It’s hard to know where to begin in attempting to define my outrage over the many incidents of abuse and needless killing at Memphis Animal Services. Could I say I am appalled to see shots of puppies being inhumanely hauled off to the kill room? Of course. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen countless dogs dragged on chokepoles all over the shelter. And just as many pancaked in fear as workers take them to be killed. I’ve seen cats handled like they are vermin. All of the images are disturbing and heartbreaking.
The shelter pet advocate in me reacted by attempting to shine a light on the abuse and needless killing at MAS. That’s why MAS has been the primary focus of this blog in recent weeks and why I started the letter writing campaign. I hoped that by bringing these images and the shelter stats to the forefront, city leaders (including shelter management) would step up and institute reform. I was very encouraged that there were monthly public meetings where issues at the shelter could be discussed directly with the shelter management.
Apparently there are precious few public servants in Memphis who actually care about addressing the abuse and needless killing at MAS. Most of the people who do care are regular Joes and Janes who don’t want to see pets treated inhumanely and killed needlessly at the shelter. And the other three are members of the shelter advisory board. Beyond that, nobody showed up for last night’s public meeting. There was an appearance from a fourth member of the advisory board but since that person walked out after a minute and a half, I can’t count that as present in any meaningful way. Matthew Pepper, the shelter director, was a no show. He did not send anyone from the shelter to speak in his place. Even his boss, who has stood in for him in past, didn’t show up. The Mayor sent a representative to reiterate his support for Matthew Pepper. Who, I repeat, was a no show. The Mayor sent a stand-in to voice support for a guy who didn’t bother to show up (or send someone to stand in for him). The mayor’s representative reportedly took a condescending attitude towards the concerned citizens who came to participate in the meeting.
I guess we know now where we stand. There is little point in continuing to write to Matthew Pepper, his supervisor or the city council. Obviously none of them care about the abuse at the shelter. And there seems little point in continuing to write to the 3 members of the advisory board who share our concerns and have responded to our letters as such. But the buck has to stop with someone in Memphis and that person is Mayor Wharton.
From this point forward, Mayor Wharton will be the sole recipient of our actions toward reform at MAS.
Email him as often as possible: email@example.com
Call his office: (901) 576-6000
Send him snail mail: Office of the Mayor, 125 N. Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Fax him letters: (901) 576-6200
Post comments on his Facebook page.
If you are in Memphis, make a sign and picket in front of city hall. It doesn’t matter if there are 2 picketers or 200 – the idea is to let the mayor know that we are not going away. Have someone take a picture of you picketing and send it to me for the blog.
Change begins with one person. Be that person for the pets suffering at MAS.
Please keep your phone calls, letters and comments respectful and succinct. I understand this is an emotional issue and we all have our moments. Any sort of threat of violence is absolutely unacceptable and will weaken our progress. If the mayor gets 5000 polite letters and one death threat, he will no doubt pick out that one and bring it to the newspaper to paint all pet advocates as wackos.
Stay focused. We want reform at MAS. We want an end to the abuse and needless killing of pets at the shelter. We want shelter leaders, staff and volunteers who are committed to making Memphis a no kill community.
I appreciate there is flooding affecting some Memphis area residents right now and that is a serious concern. I am keeping a good thought for all those affected. But like all large cities, Memphis is equipped to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. And it’s not as if we’re concerned about some minor issue that can safely be back-burnered until it’s convenient to deal with it – pets are being abused and killed at the shelter. It needs to be addressed yesterday. Not when the weather cooperates, not in an election year – NOW.
For anyone needing bullet points, here you go. You are welcome to copy these:
Summary of Concerns at Memphis Animal Services
- The killing of pets who are not medically hopeless and suffering nor have they been declared a danger to society by a qualified party.
- The killing of pets when there are empty cages at the shelter.
- The killing of pets who have never been made available to the public for adoption, rescue or foster.
- The killing of pets due to disease outbreak without ever making a public plea for help with quarantine to save lives.
- Failure of the shelter to vaccinate all incoming pets as per standard disease prevention protocol.
- Failure of the shelter to remove dogs and food from cages during cleaning as per standard disease prevention protocol.
- Failure of the shelter to utilize their Chameleon software to interface with PetHarbor so that every pet is viewable online by the public.
- Failure of the shelter to properly train and/or enforce humane handling of pets by the staff.
- Failure of the shelter to implement a TNR program so that the number of feral cats in the community can be reduced over time.
- Failure of the shelter to keep cats separated from the sight, sound and smell of dogs in order to reduce stress and make the population less susceptible to disease.
- Failure of the shelter to provide daily aerobic exercise for dogs for social stimulation and in order to reduce stress and make the population less susceptible to disease.
Videos from last night’s meeting are being posted here throughout the day by No Kill Memphis. I am unable to watch the vids so if you watch and would like to summarize something you saw, please share in the comments.
A couple of readers sent in the following transcripts from portions of the meeting (thank you!). For those unable to watch the vids, it will at least give you an idea of the tone of the meeting.
This is an exchange between two of the advisory board members at the start of the meeting:
Dr. Tower (to Cindy Sanders): “Do you have me as present? (pause) At this time? Would you please record that I have been here?”
(Dr. Tower stands up and starts to walk away.)
Cindy Sanders: “Oh you are leaving?”
Dr. Tower (still walking away): “Yes. I want to make sure you have me as present so this will not count as an absence.”
This is an exchange between members of the audience and Mr. White, who was representing the mayor’s office at the meeting and asked that a meeting attendee who was filming turn off her camera before he spoke. His comments are public record:
Audience Member #1: “I volunteer for several rescues. I rescue on my own. Ya’ll don’t even have an adoption counselor. I’d be willing to come down there full time and be your adoption counselor for free.”
Audience Member #2: “Me too.”
Mr. White: “Some of ya’ll we’d rather not have down there as adoption counselor – but go ahead.”
Audience Member #3: “Did you really just say that?”
(Cindy Sanders requested Mr. White repeat his remarks but he declined to do so.)