“What are they supposed to do?”

When I first started seeing the cruel treatment of pets by MAS workers on the security camera footage, I wondered how it could be that the police have been watching these cameras for months without making any arrests.  I thought it was possible that perhaps no one had really been watching the cameras.  I assumed that after posting the cruel treatment of pets online, action would be taken.  But in fact, not only has no action been taken, no one in the police department, the mayor’s office or the departments overseeing the shelter have acknowledged the footage exists, let alone that it depicts city employees inflicting violence upon pets.  Bear in mind that this footage is from one day at MAS – a 12 hour period.  It is reasonable to assume that if 12 hours worth of footage from one random day at MAS reveals animal abuse, certainly several months worth of footage likely documents extensive animal abuse.  Further, there are no city employees on the videos who appear to be reacting in any way, shape or form to what is being done to the pets as they pass by.  This indicates to me that the abuse is business as usual at MAS.

I felt confident in choosing a day at random to view footage from based upon what was evident on the public webcams for as long as they were live:  there is a culture of abuse at MAS and the overwhelming majority of people there either actively participate in hurting animals or enable the behavior by keeping silent and defending the abusers publicly.  I was not surprised that the footage revealed cruelty, although I was sickened to see it.  What did surprise me was the deafening silence from the killing apologists in Memphis in response to the images being published on the web.

Several readers have contacted me privately, asking me for suggestions on how to help the pets at MAS in light of the video footage.  After realizing that the authorities were not responding to the evidence of abuse, I suggested to a few people that they try calling the police and asking how to get an investigation opened.  Today, I heard from someone who made that phone call.  I am sharing the caller’s e-mail here because I think it may shed light on how it has come to be that no charges have been filed based upon MPD’s monitoring of the security cameras for these last several months:

Just spoke with a Sgt at MPD – I asked him how I go about opening up an investigation regarding Animal Cruelty’/Abuse at MAS from videos…he asked if the dogs were shot/starved/stabbed – I told him about the puppy who had his paw slammed 4 times with metal door….told him about dogs dragged and lifted with chokepole….he asked “so, what are they supposed to do when the dog doesn’t budge? Pick him up so they get bit?  ..I explained that there was a tiny puppy – didn’t have teeth to bite anyone and was suspended in mid air with choke pole for starters. He told me I had to file a report to generate an investigation – I asked how do I go about doing that….told me to call 545-cops…..and then I have to fill out paperwork – I asked if I could go to the precinct under MAS jurisdiction – he said fine…  He then asked me if I heard about their undercover investigation…

So in summary, the only crimes against pets the Memphis PD are apparently interested in hearing about are shootings, stabbings and starvation.  Oh and did ya see us on TV?!  Placing a metal noose around a dog’s neck and dragging him across the concrete straight into a wall so he smashes his head does not qualify.  Hanging a puppy by the neck – and mind you, we have no way of knowing if the hanged puppy in the video survived the abuse – does not qualify.  And treating animals cruelly on their way to the kill room doesn’t qualify either – unless it’s witnessed by an undercover officer as part of the mayor’s political ploy to placate naysayers, I guess.

Well, at least we know where we stand.  The mayor and his political cronies don’t care.  The Memphis PD doesn’t care.  The state AG doesn’t care.  The new interim director is going to have a chokepole retraining class which will do nothing to eradicate the culture of cruelty that exists at the pound.  Lest we forget, these people all knew they were being filmed and watched by MPD.  This is how they treat animals when they know the police and potentially the public is watching.  God forbid we have to read in the indictments about how they treat pets when they think no one is watching – such as in the kill room where it’s Anything Goes in the Land of Pain and Death.

I am outraged.  I imagine others are too.  If the city officials think ignoring us will make us go away, they haven’t been paying attention.  I am not going anywhere.  I will call you people out for your dishonesty, lack of integrity and betrayal week in and week out.  Month after month.  Year after year.  As long as there are pets being hurt and needlessly killed at MAS, I will be a thorn in your side.  I will remind the public at every opportunity of the abuse and cruelty you condone and enable at your disgrace of a shelter.




59 thoughts on ““What are they supposed to do?”

      1. I dont think they are either. Maybe its my cynicism, but I think cops will try to do what little they can do/get away with and be okay. Not so much street cops but detective type cops. Maybe its just my experience though.

  1. Has anybody thought to see if charges can be brought against the mayor? It happend here in Alabama..the mayor was charged with animal abuse right along with the dog officer because he knew what was going on and did nothing about it. He didn’t think it could be done and the judge said he was just as responsible.he is being sentenced this month. Be worth looking into!!

