UPDATED – Memphis Mayor: No “Shelter Large Enough”

Reader db has been writing to Mayor AC Wharton regularly.  She received a response from the mayor today to a YesBiscuit post she had sent him:

Thanks for your letter and for believing in Memphis . For the sake of accuracy, I have never said things are “swell” at the Shelter. I have never disparaged any person who spoke out about the Shelter.

Rather than make your inaccurate comments the focus of my efforts I will continue to strive to make things better at the Shelter. I will, however, reiterate that we will never be able to build a shelter large enough or hire enough folks to counteract the dastardly effects of irresponsible pet owners.

IN any event, thanks for writing.

Since db was merely sharing a post of mine, I am going to respond here for clarification:

I do not have quotation marks around the word swell and never meant to imply that it was a direct quote from you Mayor Wharton.  I was being snarky and making a generalization of what I perceive as your view of MAS.  As far as disparaging the people of Memphis, YUH-HUH!  While you may not have made negative comments specifically about shelter critics (Who said you did, anyway?), you most certainly have disparaged local pet owners.  Do the words “slave masters” ring a bell?  (See also: this very e-mail.)

Please allow me to be blunt – uh, bluntER – if you have sincerely been striving to improve MAS for more than like, an hour, I gotta say – you need to admit failure and hand the reins over to one of those action type people.  Because your striving has kept MAS in the ditch it was in when sheriff’s deputies raided the place in 2009.  Oh and while you “strive to make things better”, you might want to lose the attitude that you’ll “never” be able to shelter pets from irresponsible owners.  If you and your city’s shelter can not provide care for pets surrendered by irresponsible people – what are taxpayers paying for exactly?  Memphis deserves a shelter that can care for these pets and all the other pets in need as well.

“Irresponsible pet owners” are the minority in this country.  The majority of pet owners love their pets, consider them part of the family and try to do right by them to the best of their abilities.  These people represent the solution to your problems.  Quit belittling them.  Lose your defeatist attitude.  Start thinking in terms of what’s possible.  No kill is not only possible, it’s happening in shelters all over the U.S.

We are a humane society and we don’t want to see healthy/treatable pets killed.  Join us.

A webcam watcher nicknamed this dog "Curious" because he often seemed to be looking at the camera.

"Curious" looks like a good dog to me. It's such a shame that MAS does not allow the public to view the stray areas when looking for a pet. Somebody might have liked to take him home.

Goodbye, dear heart.

Update – Reader db replied to the mayor’s e-mail above with some suggestions.  Here is his response:

Thanks for your note. I will look into your suggestion that we open the “stray” area. I know that it has been explored in the past and found not to be feasible and safe.

Additionally, I have already initiated internal discussions on a “no kill” policy. As I am certain you understand, such a policy would have wide ranging ramifications in Memphis since we have no restrictions on the animals we accept.

I wonder what the many shelter directors across the nation who allow ALL their dogs to be viewed by the public (save for obvious exceptions such as illness), would say regarding the idea that this practice is neither feasible nor safe in Memphis.  What’s so unique about Memphis?  I mean, besides the seething hordes of irresponsible pet owners of which the mayor and the shelter continually remind us.

Discussions of no kill.  What is that, people sitting around a box of Krispy Kremes, waxing rhetorical about how no kill is never going to happen in Memphis because of the damned locals and their dastardliness?  Your tax dollars at work.

Leave a comment

43 Comments

  1. Morgana

     /  May 31, 2011

    Mr. Mayor: You GOTTA be shitting me with that response. Honestly, you think VERY LITTLE of your constituents, which I relish reminding you and them of often and repeatedly. Get off beating that old drum, and COME UP WITH REAL AND WORKING SOLUTIONS. If you can’t, then turn it all over to the people who can. I have NEVER heard so much shite in my life!

    Reply
  2. db

     /  May 31, 2011

    @Shirley,
    Check your emails. I received a response to my response. Just realized that the good mayor probably thinks I’m in Memphis and it is an election year coming up . . .
    Being the eternal optimist, I do hope that he will do some serious thinking and make the necessary changes for the animals at MAS.

    Reply
  3. MVPR

     /  May 31, 2011

    Wharton, you do not deserve the title of Mayor, therefore, I will not address you as such.

