The Memphis Rotary Club’s audit of Memphis Animal Services ends its summary findings as follows:
The last point is one that is not a problem within the Shelter, but one that impacts it directly, and will continue to cause major obstacles. This is the overriding, community wide issue of Pit Bulls, Dog Fighting, and the attitude that animals are disposable. Until this is addressed, the Shelter will continue to be overloaded, and not logistically capable of approaching any semblance of a no-kill facility.
I could not disagree more. While I have no doubt that there are some members of the community who view animals as disposable, this is clearly not the “overriding” attitude of Memphians as a whole and, just as clearly, it is a problem within MAS. If the overwhelming majority of Memphians viewed pets as disposable, why would the community demand justice for the dogs starved to death at MAS in 2009? Why would so many people show up to speak for the pets at MAS during shelter advisory board meetings (before they were closed to the public)? Why would local rescuers work so hard to save the neediest dog in the pound while the city fought them at every step? Obviously there are many caring citizens in Memphis and the city would do well to quit alienating them. After all, it is the local residents who will make Memphis a no kill community and the city will never be able to do it without them.
As far as these issues not being a problem within MAS, I refer straight back to the rotary club’s own report which details a culture of abuse, cover-ups and failure at the facility. The city pound is supposed to lead by example. The best way to change the community’s attitude about dogfighting is for the city pound to stop selling dogs for fighting out the back door. The best way to change the community’s attitude about pets as disposable commodities is for the city pound to stop literally disposing of pets. MAS hides the vast majority of its Pitbulls and other strays behind locked doors. They even removed the webcams which were the public’s only view of the stray areas at the pound. Behind the iron curtain, MAS mistreats and needlessly kills thousands of Pitbulls and other pets every year. This is the “service” taxpayers are paying for with their hard-earned money.
And now, taxpayers just bought a new $7.2 million building for the pound which does not allow for the promised standard, humane cleaning practices nor does it house significantly more pets. City leaders take no responsibility for this epic failure and instead demand that the new pound start generating revenue. The same staff responsible for the abuse and needless killing at the old building is in place at the new one. It would be illogical to assume meaningful reform would take place at this new building while the old practices and staffers remain, especially given that the only public accountability – the webcams – have been removed.
If Memphis is to end the abuse and killing at the pound, MAS must take the initiative and lead by example. Volunteers who bully anyone working to reform the status quo must be removed. Staff members who sell drugs and/or dogs out the back door must be fired and prosecuted. The doors to the stray area must be unlocked so that the public can see and touch the dogs. The webcams must be turned back on so that the mayor’s promise of transparency is upheld. City leaders must stand up and take responsibility for letting this ugly thing stay in the ditch all these years and resolve to get it out. And above all, the pound must stop the killing. Pets are not disposable and the city can not hope to influence the community’s attitude toward animals in any positive manner until it stops putting pets into the dumpster.
Memphis, please – stop the killing.