  2. Just an FYI …

    Using a chokepole with a dog on the floor, even when the use is not only incorrect but potentially abusive, is NOT a violation of the state felony animal cruelty laws.

    So using only the chokepole video (animals on the floor …) to file a report will not result in any investigation.

    However, slamming a door on a dog’s leg, forcing a dog to jump 5 feet from a cage to the floor, dangling a dog by the neck or scruff (via chokepole or whatever) – those actions DO qualify as violations of animal cruelty laws.

    1. In addition to legal considerations, the employees are in violation of the MAS policies and procedures handbook:

      *Memphis Animal Services*

      Page 22

      Chapter 2: Guiding Principles and Expectations

      Section 1: Humane Treatment

      No Agent of Memphis Animal Services is to drag or pull any animal by catch pole or lead unless no other practical method of safely handling or moving the animal is available.

      Small dogs are to have their weight supported from beneath when being transported within the facility or in the field and are not to be suspended by the back of the neck (scruffed) as a method of control unless no other practical method of safely handling or moving the animal is available.

      1. “No Agent of Memphis Animal Services is to drag or pull any animal by catch pole or lead unless no other practical method of safely handling or moving the animal is available.

        Small dogs are to have their weight supported from beneath when being transported within the facility or in the field and are not to be suspended by the back of the neck (scruffed) as a method of control unless no other practical method of safely handling or moving the animal is available.”

        This is precisely why there is no reason to keep these people employed. That is what a policies and procedures manual is for. To tell people what they are supposed to do and when they do not do it, they get reprimanded and you document it. You give them the manual to re-read and initial each page. They do it again, they get put on probation, re-trained and they read and initial the policy manual a second time. Do it a third time and you are gone. No excuses, no lawsuits, no union worries. The employee if violating policies and procedures and it is clearly stated that if they do, after 3 offenses (or one major offense) they will no longer be employed. Simple 101 stuff. And they can’t even get THAT right.

        If they would put me in charge of the shelter, I can guarantee you that Mayor Wharton could not stop me from firing anyone. He could fire ME but he would not stop me from firing an employee if I had a properly documented case. I would document, document, document and three strikes and they are out of there and I would replace them with a compassionate individual. I would have a stack of applicants just waiting to be hired at any given moment. Bring on the lawsuits, they would lose. I would watch their every move like Robert De Niro in Meet the Fockers.

  3. What are they supposed to do??? I have a dog of unknown temperament. I’m trying to get him to move from one place to another. I have a leash on him for safety’s sake. What am I supposed to do?

    Well, let’s see.

    I could…TAKE A LOOK at the dog and check body language. Is the dog frightened? Flattened like a pancake, afraid to do anything? Fortunately, I’ve been trained in animal handling, so I know just what to do…I kneel down so as not to appear quite so threatening. I make sure to keep my side to the dog, so it doesn’t look like I’m coming at him, I just want him to come to me. I don’t look him in the eye as I speak gently and reassuringly to him, “It’s ok buddy, come here. There now, I know you’re scared, but it’s ok, there now…” and pat my thigh a couple of times to help give him the idea. If he’s not budging, I can pull out the treats in my pocket and toss gently to him. See? Treat! I use words like “cookie” and “yummy” and “good dog” and use quiet whistles and tongue clicks in case he’s heard those cues before and knows what they mean…

    What I’m SUPPOSED to do is take a minute to let the dog know that I’m not going to hurt him, that coming with me is a good thing.

    What I’m NOT supposed to do is drag the dog around like a sack of garbage, not even looking at him, not even acknowledging that I’m hurting him, making him even more afraid, and convincing him that yes, he was right, all humans are dangerous and bad. What I’m not supposed to do is misuse the tools at my disposal or jump to a violent extreme as my first response to a reluctant dog.

    What I’m supposed to do is act professionally with competence, care, and compassion and always aware that these animals are often lost, confused, and frightened and need a little extra TLC to get them where I need them to be. I set the standard for my community and when kids in the street see me handle a dog, they learn from me. When adults see me in the street handle a dog, they know that I’m good at what I do and that their investment in me is justified. I make my shelter look good and my community proud and keep everyone (man and beast) safe from harm.

    1. Mikken, the difference between us and MAS is that we care. I also work in a animal shelter and I have not once used a choke pole. It is very clear that most people working at MAS just don’t care about the animals. They don’t work there because they like animals, they work there because it is a job just like a job at Walmart or McDonalds.

