I came across this article yesterday in Memphis Magazine which says that animal advocates are urging a boycott of Memphis as a travel destination due to outrage over this webcam snapshot from the city shelter:
When I looked at the article yesterday, it contained the above shot. When I checked back today, that photo has been replaced with one showing the City of Memphis Animal Services logo.
Let’s be clear, advocates are not outraged over a single photo. There is a pattern of inhumane treatment, substandard protocols and needless killing at MAS.
Although readers have sent me a good many webcam shots (for which I am grateful), it happens that I captured this one myself. I was watching the webcams during the distemper killings when I saw this shot appear. I gasped out loud. At first I thought the pup was wearing a harness and being carried by that, which I thought was dreadful. Only later did my brain allow me to accept that there was no harness – the dog was being carried by the skin on his back.
But as awful as that one image is, there are many others that I find disturbing too. The snapshots, coupled with the shelter statistics and the words from the shelter director’s own mouth paint a grim picture. Many people seem to be intent on whitewashing the abuse at MAS and repeatedly tossing in a red herring about how the public is to blame. I find this deeply troubling as well.
In the article, there is a quote from shelter director Matthew Pepper regarding the photo:
“We see what’s in the photo and yes, it concerns us a lot,” he says. “But we don’t know what happened a second before or after that picture was taken. I’m not making excuses, because we do take this report very seriously.”
While I agree that we don’t know what happened a second before or after this shot, I think reasonable people can reasonably assess what they are seeing. We make reasonable assumptions all the time without seeing a full video feed of an event. The key issue to my mind is whether what’s captured in the shot could reasonably be deemed humane in the context of knowing what happened the second before and after.
Off the top of my head, I can come up with a couple of scenarios where that might be true. For example, if the dog was being whisked away in raging flood waters and the worker was trying to save him, I can imagine he’d grab on to any part of the dog he could. Or maybe if the dog had wandered too close to the edge of gaping canyon, the worker might hastily grab at him to pull him back. But neither of these scenarios are at all reasonable to consider as happening in the second before or after the photo.
What do you think? Is there any possible explanation that comes to mind for how this shot might not reflect inhumane treatment? And do you agree with Mr. Pepper’s assertion that he’s not making excuses?
He states MAS has taken the report very seriously. I wish we knew the details on that. Is it being taken as seriously as the abuse of Charlotte, the scared kitty who was in labor at the time she was abused by a worker at MAS? I don’t know because I haven’t heard a thing from the shelter leadership about that. Or any of the other issues I’ve contacted the city about. Have you?
And for the record, while we can’t say we know what happened in the second after the photo was snapped, we can say the pup was being taken to the kill room at MAS, along with the other dog, only barely visible in the shot, who doesn’t look to me as if he’s being handled humanely either. So we can reasonably assume these dogs were killed in the seconds (or minutes) after this photo. There are way too many healthy/treatable pets being taken to that kill room. More than 3 out every 4 in the shelter’s care.
Memphis, please – stop the killing.