Breaking: MAS Workers Indicted on Animal Cruelty Charges

At a presser this morning, Mayor Wharton announced 3 MAS workers have been indicted for animal cruelty, per a report on WMC-TV.  This post will be updated as details develop.

Update #1:  The Commercial Appeal names the employees:

Three Memphis Animal Shelter employees were indicted today on multiple charges of animal cruelty following a police undercover operation.

The employees charged are Billy D. Stewart, 28, Frank Lightfoot, Jr., 59, and Archie Elliot, III, 35. Each is charged with multiple counts of aggravate animal cruelty. They were arrested this morning following their indictments.

Frank Lightfoot is seen in some of the recent videos but the other two are not.  These arrests are apparently the result of undercover police work.  The female ACO who is depicted in the video hanging the puppy by the chokepole and dragging dogs has not been charged.

Update #2Frank Lightfoot – in jail, 4 counts aggravated cruelty to animals

Billy Stewart – in jail, 4 counts aggravated cruelty to animals

Archie Elliott – in jail, 2 counts aggravated cruelty to animals

Regular readers will recognize Mr. Lightfoot as the worker depicted in many webcam images and recent videos.  The city has defended his animal abuse in past.  I believe Mr. Stewart is the worker I captured hanging a cat by the neck.  The city has defended his animal abuse in past.  Mr. Elliott was the worker caught on camera beating Pitbulls with a chokepole after they had had gotten into a fight at MAS.  He was also caught putting puppies in the trash can, wheeling them to the kill room.  The city has defended his animal abuse in past.

Aside from Frank Lightfoot, none of the workers depicted in the security camera footage from February 7 have been charged.

Update #3:  Statement from the Mayor.  He refers to “unfounded” and “exaggerated” claims of abuse, says they can’t bring charges based on perceptions, they need evidence.  And that the charges brought today were solely the result of the undercover police investigation and had never been brought to light before.

Update #4:  The AP reports that, while the details of the charges are unknown, the undercover officer determined “six animals were abused as they awaited euthanasia” at MAS.  My stomach just heaved.  I seriously dread to think.




87 thoughts on “Breaking: MAS Workers Indicted on Animal Cruelty Charges

  1. Good news! I doubt its because he cares about the animals, but more because he is pressed into a corner and can’t possibly explain why what they did was okay. But as long as things get better I don’t really care what the underlying motive is. Just let them hire new people who actually care about the animals! Like that cat volunteer – she is awesome.

  2. Ditto to everyone above! My chest tightened up and tears sprang to my eyes when I read the blog heading. Doing the happy dance!

  3. Awesome news! Thank you Shirley for being so relentless with this. I hope one of the indicted workers is that old gray haired POS that carries puppies around like they are suitcases. I hope the whole lot of them are brought down and have to kiss their pensions goodbye.

  4. WHARTON will use those maggots as scape goats….mark my words…he will claim he knew nothing about what was going on there! WhARTON MUST GO!

  5. Thank you thank you thank you you Shirley. This is a good start, let keep the pressure on…these low life scumbags have to pay….

  6. Archie is actually depicted in the video clip under “It Gets the Choke Pole Again” in the top clip at 9:32:51 coming from the bottom of the clip. That’s Archie, right there.

    They need to get rid of that woman. She needs to go to jail. Seeing Frank Lightfoot in cuffs would almost be enough to make me scream with joy.

      1. I’ve been rolling over it with my chair all day. Feels goooood.

  7. Oh happy day! This is a great start – now clean house Mayor Wharton – starting with Hooks, Hall and the rest of the scum working at MAS who blatently abuse the animals!!!

  8. Finally!!!!

    This is excellent. And yes, just the beginning of house cleaning at MAS, we hope!

    I do hope someone goes to Frank’s home and sees if he has fighting dogs there that need to be rescued…

    1. It’s nothing at all to do with me. It’s undercover police work by the Memphis PD, for which I’m grateful. I hope the MPD will also look at the footage I’ve been posting and decide if action is appropriate against additional workers. I believe it is.

