MAS Continues to Starve Dogs; Puppy Cannibalizes Littermate Out of Hunger

This is a difficult story to tell.  It is the story of 2 puppies, impounded by MAS along with 4 others (whose outcomes are unknown), who are both now dead.  The details are horrifying but must be shared if there is to be any hope of justice.  In my view, justice for the deaths of these two puppies would be nothing short of immediate arrests, criminal charges, and a complete overhaul of MAS – starting with the state Attorney General placing the facility into receivership, as we requested more than a year ago.  This ongoing crisis of suffering, neglect and needless killing at MAS must be met with swift and decisive corrective action.  It has gone on far too long.

Puppy #245825 at the Memphis pound.

On September 4, 2012, a Memphis animal control officer responded to a call from a school reporting puppies on the property.  The ACO impounded 6 puppies, including dog ID #245825 and #245826, who were listed as 4 month old Lab mixes.  On September 5, both pups were dewormed and vaccinated.  Each weighed a little over 14 pounds.  Both pups had the note “nasal discharge” entered into their medical histories on September 17 but no weights were recorded.

On September 13, an adopter expressed interest in puppy #245825 but MAS would not release him without a background check and a yard inspection because, although his medical history says Lab mix, and his littermate’s records say Lab mix, puppy #245825’s cage card says Pitbull mix.  And MAS has special adoption requirements for Pitbulls.  There are no notes indicating those tasks were ever completed.  On September 19, the would-be adopter was phoned and advised that the puppy she wanted had been found dead in his kennel that morning.

In fact, the two pups had been caged together and one ate the other.  Puppy #245826 ate his littermate’s face, trachea and esophagus as well as his shoulder.  Someone with initials RC, presumably the MAS vet Rebecca Coleman, performed an examination on the remains of the partially eaten puppy and found he was very recently deceased and not suffering from an upper respiratory infection.  The final notes are:

Cause of death undetermined.  Body was cannibalized post-mortem.

There is no way of knowing whether this puppy was dead when the littermate ate him and I see nothing in the the records that supports this conclusion.  He was not sick and in fact, there is no known cause of death.  This conclusion seems irresponsible, at best.

Dr. Coleman then killed puppy #245826 marking “behavior” and “health” on the card.  She performed a necropsy on this puppy, noting that portions of the other puppy were readily identifiable amidst the stomach contents.  His body condition score (BCS) was 1/5.  Anyone who has sat in a vet’s office looking at posters on the wall probably knows what a BCS of 1 looks like (see an illustration here).  It indicates an emaciated animal. In an apparent contradiction, she also notes the pup had “good fat” under the skin and around the internal organs.  The fat around the organs is among the last reserves to be used in the case of starvation.  And the “good fat” beneath the skin is inconsistent with an emaciated puppy although the mere presence of fat in no way indicates the puppy was being fed enough.


On post mortem exam you need to note the loss of external and internal fat. The body consumes its own fat stores and muscle protein for nourishment in the state of starvation.The external fat is used first; then deep organ fat (pericardial and perirenal fat). The bone marrow fat is the last place to be used and when low it is indicative of starvation. A Bone Marrow Fat Analysis can be performed at Michigan State University. Normal range is 50-60% and in starvation cases it can be as low as 0-10% though a normal value does not rule out starvation. Even if an animal is decomposed or most of the internal organs are gone due to insect activity it is still possible to get enough bone marrow for testing. BM fat can become rancid with time but freezing will preserve the fat for up to a year. This test costs $8.00 and with results in a few days.

Cannibalism may be seen in cases of starvation. This will occur when an animal dies and the other live animal is suffering from severe starvation and has no other source of food.

Why didn’t Dr. Coleman send off for this $8 test?  Is it a coincidence that she noted the external fat along with the perirenal and pericardial fat, just like what Dr. Merck suggests an investigator should look for in starvation cases?  I would posit that there is no coincidence.  I believe that because Dr. Coleman cooperated with authorities during the 2009 raid at MAS in which Dr. Merck necropsied dogs and determined they were starved, she knew exactly what to put in the report to deceive anyone who might ask questions. But there is no mention of the bone marrow fat and no $8 test.