    What do you mean: “we will never be able to build a shelter large enough or hire enough folks to counteract the dastardly effects of irresponsible pet owners”

    That has NOTHING to do with the fact that you are Needlessly killing healthy, adoptable animals every single day!
    You wouldnt have to build a bigger shelter if only you would open up the entire space you have right now to the public, and work closely and adamantly with rescue groups across the country to get the animals OUT!
    There are SO many options out there and ways to get the numerous dogs and cats in your “shelter” adopted or rescued into safety, giving them a chance at life and happiness. Instead of killing them.
    Work to make the public aware of Spay and Neuter, make possible low cost clinics… have special adoption days…

    Do you own a dog wharton? or a cat? Picture your furbaby in MAS or in any other high kill facility across the US, sitting on death row, going without food, water or the comfort of a bed, no one to say a kind word or offer a loving pat on the head, sprayed down with harsh, cold water or left to lay in his own waste.. In every “shelter” dog or cat, see the eyes of your little one and choose to give them the oopportunity at life, as you have givin your pet!

    Seriously, you have to make a change in the way you are looking at the situation.

    Reply
    • Morgana

       /  May 31, 2011

      Sorry MVPR: Wharton seems to be devoid of the compassion gene. You are wasting your time. We need to get him and Pepper OUT! The Union needs to re-assign those Nazi SOB’s who act criminally, and the Mephis public needs to get on board with what their ‘Mayor’ really thinks of them.

      Reply
  4. Mel

     /  May 31, 2011

    Mayor Wharton,

    When you delete unflattering but sincere and truthful posts on your facebook page and then block the poster from being able to post anything further, you sir are being disparaging. When you send one of your representatives to a MAS meeting who not only makes it clear that they have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever seeing you at a public or private meeting re MAS but also manages to insult the decent Memphis people who are working hard to help the shelter you are “striving” to improve, you sir are being disparaging. When you assume that the people of Memphis are so stupid that they are going to accept being labelled irresponsible by you in a weak and cowardly attempt to shift blame away from the ineptitude of you and your staff, you sir are being disparaging. Oh and for the record, a token post on your facebook page encouraging people to adopt a dog is not “striving”, it’s pathetic- in fact, you know what Mr Mayor? I’d go so far as to say it’s disparaging. I suggest you spend some time “striving” in the bathroom Mr Mayor, it seems to me that’s the most appropriate place for the mess your “striving” for MAS has accomplished so far!

    Reply
  5. joan

     /  May 31, 2011

    Your city needs a new Mayor, but in the meantime let people into see all the adoptable pets. Even if it means hiring one person dedicated to bringing in one person/family at a time. What is there to hide? I will tell you, they don’t want folks seeing adoptable pets being lead to the KILL room. Shame on Memphis. Perhaps they could just give it a try and see what happens.

    Reply
    • Morgana

       /  May 31, 2011

      Let’s also remember that an offer to be a liaison with the adopting public FOR FREE was rebuffed by the Mayor’s henchman, Mr. White. “We don’t want people like you coming in there”. What does THAT say????

      Reply
      • Mel

         /  May 31, 2011

        Exactly Morgana. I think all the other problems stem from one main problem. Mayor Wharton doesn’t give a flying fuck about animals because they don’t vote. Someone needs to line up all the animals slaughtered at MAS nose to tail along the pavement from MAS’s door to Mayor Wharton’s. He’ll have a lot more trouble hiding something like that. It’s sad but true that a life is so much more easily deleted than a corpse.

    • Morgana

       /  June 1, 2011

      Yea Mel…corpses are better fodder for the media than live beings. What’s the saying: If it bleeds they read???

      Reply
  6. Susan

     /  May 31, 2011

    I thought that MSN was going to fix all of Memphis’ over-population problems? So you mean, it’s like what is that Mr. Mayor? what? Can you even say it much less think it … a HUGE failure?

    Reply
    • Ethel

       /  May 31, 2011

      The s/n law was passed less than a year ago. There have been 400+ citations written to this law and the vast majority have had their animals neutered, either free or at a greatly reduced rate. Those that have opted out of s/n have paid an intact dog license fee. The law is written as a secondary violation. If you vaccinate your pet, are current on license/tags, do not allow your pet to run at large, then you aren’t given a citation. The law was written to impact the habitual running at large dog owners, not the responsible dog owner.

      And s/n takes years to impact a community. Not a few months.

      Reply
      • Susan

         /  June 1, 2011

        Really? Seriously?? You honestly believe that??
        MSN hasn’t worked in ANY area that it has been set up. It’s increased shelter intakes and shelter deaths. VAST majority have had their dogs neutered??? Then where are they coming from? LA is going on years and we’re still waiting on an impact. Volusia County, Florida is going on years and we’re still waiting on an impact.
        Where’s your references that it takes *years* to impact a community?? What community has it worked in?? Name that town please !!
        Turn in and kill rates increaase remarkably and maybe that’s what is happening here! Is there anyone looking into it? Other than the rampant abuse of animals, maybe what we are looking at here is the horrifying results of Memphis MSN legislation.