      1. The Prosecutor’s Office should be requesting all sorts of video surveillance from MAS about now…

      2. Shirley, the way you have after them, it has everything to do with you. You are relentless and I, for one, am so great full.

      3. I certainly think additional charges are warranted against the abusers in the video clips. What we see isn’t all the abuse they are surely guilty of. Their callous attitude towards animals signals their behavior of more unseen abuse.

  9. Great news, finally! Let’s keep the good news coming. Happy dance! Thank you so much Shirley.

  10. Huge kudos to the undercover officer who investigated! The man probably had to put up with a LOT to get the evidence he needed…someone buy him a beer and pat him on the back for us, won’t you?

  11. From the Memphis Flyer article:
    “These acts are not up to interpretation as to whether or not they constitute animal cruelty,” said Mayor A C Wharton at this morning’s press conference. “It’s easy enough for a second grader to know someone needs to get in trouble for what they did.”

    Wow. After all the “open to interpretation” spin re other images of clear cut animal abuse at MAS, I’m afraid to even think about what the poor animals victimized under these charges must have suffered prior to their deaths. I understand that the police must move slowly and deliberately in building the case to bring these charges. But my heart breaks for those animals that suffered in the process.

    Shirley, you and the Memphians who continue to work to change conditions for animals at MAS are WARRIORS. Plain and simple.

    1. Melinda, I try to believe that those babies are at the Bridge whole and happy and that there is a special place in HELL for those scumbags that did and are still doing the abuse. That is the only way I can sleep at night.

    1. I agree 100%. Shirley is very humble, but that perhaps is part of what makes her such an awesome advocate for the animals.

      1. I couldnt agree more either. Thank you so much Shirley. I wouldnt have known about any of this if it wasnt for you. Good job!!

    2. I wholeheartedly agree. Because of news of the city attorney’s letter to Shirley, I was directed to YesBiscuit!, which attracted my involvment.

      I thank Shirley and the Mayor for the actions taken to stop the main abusers at MAS. Now, let’s go after the choke-pole freaks and anyone else who makes life at MAS hell.

  12. Wow. About damn time. I am thrilled to see this however it is just scratching the surface. And you should be proud Shirley! Although they say it is an undercover investigation, there is no doubt in my mind that all the work you have done has aided in it.

  13. Not even stopping to read all comments, but this is mainly – if not ONLY – because of YOU, Shirley!! Wow!!

    Now, since they are not charging others in the videos, and say this was due to an undercover police investigation, I am suspecting that these people may also be involved in dog fighting? If not, the net will have to widen to include all abusive workers in the videos. We’ll see.

  14. Only three? And why not the female ACO? That entire hell hole needs to be flushed clean of the crap that works there! I’m sure (or at least I hope) Memphis actually HAS caring and concerned citizens that would love to have a job there. Yes I know, at least it’s a start but hopefully it won’t stop with these 3 pathetic excuses for human beings!

  15. This is the beginning of the best news I’ve heard in a long long time. It’s the beginning only because the cleaning house of MAS is a long long way from being finished. The ACO seen on the tapes needs to be charged also. Abuse of the animals cannot be tolerated by anyone and needs to be addressed every time.

    Whatever the reason for the mayor finally taking action is, he needs to continue taking action. The entire country is watching.

    Shirley, thank you. Thank you for caring so much about how our shelter pets are treated and regardless of the finger pointing and name calling by some you have remained strong and true to doing what you can to make things better for them. Thank you.

  16. I really, really hope they see this through and that the housecleaning continues. Brrr, that mug shot of Lightfoot gives me the chills … the first thing I thought was “He looks like the kind of guy who would be the leader of a dogfighting ring.”

    On a related note, I emailed James Rogers and asked him to join the June 11 “Just One Day” initiative. I have not heard back yet.

  17. AC Wharton having had an undercover police officer working at MAS since November 2011 was a very smart move and I have to give the gentleman credit on that.

    I hope that all of these nitwits will be formally prosecuted and convicted within the fullest extent of the law.