Dr. Coleman noted “partially digested dog food” in the stomach as well.  I believe this was noted in an effort to prove the dogs were being fed by MAS.  Obviously they were not being fed nearly enough since one puppy ate the other one.  The weight of the puppy at time of death is conspicuously absent from the necropsy notes.  I believe that was done intentionally so that the records would not reflect the weight loss in what should have been a growing puppy.  There is a weight on the kill card that says 18.4 but the amount of Fatal Plus used is more than would be necessary for a dog of that weight.  The method is “IC”, presumably intra-cardiac, which by law requires a sedative although no sedative was apparently given.  Is anything on this kill card accurate?

Puppy #245826 at the Memphis pound.

There is no doubt in my mind that these puppies were starved at MAS.  I know of no 4 month old Lab/Pitbull mix puppy who would eat the face off a littermate unless he was starving to death.  And I will never believe there is any puppy who is going to walk away from his bowl of kibble in order to pick apart his dead littermate’s trachea.  Furthermore, a 4 month old puppy simply hasn’t been alive long enough to have manifested such bizarre aggression, if that’s what Dr. Coleman was implying when she circled and X’d “behavior” on the kill record.

I believe Dr. Coleman killed the other puppy to dispose of evidence of animal cruelty and to make the records seem as if the whole incident was a mysterious behavioral aberration.  I have no idea if she acted alone or was directed to cover up this wrongdoing.  But I think it merits an investigation.

A kill card with questionable entries, no $8 test, no recorded weight at necropsy – why?

This is no isolated incident.  Dogs have been starving at MAS for years.  There are currently 3 former staffers charged with animal cruelty for starving dogs at MAS in 2009.  We’ve seen evidence of the staff’s failure to feed pets on the security camera video.  Some of the volunteers tried appealing to management about this issue.  There have been complaints about court case dogs being starved during their lengthy stay at the pound.

Memphis city leaders continue to turn a blind eye to the abuse at MAS.  Local advocates can not seem to get true reform efforts off the ground.  But somebody needs to do something.

Impeach Mayor Wharton.

Fire shelter director James Rogers and veterinarian Rebecca Coleman.

Fire every worker who was supposed to be feeding these puppies from September 4 until September 19.

Criminally charge everyone connected with the starving and death of these two puppies.

Place MAS into receivership so no more animals have to suffer and die in this abomination of an “animal shelter” while the good ol’ boys pat each other on the back.

Posting angry comments online is not going to cut it.  A candlelight vigil won’t stop these monsters from preying on more defenseless animals.  Please somebody, anybody in Memphisdo something.  Get in the face of someone who has the power to stop this cruelty and don’t take no for an answer.  Don’t send an e-mail, leave a phone message or make an appointment for next month.  Get in someone’s face and talk until they listen.  I’ve got your back.  Let me know if you need help.  I will do anything within my power.  Please just tell me someone is doing something.

48 thoughts on “MAS Continues to Starve Dogs; Puppy Cannibalizes Littermate Out of Hunger

  1. ZERO excuse for an animal to have a body score of ONE after two weeks in a “shelter.”

    Two weeks is enough time to have put weight on even the skinnier puppy – and those puppies did NOT arrive in that condition.

    Shame on Memphis.

  2. MAS, still starving puppies to death. God, will it ever end? How long was that dead puppy in there with his littermate before anyone even noticed, I wonder? We know that MAS employees are blind to dead puppies in cages, even photographing them without apparently seeing anything wrong. And we know that they’ve “forgotten” to feed whole rooms of animals for more than 24 hours at a time…

    Dr. Coleman should have been fired years ago. She’s clearly completely burnt out (assuming she ever did give a rat’s ass in the first place, she obviously doesn’t give one now, nor hasn’t in a very long time) and is enabling the continued abuses and neglect that goes on daily at MAS. Her “care” is below minimum standard, her documentation is worse than shoddy, and her ability to function as an advocate for animal health is non-existent.

    I had such hopes for Mr. Rogers. But it seems that MAS has returned to business as usual.

  3. There is no continued hope for these animals at this shelter. Please give these animals up into receivership immediately. The American public and the animals deserve to behumane. The above practices are barbic. End this now

  4. Don’t forget Hooks and Hall! Those two are guilty of allowing this to happen and ignoring all complaints brought to their desk. Get rid of them too. The buck stops with them along with the mayor.

    When is Memphis going to get busy and fight for their helpless animals? What is it going to take? How much more abuse and how many more will die before something, anything is done and this behavior is stopped? WAKE UP PEOPLE! These are your pets, your responsibility. We can’t do it for you. If we could it would already have been done. We will support you to end the cruelty at MAS. Get mad and get going. Fix this mess once and for all. Go up the line until you reach the top of STATE Government. Do not stop until you get heard.

