One Memphis Volunteer’s story

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:

From: tracy.dunlap@memphistn.gov
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 2:33 PM
To: Fisher, Jody
Subject: RE: 2 court case dogs

Jody

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.

Stanley at MAS (click to enlarge)
Stanley at MAS (click to enlarge)
The face of suffering at MAS: Stanley. (click to enlarge)

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; ‘ac.wharton@memphistn.gov’
Subject: BIG Problem!

Matt,
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?

My questions:

· 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,

Jody Fisher

On June 3, I posted an open letter to MAS offering to help any dog in need from the stray area.  MAS ignored the offer.  But Ms. Fisher commented on the post:

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.

Stanley today, after some needed veterinary care and TLC provided by Ms. Fisher. He is now ready for a permanent, loving home.

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.

Good dog Stanley - yes biscuit!

36 thoughts on “One Memphis Volunteer’s story

  1. I hope she keeps at it, as hard as it is boat rockers effect change. It takes a really long time sometimes, but it has been and can still be done. She needs some other volunteers behind her.

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  2. Other than the slaughter of many animals at MAS, what are they trying to cover up? It’s absolutely ridiculous that they pull the shots on who volunteers and advocates for the animals in their control. MAS is an embarrasment to the entire country, not just Memphis.

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    1. Amen! An embarrassment and a tragedy of epic proportions. The people making the decisions regarding the MAS operation are demonstrating what happens when the wrong people are in charge of life and death. Animals mistreated at the facility while given no chance, a horrifying death watching fellow animals die and then going to the dump after a miserable hopeless existence at MAS. And if people only knew how overpaid everyone of these people making the decisions and carrying them out are compared to most (educated & professional) people in the Memphis market. Well, it is all unbelievable. Mayor & his staff and City Council should be required to visit the shelter regularly and see what they have created and allowed to happen under their watch.

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  3. Great job Jody!! Your rewards await you in Heaven. Crystal, I would venture to assume that most of these “aggressive” dogs MAS doesn’t want seen or adopted is because they are perfect bait to train fighting dogs.. . Kapone was of that breed…..He was not aggressive but old and top of line of his breed….still intact and I am sure great for breeding……. Unfortunately I am sure this is not an isolated case…. Where there is money to be made it dominoes from the top down. Mayor Maybe? This is just my opinion…… I see dead pit bulls on the road all the time….I’m sure they are losers of such a fight and dumped on the highway after they die..These demonic people even have the city cleaning up after them at no cost it seems…….I live near Atlanta.

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  4. Thank you Jody and anyone else fighting for the animals at MAS! I’ve been sharing this blog online, people are asking questions, as far away as the Netherlands! Whatever we readers can do to help spread the word, just name it and we’ll do whatever we can

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  5. Jody: Keep up the good fight – never never never give up. HAve you copied your emails to the State’s Atty. General, etc? What about Jeni at the TV station????? Is seems obvious that they are not letting you back in, so what have you got to lose?

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  6. This sounds all to familiar. Please keep up the fight. and I’ll keep reading and sharing this issue. Sooner or later.. the pot will get to hot and things will change for the better.

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  7. Thank you, Jody, for all you have done thus far and tried to do. More people like yourself are needed to keep the focus on how the animals are treated at MAS. More to the point, how they are not being treated.

    How can the vet walk past kennels, checking every dog every day, and ignore the suffering that goes on there. Stanley should have received care by her when he came in. This past week a dog taken to ISO on a cart and put into a kennel should have received vet care. What he received was nothing! The only time he received any interaction was when he was made to walk to the kill room. This is a shameful shameful place. Matthew Pepper and the entire staff should be ashamed of themselves. The FofMAS should really be ashamed. They call themselves “Friends”. Ha! Anyone with friends like that does not need enemies. They are more then enough to bear by themselves.

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  8. The majority of times after reading a blog on YesBiscuit I am left an emotional mess. This is another time. As a testement to the good that Jody does for the dogs at MAS I feel so heartbroken and angry that MAS banned her from volunteering. Without the help of Jody and YesBiscuit, my family and I would not have the most wonderful dog ever (Sam). Jody rescued Sam for me, found boarding and a transport to Nashville for me. As a KY resident this would have been very hard for me to accomplish on my own with the way MAS is run. I am sorry Jody that the hell hole of a shelter called MAS feels they are better off without you.

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  9. This needs to get widely publicized the same way the NYACC volunteer firings were publicized. The most dynamic volunteers, busting their asses for the animals, given the boot BECAUSE they were so dynamic.

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  10. Memphis Animal Slaughterhouse.

    What a sad and disturbing state for a shelter. I’ve been reading about the conditions at MAS for months and cannot understand why things have not changed.

