MAS Volunteer Resigns After Videos Depicting Cruelty Posted

A former volunteer at the Memphis pound submitted her resignation last night via e-mail to the new interim director, James Rogers.  This was the response she received (I have removed the former volunteer’s identifying information by request):

From: <>
Date: Mon, Mar 5, 2012 at 8:40 AM
Subject: RE: Resignation

I, Memphis Animal Services and the City of Memphis, really appreciate your volunteering to participate in the fostering and care of the animals at the shelter.

It is with great regret that we part.  However my plan is to take swift and corrective action on the footage seen on

I am aggrieved just as you with the footage and will have all employees (i.e., Animal Control Officers, Animal Care Technicians) and possibly volunteers wishing to attend the training, retrained with proper care and the use of the catchpole.  Once this is in place within the next 30 to 60 days the quality of care for (our pets) the animals under our care will improve drastically.  This takes time.

If you reconsider your position in the future, we will gladly welcome you back as a volunteer.

Again, thank you for your support.

James M. Rogers

Administrator, Memphis animal Services

When, When, WHEN is Memphis going to get it? It’s a culture of abuse. A demonstrated pattern of cruelty and apathy that has existed for years. A training class doesn’t fix it. And training volunteers to use the chokepoles certainly doesn’t fix it. I’d like to send every last one of those chokepoles to the landfill. The one that MAS currently fills up with pets, after they’re done abusing them.

You can not train monsters.  Anyone who thinks it’s ok to drag a dog by a metal noose around his neck straight into a wall is not someone who will develop empathy for the sentient beings in their care because they attended a chokepole class.

You must do better than this Mr. Rogers.  Much, much better.

58 thoughts on “MAS Volunteer Resigns After Videos Depicting Cruelty Posted

  1. Well, let’s see what he can do.

    He may be following procedure in retraining and enforcement of correct behavior. He seems to be a “by the numbers” kind of guy and you have to remember that he is very new to the whole thing (unlike the rest of us who have witnessed the abuse for YEARS), so his perspective is a bit different.

    Also, he’s not offering excuses or telling us that what we’re seeing isn’t really what we’re seeing – THAT is new and encouraging.

    What I would LOVE to see is the cameras made public in 60 to 90 days so we can all bear witness to the changes at MAS.

      1. Well, maybe HIS retraining comes with consequences – something that the employees as MAS have never had to deal with before now.

        We all know that the “retraining” of the past was wholly inadequate and “haphazard” (the Rotary Club’s word). Let’s see what actual structure and enforcement can do for the culture of the place. Leadership has been non-existent before now…and I have great hopes for Mr. Rogers.

    1. Agreed. He’s got to figure out what he’s dealing with and how to make the changes.

      He OWNED what was on those tapes and didn’t try to minimize or make excuses.

      1. I could not disagree more. To me, “owning” what is on the tapes would mean putting handcuffs on the employees and sending them to jail. Then firing them. That’s taking responsibility. That’s showing compassionate leadership. That’s setting a new standard. The retraining schtick is just maintaining the status quo.

      2. I agree and it is refreshing to see someone actually respond in a somewhat compassionate way. I have to say this is a lot better than “so what”. Usually all we ever see or hear is in defense of the employees. He did not make the usual excuses that we are so used to seeing. This is a start at least. How he follows up we have yet to see.

        But I would hate to run off a person who is at least showing a little bit of concern with a bunch of criticism. We do not know yet what he will or will not do, it is FAR too early. Of course we want things to change overnight but this is not realistic. I am thankful that we actually have someone in the building who at least can say “I am aggrieved just as you with the footage” and “my plan is to take swift and corrective action on the footage seen on”. At least they have enough sense to hire someone who understand PR. If he understand this, and has compassion, then maybe he will be the person who can make a difference. Or maybe not….but it is WAY too early to tell or to jump all over him. We do not want to run potential out of the building. We need all of it we can get.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking! Nathan Winograd said it didn’t take days, weeks, or months to *go no kill* DAY ONE you stop killing. Then you just continue this new behavior on day two, three, and so on.
      So yea, get rid of the chokepoles so they can’t use them. Tell them to stop dragging and choking animals, and if they don’t fire them, arrest them, jail them.
      Bully for the volunteer who is welcome to come back any time.

