The Second Before and After

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:

Compassion fatigue?

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.

30 thoughts on “The Second Before and After

  1. This just makes me sick, that poor little thing is going to die in seconds, you would think this asshole
    would have just a slight bit of compassion. Is there
    anything that can be done? Some of the people that live in that area or State what ever should be able to do something. I just don’t understand…

    1. The very same man holding the puppy like that is the same one that I’ve sent complaints before about how he takes those puppies from one place to another. Administration there knows and has known for months and months. Not like they’ve never heard this before about him. Nothing has been done to date and most likely won’t be. One would think that he’d have been spoken to, written up, and finally fired. Does anyone care? I think not.

      1. I completely agree with you – I too have seen the SAME man mishandling dogs on alomost every shot on the webcams that he is in with a dog. Compassion fatigue OR are we being so negative it’s affecting his ability to do his job? Pepper is full of hot air and I’m sick and tired of him with his BS speeches.

  2. Horrifying.
    I just wrote my first letter to the “powers that be” (thanks for listing the emails down below) about this photo and the other issues we have been discussing. I doubt I will hear back from anyone but hopefully if more of us write and voice concerns maybe they will start to listen. It can’t hurt.

  3. I just read that article this morning, and the photo was there! I cannot believe they removed it!!! What a bunch of wusses – these photos are public domain!!!

    Yes, Pepper’s response was, er, I’ll be nice and say dissatisfactory. And yes, there are MANY photos which are worse. This was the photo that was used on that Petition. KEEP WRITING THE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL!!! AND – people of Memphis, please consider a demonstration, as obviously this is not going to stop!

    1. I wrote this morning, and got great responses from two of the advisory board members, and one brief email from councilman Reid Hedgpeth saying he agreed with me. I had mentioned that the man carrying the dog by its back skin should be fired, and he said that staffing decisions were made by the mayor, so we need to keep after the mayor to fire these inhumane workers and replace them with ones who actually realize the animals are living, breathing beings with feelings.
      We should also support the advisory board members in any way possible. I asked Cindy if there was anything we could do to help, so if she gives me any suggestions I’ll let yall know.

      1. Yes, totally agreed. The advisory board need our help, and I would add that keeping this as a PRESSING AND URGENT matter before the City Council and particularly Willie the Mayor are the singularly most impt. things we can do. Mayor expects us to slowly die away. Keep up the pressure. Don’t let anyone either the city council, Pepper and Co. or the Mayor cajole you with political double speak. SPEAK UP EVEN IF YOUR VOICE SHAKES ya’ll.

      2. If Pepper is doing HIS job correctly and doing write ups for these people failing to do their JOBS then not only is Pepper an accessory, but he is TOTALLY responsible for his employees and their actions/inactions, as the case may be. The Mayor can NOT avoid firing people IF Pepper is writing them up and showing that they are NOT doing the jobs the way they were trained to do…that is IF they got any training – which in my opinion should be on-going training just to make sure that they aren’t missing anything.

        Good to know that at least you have received responses and it appears that many of them are somewhat positive in regards to their agreement with things not being done right. I don’t know hwo often their Mayor keeps his position between elections – every 2 yrs? 4 yrs? IF Mayor Wharton plans on keeping his position he just might want to start fixing things…it would be in HIS best interest!

  4. At the next meeting, can we get this photo printed and distributed? Clearly workers need discipline and retraining immediately.

    Although, if I were in charge of the shelter and saw this photo, that worker would have been dismissed on the spot. But then, I am not a weasel-worded git who wrings his hands and prances around issues doing nothing.

    1. Mercy, Mikken!! Darest thou call Pepper a “weasel-worded git”???? I would have said a “Carbuncle on the arse of Her Majesty’s subjects”. Teehee. Good idea, that of issuing the photo at the next meeting.

      On another note, I have called the 901 mag blog and am awaiting a callback to get them to put the picture back online. I encourage others to do the same. The point IS to upset people so they will get off their butts and DO SOMETHING.

      1. If the weasel words fit! It “concerns us a lot”? Really? Because at my shelter, it would be cause for immediate dismissal. There would be no “concern”, there would be action.

        Has Matt Pepper done ANYTHING but be “concerned a lot”? The man is feckless.

      2. I’m getting the feeling that to Pepper this is a “9 to 5” job and he just needs to show up for work each day – well each day he’s scheduled to work that is. To hell with his days off…I’m still irked that he wasn’t present while they were killing dogs left & right due to the ‘distemper’ outbreak! (Which they claim has passed…so why ARE they killing all the dogs STILL?)

  5. Seems to me, after watching their webcams, that they take better care of the floors at the shelter than they do the animals. Um, can someone please explain this? Mr. Pepper….anyone?? Am I not seeing things correctly?

    1. No, I think you are seeing it quite correctly. Sad, though, isn’t it? “Clean” floors (how clean can they be with the way they spray?) are much more important than the animals.

      1. Maybe they are cleaning them so it’s easier to drag the dogs to the kill room that way? At least that way it’s smooth sailing down the corridor and the dogs won’t get stuck in a gummy substance that makes dragging them harder to do.

        These people just don’t give a crap. After all they are ‘just animals’ and there are so many of them…why bother doing the RIGHT thing – they are just going to get kiled anyways? She says with much sarcasm…

  6. The only thing I can think of that could happen a second after that disturbing shot was taken that would make me feel better about the situation is unprintable.
    Although possibly the worker placing the dog gently on the floor, apologizing to the dog and all and sundry for his behavior and turning in his immediate resignation would just about do it. I have a feeling this didn’t happen.

  7. What needs to happen is a good old fashioned sit-in at the Mayor’s Office with large pictures of this individual and others mistreating animals in their care. Statistics on animals killed accidently, procedures of not adopting or releasing to sanctuary/foster settings, etc.. If quiet and polite doesn’t get results, ratchet the level of outrage up enough to make newspapers and evening news. These people are cowards and deserve to be fired. How dare taxpayer dollars be squandered on these ignorant, incompetent boobs!

      1. I’m already saving up for the trip…I am just awaiting word on where & when!

  8. The employee carrying the dog as if it were a suitcase is Frank Lightfoot. When I was at the Memphis Animal Shelter and saw him picking up puppies like that on numerous occasions, I told him to stop and he said that’s how the Mother Dog carries her puppies. It’s obvious he did not stop. He is a very suspicious character and gives off really bad vibes and I feel really uncomfortable when I am around him working as a volunteer.

    1. Mama dogs don’t carry their babies to be killed. In fact, they do anything they can to protect them from harm. Equivalency fail.

      This is a SHELTER. The staff is being paid to protect these pets, to care for them compassionately and to provide every comfort within their capabilities. Job qualifications fail.

      1. That’s right, and I have never seen a bitch carry her pups by the back, but by the scruff, which is quite a different place on the body. BUT, if Frank Lightfoot wants to carry the pups “like a mama dog”, I guess that makes him Head Bitch!

  9. Perhaps what should be pointed out is that if it was them….dangling from the grasped hand of something 10 times larger than them by the nape of their necks or worse-how would that actual second feel….. ? Idiots

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