    I also do so hope that this will be a massive wakeup call to all other employees of the MAS. Anyone who was not, shall I say, busted yet, is more than likely scared as of right now.

  18. I finally watched Mayor Wharton’s video. I have to play devil’s advocate for a minute. I was really disturbed that it took a year for the under cover policeman to build a case of abuse. It takes most people all of 5 minutes viewing the previous webcams and YB’s recent videos. Second, Wharton said he and his cronies were “passionate” about improving MAS and making certain all animals are treated humanely. Have I been blind the last year? Because I haven’t seen any passion coming from him, Hall or Hooks. In fact, I have seen blatant disregard for the animal abuse that has been shoved in their face via this blog, news reports and a multitude of e-mails and letters.

    What is behind this news conference now? Did the abuse finally catch up to Wharton where he couldn’t turn away and say we were mis-interpreting what we saw on the webcams and in the videos? IMHO, Wharton is trying to save his reputation – that’s all. If he was truly an animal lover he would have done much more and much sooner.

    While I am glad that Wharton FINALLY took action by putting an undercover policeman at the shelter, I am not at all “warm and fuzzy” after his press conference. He is mis-leading by his comments and actions. He still doesn’t admit he was wrong in not responding to the allegations against MAS sooner. But, we are all just a bunch of animal loving freaks that aren’t as “passionate” as he is. Initially I was happy at this posting and then I saw the video. Now I’m sick to my stomach at how Wharton is still in denial at how bad things really are at MAS. We all know that crap runs downhill and Mayor Wharton is at the top of the hill.

    I’d be better impressed and much more satisfied if the whole city council, the Mayor and the staff at MAS were fired. They are all involved directly or indirectly with the abuse at MAS. Let’s see the county sherrif’s office bring them all up on aggrevated cruelty to animals.

    1. Hm, yes. A little rewrite of history here, eh? Aren’t these the very same workers he was defending as “caring and compassionate professionals” this time last year?

      That’s politics for you. And you KNOW he never would have put an MPD officer in there if it weren’t for Shirley’s constant hammering away to get this information public and keep it in the media’s eye.

      Well, let’s hope that the investigations continue. Because we all know that there are more abusers still working there.

    2. Of course Mayor Wharton’s motive would be to repair his reputation, that’s how politics work. I am celebrating that the pressure finally has been strong enough for him to HAVE to do this. And we must keep it up or these guys will somehow never see a trial.

    3. The undercover office started there in November 2011 …that was only 4 months ago, not a year.

  19. There is a Youtube video of “Angry” Mayor Wharton on the page of the just released story of the arrest of the three workers at MAS..

  20. Well, slap me on the back and call me shortcake…hurrah! But this is ONLY the beginning. NOw we really need to put the screws to them, get those other sacks of bile out of there, and replace them with a lot of second graders. Good work Shirley!

  21. I am absolutely ecstatic that these creeps are in jail abd hopefully AC won’ give them their job back. I don’t trust anyone that acts like he is the reason they are in jail and that the citizens concerned about the animals welfare are liars. I hope he doesnt plan on running another term. At least the 3 are being punished after months of complaints. Thank God!

  22. I was feeling very positive until I watched Mayor Wharton’s taped statement on YouTube. Now I’m feeling discouraged and far less hopeful. I’m going to take a little time to reflect upon the events of the day and will post something later tonight or tomorrow. In the meantime, i will continue to update this post if additional news breaks regarding the indictments. I also have a little dog I am going to post about b/c I don’t want to delay asking about him, just in case he is still alive and needs help.

    1. That’s the video I was talking about. Somone had shared it on facebook earlier this afternoon. It is very discouraging.

  23. Congratulations to the advocates in Memphis, to the citizens of the city, and to Shirley, who has played such a vital role in keeping the spotlight on MAS. Frankly, though, these arrests, though necessary, are a paltry return for the efforts so many have made for so long. Wharton clearly did this only because the shelter is a political liability for him, and it is insulting for him to trivialize the accusations made by animal advocates. I grieve for those tormented and killed while the mayor and his subordinates insisted everything was fine.

