With Friends Like These

Memphis Animal Services apparently has no Facebook page but a group called Friends of Memphis Animal Services does. They post a small percentage of the pets at the shelter both on FB and on Petfinder. Readers report that any postings to the “Friends” FB page regarding no kill are deleted and now, any screengrabs from the shelter webcams are also being deleted. Don’t distract us from our efforts to save-a-few-and-kill-the-rest with your pesky lifesaving information and legitimate questions about pets at the shelter. We’re on a mission from God.

Yesterday, in searching for information on the planned mass killing of stray dogs at MAS as reported in the Commercial Appeal, I looked at the “Friends” FB page. I didn’t find anything whatsoever about dogs being killed.  Not one word. Instead, I saw postings about how rescue groups were saving “many, many” dogs and other dogs were being moved to outside kennels while their indoor kennels were cleaned. However, I failed to find any specifics as far as names of rescue groups, numbers of dogs, etc. even though people had posted those questions. Some comments indicated a desire to thank the rescuers with donations. “Friends” said they didn’t want to post the rescue groups’ names without permission. This got me wondering, have you ever heard of a rescue group not wanting to publicize their work and receive donations for it? Maybe the dog rescues in Memphis are all kajillionaires, I don’t know – or maybe “Friends” just figures the dog rescues don’t need any more donations.

At any rate, today’s article in the Commercial Appeal states that “as many as 14 dogs” were pulled by rescues yesterday.  Would it be too difficult to determine the actual number?  Is it 8 or 13 or 5 or what?  Somebody knows the actual number, right?

[Memphis Animal Services Director Matthew] Pepper said at least three more dogs are expected to be taken by rescue groups today, and is hopeful that number will grow.

Now let me be clear:  I am all for getting dogs out of MAS to rescue.  It’s what should have happened when they first knew they had a problem with distemper at the shelter.  I am grateful to everyone involved who helped to save “as many as 14 dogs” yesterday and hopefully “at least 3 more” today.  But I call it as I see it and what I see here looks like a volunteer group that is – at least – complicit in the misleading PR spin for the shelter.  The word “enabler” comes to mind.

This shelter regularly holds roughly 350 pets.  The numbers aren’t adding up.  Supposedly adoptable dogs and puppies were killed Saturday and “strays” were to be killed yesterday.  How many have been killed?  And “as many as 14 dogs” does not qualify as “many, many” in my book when there is absolutely no mention of the dogs who were killed yesterday.

From a piece on WMCTV:

“The true number is probably going to be in excess of 60 that were truly euthanized for the purposes of this illness breakout,” said shelter director Matthew Pepper.

In excess ofAs many as?  What is going on here?

This is a public shelter.  The records are public information.  The truth will come out.

If you are interested in supporting efforts to make Memphis a no kill community, join the new group on Facebook:  No Kill Memphis.

56 thoughts on “With Friends Like These

  1. They also claim the cats are unaffected (“alive and well”) but where are they? The feline area on the camera had dogs in it–at least until they were taken away, perhaps to be “truly euthanized.” And lots of Kool-Aid being drunk by the “Friends” who somehow think that the No-Kill “agenda” is at odds with what the public wants. To me, claiming that “we have to [kill] dogs because of the irresponsible public” is far more indicative of an “agenda” than trying to save lives is.

  2. “in excess of 60”. Didn’t the vet say 90 a couple days ago? There are so many numbers given who can believe much of what they say.

    1. It seems like an open records request is the only way to get any definitive information. Which is a shame but it comes down to that at many municipal shelters.

  3. “With Friends Like These” hit the nail right on that head! GREAT JOB! I am going to request the answers to our questions since all of the records are public information. Can you say “scandal uncovered?!”….to be continued!

    1. Thank you Beth for being committed to getting the facts. People who don’t like having a light shed on the truth will often find another rock to hide under. We need to keep turning over the rocks.

  4. Thank you!!

    Something horrible is going on at MAS……and I don’t just mean the killing of these animals. Something is being covered up and I really think that the volunteers at FOMAS are either too scared to do anything or are involved.

