The City Fails to Follow Through Regarding Animal Abuse at MAS

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


Mayor Wharton on Twitter

Post comments on his Facebook page.

24 thoughts on “The City Fails to Follow Through Regarding Animal Abuse at MAS

  1. I have emailed AC Wharton twice with no reply. I have said that I have seen the MAS security cctv footage, and am appalled. I am in the UK and I said that the whole world can see what is happening. I got a tweet from his twitter account asking me to watch that video he had made. Says he is an animal lover? Well if he is hes not a very good one. He would be there doing what he has to and that would be getting those other abusers out of there. The other animals are at risk.

  2. I believe that Mayor Wharton (at least via his facebook account) can be tagged in your posts on FB. Maybe if his facebook account was linked to all of your articles, more of his “supporters” would see them? Just a thought.

    1. Do you have to “like” his page in order to post to his wall or tag him in posts? I just can’t bring myself to “like” his page. I did make some comments on a thread…

  3. I sent this letter to Mayor Wharton with a reply that said simply Thanks.

    Mayor Wharton, I am writing to you to thank you for what you have done to protect the animals of your city. However, it does not go nearly far enough. The evidence is clear to all that see it. What is shown on the internet about your city shelter is nothing short of a concentration camp for animals. Your employees of the shelter should care for these animals, not treat them with extreme cruelty. I can only imagine what goes on when the camera eye was not on them. I do understand that catch poles have to be used in some cases. Most cases they don’t need to be used. I know this as I have volunteered at my local animal shelter many times. Not one time did I or the attendant ever use a catch pole to restrain an animal. Kindness goes a long way with scared and timid animals.
    The employees you have in your shelter for the most part demonstrate animal abuse and extreme cruelty. I was visibly shocked and horrified when I saw the videos. I myself have 2 dogs and 2 cats. I could not imagine them ever being treated in this way. I urge you to replace your shelter staff with qualified staff, trained in the proper protocol in the treatments of your cities animals. Implement an no tolerance policy, that would prosecute any employee that would violate the policy. The policy should shout that the animals in the city of Memphis Tennessee are safe in the shelter. It should be practiced every day, so that anyone entering the shelter would see well taken care of animals looking for homes, not terrified animals that have been terrorized and tortured.

  4. I agree completely and you are correct. I have once again forwarded this to my MAS list, asking for a comment, what is going to change, etc., ad nausem. Think I will actually get a response? Nope. The three that were indicted will still get their paychecks as well, until they go to court and are convicted, if they ever are. A sad case of affairs. Sigh ……

  5. Now is the time for them to learn from history.

    It’s been done wrong and done wrong and done wrong – time to do it right and GET RID OF EVERYONE THERE WHO IS PART OF OR AN ENABLER OF THE CULTURE OF ABUSE that exists at MAS.

    Stop shielding the cruel, the incompetent, and the apathetic. Stop using excuses like “unionized” or “retraining”. If a person cannot do their job competently and with compassion, they are gone, period.

    Anyone know who is in charge of new hires at MAS?

    1. The City of Memphis is in charge of new hires as MAS, and trust me, they don’t care either. I have applied for every single opening there when it is posted, and I still get turned down. It isn’t because I am not qualified it is because I am an animal lover and advocate. Plus, in addition, mostly black people are hired; not us caucasians. I am part Cherokee, so I am a minority as well. They don’t want us because we work hard and we could do the job right. But ,alas, I cannot be hired. It’s reverse discrimination of the worst kind. The city is corrupt, and it will not change until we get someone with vision and who will live up to their promises. It’s been 3 decades now and has just become worse. Sigh …..

      1. Denise, with all due respect, I think you’re off the mark here. There are plenty of loving, caring non-white people in Memphis, readers of this blog included. The problem is not the race of the people who are hired; the problem is the character. If your point is that friends-of-friends are hired, and they happen to be black, that’s one point, but the race of the employees has nothing to do with the lack of heart and soul. I think we muddy the waters when we opine that the employees are no good because of their race. The employees are no good because they are psychopaths and I wouldn’t leave them alone with pets, children, old, or infirm people. They are predators. There are lazy white predators out there, too. We need to focus our efforts on insisting that the people who are hired are kind, compassionate, sympathetic people of any race.

      2. Absolutely – I wouldn’t care if an applicant was Martian with three heads and 27 eyeballs as long as the person cared about pets and treated them with kindness and respect. (Actually, wouldn’t it be great to have someone with 27 eyeballs at MAS?!)

      3. I agree with you totally. I wasn’t basing it on race, it is a fact. There are mean white people and mean other people. I can tell you though, that through the employees I do know that work for the City of Memphis, regardless where it is, there is an unwritten rule: Hire 80% black, 20% white. That is why I can’t get a job there. If you look at the clips and videos, it proves my point. Being that as it may, yes, we need qualified compassionate people working at the shelter, but city officials turn a blind eye and do not care, period. No one high up in City government doesn’t give a damn.

      4. Agreed. Racism gets us nowhere.

        It’s more likely that you weren’t hired Denise because you’re overqualified. The Mayor has been quite clear in his statements that apparently he thinks that these shelter jobs are among the lowest of the low and they’ve set the bar accordingly. That kind of approach becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…

        Expect better, demand better, and you’ll get better. In this economy, the city has its pick of willing applicants – choose better.