    Thank goodness for people like Jody and others who will, I’m certain, find a way to effect change in that horrible, horrible institution.

    Most municipalities, faced with this very public accounting of what is happening at the shelter, would have begun to make changes for the better by now. I cannot understand the preference for killing over saving these defenseless animals.

    Shame on Memphis.

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    1. It is really because the Mayor thinks so little of his constituents that he feels there is no need. And obviously, he thinks NOTHING of other sentient beings. Time to kick his a$$ out.

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  11. This is such a sad and atrocious case of abuse of power by those running MAS. I cannot believe a shelter would turn away such a dedicated volunteer. You are, however, taking the right steps, by making this public. Perhaps public embarrassment will shame the establishment into some change. Not sure how it works at MAS, but in Austin, any member of the public over 18 is allowed to take adoption dogs for exercise breaks. If that holds true at MAS, she should still be allowed to enter as a member of the public.
    Thanks for all you do!

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  12. the lack of treatment for stanley while he was in the ‘care’ of mas would be prosecutable if it was perpetrated by an individual owner, most ‘shelters’ excuse such lack of care by saying that the pets ownership is in question and they cannot give him vet treatment until they are awarded ownership, but my argument would be that if they are required to feed and water him they should be REQUIRED to give him adequate vet care, they could document his condition on intake and from then on should be held accountable for his condition while in their care, ownership or not; id like to see a civil suit filed against mas on his behalf, the plaintiff would have to be jody since dogs cant be plaintiffs and the damages sought for would be the trauma of seeing him suffering without adequate vet care; wish i knew of an animal welfare attorney who might want to try to make history with such a case, if anyone on here knows someone like that please ask them if they can think of any way to sue mas over these issues!

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  13. The fact that MAS did nothing medical for this dog for SIX WEEKS is incomprehensible. That’s what happens when you have a culture of killing – the animals become “things”, their current pains and fears do not matter because they’re just going to die anyway.

    I’d like to hear from MAS’s vet (and any other vet who evaluated Stanley for the court case) as to why he was permitted to languish for so many weeks without medical care.

    “Haters”, Mr. Dunlap? Is that what we call people with a conscience outside of MAS these days? Has it become so foreign to you that you no longer recognize human decency?

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  14. One of the MAS supervisors told Jody that Stanley (formerly Big Boy) was “a garbage eater” implying that’s why he was so emaciated and not eating his dog food. I guess that justified the fact that the employees and volunteers could watch Stanley dwindle down to skin and bones during the time that he was admitted as an animal cruelty case to the time that Jody rescued him, which was about five weeks. He was nothing but skin and bones when I went to see him at the animal hospital to take additional photos. He did not seem to have the energy to walk except for a few feet, then he would plop down. What is so ironic is that he was a victim of animal cruelty before he was brought into Memphis Animal Services. But Stanley continued to be a victim of animal cruelty during the time he was at Memphis Animal Services.

    This was the reason that MAS was raided in September 2009 because of a dog named Justice and yet, the same mistreatment of animals continues today.

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    1. That is starvation, one of the SAME abuse issues that precipitated the RAID in 2009!

      So, two years later, they are doing the SAME things they did 2 years ago???

      This is ‘progress’???

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  15. Jody, I am so proud of you, not only for what you did and would still like to do for the animals, but for having the courage to tell what and how your “dismissal” happened. The nerve that MAS would ask a caring volunteer to leave is beyond comprehension. It’s not like they have people knocking at the door to help! MAS simply does not give a damn about the animals. You remember the story of Lil Bit…the one I begged, cried and pleaded for. The one they took out of my arms and killed in less than 5 minutes. These stories happen over and over! Two years ago, I heard that a feral dog that I had been feeding had been picked up by MAS. I found him in the stray area, 7 months old. Today he is one of the greatest dogs I have ever owned…There are wonderful dogs in the stray area. We are just not allowed in! MAS is a disgrace, a humiliation, and a dungeon. I don’t understand the citizens of Memphis not demanding change. I agree, your story needs to go to the Rotary Club ASAP..Maybe you will be the one to effect real change for the animals of Memphis! I hope so!

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  16. I can’t quit writing…I am so mad. I am mad that this kind of abuse has been going on for soooo many YEARS. We talk about the thousands per year that have been abused and killed…think about the years that this has been going on. If I knew how to effect change, I would..the new facility won’t do it, the secret “club” will continue with the secrets, the shame, the killing. Stanley looks wonderful, thanks to you. I just wish the hundreds and hundreds of others had the same opportunity. Since I became involved with MAS I have had an overwhelming sense of sadness and total lack of understanding how this “atrocity” has and still continues today! I won’t quit trying but I cannot imagine what it’s going to take. How many more HORRORS? We still don’t know about Kapone but we all know about Justice…NOTHING CHANGED!