    When one of the rescue groups went to pull a dog a few years ago and the poor dog was put down. She was banned from adopting for her rescue for a while. This garbage has been going on for years. Here is the link to the story: http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/sheltered-life/Content?oid=1140978

    By the way, I am a Memphian and I am devastated about what is going on. I am also an owner of a wonderful dog from MAS. I also foster dogs for a rescue when they need extra help.

  5. I’m beginning to wonder – which one is the puppet and which the puppet master? Who is pulling who’s strings?

    Just yesterday I made a comment on THIS blog about some quotes that I found on the FOMAS website that I found quite distasteful at this point in time. Today I went back to their website and noticed they have removed all the tacky quotes and have changed their “Don’t litter – Fix your critter!” to “Adopt a pet – Gain a friend”….but the one that REALLY irked me, in light of all the killings and the stealth way they are going about everything has been completely removed from their website. Where the website says “Memphis Animal Shelter” use to also read: “Saving one pet won’t change the world, but surely, the world will change for that one pet. Author Unknown” That quote has been completely removed from their website TODAY.

    Does FOMAS update their website EVERYDAY and change the quotes daily? Does anybody know? I just found it odd that they would change their quotes on a daily basis instead of just focusing on saving animals lives…but then again the quotes that they removed, at least to ME, appeared to be in VERY bad taste given the amount of animals who’s lives have been taken. Almost like focusing only on the 30-40 dogs they save and ignore the 300-400 they kill…you know the old “ease the guilt” syndrome.

    We’re all for saving as many animals as we can…but things aren’t adding up in this situation. Add to that when you click on their “adoptable pets” link that is supposed to take you to PetFinder – you NOW get an error message and NOTHING comes up?!?!? It’s almost like they have disabled every link on their website while the “shelter” is going through their cleaning house phase.

    Is there ANYONE near MAS that can file for the open records paperwork???? Things are fishy at MAS and it keeps getting worse and worse…

      1. Yep – here’s the link: http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/TN111.html

        It’s set up through Pet Finder…and maintained by the volunteers. I keep saying “their” website since they maintain it, but didn’t think to mention that it is set up through Pet Finder – maybe that’s why you couldn’t find it? Regardless you have it now…

      2. Thanks! I thought it was different than the Petfinder one. I have seen it. Thanks again.

    1. Not only are these articles VERY telling…have you read the comments in them? Distemper has been an ongoing problem at this place for YEARS! They have gone through multiple directors, been investigated, and still here we sit years later seeing the cycle repeat itself ALL OVER AGAIN!

      Kim- thank you for sharing those articles…appears that this recent incident IS just the tip of the iceberg. I am also noticing a common theme through all the articles…EVERYTHING is blamed on the BUILDING by whomever is “in charge” at the moment. In their minds they obviously ‘think’ that a new building is going to fix an ongoing problem. One that actually starts at the helm of the ship…and it doesn’t appear that changing the leadership is going to help, because they have done that in the past and STILL continue having problems (the same problems).

      So what is the common denominator in all this? How long as FOMAS existed? Does anyone know the outcome of the investigation in Nov ’09? The article says that DA was supposed to present their findings…there was mention of the mayor launching a task force to “study best practice procedures and training for shelter staff” – did that EVER materialize?

      1. FOMAS started somewhere around 2007, 2008 from what I remember. I was never aware that they had an “official” name until they got on Facebook. FOMAS are the volunteers at the shelter. Many have always been there and they are headed up by Jeanne Chancellor. Personally, I respect her ongoing support of MAS in regard to helping the animals but I think she shuts anyone out who does not drink the Kool-Aid and agree that the shelter is AMAZING!! It’s very sad. There was a wonderful woman that used to have a photo album of all of the animals put down at MAS titled “gone but not forgotten”. I believe they stopped allowing her to volunteer because of this……..it wouldn’t surprise me if Jeanne had something to do with it.

