In 2007, dozens of Pitbulls were seized in connection with a suspected dogfighting ring. The dogs were taken to the Memphis pound and promptly stolen, after-hours, with no signs of forced entry. A police officer began investigating the case. As stated in a report on ABC 24, “police were investigating if a shelter employee was selling dogs on Jackson Avenue. They were also investigating if an employee was paid $500 to leave the back door of the shelter unlocked that night [the Pitbulls were stolen].” Three days into the investigation, the officer was reassigned and no other officer was assigned to the MAS case. The case was subsequently closed. That doesn’t sound to me like the city was truly interested in solving this crime or rooting out connections to dogfighting and theft at MAS. *shrug*
In 2009, sheriff’s deputies raided the Memphis pound and found evidence that dogs had been starved to death. The director, the veterinarian and a supervisor were charged with animal cruelty. The workers responsible for actually feeding the dogs each day at MAS were neither charged nor terminated. Many remain at MAS. That doesn’t sound to me like the city was truly interested in rooting out workers who would cause harm to pets at MAS. *shrug*
In 2011, I began posting webcam images of what appeared to be animal abuse at the hands of MAS workers on the blog. In every case, the city defended the workers and attempted to disparage advocates who expressed concerns. Among the employees depicted abusing animals were Billy Stewart, Frank Lightfoot and Archie Elliott. The city defended each of them and told us our concerns were unfounded. All three men were charged with animal cruelty last week in connection with an undercover police investigation at MAS which determined 6 pets had been abused in recent months. There have been many more pets abused at MAS than those 6 but the city does not seem to be truly interested in rooting out animal abusers on the pound’s payroll. *shrug*
This month, I began posting snippets of security camera footage from MAS taken from one 12 hour period in February. There appeared to be multiple MAS workers hurting pets on these videos. The public was outraged and called upon the mayor to take action. Due to the timing of the mayor’s announcement that 3 workers were indicted on animal cruelty charges last week, many people were understandably confused and thought that the mayor had taken action against the workers seen on the videos. In fact, the charges stem from mistreatment of 6 pets as observed by an undercover officer and are unrelated to the abuse seen on the security camera footage. No one has been charged in connection with the abuse on the security camera videos and except for the 3 workers indicted last week, all are still employed at the pound as far as I know. The city hasn’t even acknowledged that the footage exists, let alone that it depicts animal cruelty. I’m guessing they are very happy to have some mistakenly believe that the workers on the videos have been charged. To me, this doesn’t seem like the action – or I should say, lack of action – the city would take if it was truly interested in cleaning up MAS by getting rid of abusive employees. *shrug*
With the naming of a new interim director at MAS – someone hand-picked by Mayor Wharton – we have been told that conditions for the pets at MAS will improve within a few months. To my mind, it is entirely reasonable to believe that pets are being hurt at MAS today – that they were hurt yesterday and that they will be hurt tomorrow. I will not simply shrug and say, “OK, let’s wait a few months and see if there is any improvement.” Memphis has a proven track record of shrugging off meaningful reform at MAS. There has never been any reason to question the city’s commitment to abuse and needless killing of pets. I don’t see any reason to start questioning that commitment today.
Pets are being hurt by people I would characterize as animal abusers at MAS. I am not content to wait a few months to see if the abuse has decreased. There needs to be justice for the pets who have been abused. There is video evidence in the city’s possession. The mayor must take action – not only for the puppy who was hanged by an ACO on the video, but for all the other pets who were hurt. Further, he must take action to protect the pets at MAS today and those who will arrive in future. MAS should be a safe haven for the community’s pets – not a place where animal abusers can hurt them, free of accountability.
Contact Mayor Wharton and demand that he take action to protect pets at the pound from being hurt. He must not be allowed to look at video evidence of pets being abused by city employees and just shrug it off. As always, please keep your comments respectful.
Mayor Wharton, mailing address: Office of the Mayor, 125 N. Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Fax: (901) 576-6200
Phone: (901) 576-6000
Post comments on his Facebook page.