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  17. Why can’t the Memphis news media do an info piece to tell people about the other cities that have turned their shelters around? If ignorance of the law is no excuse, then ignorance of the truth is no excuse either. The politicians and the rest of them seem contented with the status quo and to sit with boxes on their heads.

    The people who want reform are ordinary people, not animal rights activists, not terrorists, not members of PETA, not radicals asking everyone to change their lives.

    Just because someone is in charge of a traditional animal shelter doesn’t make him an expert. Just because someone is a veterinarian doesn’t mean they are ethical or motivated to save lives.

    “When to Call B.S. on an “Expert”, http://oisforonward.com/2011/08/ipse-dixit-texas-appellate-lawyer/

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  18. The story of Stanley along with the before and after photos needs to be published in the Memphis paper. If Stanley was there for 6 weeks before Jody adopted him he should have been fattened up a bit if they were feeding him. He looks wonderful now thanks to your efforts Jody. The big smile on his face is heartwarming compared to the sad and depressed look in the earlier picture. The Citizens of Memphis need to be informed of the abuse and neglect this dog was receiving at MAS and that he was In MAS because of the abuse of his former owner. Two wrongs do not make a right!

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  19. This happens all over the country. I live in Brunswick County NC & have a very similar story from when I was a shelter volunteer…Never stop, the difference it makes to do something is real.

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  20. What kind of people deny help for the better? It only takes one uncaring person to destroy hundreds of lives. Memphis has given up on herself. That whole city needs to be overhauled! Thanks Jody!

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  21. I respect Jody so much for her advocacy of MAS animals (most of whom are unceremoniously killed without having their listings posted online or prospective adopters seeing them). The No Kill movement is gathering steam and, as Cee mentioned above, it isn’t your garden variety cluster of crackpots demanding change in our tax-payer-funded, government-run slaughterhouses: it is a growing, grassroots collections of tax paying citizens who happen to love animals and recognize their right to live. This movement is only going to grow stronger as time passes and the truth about the inner workings of MAS and other animal slaughterhouses comes to light. There are over 23 gas chamber facilities in the state of North Carolina alone; there are heartstick facilities which kill animals (including kittens and puppies) by stabbing them in the hearts with needles. If the first stab doesn’t cause death, they are repeatedly stabbed until they are gone from this earth. The killing attitudes are going to have to change and until they do, I will not consider our society a civilized one regardless of all its supposed “advances.” Killing millions of our companion animals is cruel and immoral. I read in a recent Commercial Appeal article that the new shelter cost over 7 and a half million dollars yet will only be able to house a small increase in animals–this money has obviously been misspent, as there should be a free spay and neuter clinic attached and room to accommodate all the intakes. It is unfair animals are given only 3 days and then killed—considered “unwanted.” They are not unwanted–someone would eventually take them home. The killing must stop.

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  22. Go Jody! People like you are the animals’ only hope. This WILL change. The situation is not stable as long as volunteers stand up for what is right.

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  23. I cant say anymore about MAS than what has already been said, but WAY TO GO JODY! That is an absolutely astonishing transformation! Yay for Stanley!!!!

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  24. OMG….that photo of him suffering just tears my heart out…Jody, you are a strong, tough, courageous woman and anyone should and would be proud/grateful to have you in their corner…I just cannot put into words how angry and upset I am at their ignorance…He looks so wonderful, I was crying so hard I couldn’t read and had to compose myself…then to see him now. Gosh….what a hero you are.

    Is there an attorney or group that can take them on…I have link to pro bono attorneys that take animal rights issues on, but am sure you all have thought of that…

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  25. Oh my, girl! I just saw this. I was there when the Golden was surrendered and it had eaten the face off the man’s daughter twice and was, in fact, to be immediately euthanized as it should have been. While in the world would they keep a vicious dog alive taking up kennel space? Yes, he was absolutely stunning (I might still have the pic i took) but the reputable rescue groups already declined to assist. So many questions…

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  26. Wow, that picture of Stanley up at the top makes me want to bawl my eyes out yet the picture of him at the bottom wants me want to cry tears of joy. Thank goodness for people like you, Jody, for all that you have done/are doing.

    I have to say though that when I started reading her email she sent to them, I thought to myself “they are going to ask her to leave”, and sure enough! I am surprised though that they let her keep Stanley, not because I dont want to see him be able to leave, but because I can see them using Stanley as a pawn in their game of “you cant tell us what to do” and ending up putting him down before Jody got to him. Glad that isnt the case. Now we just need to help all the other doggies (and cats) in there…*sigh*

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