      1. They will never get rid of the choke poles, they are unfortunately required for aggressive animals. They need to stop using them on non-aggressive animals. They need to learn the proper use of a control pole. They are just lazy and are using them because they do not want to have to touch the animals because they clearly hate them. The problem isn’t even the choke pole, the problem is the people with access to the choke poles.

  2. And yes, volunteers should be retrained as well. We’ve seen the careless handling displayed by…ahem, long-term volunteers. And since some of those long-term volunteers also seem to think that the mishandling is somehow acceptable, they clearly need training and enforcement, too.

  3. My first thought when watching some of the videos this weekend was that this all happened before Mr. Rogers got there and that in order to get around the old standards of the way things are, he would have to first give them all a chance to be retrained. I believe he is probably just going through proper channels for the position he is in. He’s BRAND NEW and up agianst Wharten and all the others who don’t want to see postitive change there. Give him a chance… If after they have been trained, they still behave this way, then he can fire them (hopefully without resistance from the Mayor…etc.)

    1. Mr. Rogers has documentation of their retraining in their files, I presume. He has their signatures on the training, the policies and procedures handbook, everything. He knows, or should know, that this is not something that will be fixed by a training class.

  4. There are many other issues I am concerned with and it’s not just the catch pole abuse. The issues of killing all dogs that appear to look like a pitbull is deplorable. Don’t any of you think someone that works with any shelter, may see something they know is wrong and report it? I am grateful for those people that stand up and speak for the voiceless.

    1. I agree. The bottom line is, things aren’t going to be “much better” (or whatever the wording was) for the pets at MAS in 30 – 60 days, with or without any chokepole training class. They’ll still be in the landfill.

  5. debbie bullard Says:

    March 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm
    There are many other issues I am concerned with and it’s not just the catch pole abuse. The issues of killing all dogs that appear to look like a pitbull is deplorable. Don’t any of you think someone that works with any shelter, may see something they know is wrong and report it? I am grateful for those people that stand up and speak for the voiceless.


  6. So “second chance” becomes ” unlimited chance” – I agree , Shirley, enough is enough! So everytime a new director comes in, the SAME guilty employees have to be ” retrained?” makes no sense. Disgusted beyond words!

    1. For every act there is a reaction. The reaction in the case of MAS abuse is not retraining. There must be consequences for the actions seen on these tapes.

      Thus far the staff of MAS have done whatever they want and have not been disciplined. If they have it hasn’t made one iota of difference. They need to be fired Mr. Rogers. Retraining is only repeating what has been done before.

  7. The offending employees should be fired. Period. And webcams should be reinstated. I think they need to make Chuck Norris their shelter director and let him start kicking ass and taking names.

  8. I understand the frustration, really I do.

    But James Rogers has inherited a situation not of his making. And look at his language – “aggrieved”, “pets” (not “inventory” as some call them), “improve drastically”. This is already VERY different from anything we’ve seen before where the abuse was denied, the concerns were dismissed, the need for improvement was unacknowledged.

    We don’t know what his plan is, but we all know the results it should yield.

    Let’s see what he can do.

  9. You can’t train someone to have compassion and compassion is the difference in properly handling the animals whether someone is watching or not.

  10. I think mikken is correct about Rogers having to follow procedure:

    “According to their contract, an employee must be disciplined within 10 days of the administration being notified about the incident. If too much time passes, the employee is free and clear.

    Another provision allows for disciplinary action to be removed from the employee’s file.

    If an employee is disciplined and six months pass without the employee getting in trouble for doing something wrong, the original action is cleared from the file.”

    1. I have no doubt these policies exist. I guess what I’m saying is how are these people not being given rides in the back of the police car right now? I think being charged with animal cruelty allows them to bypass some of the protocols. The city knows how to work the system. They’re working it right now against ACO Lynch. I’d like to see them forget about persecuting the whistleblower and get on the ball charging CRIMINALS on the payroll.

  11. This is the typical corporation/government response of not addressing an employee’s actions, but blaming all of the employees. This way, Mr. Rogers still appears to be a good guy to the guilty employee and the union does not have to get involved. Lightfoot will not know his animal handling methods are considered abuse or even care until he is personally confronted by those in authority. What a cesspool!