      5. Thank you, yes, I am sure I am over qualified, but I am an animal lover and have repeatedly said I would get a certification to be able to euthanize the SICK and hopeless animals. They don’t want that, they just want someone who will kill, kill, kill. I am not a racist, I have plenty of black friends, but when I can’t get hired because of MY color, I take offense. It runs rampant and I could go on forever about it, but I will not. I am working hard for change at MAS, and no one listens. They just plain do not care. We gotta get that fish on top of the pyramid first. Yeah buddy.

      6. Here goes the race card! If you want a job at MAS commit a felony and go through the Second Chance program. It’s simple…

      7. Well, I don’t really want to commit a felony. I used to work in the office as a temp where the second chance program is. It is just as corrupt as the rest of the City programs. I have been a witness. So, I guess I can’t even get one chance, much less a second. Bleh

  6. Four trusted, hard-working, pet-loving volunteers wrote up and presented along with the signatures of two others, and in the presence and agreement of yet one other, a long list of concerns and proposed solutions. We were ignored, shunned, made fun of, and scorned. Two left right then {Shrug} Two of us wrote letters to the city after the video tapes were exposed, expressing severe sorrow, disappointment, and anger, and have subsequently left. {Shrug}
    THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT. They don’t care that the pets are tortured, they don’t care that the public sees it, they don’t care that they lose good volunteers. THEY DON’T CARE!!! The place is a chamber of horrors. New, potentially really good volunteers are recruited and lulled into thinking all is well because you can’t see it in the new shelter. But now the video tapes. Now the truth. And still, nothing more than a shrug.

    1. I think there is a HUGE need in Memphis for a no-kill advocacy group, and also a political group like Ryan Clinton’s “Fix Austin” group. I don’t see any other way to overturn the status quo there other than through organized and relentless local action (with support from the rest of us, of course!) American Pets Alive has a handbook that spells out every step in detail about how to go about it. Shelter Ex, do you think any of the concerned folks in Memphis would be interested in starting such a thing? I think the cacophony needs to get so loud that the mayor, etc. cannot tune it out!

      1. Lisa, actually Memphis does have an animal advocacy group and numerous groups. The problem is, as you are very aware, is that City Hall land the cronies on the City Council are corrupt. It has been and always will be. You cannot fight City Hall because it is just ignored. Nepotism runs deep, crooks run our city and you can’t get to Wharton at all, he’s covered deep in mud (or bodyguards if you wish). I’ve tried and attempted. But I will keep writing and sending these YesBiscuit comments to the Mayor and the Council and my congressman and the governor. One person can make a difference, and I hope I can be part of the change.

  7. You nailed it, Shirley. I think that they think if they say ‘it will be dealt with’, that we should all go away then. We’ve heard that for MANY years now and it has never ceased.
    I wrote him a week or so ago, along with Hooks and all of those people, and never got anything back and Im pretty sure he blocked me on FB from a previous time so Im not going to be optimistic.
    You know its a shame that it has to be like this for everyone involved, not just the higher ups, but the workers too. I dont care if they actually like dogs and have dogs as pets at thier home, but youd think from the time they clock-in to the time that they clock-out that they would actually do their jobs correctly. I guess thats just asking for too much.

  8. The only way to change MAS….Close the doors and start over….ALL employees, all existing volunteers, ALL management….should be fired NOW! IF I am wrong, tell me how any one, much less ALL of the existing people at MAS can stand by, even 1 day, and not spill the beans….It is a group of mean, heartless, INHUMANE humans….and day after day, week after week, month after month…you get my point….it continues. How can a decent person LOOK ON and do nothing? A decent person CANNOT!!!!

    1. What about that volunteer lady that cuddled the kittens before putting them back in their space?
      What about Jon who knelt down to comfort and encourage a dog after placing it gently in a kennel?
      I read on Mayor Wharton’s facebook page where they TRIED to privatize the shelter and *not one application* was received! (Of course not, WHO would waste their time and energy trying to fight City Hall on top of the union?)
      Mr. Rogers was hand-picked by Wharton. Was that as a scapegoat? Or a shill?
      WHO has enough influence/power/money to really rattle the cage that is Memphis Apathy?
      It just pisses me off royally that H$U$ et al take in BILLIONS of dollars, and yet can’t seem to get behind prosecution of obvious abusers on the government payroll.
      I’ve called. I’ve emailed. Maybe I should try snail mail next. But they seem quite capable of blowing off their own employees and volunteers, so how is a busy-body in Alaska going to help effect change?!
      Maybe I’ll just take extra better care of the critters in my life and call it good.
      ps. If the bag was moving with a living being, that was February 12th…and, well, if the bag was sealed, there wasn’t enough oxygen to last for long. Are we supposed to FOIA EVERY DAY?! To what purpose? They aren’t listening to anyone about February 12th…

  9. Can we get more video now that these three people have been taken in? That way all our footage/proof will be after the mayor announced this recent stuff. I would think it would be more helpful. I know its costs $$.

    1. I’m not sure it would be a wise use of funds to buy more footage. There is evidence of abuse on the footage we’ve already paid for and the city has done nothing. Similarly, there was evidence of abuse on numerous webcam shots (when the webcams were still up) and the city did nothing – actually WORSE than nothing – the city defended the abusers. I don’t know that showing the city even more evidence of abuse will render any different outcome. Video evidence is not a rumor, an exaggeration, or a fabricated story – it’s proof of the type most prosecutors of animal cruelty cases wish they had. To put it bluntly, we’ve shown the city video evidence of a puppy being hanged in a metal noose by one of its employees and they have done nothing. That tells me the mayor’s administration is not only uninterested in meaningful reform at MAS, they are clearly just as happy to pay people to torture animals now as they have been in past. I don’t know that giving them more money would help the animals.

Leave a Reply