      2. Basically what went down in 2009 was they found out about the horror show that was MAS. Starved dogs, missing/non-existent records, denying dog adopotions to rescue groups…..the list goes on and on. Ernie Alexander was booted out along with the Vet and some other staff members….but they were kept on the city payroll while they were being investigated. Typical Memphis.

        No clue about the “task force” or what happened with that. They do have an advisory board that is in place again that is NOT FOMAS. The advisory board just sort of faded out over the years but in the last few years was brought back. I’m not really sure what they do though.

  6. According to comments made on the FMAS facebook, a volunteer with Labs4rescue.com and save1pet took three dogs (one lab, one lab mix, one sheltie mix) that are now insolation at the Cloverlead Animal Clinic.

    Mid-South Cocker Spaniel Rescue took a cocker spaniel this morning.

      1. The Memphis rescue groups are ALWAYS in need. Real Good Dog rescue is the group Lisa Trenthem heads up and is mentioned in some of the articles I’ve posted from the Memphis Flyer. If anyone here wants to donate to any of these groups PLEASE do so. They are all at capacity and they all use their own money to help these wonderful animals.

  7. FMAS was created after the raid on MAS. It was started by a group of women (3, I believe). They volunteered at the shelter for years before forming FMAS. They supported the last shelter director until he made the move to require background checks of volunteers and limit their power at MAS. Apparently they had always been given free reign over the shelter. After this move, he was hated. Granted he was a horrible director but he did not turn that way overnight. A blind eye was turned until he crossed them.

    The common denominator to all of the problems at MAS is the staff.
    The 2009 raid resulted in only 3 indictments. The shelter administrator, the full-time shelter vet (Coleman was a part-time contracted vet) and the kennel supervisor.
    MAS records were insufficient to arrest any of the remaining 45 employees, most who were responsible for the actual feeding and cleaning of the animals.
    Every single one of them is still employed by MAS. Some have received promotions.

    As for the training of the staff, it has happened in bits and pieces and by no means is complete. They closed MAS for a few days after the raid and said it was for training, leaving the impression of “shelter” maintenance training. It was computer training for a system they still barely use to full effect. The AHA offered their services post raid for training, that offer was refused by the City Administration. They now deny ever receiving the offer.

    The Task Force immediately appointed by the Mayor was a joke. They met, I believe 3-4 times, and were dismissed. The Task Force consisted of the Mayor and Division Director’s Vet, a former shelter supervisor who was in charge when they failed their NACA audit years earlier, citizens with the proper social and monetary connections…well, you get the picture.

    There have been a total of 7 court ordered appearances for those indicted. Unfortunately both prosecutors initially assigned to the case are no longer there. One is with the Juvie Div, the other a judge. The new prosecutors are pushing forward. Trial dates for all indicted have not been set. Their next appearance will be in April.

    As far as the open records request, I did that Saturday. I requested the stats by day for the week preceeding the “outbreak” that weekend and the week following. I also requested the medical reports on each dog euthanized and a complete list of the Pet Partners and animals that were released through adoption/foster/transfer. I will share with you upon receipt.

    1. Ethel – can’t thank you enough for all you are doing. I know it can’t be easy to ‘know’ so much stuff and basically have your hands tied. Please do let us know what you find out – either by sending directly to Shirley or posting here.

      I did notice that many of the employees that were with the shelter back when this occurred are still there, which makes one wonder. I have been pulling up info all day about MAS and it appears as if it is a breeding ground for criminals…I have seen quite a few felons on their ‘staff’ list. I think it’s beyond time that the ENTIRE shelter staff be removed and replaced by caring individuals that have the animals best interests at heart.

      I know from reading the comments to many of the articles that there is support for the shelter within the community, sadly it appears that MAS or FMAS is shutting them out because they want to support what the shelter could be as opposed to what it IS. It is obvious that we are barely scratching the surface of the corruption in what we are finding. I just keep thinking of that saying “bird of a feather…”

    2. Ethel, If I understand MAS correctly, it is open admission with a county contract, right? To whom did you make the request? MAS or County officials? And was this a formal written request, or by e mail? I’m attempting to get stats from our local shelter and keep hitting walls.
      Keep up the good fight.