    1. This is what I was thinking too. My local college radio station runs a funny anti-corporate spot that would be perfect for MAS. A guy is getting chastised by his boss for forgetting to put a cover sheet on a report. The guy says sorry, he forgot, he did get the memo about the new practice of putting the cover sheet on reports. The boss is like “Well your report doesn’t have a cover sheet”. The guy says again he knows, sorry, he’ll put one on before the report goes out tomorrow. The boss tells him he’ll see to it that he gets another copy of the memo about putting the cover sheets on the reports.

    2. I agree with this. Hopefully change will come…

      Shirely, your scenario sounds a lot like the movie ‘Office Space’.

  12. They should just fire those employees/volunteers that are seen abusing the animals.Choke poles have got to go.The poor animal is scared enough without having to have that despicable pole around their neck! It just angers me to no end seeing videos like this.I’d like to put a choke pole around their neck and see how they like it!

  13. So, instead of him “owning” it you’d rather him do what Pepper did and tell us we didn’t see what we saw? That those tapes were taken out of context…AGAIN?

    THAT was my point.

    1. No, I want choice number 3. Police cars, flashing red lights and a presser announcing that those employees are being prosecuted and fired and this abuse will no longer be tolerated at MAS.

      I think that would send an effective message.

  14. Just out of curiosity, how do you “retrain” somebody that obviously doesn’t care about animals. It is simple as that: If you don’t possess the common sense that animals should be treated with dignity, respect and passion then you shouldn’t be working in an animal shelter. You can’t teach respect, passion or common sense. You either have it or you don’t.
    MAS is running in circles with the same abusive people for years now.

  15. Tell the dogs that are being abused that we need to wait and see if retraining works. It will ONLY be about 60 days or so! I’m sorry! But allowing this to continue for even one more day is disgustingly negligent! You have the footage! That’s all you need in my opinion! You can’t retrain heartless!

  16. We have mr. Rogers’ email. We should email him and encourage him to do the right thing!

  17. My best wishes to Mr. Rogers. However, he will only be able to do what Wharton and his stooges allow him to do. If he’s under the assumption that he has free will, he is in for a rude awakening. These video disks come from ONE day in the life of the animal shelter. I’ve no doubt this happens day after day after day. The city employees at the shelter are EVIL human beings (as well as a couple of the volunteers) and have no care whatsoever regarding cruelty. The apples don’t fall far from their city tree.

  18. There’s no question these employees have been given ample time to change their abusive treatment of the animals. If Rogers doesn’t act immediately to charge them with animal cruelty and terminate them, if Wharton, Hall or Hooks block that action..then it’s time to seriously turn our attention to getting rid of Wharton. It’s been a top-down problem the whole time, so it has to be tackled that way. Like Nathan Winograd (FB) says, Meet the worst mayor in America….AC Wharton.

  19. From the FoMAS FB page:

    Friends of Memphis Animal Services
    There has been some internal security film footage from the Memphis Animal Shelter made public. The footage that has been released is from areas of the shelter to which the volunteers do NOT have access. We have not witnessed this totally unacceptable treatment of animals as we are not in these areas, but we don’t deny it happened. Volunteers are restricted to the lobby, stray, healthy hold and… adoption areas.

    Friends of the Memphis Animal Shelter in no way condones the behavior that is displayed by certain employees towards the animals entering or being moved around within the shelter. At this time, we will continue to work for the animals who find themselves in the shelter. Our continuing to try and find homes for the animals in no way indicates that we condone the cruel displayed violations.

    We encourage the City and shelter administration to take every measure possible to handle these violations swiftly. We will monitor the outcome of an investigation and evaluate our work at the shelter accordingly. Our leaving the shelter at this point will only hurt the animals that are waiting for our help. Our hearts have always have been and always be with the animals who find themselves housed at Memphis Animal Services. Please continue to help us to find homes for the animals at the shelter. Each animal depends on all of us to help find it a home

    1. I can not tell you how tired I am of hearing the “it will only hurt the animals” excuse. This is how places like MAS, NYC ACC, and Catoosa Co keep right on abusing and killing pets year after year. You think it’s not hurting the animals to ENABLE the abuse? If you want meaningful reform, you have to try something different than what you’ve been doing. If you don’t want meaningful reform, keep on as you have been and expect to get what you’ve always gotten.