  5. Has the media in Memphis done any investigating beyond simply reporting events as they happen? You would think that they’d be all over this. But maybe Memphis media is in the pockets of the city’s good ol’ boy network that you’ve mentioned. Also, is the MAS veterinarian stupid or just plain evil? Did she really think, even with all of the recent events and controversy, that people reviewing those records would actually believe them? I agree that the place should be SHUT DOWN!!!

  6. This place is unbelievable. Again and again, they abuse and starve pets. And puppies…..who doesn’t love a puppy. These people are sick and I just don’t understand why the people of Memphis turn a blind eye.

  7. Good Lord. That is just heartbreaking and pretty disturbing. The continuous killing going on in that place is bad enough, but no animal should have to be starved to death in the meantime. This place just keeps getting worse.

    As for the people who live in Memphis, please please PLEASE do something about this. I live in AZ, otherwise I’d be right behind you. If there is anything I can do from here, let me know. Obviously the Mayor is not going to do anything, so we should maybe try again with the Governor? And possibly anyone on any sort of police force or department of justice? I’m trying to think of anything here.

  8. It’s so disturbing that in places as different as Memphis, New York City, and Stockton, California, the problems are the same. Repeated media exposes accomplish nothing. Officials stonewall and support the shelters. And the political will to change the system has not reached an effective level. It’s awful.

  9. Is there any actual proof or evidence of starvation or is this just the instant assumption to be made? Have any other possibilities been considered & ruled out?

    1. I considered every possibility I could think of. I consulted with numerous professionals. I researched. Everything led to the same and to my mind the only reasonable conclusion: the puppy was starving to death and ate his brother out of desperation. It’s my opinion that Dr. Coleman attempted to coverup the cruelty via the records.

      1. Have you heard of EPI? It’s a rare disorder where no matter how much a dog eats, it doesn’t get “full” or gain weight. I read on their site earlier where a dog ate his OWN leg due to this disorder.

        But, this puppy at MAS did gain weight. 4 pounds in 2 weeks. That still doesn’t sound like starving.

        This is a bizarre case indeed.

      2. A BCS of 1 indicates starvation to me. Eating his littermate’s face indicates starvation to me. The only bizarre thing here is that even when abuse and coverups are exposed, some involved with MAS continue to support the abusers.

        Regarding EPI, the records were given to one of the nation’s leading shelter veterinarians and a professor of shelter medicine to rule out a medical origin for the behavior. The conclusion was that this was almost certainly “starvation resulting in cannibalization behavior.”

      3. How can they diagnose without testing the animal?
        EPI is rarely even tested for & is often misdiagnosed even when the animal is physically examined.
        The only thing not consistent with the disorder is the 4lb weight gain in 2wks, which isn’t consistent with starvation either.
        Again, the document you link to say intake 9/5 – 14lbs, review 9/8 – 17lbs, and euthanasized 9/18 – 18.4lbs.

        I’m not defending anyone, I’m just really curious about this, without jumping to conclusions.

      4. The anonymous commenter feature is for whistleblowers and similar types. Either post your real name or stop commenting. I’m not going to out you but I’m not going to allow you to continue to abuse the anonymous feature either. It is deceptive to allow people here to believe you are “just really curious” and “not defending anyone”.

      5. “Again, the document you link to say intake 9/5 – 14lbs, review 9/8 – 17lbs, and euthanasized 9/18 – 18.4lbs.”

        No, it doesn’t. We don’t know when the puppy was weighed to get the weight of 17lbs on the cage card. I don’t know when cage cards are generated, but I would have to assume that they are generated upon intake. That would mean that either two different scales were used or someone is just eyeballing the numbers to put on the cage cards.

        Without proper documentation (and MAS is chock full of improper/incomplete documentation), we cannot know what these puppies really weighed and when. Also, they clearly killed the second puppy soon enough after the event that his litter mate’s body parts were still in his gut – throw a bunch of food at a starving puppy and add water and you can easily get a weight gain of a pound or two right there just in gut contents. This does not translate to “the puppy was being fed the whole time” in any way, shape or form.

        As for EPI, please stop. I am familiar with the disease. To see EPI in a puppy this young would be worthy of an article in JVIM. To see a puppy starved to death at MAS is nothing new or novel. Don’t go grasping for zebras to explain away MAS’s criminal behavior.