      • The intake rate at MAS has indeed increased. IMO, MSN will fail in Memphis, just as it has everywhere else it’s been tried. People who can’t afford to neuter can not suddenly afford it because a city ordinance gets passed. MSN punishes poor pet owners and does nothing to curb unintended litters of pets. Take away an intact pet from someone who can not afford to neuter and they will go right out and get another intact pet. You can’t stop poor people from owning pets (thank god) and you can’t magically produce cash in their wallets because you pass a law. Low/no cost neuter is the proven solution to reducing unplanned litters. MSN is a proven failure.

  7. mikken

     /  May 31, 2011

    There seems to be a serious disconnect between what the Mayor “knows” to be true and what is. The fact that he thinks a larger shelter will mean saving more animals is a strong indicator that he does not understand the true nature of the problem at MAS.

    I don’t know how to communicate the fact that MAS could be a *smaller* shelter with *fewer* people running it and still be doing a *much better job* of saving animals. And I don’t know how to communicate the fact that a larger shelter with the current mindset running it will only result in more animals dead and suffering.

    The Mayor’s brain is stuck in a rut.

    Reply
    • Morgana

       /  May 31, 2011

      The Mayor’s brain??? OH! You mean you think he has one, as opposed to a hired Media Manager. Oh, now I get it.

      Reply
  8. EmilyS

     /  May 31, 2011

    “no kill” is going to be an easy slam dunk for him to dismiss.
    It’s too big a psychological step for him. I know you all believe in it, but you’re pushing him in a direction he can’t go. Deriding him and Pepper as cruel ignoramuses is NOT going to get anything accomplished. And if you think the citizens of Memphis are going to vote this mayor out over this issue… well, I present Denver as a prime example of “most voters don’t vote about animal issues”

    If you want to accomplish improvement (even if it’s still miles short of “no kill”), you should just give him the STEPS outlined in the manifesto about improving adoptions and owner retention, he’d be a lot more open. Like opening the stray area to adoptions.. (wow, that’s an eye roller that MAS doesn’t do it)

    Without completely new staff, MAS is just NOT going to go from 40% (or whatever) save rate to 90%. Just not going to happen.

    Baby steps will still mean fewer animals being killed. And it will establish trust.

    You need to find someone Pepper and Wharton trust, first of all, who can present these steps to them.

    Reply
    • Emily, leaving aside your other points–40% save rate would be major progress for MAS. They’re currently at 23% save rate. They kill 77% of the animals that come in the door, most of them never having had a chance to be adopted.

      Reply
      • Debbie Miller

         /  May 31, 2011

        Oh my God. That is 3 out of 4 dogs/cats killed. That is horrible percentage. That is tragic.

      • EmilyS

         /  May 31, 2011

        ugh. you have to work hard to be that bad..

        but actually it makes my point even stronger.

      • Jessica

         /  July 11, 2011

        3/4 dogs/cats killed is like basically the “catch and kill philosophy” that Nathan has proven to be wrong (not to mention tragic). To be killing 77% of what you take in is pretty much killing one right after the other, I think. Are these people secretly sociopaths?

        Anyway, everything about Wharton that has been said is what I would say too. Its amazing to me that not only does he not care about the animals of Memphis, but he pretty much just gave a big “F you” to the citizens of Memphis too with this emails. Major props to db for writing him though! He/she did a great job in those!

    • Ethel

       /  May 31, 2011

      After the raid, the AHA offered to stay in Memphis at no charge and reorganize MAS. THe Mayor and Director Hooks declined. The ASPCA offered to help. The Mayor and Director Hooks declined.
      The Advisory Board offered to help. The Mayor and Director Hooks declined.

      Instead, the Mayor and Director Hooks appointed a “special” task force to research and develop a plan for MAS.
      One member the Mayor and Hooks appointed was a recently retired MAS supervisor, that’s correct, he worked there for years and has declared the raid was not needed, the shelter is fine.
      Another member was Dr. Tower, the Vet currently serving on the MAS Board, yes, you know, the Vet that walked out of the meeting after one minute, 38 seconds and would answer no questions from the public.

      I can guarantee, if the Mayor and Hooks are ACTUALLY (and I have my doubts) looking into a no-kill shelter, it will not be someone who knows what they are talking about.
      My bet, IF they are “looking” into it, their “expert” will be Pepper who attended one no-kill conference and obviously learned nothing.

