Steve Markwell on MAS Security Camera Videos

Steve Markwell from Olympic Animal Sanctuary is one of the few rescuers in this country who works primarily with, as the group’s website states, “dogs you’d rather see dead”.  He handles dogs who have been chained 24/7 all their lives, dogs who bite, feral dogs and other dogs most of us would not have the skills to approach responsibly.  He’s very good at what he does.  I value his opinion.  As such, I sent him these videos from the security camera footage at MAS and asked him to comment for the blog.  While I realize Steve’s specialty is different from the typical dogs at MAS where the overwhelming majority are regular pets, I thought his unique perspective would add value to the discussion  Here is what he had to say:

A catch pole can be used gently, as a safety device, or it can be used as a weapon. When you buy one, it comes with instructions that specifically instruct users not to drag animals or to lift them off the ground. Virtually anyone could be given the instruction page and could make an informed judgment that these videos display a grossly inappropriate use of this product. Unfortunately, there is a larger issue at hand, which is that the behavior of the officer in the videos is cruel, it’s deliberate, and it’s completely unnecessary. I can think of no circumstance where this type of handling is warranted or acceptable. For the vast majority of fearful dogs, spending a few extra minutes makes it possible to avoid using a catch pole altogether, and for the tiny remainder that pose an actual threat to the handler, they should be maneuvered into a secure carrier so as to minimize the length of time that they are snared. If necessary, the dog’s weight is easily calculated by weighing the dog in the carrier, then weighing the empty carrier and subtracting the result from the original weight. It is abundantly clear that the intent of officer in these videos is torture, and the cold indifference evident in this person’s body language is alarming, and suggestive of a violent, dangerous individual. That such behavior would be tolerated and that such a person would be allowed to continue to work with animals is truly horrifying.

Thank you Steve for sharing your insight and for doing the important work you do.

38 thoughts on “Steve Markwell on MAS Security Camera Videos

  1. At one of the Memphis Animal Services Advisory Committee meetings in the spring/summer of 2011 (one of the last monthly public ones), the chair made the public aware of the fact that the instructions on how to use a catch pole were missing in the MAS handbook for ACOs. I was given the impression, they had deliberately been removed.

    1. Oh gee, well I guess if the instruction page is missing from the handbook it’s just ANYTHING GOES! Hey, it doesn’t say *not to* drag and hang dogs, cos it doesn’t say *anything at all*!

    2. Any tool can be misused. Most of us, on acquiring a tool without instructions would be inclined to err on the side of caution where animals are concerned and use it as gently as we could. Few of us would use it in the most brutal way we could devise.

      Serious reform is clearly needed at MAS. I hope the current indictments will be the first step in that direction. And I hope for the sake of the animals that the process is a quicker one than we might expect. The wheels of government tend to grind slowly, but we have seen cases where they can be speeded up considerably – particularly where animals are concerned. Let’s press for speed in these cases, and in this badly needed reform, too.

  2. first thing I thought of?? Can I get a witness? both the song and the truth.. he would be a great witness at a trial if it goes that far…

    1. That’s a good first thought. Mine was – upon reading, “Virtually anyone could be given the instruction page and could make an informed judgment that these videos display a grossly inappropriate use of this product.” – that some might say EVEN A SECOND GRADER COULD SEE THIS IS ANIMAL CRUELTY.

      1. Good one!! When I heard Wharton say that, I thought to myself ‘dear God, man, would you WANT a second grader to see something so brutal?’ It just struck me as a very stupid remark by one who is suppose to so intelligent. Just sayin.

  3. Its pretty obvious that these ACOs (and workers) couldnt give a crap about the dogs and its also obvious that they are using them the wrong way. Put 2 and 2 together and its easy to see why Steve feels this way. Its just a shame that Wharton et al. cant.

    1. I believe it’s worse than not giving a crap; I believe they are actually hostile toward these dogs. Not giving a crap would result in negligent behavior. The Memphis ACOs and shelter workers are engaging in DELIBERATE cruelty and torture.

  4. Does this “Advisory Board” still have public meetings? Are City Council meetings open to the public? If so, I really think that now it IS time to “Occupy” these meetings, armed with these videos, and MAKE them respond publicly to our concerns, in an open forum.

    Given enough lead time would hope we could mobilize enough people to make a significant impression. After all, if Sue and I could make an 8hr round trip drive and meet up with Linda on just a few hrs’ notice to stand outside MAS in the freezing cold to protest, I’d hope we could get a large number of folks to show up to an indoor meeting given a reasonable lead time.

    The time for letter-writing is over–we need to seize this opportunity, with the videos, the new director, and the arrests in the Public Eye–and to NOT give in until we prevail!

    1. The Adversary Board holds only a few public meetings per year. One is coming up on Weds, March 14. I’m guessing they’ll cancel it, since you know, there’s nothing really happening at the shelter that the public would be interested in. If by chance they don’t cancel the thing, the public gets a short period of time at the end to speak. But you can only speak if you submit your questions in advance to Jeanne/Cammy/Amber/Elizabeth/Sybil and the other board members for review. If they pick your question and give you permission to speak, you will be allowed to talk until Dr. Tower decides he doesn’t like what you’re saying in which case he will shut you down.

      I assume county council meetings are open to the public but don’t know what the established practice is as far as addressing the council. Anyone local who knows?

      1. At the last public meeting, they had changed the way they took questions. Now, the cards are numbered and they go numerically allowing people to ask questions when their number is called. When it hits 8:30, that’s it! No more questions! They tend to drag the nonsense out as long as they can so that there isn’t much time left at the end.