      6. If these puppies were lab mixes, the weight for them seems low at 4 months! Even the weight gain of 4 pounds in 2 weeks does not seem to be enough. On a Lab forum it states they should be 35-45 lbs. and on a Pitbull forum it states 25-35 lbs. I had an older pup/younger dog tested for EPI and there are other symptoms to look for in addition to eating a lot and not gaining weight. My breed which is a hound, a puppy at 4 months should be 10-15 lbs and their adult weight should be 20-25 lbs.

  10. According to the MAS documents you link to, the puppy who cannibalized the other weighed 14 pounds at intake on 9/5, on the document stating the dog was to be euthanasized due to health & behavior on 9/19 it weighed 18 pounds.
    Gaining 4 pounds in 2 wks doesn’t sound like starvation to me.

    That is why I asked was starvation just the first assumption.

    I’ve never heard of a dog, especially a puppy, EATING another puppy. I am very curious what could possibly cause that if the puppy wasn’t starving.

    1. The weights are all over the place and could easily be the result of different scales/uncalibrated scales (I seriously doubt that anyone at MAS even knows how to calibrate a scale, let alone bothers). A BCS of 1 is very hard to explain away. A puppy eating another puppy is very hard to explain away as “behavioral”…especially with a BCS of 1…

      The fact that no sedative was given with an IC injection is extremely disturbing.

      And of course the living puppy had food in his gut – someone found the horror show, said, “Oh my God, we forgot to feed these puppies”, took the body of the dead pup out and threw some food at the living one…who was later killed for…what? Being victimized by MAS.

      But it’s ok because he was killed in an unnecessarily painful way by their “professional”.

      The level of incompetence at MAS has reached the status of perversion.

  11. While you’re letting us know about this horrific info. You do have our attention and sympathyi BUT pls. make noise and act out thered where results to end these will take place immediately. Pls.update us w/ happy endings reached.

  12. The cruelty never ends at MAS!!! It becomes quite obvious, now, why the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are not being filled in the 5 business days mandated by Mayor Wharton – this was his Executive Order for transparency in the city’s government. The city attorney’s office either ignores the requests or drags their feet filling them. I have reached out to Mayor Wharton several times to let him know…..It took almost 3 weeks to obtain this information (cannibalized puppy)….Received e-mail saying I would get the information on 10/9 – then was told they needed more time so was told to expect to receive information on 10/12…..finally information received on 10/18. My thoughts are “if you have nothing to hide- fill them quickly “…otherwise….well, we know the otherwise qute well. Great job, Shirley, for telling it like it is.

    1. If they drag their feet enough, the video will be recorded over so we don’t have a visual record of events. Their delays are intentional to hide the truth. Again.

  13. The abuse is just awful. Sickening.

    Another problem I see is this shelter’s separate set of adoption criteria for pitbulls. I’m sure this is in place to “protect” the pitbulls. A lot of good it does. Here we have two “pitbull” puppies now dead (even though someone was interested in adopting them!) because of some ridiculous adoption policies. What a shame. It’s sad that these pups were even in the shelter for two weeks. I’m sure someone would’ve adopted them right away if they were only marketed better.

  14. Mayor Wharton, Hall and Hooks……How do you sleep at night? I pray you NEVER have a pet that ends up at MAS. I hold YOU responsible for the abuse, neglect and killings at MAS!

  15. I want to heave….I am so sick to my stomach! How do these people live with clean hearts? They should be held responsible to the fullest, from the mayor to the staff responsible for care/feeding. I can’t say anymore because I’m so repulsed, I can’t think.

  16. In light of this most recent unholy news from MAS I would like to gently remind everyone that the trial for the Sheriff’s raid of the MAS finally starts up on oct 22 12. The raid happened back in 2009.

    As an animal loving Tennessean I am going to try and do my part in terms of trying to learn more of the trial and writing to the judge. However, I’ve not yet learned anything past the start up date for the trial and I have a feeling that the media might not fully cover it or something since it has not yet been written of all soo much.

    With this most recent incident alone, it is like that doggie did not have some rare disease which results in wasting or any such thing as that. That doggie was starved out and sadly regressed (for lack of a better way of phrasing things) to an almost feral state because they were just that hungry. That is my more like homespun interpretation of the reporting Miss Shirley made.

