criminal charges. Up to 300 animals were inside the shelter, but officials did not say how many were in bad condition.

So I guess we can hold out hope that they may have fed at least some of them?

This shelter is no stranger to cruelty allegations, as this report from last month illustrates:

The incident in question took place at the animal shelter last Friday, when an injured dog ended up buried beneath bags of euthanized animals. The animals were on their way to an incinerator where dead animals are burned.

The employee involved in this incident kept his job.

Failure to properly feed the dogs in their care has been alleged in recent months as well, although the shelter denied the allegations:

The complaint alleges the shelter was at full capacity, ran out of food, and a dog fight began when an employee trying to stretch the food supply brought one dish into a cage.

“We were never out of food,” [Memphis Animal Shelter administrator Ernie] Alexander said.

He then explained what really happened.

“We had an influx of dogs to come in from both the city and the county, where we had three to four animals per kennel,” he said.

Alexander claimed the dog fighting was due to the overcrowding, and not a food shortage.

That was in July. So if there truly was no food shortage but now the dogs are starved nearly to death, either someone’s lying or intentionally starving the shelter pets. Will everyone keep their jobs this time?

What if We All Neutered Our Pets Today?

I no longer believe in the concept of “pet overpopulation” in this country. That myth has been debunked to my satisfaction by Nathan Winograd. But setting that aside, let’s say for the sake of discussion that there are – if not a surplus of pets, at least way too many being killed in animal shelters. It’s good to have a general agreement on what the problem is when considering possible solutions. So let’s consider this guy’s idea, which is not his alone, but rather one shared by many people concerned about pets being killed in shelters:

The Executive Director of what is now the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville says he would support a law requiring cat and dog owners to spay and neuter their pets.

As regular readers know, I do not support mandatory spay-neuter laws in any way, shape or form. But again, for discussion purposes, let’s give the proposal a whirl.

So we all spay and neuter our pets. Well hold on a sec actually because I could not afford to spay and neuter all of mine at once. And there are most likely many others like me. So will there suddenly be funding for low cost spay-neuter services everywhere they are needed, especially in rural areas of the South for owners like me? That seems hard to believe since, if funding were available, wouldn’t we have low cost spay-neuter services available everywhere already? But let’s just say that all the needed neuter clinics appear magically throughout the U.S. Further, let’s set aside the concerns about vaccinations (mandatory or owner discretion?), individuals with medical concerns (senior pets, anesthesia sensitivity, etc.), transportation (how do I get my pets to and from the clinic?) and any other potential conflicts. We’ll just make this happen.

So now we’ve all got our pets neutered. But wait – is it reasonable to assume that every single pet owner complied? Probably not. People who rely on selling puppies and kittens as a means of income may not be willing to give up their livelihoods and in fact, unscrupulous individuals may see a black market developing for their product. Other owners may be involved with criminal activities involving their dogs and cats (dogfighting, crush videos) and may intend to continue but even if they were willing to abandon their practices, they likely wouldn’t want to come forward to have any official records created on their animals.

In my estimation, we’d still have black market entrepreneurs and other criminals with intact dogs and cats. Then there are the strays, reproducing at will all over the country. Stray dogs and cats, lacking in socialization and definitely going without health screening or even basic health care. Litters born under abandoned trailers in the cold and the wet. Those lucky enough to survive spend their lives evading animal control, scrounging for scraps, and reproducing at will.

Back at home, 10 years into the future, all my pets will have died. And so will everyone else’s who complied with the MSN law. But we really want to have pets. Veterans and other individuals need service dogs to assist them in day to day life. Farmers need stock dogs. Families need companion animals. Etc. What are we to do?

We can try to trap and domesticate a stray dog or cat. That may or may not work out so well, especially if our needs are for a particular type of pet. And if we successfully catch and tame a stray pet, the animal will need to undergo training for the work we require him to perform. He may or may not be physically and mentally suited for this training. If we get lucky and all goes well, we can hope that he is able to provide several years of service/companionship but of course he’d have to be neutered, leaving us stranded in the same boat eventually.

Alternately, to find a pet of a specific type, with predictable behavior and aptitude, we could seek out a criminal. Because those are the only people with intact pets who would be breeding anymore in this country. Again, that may or may not work out so well and probably isn’t worth the risk.

Finally we might have the option of importing a pet from a foreign country. But surely foreign breeders will seize the opportunity to make financial and other demands on U.S. buyers, since the market will bear it. And some breeders will not sell stock to a country where sterilization is mandatory. The average pet owner will most likely be unable to import a pet. Perhaps U.S. shelters will import pets from foreign sources – strays rounded up off the streets or taken from shelters. Will these pets be well cared for in transit and what will the cost be to adopt these precious few available pets? If we look at how American consumers have historically fared when we’ve relied upon foreign products, we could get a glimpse into how the foreign pet trade might look.