      Wouldn’t it send an effective message if every volunteer AND respectable employee at MAS staged a protest in the parking lot and told the media they refused to work in an environment of abuse? That they weren’t stepping foot inside until the police came and hauled away the people caught on tape hurting animals?

      1. I agree. It’s a cop out. I am sure if that abuse happens in the “no-no” parts of the building, it also happens in the other parts of the building. I am actually suprised that FoMAS even addressed the issue. Maybe since some of the volunteers and staff have started standing up to MAS, they will follow suit.

      2. FoMAS has a lot of information about how the shelter works and they could make that available to the public. They could also use their FB page to explain over and over and over again how few of the animals the public is allowed to see, and how the vast majority of the pets at the shelter are warehoused in secret away from the public and then killed. They could repeatedly and publicly insist that the animals in the stray area be made available for adoption, and that every animal be listed online. They could demand the daily kill list and all information related to each animal on it, and then post the information every day, so that the community can see the adoptable animals the shelter is killing. They could file FOIA requests.

        I hope the FoMAS folks reading this blog will look at Urgent Part 2’s page. That page makes it absolutely clear what NYACC is doing, i.e. the same things that Memphis is doing. Kill shelters all operate the same way.

        FoMAS could become a force for good at MAS. I hope they become one.

    2. To be honest, it’s nice to see FoMAS condemning the behavior publicly. There was a time when the party line was “how could you say that these hard working people are anything but wonderful and caring!” and they would have stuck to that, no matter what.

      1. I disagree. If the volunteers leave the animals have NO ONE. A lot of volunteers observe, slip out info about problems to the news stations, take pictures, document, etc. When a complaint goes to Hooks/Hall, nothing is done with it. A nice email saying “we will investigate this” goes out and that’s it. If the volunteers take it further as some of us did, well, everyone saw what happened there. Standing outside of the shelter with signs hasn’t really done a lot either, other than slightly raise public awareness for a day or two. Now several volunteers have quit. GOOD volunteers who did a tremendous amount of work for MAS, but I promise you it won’t matter to these people. It won’t make any difference.

        I urge everyone to stay on the news stations about covering this. Write to the Commercial Appeal. They seem to respond to public criticism via the news more than anything.

  20. Does anybody know if this latest atrocity is getting coverage on the local news? So far, all I’ve seen is heavy discussion among the animal activist community. I’m tired of plans for the future…and training. You can’t train monsters to be human. They need to go. And right now! Not 30 or 60 days from now. Doesn’t anybody in the administration realize they’re ALL committing animal abuse by allowing this to go one one more day?

    1. The inhumane people on that video need to go NOW!! There is no excuse or reason to treat an animal the way they did. It was if they were picking up a bag of trash to throw out. If they don’t enjoy being around animals, go find another job! There is not one person being forced to work or volunteer there. When is MAS and Mayor Wharton going to do the right thing? He has got to get control of that place and those “animals” working there.

  21. If Mr. Rogers does it right, he will file cruelty charges against the ones on the video. Not wait for “retraining” of how to use a catch pole. It’s pretty obvious they know how to use one.

    And, great interview Shirley!!!

  22. Possible reasons why this cruelty is allowed to occur and why it’s hard to change it, from Seth Godin’s free download,
    “Stop Stealing Dreams: What is school for?”,

    [click on the seagull to download]

    We are taught in school to be obedient, fearful and maintain the status quo. That prepared us for factory jobs and to be good and dutiful comsumers.

    Part 66. Avoiding commitment

    “…A byproduct of industrialization is depersonalization. Because no one is responsible for anything that we can see, because deniability is built into the process, it’s easy and tempting to emotionally check out, to go along to get along.

    When the factory owner treats you like you’re easily replaceable, a natural response is to act the part.

    …At school, we have created a vacuum of self-respect, a desert with nothing other than grades or a sports team to believe in or commit to. The only way for a student to get respect inside the system of school is to earn temporary approval from a teacher he won’t likely see again any time soon. If that teacher is mercurial, petty, or inconsistent, the student is told to deal with it.

    The notion that humans want to commit to something is ancient and profound.And yet we work overtime to keep students from doing just that.

    50. The problem with competence [why it’s so hard to change things]

    Institutions and committees like to talk about core competencies, the basic things that a professional or a job seeker needs to know.