      1. True. I wonder if the police would understand better if we let them know that going to the chokepole, first time, every time is just like a police officer tasering every person they come into contact with in an official capacity. It sets the stage with fear and pain.

        And sure, there are situations where tasers are warranted and useful, just as there are situations where chokepoles are warranted and useful (there’s a reason their other name is “rabies pole”), but you CHOOSE your situation and you use it appropriately and correctly.

        Just as a taser is not a “Ma’am, did you realize how fast you were going? ZZZAAAAPPP License and registration, please. ZZZZAAAAPPPP” kind of tool, neither is a chokepole an “every dog all the time” tool.

      2. You are exactly right. They do not even ASK if they like animals or have experience with them during the interview process. They are more interested in how much weight they can lift. They literally treat the animals as if they are packages at UPS. No, scratch that. UPS handles their packages with a lot more care.

    2. Could not agree more, MIkken. And what is even more sad, because Im sure 9/10 times it happens, is that the dog is already frightened, then frightened some more by having someone drag them around like a sack of garbage, and then when they need the dog to do something, they are afraid and feel threatened and then bite or act aggressively. Then they determine that the dog is ‘unadoptable’ and then gets a death sentence. If they took the time with the dog, it would be easier on them, and the dog lives. But I guess thats too much work.

      It reminds me of Eldad Hager’s rescue videos. The same thing happened with him when he went to rescue a dog on death-row in a shelter and the dog felt threatened/terrified. He took a little bit of extra time with the dog inside the shelter and the dog was cuddling up to him within minutes. He then ofc took the dog home.

    3. This is where in comes in handy to hire compassionate people with experience working with animals. But this does not even come up during the interview process. The application doesn’t even ask about previous pet ownership or animal care taking experience. Its pretty much “how much can you lift and when can you start cuz?”

  4. Can’t we get attention by picketing the shelter and taking out ads in the local newspapers? We need a lot of attention here! Maybe then they will listen to us.

    1. If the mayor’s statement had indicated anything along the lines of, “These arrests are only the beginning. We will not rest until every animal abuser is removed from MAS.”, I might have a little hope. Instead his statement struck me as an extended election season ad. He’s a “pet lover”, doncha know?

  5. Great post Shirley. Outwit…outlast. Unrelenting pressure on the DAs office needs to happen…all other levels are useless. Keep this in the public’s eye. If possible volunteers and more employees need to be encouraged/helped to file reports with the sheriff’s office AND go to the media at the same time. Inundate the shelter with visitors with cameras. Every public appearance by Wharton needs an advocate asking questions about MAS in public. It ramps up, it doesn’t fade away. I wish I was in TN.

  6. Just a heads up – per the story 30 min ago on our local NBC affiliate, Action News 5, another statement was made by the city: (quoting reporter Nick Kenney, regarding allegations of dog fighting ties at the shelter) “The city WILL act on any credible and willful reports. [made]” While I am definitely taking a ‘watch and see’ approach, I fully support the actions resulting from the documented evidence obtained by the MPD undercover officer. Election season ad? I admit I can’t say what underlying motives AC Wharton may have, but he is not up for re-election this season.

  7. Ok dragging a dog that won’t move, I can see how that may be a hard one to prove as being abuse. But these dogs don’t look like they are being dragged they look like they are being used as mops. They are not high strung Cujos putting up a fight. These dogs are as scary as a stuffed animal. If the person stopped pulling on them for one second they would probably just lay there begging to be carried. Most you could carry under one arm to the cage.

    The stabbed, shot, or starved comment concerns me. What were they doing before euthanizing dogs and cats? I would imagine that an undercover cop would have the same rules and standards as a cop confronted with video servailance. To me that means the ACO’s charged with abuse were stabbing/shooting/or starving pets before killing them. They obviously weren’t charged for dragging them in there.

    1. “The stabbed, shot, or starved comment concerns me. What were they doing before euthanizing dogs and cats? ”

      I haven’t heard nor read this. Where is this from please?

      1. This is just the typical city employee’s idea of what constitutes animal abuse. If they are being stabbed, shot, starved or set on fire or something. Anything else doesn’t really count. Go to some parts of town and watch how people treat their pets. I have cussed out so many people for kicking and yanking their puppies by the neck. If you call the police and say “I just saw a man kick a puppy and drag it down the sidewalk” they just say “so?” They just think it is part of owning a puppy.

        These people are city officials and police officers. This is who we are calling for help. That is why they do not respond unless an animal is being viciously abused, like if they are bleeding profusely or an eyeball is hanging out or something. They think people who are whining about puppies being picked up by their neck and thrown around are just crazy nut jobs.