So where are we in 10 years if we pass mandatory neuter laws all over the U.S.? We can have a pet, provided we’re skilled in trapping and taming strays, willing to buy from a criminal and hope we don’t get caught, or wealthy enough to import a pet. These unlikely and undesirable options will not apply to the average pet owner though. The average pet owner will be a thing of the past – not in 1000 years or 100 years but in 10 years.

There is another approach to tackling the problem of killing shelter pets. It makes sense and allows all of us to keep owning pets for as long as we can do it responsibly. No Kill now.

Blog Makeover

Thank you to everyone who submitted photos. I hope no one minds me cropping, I wanted to get in as much subject as I could in the small space the format allows. The two Flatcoat photos to the right (the one of Charlie having a biscuit and the one of Jewel in front of the purple flowers) were both taken by me. All other dog photos, including the one in this post, were sent in by readers. Scroll down the sidebar to see them. I so enjoyed looking at all the photos and will definitely do this again in future.

I Wish Al Franken was My Senator

Al Franken (D-MN) has got his first piece of legislation – the Service Dogs for Veterans Act – on the President’s desk:

The Veterans Administration would develop partnerships with organizations that provide disabled veterans with service dogs. Franken said he introduced the legislation after meeting a veteran who said his service dog improved his quality of life.

He said the measure will cost about $5 million and is designed to not edge out non-profits doing similar work.

“The government is going to pay for essentially every other dog. What I didn’t want to happen was to dry up the funding for the organizations like Hearing and Service Dogs in Minneapolis and all of these non-profits who have been providing dogs to some vets.”

Awesome! A rookie Senator getting bipartisan support (from some very wishy-washy Senators I might add) for his first piece of legislation, Franken says:

“There is evidence to suggest that increasing the number of service dogs would reduce the alarming suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care. We’re talking about a real return on investment that will pay dividends for these veterans for years to come.”

We often feel spurred to action when we disagree with the words and deeds of our elected officials. But we should thank them when they do good too. Why not take a moment to thank Senator Franken for recognizing the significance of the human-canine bond and its beneficial effects on the lives of our brave service men and women?

Update on Craiglist "Wolf"

via SmartDogs.

As we all suspected, he’s a regular ol’ dog.

Food Porn, Part Three

Excerpt from the book British Dogs – Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management and Exhibition by Hugh Dalziel (circa 1879)

(click images to enlarge)

Previously in this series:
Food Porn (Part One)
Food Porn, Part Two

Treats on the Internets

Of the 85 dogs temperament tested on SC Marine bases, only 2 got the boot

Former AC officers in Orangeburg Co, SC plead guilty to animal cruelty

Wilkes Animal Shelter in NC back in the gassing business

Police seize “wolf” bought on Craigslist – looks like a dog to me

Lovely photo

Flu News:

H1N1 confirmed in hog exhibited at MN State Fair

Ontario reports H1N1 in turkeys

Owner in OR gave H1N1 to pet ferret

Dogs and cats are not known to be susceptible to H1N1

Dog owners should be aware of H3N8 aka Canine Influenza Virus

97 Dogs Seized in Laurens Co, GA

A CNN crew tagged along on a police raid of a rural property in GA where authorities suspected dogs may have been used in dogfighting. (Video of the raid here.) The owner has been charged with animal cruelty and CNN reports the dogs are being evaluated by Vets for physical signs of dogfighting.

Most of the dogs were pit bull terriers; many were puppies. They were found cowering in cages or chained. Some older dogs were scarred — possible signs of fighting, investigators said. Others were malnourished, simply skin and bone.

Their conditions were atrocious, according to Terry Wolf of the Dublin-Laurens County Humane Society.

“Their chains are too short to reach shelter, those who have shelter. The water that they have seems to be recent rainwater with algae in it, and I’ve seen no food bowls. Most of them are very timid,” Wolf said. “They seem to be human-friendly, but they’re attention starved, and they’re definitely not socialized. You can tell they’ve been living hidden in the woods, out of sight.”

Irene Sumner, director of the Dublin-Laurens County Humane Society, talked through tears, overcome before the count had been completed.

She told us about a puppy found dead and tossed aside into a used plastic bag.

The seized dogs were taken to an undisclosed location:

Volunteers feared one puppy wouldn’t make it through the night.

The next step for these dogs is to determine which ones are healthy enough to possibly be adopted. Some, sadly, won’t share that fate. They’ll have to be put down.

If they are malnourished, as some appear to be in the video, that can be fixed. I don’t know what other problems the dogs might have which would require euthanasia, but unless they are medically hopeless and suffering, I hope they will at least be given a chance. The article doesn’t provide any information on whether the owner has signed over the dogs or the county has otherwise been granted custody. That issue needs to be sorted out before anyone starts killing anything.

This article seems to offer additional information on the case:

[Sgt. Robbie] Toney says they did not find training equipment or scars on the dogs consistent with dog-fighting.
Eventually the courts will decide whether to put down some of the dogs or even give them back to Loyd [the owner].

Meantime, the dogs are in the care of the Dublin-Laurens Humane Society. Supplies or monetary donations are being sought for the dogs’ care:

For information on how to donate you can call 478-272-5341.