    So the bottom line is that the MAS has to somehow be held accountable for their unholy abuses of all animals they take in and eventually kill. A small number of the animals they take in make it out alive for goodness sake. I think that the upcoming trial alone should be national news but because of how far gone Memphis city government is like I don’t even know if the trial will be reported on locally.

  17. Perhaps you should pray that their animals DO end up at MAS. Only then would they know the horror that occurs there daily. Not to wish abuse on any animal but it would open their eyes and make it hit home.

    That corrupt government must be replaced with one who does work for all the residents, including the four legged ones. Only the people of Memphis can do that!

  18. IT is so EASY to get HARD evidence if you are a worker! We need to try and get jobs there..any job..just for the purpose of getting evidence!

    1. They’ll get involved if doing so will benefit their bottom line, otherwise they’ll say flat out “No Problem Here!” Of course, if they do, their answer will be more killing. The solution lies squarely on the shoulders of the people of Memphis. This week in Rio, a video was released of a dog groomer beating clients’ dogs. Angry animal lovers stormed the shop, ending the abuse immediately. I’m sorry, but if this was my local shelter, I would be camped on the front lawn. The silence in Memphis is deafening.

      1. Those angry animal lovers not only stopped the abuse immediately, the landlord kicked them out and their license was dropped. They are hiding in shame.

        I doubt Memphis city government has any shame at all or this wouldn’t be allowed to go on.

  19. I started to read this.. got past the part about the stomach contents.. and I was done.. this I can not take.. there are no more time for excuses. this has to be stopped.

  20. After resuming pulling from a high kill shelter-I had Stopped 5 years ago because the cost to our small rescue of always sick animals due to improper protocol-got new blood in and thought it had changed- wrong!! Last 40 pulled have progressively been sicker and sicker the last didn’t even make it from the “shelter” to foster.
    I am convienced that just like women’s right to vote and civil rights- these muni taxpayer funded shelters will NOT change without Natl. legislation setting standards for care. Nathan says leadership must change- I agree- but they need to be forced to change and only Federal law can hold their feet to the fire.
    I am getting a lot of flack about this from those who want to downsize govt- and I believe it needs to be. However I see no other way to raise the standards as local officials continue to dismiss our voices for the voiceless.

    1. It seems to me that people who want to “downsize government” generally do it because they dont care about whatever it is you want to legislate. If it wasnt for more government and laws, youre right, we wouldnt have things like womens right to vote or civil rights. Sometimes you have to legislate morality because otherwise, no one speaks up.

  21. “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

  22. If this were the first time that horrific news from Memphis Animal Services were reported, I would have a shadow of a doubt that this really occurred. However, MAS has a history of abusing animals. In fact, Dr. Angela Middleton will be tried in court today because of the Nov. 2009 raid on MAS, along with former shelter director Ernest Alexander. Middleton is the former veterinarian at Memphis Animal Services who was charged with animal cruelty following a 2009 raid prompted by allegations that animals were being abused and neglected.

    In Feb. 2012, an animal control officer at Memphis Animal Services stated that she found several “court case” dogs who were emaciated and sickly. The report also said the animal control officer advised management on several occasions that the animals were not being fed or cared for, and after telling management, no one took action.

    However, the horror continues at this high kill facility, as reported in this latest example, and this is just a “day in the life” at MAS. The public will respond with their usual knee jerk reaction of horror and then by the end of the week, they will be lulled back into that false sense of security that the media has reported it, and someone else is taking care of these issues.

    Mayor Wharton has come to expect this cyclic reaction and the City Council has followed suit with his apathy. MAS Interim Director James Rogers needs to be terminated immediately. MAS Vet Rebecca Coleman needs to be terminated and her license revoked. The two employees who still remain at MAS who witnessed animal abuse in the euthanasia room by Frank Lightfoot, Archie Elliott and Billy Stewart need to be terminated.

    Memphis Animal Services needs a deep house-cleaning that is well overdue and the citizens of Memphis who fund this facility with their taxes need to rise up and demand that change to happen…today!

  23. People of Memphis, the ball is in your hands. Please do as suggested. It’s time to stop these monsters! Get rid of them! Fight for these poor defenseless animals! Only you can do it!
    Please end the torture! It’s time!

  24. I am a resident of Memphis and am truly ashamed of the so called shelter. There is absolutely no regard for the care of animals. If any one is reading this message in Memphis or the surrounding area, please let me know if you are interested in supporting a group in enact change!! The time now and the dogs and cats are counting on us!!!

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