      1. Tami –
        each state has an attorney who is in charge of the open records for that state. Probably just googe “open records your state” If you contact that office they can give you the specifics for your city. In Memphis it falls to the City attorney, the county is different. The county houses such a tiny amount of animals at MAS – they only have a rabies vector.

  8. I would like to add one thing to the ever growing disgust over what happened in Memphis.

    This is the largest and worst crisis for MAS and the sheltered animals since the raid.

    Matthew Pepper was not at the shelter on Saturday while all of this was being ordered and happening.

    It was his day off.

    He left his new Operations Manager (no previous kennel/shelter/animal experience on his resume) in charge.

    1. What a way to direct a shelter…they are going through a crisis and Pepper couldn’t be bothered to come in on his day off to oversee what was going on with the animals that he so dearly loves?!?! Well, he was/is directly involved now – I’ve seen him on the webcams helping pull dogs to be killed. You can watch them resist while he tugs away on the leash. Those poor dogs KNOW what fate awaits them…and with them pulling so many at the same time I can’t even begin to imagine the fear that they are all going through. So very sad…

    2. WOW! Isn’t that something?! So- mass slaughter of dogs while Matthew Pepper is not at the facility. That gives coward a whole new meaning! Apparently Matthew really does NOT care about the animals at his facility…hmmmmmmm-
      The one thing that keeps playing over in my mind is why didn’t ANYONE make a public plea for assistance- as was done at the Miami-Dade facility. They saved close to 500 – yes, 500- dogs because they were HONEST about what was going on at their shelter with distemper, etc. Only AFTER the mass killings happened is when a volunteer- NOT even an employee, lets some rescue groups know they can come and adopt some dogs….it’s a no wonder most of the public has such distrust for MAS.
      So, Matthew Pepper ordered the mass killings and couldn’t even show up?! Shame, shame, shame!!!

      1. I’m sure part of the problem is that Pepper, Wharton & even the damn vet are so busy blaming the public, that they would make themselves look like hypocrits IF they did ask for help and then people DID come forward to help. It would TOTALLY blow their ‘theroy’ that the public is to blame out the damn window and make them look worse! I think that’s what this is ALL about right now – saving face and nothing more. Well, and the added benefit of cleaning shop…you know that high kill rate – gives them a reason to have a high kill rate, they can blame it on the bad public for the distemper outbreak and killings while they wipe the slate clean and start from scratch with a new bunch of animals…that quite possibly will end up with distemper as well since they were brought in during the outbreak and all.

    1. So it appears that you & Ethel are correct…the shelter employees are the common denominator in the shelter that has continued to be a killing facility more than a shelter. While the article states that they are union covered city employees – there can and should still be a way to fire them. If they aren’t doing their job correctly it shouldn’t matter if they are union or not. Shift them around to a job they hate, cut back their hours, there are ways to make them want to leave and find other employment. I’ve been a manager at an office before and I have seen how large corporations work to cover their butts AND get rid of unwanted employees without any backlash.

    1. So back in 2009 after the raid occurred Wharton took the stance that all they can do is improve from this point. Seems like he tossed the idea out the window…because it really look as if they are moving backwards instead of forwards. Again – read the comments section…for a bad public there sure are a whole lot of people thankful that something was being done. A whole slew of people put their faith in Wharton to “fix it” and it appears he’s let them down BIG TIME.

    1. I have to ask…where they give stats for death rate of the animals – is that the number of animals that died in their care or percentages? Just curious because it doesn’t list them as percentages and I am assuming it is indicitive of the number of animals that died in their care without the benefit of being euthanized, but wanted to see if anyone else had any ideas/suggestions/etc in regards to exactly what those number indicate: “75 in 2006 to 119 in 2007 to 193 in 2008”

      1. I believe those are the number of dogs that died in the care of the shelter that year. I’m sure from being ill or starved. I could be wrong….Ethel…if this is incorrect please let me know.