      Reply
  9. db

     /  May 31, 2011

    That was my suggestion to the mayor in my last response to him – to consider opening the stray area so people could recover lost pets and/or adopt those not reclaimed.

    I understand what you’re saying, but we have to start somewhere.

    Reply
  10. Debbie Miller

     /  May 31, 2011

    Your mayor is about as compassionate as those employees of MAS and about as open minded. First thing is get him and the rest of the losers out of office. Second is to get someone who is for No Kill in office. I know, easier said then done but when I see these pictures of “Curious” and “The Wily Puppy” I literally sit and cry crocodile tears, it breaks my heart so. I don’t even live in Memphis but I am not naive enough to believe it doesn’t happen here in Cincinnati too. I also wrote to your mayor and got no response at all. God Bless all of you making a difference there for those poor babies!!!! I always heard in order to eat an apple, you take one small bite at a time. In other words, you do have to start somewhere and you all have some good ideas. Keep plugging away.

    Reply
  11. Jeanne

     /  May 31, 2011

    Mayor Wharton, ack–is it possible you’re a closet reactionary? C’mon now. If someone asked you about the crime rate, would you reply, “We’ll never build a prison big enough for all those irresponsible thugs who would rather hold somebody up than get a real job, so why even try?” If they asked you about urban blight, would you say, “Fuggedabout it. You’ll never be able to keep up with all those irresponsible vandals that trash every public housing project we build. Why bother?” So why is it that when somebody asks you about MAS, you head right back into the 1970s and blame the irresponsible public–with killing as the only real solution? I believed in you, A.C. I thought you were a bona fide PROGRESSIVE mayor but guess I got it all wrong. Take a tip from a REAL progressive up there in Newark, NJ. Mayor Booker has it going on. You obviously don’t. And he’s making you look real bad by comparison. A REAL progressive mayor would know what no-kill is all about (clearly you don’t), how it works (clearly you don’t have a clue) and why it matters (ditto, clueless again).

    BTW, why not start a prison program in Memphis. Send the overflow of strays to be housed, cared for and trained by prisoners so they have something more meaningful to teach the kids on the streets about than Crips and Bloods and the geography of LA back in the 1980s. Those guys are like you, Mayor Wharton–hopelessly mired in the past. I’ve never heard of an unsuccessful shelter/prison program–not one. Why not give it a try? If you really want to get the word out on the streets about responsible pet ownership, one of the best places to start is in the prisons.

    Reply
  12. I have a story playing out in my head. I think it’s my creative mind’s way of dealing with trying to understand this man’s point of view and failing miserably. Bear with me…

    Here is Mayor Wharton. He’s sitting at his desk, drinking from his yellow sippy cup. He’s scratching his head, his arm and motions appearing somewhat chimpanzee-like from this angle. His head itches a little – it always does, after he gets to work and his assistant takes his coat and his matching yellow helmet.

    Every now and then, a tone sounds, and a red light appears on his desk. Mayor Wharton gets excited when the tone sounds and the light glows because it means he gets to choose a switch. He looks down at the switches he has to choose from. So many switches…

    He can’t read them, but they’re red and underneath they say things like “smarmy response,” “ignore,” “make false accusation,” “blame the public,” or “blah, blah, blah” (that last one is his favourite, although he isn’t sure why).

    He pushes a switch (he’s not sure which switch, and really, he doesn’t care) and his secretary brings him the appropriate document to sign – along with a cookie.

    She leaves, and as he eats his cookie his eyes are drawn back to the switches. Two particular switches, in fact.

    These are two teensy, tiny, peculiar looking little switches in a far, dark, dusty corner. One reads “intelligent solution.” Beside it is a similar switch marked “well-reasoned compromise.”

    Deep down, for no reason that Mayor Wharton can comprehend, he has a desire to press one of these buttons (maybe both – oh the chaos!). But alas, THESE buttons can’t be switched on by just any old stranger walking by. THESE buttons require what his assistant refers to as “education.”

    He has asked her on many occasions to give him the “education” he needs to be able to unlock THESE switches. She claims that he already possesses the “education,” but that his ignorance prevents him from using it to unlock THESE switches.

    His train of thought is interrupted as his assistant walks in to add a large manilla file to a dangerously growing wall of manilla files.

    She begins to explain something to him, but he asks her to leave instead. He gets a cookie for looking at the manilla files too, but it’s soooo much WORK. The red light will come on again soon, and then he can have a cookie just by pushing one of the red switches.

    Later in the afternoon (several switches and delicious cookies later) his assistant comes back again, this time with more manilla files. She points at the growing pile, which is made up of thousands and thousands of files marked “education.”

