Memphis resident Jody Fisher had been visiting Memphis Animal Services on Saturdays to spend some quality time with the dogs in the adoption hallway. In January of this year, she took the volunteer orientation class and began officially volunteering at MAS. She mostly walked dogs since there was only one other vol who regularly walked them and she knew it would increase their chances of getting adopted if they got out of their kennels for a walk.
Ms. Fisher helped rescue several MAS dogs who had no one advocating for their right to live. Among these were Sam (via this blog) and a dog she named Stanley. Stanley was held at MAS for 6 weeks in connection with a cruelty case and Ms. Fisher was advised that cruelty case dogs are killed after the case was completed. She felt sorry for Stanley and wanted to help him as he appeared to be suffering. He was emaciated and had open sores covering his body.
When requesting permission to share information about Stanley and another dog (from the same case) online, Ms. Fisher received the following reply from MAS:
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 2:33 PM
To: Fisher, Jody
Subject: RE: 2 court case dogs
You can post but DO NOT state they are court case dogs. DO NOT state they will be killed or that they are suffering at our hands. We have enough haters doing this already. Hate to have one of our own doing to us as well. You must also state that a background and yard check MUST be performed before anything can be done. Thanks for your help.
Ms. Fisher adopted Stanley on May 28 (with plans to find him a permanent home) and immediately took him to a vet for care. The vet determined the dog had hip and knee problems in addition to rickets. Per MAS records, he had received no treatment of any kind while he was there. He was never removed from his kennel or even weighed.
On May 27, I posted what was intended to be an uplifting post about a lovely Golden being brought into MAS. As it turns out, the dog had been owner surrendered due to killing a small dog and MAS was supposed to have euthanized upon surrender. Instead, MAS kept the dog in a kennel in the stray area for 2 days before killing her. Not yet knowing the full details of this dog’s story, Ms. Fisher was upset and sent the following letter to Matt Pepper, et al:
From: Fisher, Jody
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2011 11:41 AM
To: Matthew.Pepper@memphistn.gov; Janet.Hooks@memphistn.gov; ‘LaSonya.Hall@memphistn.gov’; Mayor@memphistn.gov; ‘email@example.com’
Subject: BIG Problem!
I try really hard to understand why things happen at MAS. I really try to give you all the benefit of the doubt. I am deeply troubled by the 2 pictures attached. Since this dog was put down before 72 hours, I presume he/she was an owner surrender, which you recently changed to a “no hold period” as opposed to the 72 hour hold, for strays. I am sure you all are very well aware of the wonderful rescue groups in town. This dog appears to be a golden retriever. MAGR is a wonderful rescue group for golden retrievers (Memphis Area Golden Retrievers). Was this group notified about this dog? If not, why not? I hear, what is being said, that MAS doesn’t like to kill the overflow of animals at the facility, however, these actions are speaking louder than the words. You all want the public to view MAS in a positive light, but how can they when this happens so often?
· Why was this dog killed? How do you all decide who shall live and who shall die? (kind of sounds like God)
· Why don’t you try to contact local rescue groups, or even, the breed specific ones?
· What is the real reason the public doesn’t get to view the strays. I was told that it had to do with the spread of disease- visitors touching animals and cages and continuing to touch other animals and cages and that spreads diseases. And supposedly the animals in the adoption area are disease-free (?). Isn’t distemper an air-borne disease- therefore it’s everywhere at the shelter. If the adoptable area is disease-free, the mass killings 2 months ago, wouldn’t have happened. Also, dogs with URI’s in adoptable area has been common. 2 of the dogs from an adoption event at Hollywood Feed, came down with URI and distemper……so, that can’t be the reason.
· I want MAS to be viewed positively, but you all need to make some changes – and do it quickly. Can you?
· Why isn’t chameleon software being utilized to its fullest? If that golden retriever had been loaded into the software – MAGR would have seen the dog and most likely, rescued it.
I promise you – just a few changes would make the citizens of Memphis proud of their city, rather than be embarrassed that their shelter has a kill rate of 77% or more, and that MAS is not making an effort (as it appears) to do the right thing.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you,
I volunteer at MAS and will be there tomorrow. I will be happy to ask “someone” to escort me back to the stray area (am not permitted to go alone)and find you a dog! I think that is an incredible offer from you- thank you!!!
When she reported for her usual volunteer work the next day, Matt Pepper met her at the door and escorted her to a meeting with other MAS supervisors. In this meeting, Mr. Pepper explained to her that they weren’t “on the same page” regarding MAS. She asked him specifically about the stray area being closed off to adopters and per Ms. Fisher:
He told me that most of those dogs in stray area have behavior issues and would not be good adoption candidates.
She was also given a letter telling her to “step away” from volunteering, effective immediately, but that MAS would be “happy to revisit this issue in the future”.
Jody sent Matt Pepper et al three requests for reinstatement on 6/23, 7/7, and 7/11/2011. She received only one response to these e-mails and that was in regard to the request dated 6/23. That reply came from Tracy Dunlap who advised her Matt Pepper would be the person to make the decision but he was on vacation. Per Ms. Fisher:
…in my last e-mail to Matt Pepper I said, “It has been publicized how desperate MAS is for volunteers. Here I am, short of begging, to help the animals at your facility. Please give me the courtesy of a reply to my e-mails. I would like to get back to my volunteering responsibilities as soon as possible.”
Not only did Ms. Fisher not receive the courtesy of a reply, she was in fact removed from the sporadic e-mails MAS sends out to local rescuers regarding pets they intend to kill. Ms. Fisher sent Tracy Dunlap (the originator of the rescue e-mails) two requests to have her name added back to the mailing list. She has neither received a reply to her requests nor been re-added to the mailing list.
MAS – is Ms. Fisher really the kind of volunteer you want expelled from your program? I would think you’d not only want to include her but encourage her to recruit her friends, neighbors and co-workers into the volunteer program as well. You have no one willing to walk the hundreds of dogs in your care every day, right?
Apparently MAS doesn’t see the value in volunteers who stand up for the dogs, ask questions, and try to improve their chances of adoption. But then, MAS saw no value in Stanley or Jane or Ranger either. I guess they look upon Ms. Fisher as they do the dogs locked away in the stray area – poor candidates due to behavior issues.
Personally, I’m very glad there are people in Memphis willing to advocate for the lives of homeless pets and challenge the status quo. In my view, it’s the only hope for effecting meaningful change there. So thank you Ms. Fisher and other boat-rockers in Memphis. Carry on.