    1. So it took years of people complaining and gathering evidence before they did the raid back in ’09….now we find ourselves in a similar state, only instead of starvation, were dealing with mass killings…but it appears that no one learned ANYTHING from the ’09 raid and how to ‘fix’ the shelter. Even bringing in new management – they kept the same employees…makes me wonder if some of those employees weren’t the same ones that had evidence gathered against them and their mistreatment/neglect of the animals. If so, the entire city has failed their shelter…if the ’09 raid wasn’t enough to wake them up I really don’t have much faith that this distemper outbreak is going to change anything here. It’s sad really, because this shelter could be doing so many great things. Considering all the articles and info that has been surfacing I have to say that I don’t have much faith in this shelter changing at all…they all keep saying “when we get to our new building” and “things will be so much better at the new location”….if they are going to keep felons on the pay roll, a director who is lazy at best, and a vet that refuses to discuss cases with people that want to adopt animals (or pull for rescues) and sign waivers to not hold MAS responsible, and the constant reoccurring theme of having an animal on hold only for it to wind up dead.

      MAS needs to clean shop – and I’m not talking about the animals – I’m talking about the people…ALL of them, including FMAS because they appear to be right there on board with everything going down, in and many cases they could be part of the problem. Especially given the fact that there have been so many concerned people posting links to No Kill information and other ideas and suggestions to help…only to have the good folks at FMAS deleting their comments left and right. If the volunteers themselves aren’t willing to support a no kill agenda – then they have no business doing volunteer work. Silly me…I thought the point was to save as many animals as possible, I guess I was wrong and MAS need to change their mission statement. It’s like PETA owns the damn shelter!

      1. You are totally right on. MAS is a disgrace and nothing has changed in that place except the director since the raid. Animals are still being put down by mistake, a dog or cat sneezes and it’s automatic death. They have made an effort of holding mobile adoptions but that is about the extent of it.

      2. So they ARE doing the off site adoptions, but they are taking unvaccinated animals to these places?!?! That is friggin crazy. So MAS could very well be spreading distemper like wildfire throughout the city by taking these animals out to the public. Scary…I hope the public knows to clean their hands thoroughly before going home to any of their pets. This is irresponsible at best and all goes back to why in the hell aren’t they vaccinating upon intake????

      3. They will vaccinate the animals that are deemed “adoptable”. Unfortunately, the shelter does not vaccinate all animals at intake. The shelter is riddled with disease. I’m surprised parvo and other diseases haven’t broken out with the way they “clean”. They are not taking pets out into the public that aren’t vaccinated…..but since it takes time for the vaccines to work the adoptable animals are getting sick. There are so many people in Memphis that don’t have their pets properly vetted. It’s very sad.

    1. If everyone involved are fully functioning and doing their job, between 16,000 – 18,000.

      There are currently 41 on staff.
      Total staff salaries minus clerks – 1,406,467.14

      1. So without the clerks – we have a total of over a million JUST in salaries? For less than 20,000 anials a year…most of which wind up dead anyways.

        Ethel – you seem to be really knowledgable about this shelter so I have to ask – I can’t remember where I read it but at one point in researching MAS I read something about using prisoners to assist in day to day shelter operations. I tried to locate the info again this morning but unfortunately my PC crashed yesterday and I had to reboot the entire thing and lost many of my links and records. But does anyone know if this program utilizing prisoners ever materialized? I know it is done at other facilities, and while this would cut down on their overhead in regards to salaries and such…I have to wonder if the animals wouldn’t be better off with inmates cleaning, feeding and walking them instead of these paid morons doing it now.

  9. Kim, I thought so.
    The Advisory Board is alive and well. But from the meetings I have been to, the City does not listen to the suggestions/complaints or to the public. I think they are the second Wednesday of each month, 6-8pm, main library.