  8. yes, and I called the memphis DA today and she said there was nothing they could do until they were summoned to court. The Dept. of Ag. which SHOULD have juristiction here does not, neither does the Dept of Health.

  9. I went so far as to call the USDA, to try to get some ideas about where to go from here and they didn’t know what to do either. Tennessee is literally stuck in the 1950’s with their laws and the way they do things.

  10. I find that a dog will to just about anything if you dangle a hot dog in front of his/her nose.

    1. You can almost get a dog to jump into a blazing fire with a hot dog. If they would invest in more hot dogs, they could retire the use of the choke pole for the most part. They need to hold a Hot Dog Training Class for the employees. Its like rocket science for these people.

      The sad thing is if we brought a truck load of hot dogs to the shelter, the employees would just take them home and have a cook out. We need the volunteers to oversee the hot dog supply. How freaking sad is it to have to even be typing this?

  11. You know who else doesn’t care? The Humane Society of the United States. WREG’s report on the 3/8/12 press conference contained this gem regarding the employee “retraining”:

    “Although the undercover officer is no longer at the shelter, Wharton said the shelter will still be monitored closely. Shelter employees are in the process of retraining, ‘We had three representative from the humane society of the us doing training right here on sight.’ ”

    [Sic] for the incorrect punctuation in the second sentence, [sic] for the incorrect singular in the quote, [sic] for the incorrect lower-cases in the name of the organization, [sic] for the misspelled last word in the quote . . . and SICK for the decision by the Humane Society of the United States not to demand reform of Memphis Animal Services.



  12. The police aren’t “in on it”.
    These employees, their supervisors, the politicians here…. none of them see any of this as abuse because they don’t even see the animals as beings.
    To these people, they are objects & they will be killed soon. They do not have feelings, they do not know pain, they do not have souls. THAT is the reality of Memphis.
    They feel the same about HUMANS here. The majority of people in Memphis do not value human life so there is no way they can value the life of an animal. They do even value themselves!

    Nothing will EVER change for the animals until there is a massive overhaul of this city and people start to care about ANYTHING. It won’t happen. If they don’t care about each other or themselves how can you expect them to care about a dog they are going to kill in 3 days???

    I wish it weren’t true, but… you are truly fighting a losing battle.

    1. Sadly, JustMe….you are right. Our city is being run by people who do not value animals. The ones who do are not willing to speak out about it. Only about 20 people showed up for the last advisory board meeting that I attended. Out of thousands of online protesters, only a handful showed up for the meeting. I plan to run newspapers ads for the next meeting to see if more people will attend. We can’t make them care and we can’t even threaten them with a lack of votes if only a few people show up. What is the motivation for them to change? As long as they can do it and keep their jobs, there is no motivation to change. The people in charge DO NOT VALUE ANIMALS.

      You can not change the soul of a person. All you can do is threaten their livelihood if they continue what they are doing. Or stress them out so much with all of the non-stop complaints that they finally quit. It is just hard to get someone to quit a $100k plus a year job. Hopefully the arrests will scare some of the others into a little “kindness”…if it can happen to those guys, it may happen to them as well. We just need to keep digging in and finding ways to get people arrested. A group of tax paying citizens need to take a video of the abuses that we see here and file a police report on each offender specifically. We need to formally demand they be removed from their job because we are paying for them to be employed. We need to start doing this legally and by the book. I am an idiot and don’t know how to go about all of this but I’m ready to learn.

      1. I think you will see more people at the March 14th meeting. I know of at least 4 former volunteers who are going despite the fact that they will undoubtedly be ignored. I hope someone tapes it.

      2. I’m with you “Silence”. I live in AZ, not that close to TN, so theres only so much I can do, but if there is anything I can do, let me know!!

  13. In the first video with Mari, why is there a wet trail as this dog is cruelly dragged down the aisle? Is this dog injured, is it urinating on itself? When he stops for a moment it appears that the dog is in extreme pain, what is he doing with the choke pole at that point? Loosening it or tightening it? If this dog is injured and they feared getting bitten, the dog should have been muzzled and carried on a stretcher to prevent further injury! This has upset me badly! Does anyone know what happened to this dog?

    1. My guess is that he is urinating, since dogs urinate to show submissiveness. He was probably saying “Ill do what you want just be nice to me!” and the dumb worker didnt realize it. The rest of it, I dont know, Im too disguested w/ the video to re-watch it. None of it would surprise me though.