    And let’s not forget that it was reportedly LaSonya Hall who said, “Kill all pitbulls.” I don’t see her removed from the shelter chain of command. IMO one of the most important things Wharton could do is have Rogers report directly to him. It would be an important signal that his self-proclaimed reform effort is not to be trifled with and it would solve a lot of problems.

    As self-serving as Wharton’s video was, I was interested to see that it ended with MAS’s Petfinder address. Out of curiosity, I looked at the listings and there are 61 of them. Is that up from before? It doesn’t seem like that number would encompass all the animals at the shelter.

    The question remains whether Rogers is doing anything. And what the numbers show. How many have been killed since he took over?

    1. 61 is a significant increase. It leaves another 500 or so off the radar unfortunately. And again, MAS has the capability to list EVERY pet online upon impound with the click of the mouse. They won’t do it.

    2. That’s exactly what I did, Karen…click on the Petfinder link. 14 cats. 47 dogs, only 11 of which were adult dogs, and only one of those adults was a Pitbull. Guess he evaded the “Kill all the Pitbulls” dragnet.

      I hated the mayor’s comment about how shelter workers are doing a job that many people wouldn’t do for any amount of money (or something along those lines). What he doesn’t get is that it doesn’t HAVE to be the soul-sucking job he makes it out to be if MAS would use only half of the resources available to them! Am keeping my hopes up that the new administrator will avail himself of those resources.

      Wonder what Matthew Pepper thinks about this or if the press will ask him for comment.

      1. I agree, Melinda. This is right out of the old “shelters do the public’s dirty work” playbook.

  24. Shirley – you are one of my favorite people ever. Thank you.

    As a lady my Mom knows memorably once said about some bad bad people….”I hope their assholes are working buttonholes”

  25. I am not surprised at the speech or its tone. I can only hope that the videos are enough proof to keep the winds of change a-blowin’. There would be no way to misconstrue them or call them exaggerated or unfounded. The undercover police investigation broke the thing open from within, which is apparently what it took to get started. I hope the floodgates are officially open. I hope…please keep posting the videos; as hard as they are to watch, they’re so important.

    1. News reports say only that the charges focus on things these employees did just before animals were killed. My heart sank. I can’t even imagine what those pets suffered that would be sufficient to prompt Memphis to take action.

  26. Shirley, thanks for your dedication and commitment in this ugly affair. For those of us who have followed this for a year, we know who did the undercover work. We know why those charges were filed. No credit goes to the police, to the mayor or to the “friends of MAS.”

    To be perfectly clear — a tip of the hat to Shirley Thistlethwaite for her persistence. Don’t quit, Shirley.

    This is just the beginning. The mayor and city council will want this to go away now. They’ve done their knee-jerk good deed. Don’t let up! They will always try to pat themselves on their corrupt backs, but keep plugging away. Mr. Mayor, change is coming your way.

  27. Is there something from preventing you from sending the footage you have of animal cruelty to the local TV news? If it is all over the news where JQP can see it, then the Mayor might stop saying they have no evidence of cruelty because everyone would see that its simply not true! Put it on youtube even, and post it all over MAS’s facebook page.

    1. It’s been on the local news and I’ve got some of it on YouTube. MAS has no FB page. The “Friends” do but they delete all postings critical of the pound and block anyone who asks questions.

  28. Big thank yous to everyone involved on this one. To Shirley, of course, and also to the droves of people who paid attention, the volunteers who refuse to give up despite intense harassment by management and the rest of the media who continue to keep the light shining on these dark corners.

    However, it’s very clear to me and many others that this needs to be only step ONE. And frankly, it should have been a bigger step. Four months of investigation and only three arrests?

    From where I sit, these employees are not the problem, they are merely a symptom. Is anyone surprised that in this environment of excuses and continued sweep-it-under-the-rug mentality that these events are occurring? Perhaps I’m off base here, but in my humble opinion it is not the employees who should have been carted out – it’s the folks in charge.