    1. Good to know! I knew they were still around but wasn’t sure if they still had public meetings. Thanks for the info.

    2. Here is a link to the mettings with dates and all for anyone who can attend…I think a nice BIG turn out at the next meeting (April 13) might raise a few eyebrows.

      For those who are unable to attend I suggest e-mailing the people who sit on the Advisory Board and express your concerns about the ongoing problems with MAS. Here is a link to the list of meetings AND e-mails for 3 of the 5 members – http://www.cityofmemphis.org/framework.aspx?page=1047

      1. Erica,
        That is not a meeting that will deal with the shelter. It has nothing to do with the shelter. They are trying to draft an ethics guide for the City Council members.

        The MAS Advisory Board Meeting is Wednesday, April 13, 6-8 pm, Hooks Library.

      2. My bad – I was hoping “ethics” would deal with the ethics or lack of at the shelter as well…..

  10. Memphis/Shelby County is home to one of the largest ($190 million) healthcare conversion foundations, the Assisi Foundation. Now despite the association of St. Francis of Assisi with animals (there is even a statue of him that serves as a bird feeder in their courtyard), the foundation doesn’t focus on animal welfare but does fund healthcare,education/literacy, arts, and social justice/ethics. But what is happening right now at MAS *does* fall squarely in the arena of social justice and ethics. What would it take to turn MAS from the hell that it is into a model animal shelter? The answer (as it always is in these cases) is leadership. First comes leadership, then comes money. Same with school systems (as it happens, we in Boston now have Memphis’ superintendent up here!)So I ask: Who is the right person to lead MAS and what will it take to get him or her?

    1. I agree that it is going to take the right leadership. But to expand on that – there are employees that have been with the shelter for YEARS (many with felony convictions) that have been there from the time Eddie Alexander was running things until now (some even before Alexander took over). They have been there the entire time..leading me to believe that they are also a BIG part of the problem. So the leadership DOES need replaced, but the “leader” also needs to have the ability to fire those who are failing miserably at their *jobs* and put the right people in place.

      I know a lot of people have problems with people that don’t have a huge background in working with animals to be put in positions within a shelter, but I tend to think the less experience the cleaner the slate to work from and they can then be trained properly for their jobs.

      It’s not going to change overnight. And it’s going to get nasty in the process…but if they put the right person in place, put the volunteers back in their rightful place (as volunteers and not puppet masters), clean shop and start with new staff, and then implement the No Kill Equation – with the new building and all the exposure this place has gotten lately I think this could be one hell of a shelter.

      Looking at their stats – with a payroll over $1M a year for the staff…IF that got trimmed down that would be more money to work on FOR the animals. Plus using those rescues, trasports, volunteers, off site adoptions, actually vaccinating ALL animals that come in (instead of just the ones they hand pick) with the thought that they will all be adopted, treating the animals like they deserve to be treated – not like this is a stopping ground before death…I’m sure I’m missing a million more things. But every gets the point.

      1. I agree–although the fish rots from its head, what the individual animals experience is directly at the hands of the day-to-day workers. And it is clear that at least some of those workers are burnedout/cruel/incompetent/untrained/unsupervised/you name it! The culture works against change. And then supervisors hire people just like them and the downward spiral continues. Demanding better is not being negative, contrary to what some of the apologists on the Friends of MAS FB page seem to think; it’s believing that society as a whole deserves better than to see homeless animals killed (and kenneled dogs hosed)and knowing that with the right leadership, people are capable of greatness.

      2. I think it’s important to stress the last part of what you said….

        “Demanding better is not being negative, contrary to what some of the apologists on the Friends of MAS FB page seem to think; it’s believing that society as a whole deserves better than to see homeless animals killed (and kenneled dogs hosed)and knowing that with the right leadership, people are capable of greatness.”

        Sadly, that is part of what appears to be the problem. People can sit around and pass the blame…or they can demand change (for the better) for the entire shelter. From their record keeping, to the cleaning, to their attitudes with the general public. Sadly, some people just can’t deal with change and shut down instead of embracing it. And in this case it’s doing nothing more than harming the poor, voiceless animals.

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