    “What do you want me to do with all these emails?”

    Reply
    • Ethel

       /  June 1, 2011

      Dislike this Mayor. Never voted for him, never will.

      I also don’t like this one part of your posting. “He’s scratching his head, his arm and motions appearing somewhat chimpanzee-like from this angle.”
      Not needed.

      Reply
      • Meant metaphorically. Next time I’ll use the term “Homo habilus like” or perhaps “Pleistocene-esque” so as to avoid offending anyone.

        In the meantime, if you catch me making excuses for the mass and needless slaughter of innocent lives, you’re welcome to liken my behaviour to any primate or primate-like Homo ancestor of your choice.

    • Morgana

       /  June 1, 2011

      I love this little head-movie. Agree with Ethel though, even though I knew what you were getting at. Its FAB!

      Reply
  13. Christine

     /  May 31, 2011

    Ok enough of the political lame ass dribble…You have irresponsible pet owners….PASS SOME STRICT LAWS…ENFORCE THEM…DUH it’s a no brainer! Fine the people who don’t follow them..use that to fund your NO KILL shelter in addition to many businesses who I am sure would be happy to make tax deductible donations to save animals….for the love of god quit yapping your safe comments and DO SOMETHING…words are empty..actions speak louder than any dribble anyone can utter….DO SOMETHING right will ya!

    Reply
  14. Abbey

     /  June 1, 2011

    Just thought I’d share a copy of this posting from Wake County Animal Shelter’s facebook page (a municipal shelter in Raleigh, NC). Seems like a little effort goes a long way.

    “WakeGOV Pets: Wake County Animal Care, Control & Adoption Center Did you know:we have had a 104% increase in cat adoptions May 2011 vs. May 2010? Did you know:we have had a 54% increase in live dog releases (reclaims, adoptions, transfers) May 2011 vs. May 2010? Do you know how we did that? YOU GUYS!!!! Thank you to everyone, adopters, volunteers and staff alike, for helping us attain these fabulous numbers!!!”

    Reply
    • LOVE IT. Thanks for sharing the success here too, Abbey. Stories like this one just prove how wrong the traditional shelter model is.

      Reply
  15. sl

     /  June 1, 2011

    Sadly, Mayor Wharton did not react until people started posting on FB pages of local television stations.

    We must utilize the tools we have available and it seems that social media works…

    Reply
  16. Morgana

     /  June 1, 2011

    This is what LOVE looks like, from one of the volunteer pilots at PNP, part of Ranger’s trip to NY:
    http://amileofrunway.blogspot.com/2011/ … pilot.html

    Reply
    • beth

       /  June 1, 2011

      I absolutely love this!!! THIS is what can happen to the strays if given a chance……

      Reply
      • Morgana

         /  June 1, 2011

        Yea, maybe I’ll send it to AC.

  17. Dot Kirby

     /  June 1, 2011

    Please keep up this fight! I love what you wrote! That Mayor has got to go… period

    Reply
  18. Debbie Miller

     /  June 1, 2011

    What is your largest local news station in Memphis please?

    Reply
    • Ethel

       /  June 2, 2011

      The ONLY station in Memphis that will tell it like it actually is, Channel 24.
      The ONLY reporter that will tell it like it is is Jeni Diprizio @ Channel 24.
      Every other station either completely covers for the city or does a half-assed job.

      Reply
  19. Matt

     /  June 1, 2011

    “I will, however, reiterate that we will never be able to build a shelter large enough or hire enough folks to counteract the dastardly effects of irresponsible pet owners.”

    Goodbye 2011. Hello 1911.

    Can someone send this fool the “nuts and bolts” of the No Kill Equation, so that a light bulb might go off inside his head?

    Reply
  20. Sharon

     /  June 2, 2011

    Hello DB and others,

    I was in the process of creating a Facebook page to get people from all over to join and speak up about the high kill rate in this shelter and the very infamous “stray area” that is off limits to the public and volunteers. Doesanyone already have a FB page that is has members or should we stat one? There is a wonderful group doing the same thing for those in the NYC ACC shelters in New York called “Urgent 2” and the media has no started paying attention and things are being publisized to get the voices heard and the mayor to pay attention. I am from California and I would like to help get the word out to the world, not just Memphis about this shelter. Please contact me seblen123 @ yahoo.com

    Reply
  21. pennywise

     /  June 2, 2011

    Keep this going……don’t stop emails, letters, phone calls…..don’t let this die. We have to be the voices for those sweet animals at the shelter. We are up against deaf ears right now, but eventually they have to take the plugs out.

    Reply

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