When sheriff’s deputies raided the Memphis Animal Shelter in 2009 and found dogs starved to death, the director, veterinarian and a supervisor were all charged with animal cruelty. The veterinarian, Angela Middleton, was the first to be tried. She had been charged with aggravated animal cruelty and last night, a jury acquitted her on all 6 counts.
During the trial, Tracy Dunlap, a tech at the pound, and Jeanne Chancellor, a volunteer, both testified that supplies, including food, were short at MAS in the summer of 2009:
[T]he animals were supposed to have been fed twice a day [but workers] were instructed by [director Ernie] Alexander to feed only once a day, Dunlap said when questioned by prosecutor Chris West.
MAS volunteer Jeanne Chancellor told the court Middleton was aware of the food shortage that summer of 2009 and advised volunteers on how to lure the alpha dogs to the front of the cages so canned foods could be tossed to the less dominant dogs at the back of the kennels.
Chancellor said the shelter was low on everything, including toilet paper, and that Middleton had even asked the volunteers for help with medical supplies.
In an interview with investigators, recorded on the day of the raid in 2009, Angela Middleton said she had reported her concerns about worsening conditions at MAS and specifically about the poor quality of the food, to the director and supervisor (both of whom await trial on animal cruelty charges).
Another MAS volunteer offered similar testimony:
[S]helter volunteer Eleanor Gipson testified that the shelter and clinic were “at a complete standstill” in the summer of 2009 due to the lack of food and supplies. She said she e-mailed city public services director Moody about the shortages.
A defense witness, Gipson said Middleton tried to help increase the food for the skinnier animals by giving the volunteers cards to post on the cages that said that they needed extra feedings.
It took the jury just 4 hours to acquit Angela Middleton.
What remains unclear to me is how shelter staff and volunteers who saw dogs starving right in front of them and who were feeding them insufficient quality and/or quantities of food to keep them alive were never charged and in fact, continue to care for pets at MAS. Perhaps this is part of the reason why dogs are still apparently starving at MAS in 2012.