    2. No Mari wasn’t urinating. He was suffering from a heat stroke because the officer left him on the un-airconditioned truck too long. He was sprayed with a water hose to cool down and then submerged in the “dip tank” to rid him of fleas and ticks.

  14. What needs to happen is EXPOSURE … get the local media, social networking and animal rights groups involved and protest MAS!

    The squeeky wheel gets the grease, as it were. The more of a stink that we all create a public stink about it, the more people will pay attention … the better chances something will be done, and this treatment will stop.

    Personally after reading the descriptions here, I can’t bring myself to watch the videos, because I know I will want to kill someone … not that I would, but I would want to.

  15. The mayor and MPD are in the right direction. 1/3 of MAS shelter employees have been fired so far. The charges against these three monsters sends a clear message to the rest “we are watching and you will be leaving when we catch you”. The public needs to support the mayor in his effort to clean this place out. Keep your cell phone cameras ready video anything inappropriate
    you see. There should be no areas off limits in this shelter to the
    volunteers. That first video was sickening…I hopre that employee was one that was charged with animal cruelty.

  16. “1/3 of MAS shelter employees have been fired so far.”

    And the Mayor seems to think that we’re supposed to take some kind of reassurance from this fact. What he doesn’t realize is that all that says is “animal abusers are attracted to our shelter because they are able to carry out their sick business while we protect and shield them:.

    And, btw, the number of people fired should be closer to 90% from what I’ve seen going on there…

  17. I live one town over from Memphis. Sadly, that puts me way too close to comfort to the new MAS building.

    The way I figure things is that there is massive cover up and subterfuge going on within Memphis government and some of that has spilled over to MAS.

    The time has come, I think, to just figure out some way to contact National media services about this.

    Wharton is covering something up for some reason and I think Janet Hooks and her underlings have something on his current political office. I am not a tin hat wearer I have just lived in this particular area of Tennessee to have learned of some things which are just not for the faint of heart. For example, AC Wharton was the County Mayor. Now he is the City Mayor. The fellow who is now the County Mayor was the County Sheriff. There is something to this chain of nit-witness which I think might lead back to the fellow who was Mayor for 18 years prior to AC Wharton, Willie Herenton.

    They are covering something up. For example, there is totally Pit Bull fighting in Memphis and the majority of that is gang related. There are areas of Memphis where gangs tag people’s front doors. But, those are areas which the Mayor has deemed to not have much in the way of commerce (you know what for the gangs and all) so he does not acknowledge them. I live in one of the suburban cities and we have are own respective Mayors who look at the whole town equally, but Memphis does not do that at all as well as one would think. No offense to anyone.

    What I would like to see is for this situation to go National and have a formally educated and trained professional audit the heck out of MAS from the employees on up. That is what it will take to get it done.

    Who in the National media is animal friendly? I know Jane Valez Mitchell speaks of being an animal loving vegan. But, who else? We need someone from the National media to give Memphis a wake up call by now.

  18. Does ANYONE know if that puppy is alive? She stood there as if to make sure he was breathing before she closed the door-and did you notice after she stuffed that little brown dog (the 1st in the tape) in the cage across from the puppy, she walked over to that cage to check on the puppy again? She was seeing if she killed it! Shouldn’t she have gotten a VET tech to check him before she left? I’M OUTRAGED, SHIRLEY! I’m literally about to throw up, I can feel the chunks rising as I type. My heart can not take anymore!

    1. Seeing these videos has really made me re-think all the times MAS has killed dogs – sometimes en masse – due to coughs. If that puppy did survive, I can imagine he would have been coughing after that abuse. I’ve also been thinking about the outrageous number of pets who fall over dead in their cages at MAS. How many die b/c an employee tortured them to death?

      1. A little off topic, but how do I request euth records from my local shelter? Who do I ask?

      2. If it is a city/county shelter, contact someone at that level of govt (administrator) and ask who the custodian of records is for the shelter. File your request to the custodian of records.

  19. I have to wonder about the mental health of a community who is witness to this abuse yet remains collectively silent.
    Dysfuctional communities are well documented. So my question to the citizens of Memphis- what kind of community/citizen are you?

  20. I am so glad that this blog exists. I am from Middle TN and had not even heard of this abuse. I recently moved to Memphis and am just heartbroken and OUTRAGED! I want to know what we can do to get national media coverage. I mean, I lived just a few hours away and didn’t know this was happening. The more we can get people involved OUTSIDE of Memphis, the better. And maybe, if there’s national media and people protesting to visit memphis with their tourist dollars, the mayor will start to take notice without just giving half-hearted efforts.

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