    Core competence? I’d prefer core incompetence.

    Competent people have a predictable, reliable process for solving a particular set of problems. They solve a problem the same way, every time. That’s what makes them reliable. That’s what makes them competent.

    Competent people are quite proud of the status and success that they get out of being competent. They like being competent. They guard their competence, and they work hard to maintain it.

    …As we’ve turned human beings into competent components of the giant network known as American business, we’ve also erected huge barriers to change.

    Competence is the enemy of change!

    Competent people resist change. Why? Because change threatens to make them less competent. And competent people like being competent. That’s who they are, and sometimes that’s all they’ve got. No wonder they’re not in a hurry to rock the boat.

    If I’m going to make the investment and hire someone for more than the market rate, I want to find an incompetent worker. One who will break the rules and find me something no one else can.

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance
    and conscientious stupidity.”
    – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    60. Dreamers are a problem

    …Fifty years ago, businesses realized that they were facing two related problems:

    They needed more workers, more well-trained, compliant, and yes, cheap workers willing to follow specific instructions…


    They needed more customers. More well-trained, pliable, eager-to-consume customers watching TV regularly and waiting to buy what they had to sell.

    Dreamers don’t help with either of these problems. Dreamers aren’t busy applying for jobs at minimum wage, they don’t eagerly buy the latest fashions, and they’re a pain in the ass to keep happy.

    67. The specter of the cult of ignorance

    …If we teach our students to be passionate, ethical, and inquisitive, I’m confident that the facts will follow.

    69. But what about the dumb parade?

    …The bad decisions we see every day aren’t the result of lack of data, or lack of access to data.

    No, they’re the result of a schooling culture that is creating exactly what it set out to create. Along the way, we teach students to be open to and trusting of marketing messages. Not only is the school day primarily about students accepting the messages marketed to them by the authority figures in the school, but the fashions, gadgets and trends of teen culture (all delivered by marketers) are the glue that holds the place together. We mix obedience with marketing culture, why are we surprised at what we get?

    School is successful at the wrong thing.

    … …If you’re running an institution based on compliance and obedience, you don’t reach for motivation as a tool. It feels soft, even liberal, to imagine that you have to sell people on making the effort to learn what’s on the agenda.

  23. Mr. Rogers has a big old industrial strength mess from hades to tend to without a doubt. I like how he is a rather well educated fellow who has experience in a leadership capacity for USPS. His background is alright to me on that end.

    What I do not understand is who is to write out the syllabus and curriculum (for lack of a better way of putting it) for any retraining? Mr. Rogers cannot do it because of his very background unless he obtains some neutral guidance. The pernicious nature of Memphis City Government worries me on that end.

  24. At last count, we are up to 5 really good volunteers who have quit. An observation: One volunteer stopped going in February-someone who was there several times a week-an active, productive, compassionate volunteer. Nobody from the shelter called to see where this volunteer had been. Why?
    The volunteers who have resigned have been the subjects of negative comments from the public and from other volunteers, about how they are deserters and leave when the animals need them most. My issue is this: These volunteers KNOW these abusers. They see them every week, not in their behind-the-door abusive situations, but in the hall, in the lobby, wherever. They see them smiling their sick smiles and now know for sure how depraved they actually are. Why would anyone berate them for not being able to go back there? I don’t expect (or hope) that every volunteer will quit, and I don’t criticize those who are staying and think they are helping, but I must say I deeply resent being called out for leaving. All I can keep saying to them is, “If they clean house there, and get people who care, I will return. But not until then.”

    1. As I’ve said numerous times on this issue, no one is doing the animals any favors by enabling the abuse and needless killing at the pound. You are destined to forever ‘save a few and kill the rest’ if you simply maintain the status quo. Let the city stand alone. Don’t give them support for the abuse and killing at MAS. The “Friends” should be presenting a united front FOR the animals and AGAINST abuse and killing by refusing to enable the behaviors.

  25. I just sent Mr. Rogers an email asking why he doesn’t clean house starting with Tracey Dunlap and Frank Lightfoot. I wrote other things, too. Folks, the email addresses are up there…..bombard these a-holes with how you feel. I’m also going to send a “what I think” to the idiot duo of Hall/Hooks.

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