    When the organization you work for makes it CLEAR to its employees, volunteers and even the general public that starving, beating, hanging, fighting, stealing and overall poor treatment of these animals is A-OK, that the issue lies instead with the taxpayers who are, shall we say, overly sensitive…

    What do they expect?

    For now, I’m filing this in the “cautiously optimistic” category. After all, this is the first real action we’ve seen, regardless of whether or not Mayor Wharton is on board (seriously, if it’s not already abundantly clear that this man has NO intention of EVER dealing with this situation in a manner we would consider even remotely satisfactory, I think we all need to remove the rose coloured glasses). Personally, I don’t see how any REAL change will be possible until Wharton is removed and replaced by someone who gives a shit.

    And so on to my suggestion for change.

    How about we go all Stephen Colbert on Wharton’s ass? When is this loser up for re-election, and who are his opponents? Anyone else up for throwing some MAJOR international support behind the one who represents us best? Anyone else for sticking to this guy the only way he’ll understand – let’s FIRE HIS ASS.

  29. Oh, and Mayor Wharton – please forgive me if I’m mistaken, but aren’t webcams the definition of “eternally vigilant”??

    1. I thought exactly the same thing. You want “eternal vigilance”? Make the security cameras public.

  30. I wonder if Dateline NBC would like to do a story on MAS and what has happened over the past several years!

    This is what happens when the City of Memphis has a poor HR dept./MAS director who hires the wrong kind of employees for the job. Is there anyone out there who needs/wants a job and who loves and will care for the animals? MAS is needing at least 3 employees! The current employees will need help as now there will not be enough employees to take care of all the animals.

    The mayor is an idiot-all he had to do was look at the videos and see what the heck was going on at MAS! Someone under him was probably doing it and telling him everything was okay. He needs to fire them too!

    Is MAS using Petfinder or Petharbor? They need to use Petharbor for the lost dogs so owners can find their lost pets and get them out of MAS!

  31. @ Jennifer…exactly where is our national media…like Dateline, 60 minutes, 48 hours and Nightline?

    Maybe PBS – news is available via PBS from Russia…RT (Russia Today), the BBC, as well as Germany, India, Japan and even Aljazeera (English version)….maybe a news agency out of the US could do a report? Shame them globally….

    The Brits are famous for being animal lovers….maybe the BBC?

  32. Reblogged this on Ruthrawls's Blog and commented:
    I’ve been following this blog with great interest. The Memphis Animal Shelter has serious issues involving abuse, cruelty, mismanagement, and apathy that have been brought to light on a national stage. I follow this with interest because it is just the tip of the iceberg…

  33. I thought Mayor W. just said that none of the 3 charged were ever pointed out as doing anything wrong prior to the undercover operation? But I thought they were all caught on camera last year doing a bunch of crap.

    Also, if dogs were going to the kill room after being abused on the way there, would not the VET have seen the aftermath of that? What if anything is happening to the Vets?

    I still feel there is something very odd about so many Pittbulls being killed. How do we know once in the kill room they were not pitted against each other and video taped. Maybe the dog fighting happened right at MAS. The winner lives and goes out the back door alive to fight again. The loser is dead. They both get recorded as being put to sleep.

    I’m not accusing anyone of any of this, but you have to think outside the box to make any sense out of the numbers.


    1. When they have been caught on camera abusing pets in the past, the city has defended them and told us we were taking things out of context, making up stories and not seeing what we were seeing. The city has said the employees are compassionate people who are doing a difficult job and we should be grateful to them.

      IDK how many – if any – the vet sees of the 11,000 pet MAS kills every year.

      Nobody knows what goes on in the kill room. It’s unmonitored. When an undercover officer was placed in there, he observed cruelty. And this was what they did in front of a new guy.

  34. i want to do something for poor animals in PUNJAB state of India.anyone please tell me how can I stop cruelty on poor animals by human through legal way.please help me. my email address is please please please help me .

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