        You also have to fill out a card for the City Council meetings and you may have to be a resident of the City, but I’m not sure on the last part.

  5. A very smart man. I hope Mr. Rogers reads this.
    A copy of the instructions should be placed with every MAS employee’s paycheck everytime they get paid.

  6. There is a meeting scheduled on Wednesday the 14th. At last report, it was going to be open to the public, although in the past when things have heated up they have cancelled…so stay tuned. This report, whole not surprising, is so disturbing. This “person” torturing the pets is a psychopath.

  7. Last time I went, the questions had to be handed in in writing before the meeting – including your full name and address. :P I am not expecting that to be any different on March 14.

      1. If you’re reading this, and you’re going to the meeting and plan on speaking, PLEASE use this name and address. PLEASE.

  8. Perhaps if every question they got was by a citizen who is concerned about the MAS situation….

    1. Lorraine, every single question comes from concerned citizens and every single one concerns the MAS situation.

      1. I realize that, Annie–just saying, if we could organize the comments/questions so that EVERY one demanded the same response–until we get a satisfactory response–they can’t refuse every single question….and if they did, there’s always “Mic Check!”

  9. So do you think that the new director of the MAS’s seminar on how to use a catch pole properly will help? It seems that if the workers knew the right way of using a catch pole were implemented it could result in less harm to the animals. Granted, if MAS workers are the abusers they appear to be, even an instructional class on how to handle a catch pole properly might be a moot point.

    1. They’ve had the training before. Multiple times. Somehow it doesn’t seem to take. Maybe because you can’t teach animal abusers to stop abusing animals in a refresher class.

    2. Those damned choke poles should be ONLY used as a last resort! Furthermore, they should be used in the correct manner. Just in case any staff is paying attention here….let me yell it…..PUPPIES DO NOT NEED CHOKE POLES USED ON THEM.

    3. And again, they use catchpoles ALL THE TIME, FOR EVERY DOG. They snug them down tight, even for little dogs. Hell, we saw Frank Lightfoot (yes, the one who was arrested) dragging a Dachshund with a catchpole. Big tough guy, eh? Couldn’t handle that little Doxie with a leash, could you? No, much better to use the pole…jackass.

      Oh and yes, that Doxie was on his way to the kill room at the time…I wonder how many Dachshund rescue groups they called to see if they could get him placed somewhere before killing what appeared to be a perfectly healthy young Doxie? Oh – zero? Color me shocked…

      Heh – “Adversary Board”. It would be funnier if it weren’t so true. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Mr. Rogers attended the meeting as well?

  10. A quick procedural recommendation on the off chance that the MAS folk are paying attention.

    We keep weights (in lbs and kgs) on the top of each varikennel we use. Makes vet visits a snap. Absolutely no reason this couldn’t be applied to the MAS kennels.

    Secondly, we have these things called “dollys” or “carts”. Yeah, they have these wheels on the bottom, you know, so they, like, ROLL.

    SURELY using a varikennel and a cart makes things easier for ALL involved? Not only are these safer than choke poles for the dogs, they’re safer for the workers, too.

    Sadly, we’re no longer dealing with cases of animal abuse here.

    I’m afraid we are officially dealing with large numbers of “really-couldn’t-care-any-LESS”

    No retraining program is going to fix that.

    (my hubby says we’re dealing with “No uppity B**** is going to tell ME how to do MY job”. He may have a point.)

  11. Bravo to Steve Markwell. Not only does he deal with dogs that others deem difficult, he also has dealt with shelters, and ACOs, all over the country, as he literally travels thousands of miles to save dogs and has seen and worked with personnel in many facilities, both public and private. He absolutely knows what he’s talking about.

    1. I have not. I have written to the state AG twice in the past year – once in regard to the Memphis city attorney threatening my 1st Amendment rights and again when Nathan Winograd and I requested an investigation be opened into the rampant abuse and neglect at MAS. I never received a reply to either. The state AG does not care.

  12. “I can think of no circumstance where this type of handling is warranted or acceptable.”

    Draw this line in the sand, Mr. Rogers and please, please, HOLD YOUR STAFF ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS. For far too long, MAS has *encouraged* animal abuse by creating a slaughterhouse mentality in a place that was meant to be a shelter, a safe haven for those who need it. Animal abusers and sociopaths are attracted to these situations…especially when they’re protected by the administration.

    The Mayor’s repeated defense of these “hardworking employees” who have been “unfairly judged” by the public while he removed the webcams enabled the abuse and horrors to continue, day after day. Getting rid of the worst three is a start, but MUCH more work cleaning house needs to happen. As long as the abusive culture of the place is allowed to flourish, nothing will change.

    1. Agreed.

      Well, its obvious that the mayor isnt going to do anything about this, so should we all email the new director? Or not bombard him since he just started there/give him time? What should be the next step? If the answer is to wait, then okay, but if its to email, I will write, no problem. Just something give the green light one way or the other. Nothing else is getting accomplished so might as well figure something out…

      1. It would be helpful to hear from the Interim Director what progress he’s made and what his plans are for the immediate future.

        Perhaps he can do that at the board meeting? I think that the public needs to be reassured that the three arrests aren’t the end of the housecleaning…

      2. Ah, okay, cool. I forgot about the board meeting since I dont live in Memphis (or anywhere close to TN for that matter). Keep us informed, those who go! Thanks for writting back, Mikken.

Leave a Reply