Image Problems

This is apparently a response Mayor Wharton is sending out currently to people who write with concerns about MAS.  The indented portions are the mayor’s words.  My comments are not indented.

The shelter being portrayed is not the shelter I see.

I think this is the crux of the problem.

Aside from the inappropriate actions of two or three employees (issues we have addressed through job termination and appropriate disciplinary actions), most of the rest of the shelter’s “image problems” have been tied to pictures from the webcams I had installed at the shelter about a year and a half ago.

“Image problems”.  Really?  [insert your “it’s not just a river in Egypt” quips here]  And it’s all just a big misunderstanding over those pesky webcam images?  REALLY?

People have used our webcam online access to produce still photo images to which they have ascribed narratives and captions that in most cases have not matched the actual events.  What’s worse is that we have not been able to properly explain events and photos because the photos are circulated and shared with citizens across the country before we ever see them.  Keep in mind that there is no media or communications staffer in place to answer all of the questions posed or to mount information campaigns that help to share appropriate context and background for the images people have viewed in such a negative sense.

So we should ask questions beforehand, but there is no one to answer them if we do, but we’re wrong for not getting answers beforehand?

Candidly, budget cuts and other circumstances have not allowed us to even have a full complement of employees at the shelter.

A prime example of what I have shared is the “dogfighting” allegation that has caused so much controversy of late.  Please see the attached raw footage of the incident below:

http://www.memphistn.gov/framework.aspx?page=1321

As you can see, the still image and the perception it has caused does not adequately match with the event as it played out.

And much bigger than this particular issue, please be aware of the larger progress we have made at the shelter:

Whoa.  Does “larger progress” mean that the video referenced above – which shows negligence and cruelty on the part of trained MAS workers – is a reflection of some smaller form of “progress”?  That’s how I’m interpreting this comment.  And I hope I’m wrong in my interpretation.

  • Although still too high, we have the lowest euthanasia rate in 5 years;

You have an abysmal kill rate that is slightly different from what it’s been in recent years.

  • Our pet placement has increased dramatically over the last year

And still the tragic rate of killing continues unabated.

  • We have passed a spay and neuter ordinance in the last year to curb the number of pets in our community

Your goal is to curb the number of pets in your community?!  Good lawdy Miss Clawdy.  Don’t you mean you want to increase the number of pets in the community by reaching out to the public to form a strong foster network and to promote local adoptions?  There is no community anywhere who has ended the needless killing of shelter pets by passing mandatory neuter laws.  MSN has a 100% failure rate, everywhere, ever.  Any questions?

  • We have received and distributed grant funds to offer low-cost spaying and neutering for interested pet owners

You’ve handed out some Petco vouchers to people who can make it to the various locations you selected for distribution.  People who lack transportation, have to work, are housebound or who otherwise need assistance with getting their pets neutered are mostly out of luck in Memphis.

  • A new animal shelter is online to open within the next 3 months.

Whoopdedoo.  A new killing facility with the same staff and policies which have made the current facility a national disgrace.  How excited you must be.

We are not resting on our laurels by any stretch of the imagination.

I’m sorry but it would take a stretch of the imagination the size of I-95 to believe MAS has any laurels to rest on.

There is more work to be done and we can only achieve success with more citizens being willing to become engaged by adopting pets and encouraging others to do the same.

There are plenty of citizens willing to be engaged.  Your representative Bobby White told some of them to bugger off (I paraphrase, heh.)  Others have been driven away by the bullying tactics of your “Friends” group.  At least one that I know of was fired because she wasn’t on the same page as your pet slaughterhouse.  But you keep hittin’ that blame-the-public pipe.  Cos it’s been working out great so far.

I got your laurels right here:

Please feel free to 'properly explain' these photos Mayor Wharton. Will you be releasing footage of this dog in the kill room to explain how this is all a big misunderstanding?
A reader contacted MAS to inquire about this dog since he appears to be in need of vet care. No response.

We have NO IDEA what's going on here. This dog may be dancing or having a party or chasing butterflies. We just don't know.

19 thoughts on “Image Problems

  1. I triple-dog-dare AC and Co. to answer these questions. Time for a face-to-face meeting AC, to discuss the total lack of understanding we have of, say, the pictures above. AND I want a tour to the kill room, while it is being used, and an allowance to bring my own camera. Triple dog dare ya. BEt you decline. Hmmph. What a weenie.

  2. The “image problems” wouldn’t happen if the images were different.

    Dear Mr. Mayor – a few of your MAS staff and ACOs have ZERO image problems because we can SEE them treating animals properly, handling animals humanely and correctly, and seeming to actually give a rat’s ass about the animals’ welfare.

    The rest of the staff/ACOs have image problems because we can SEE them treating animals improperly, inhumanely, and not giving a rat’s ass about their welfare.

    The shelter itself has an image problem because while you feel content to high five yourselves over the new lower kill rates and new higher adoption rates, the rest of the world knows how much money you spent to get those numbers and how abysmal they really are. Slapping a fresh coat of really expensive paint over rotting wood is not going to make your house stand up just a bit longer.

    You’re not addressing the real issues. You’re addressing “image” and PR issues. Stop it. Get real. Fix the real issues and the images and PR will shape up immediately.

  3. If every once in awhile we saw a snapshot of a cowering dog (because some are overly frightened at first no matter how nice the staffer is), or a catch pole being used (because some dogs do turn defensive), or a cat apparently being mishandled (maybe just momentarily squirmed out of the grasp of the staffer), then the mayor could contend that the still photos being pulled are misleading point-in-time images. You could get images like that at any shelter.

    But the sheer volume of images at MAS makes his claims absurd.

    1. This is what I’ve been saying all along. Any of us who had webcams photographing us every 15 seconds as we interacted with pets could have some shots that looked bad. So take that percentage – whatever you figure it might be – right off the top of the MAS grabs. What are we talking about dismissing – 1%? 5%? Whatever it is, we are left with hundreds more troubling shots. It’s simply not credible to say we should dismiss 100% of the webcam caps because they are taken out of context. They show what they show.

  4. And therein lies the problem – mayor, sir, is not willing to see what’s really happening at the facility. He is too busy making excuses and trying to explain away what the world is seeing on a daily basis.
    There have not been isolated incidences of mishandling of animals. There have been isolated incidences of handling them in a humane and compassionate manner.
    He’s drinking the kool – aid and for some reason, simply will not deal in reality.

      1. Well maybe cause he knows that cameras will make all his well thought out excuses obsolete. Then he’ll have to come up with new bad excuses. Seems like a lot of work.

  5. Is something in the water system at city hall? I am thinking….Heck Yeah! I am reminded of Rome and the lead poisoning of the gentry. causing violence, poor decision making and erratic behavior. Sounds familiar?

  6. Cut ‘n pasted off the Commercial Appeal website….

    Some critics of the management of the city-owned Memphis Animal Shelter would like the shelter to adopt policies aimed at turning it into a “no-kill” facility — one in which every animal that was not incurably ill or declared vicious by a court would be kept alive for eventual adoption.

    The shelter has a high euthanization rate; 77 percent of the more than 15,000 animals admitted there last year were euthanized.

    We’d like to know:

    Do you think the Memphis Animal Shelter could be operated successfully as a no-kill facility? Why or why not?

    E-mail your response to hotbutton@commercialappeal.com by Aug. 24. Keep it short and include your name, home address and daytime/evening telephone numbers. We’ll publish responses on Aug. 28.

    1. You’ve made Hot Button. YB is moving up in the world. Hold on to your hats. If the responses go the way I think they will,you can probably expect Wendi Thomas to weigh in soon. She’s a Hot Button all by herself.

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