Another Former MAS Employee Convicted of Animal Cruelty

Billy Stewart, the former Memphis pound worker whom the city repeatedly defended when he was caught hurting shelter pets, has been convicted of animal cruelty:

A jury found Billy Stewart, 29, guilty of four counts of aggravated cruelty and one misdemeanor charge of cruelty.

An undercover officer testified in court this week that Stewart would sometimes choke dogs into unconsciousness as he led them to the room where they would be euthanized.

According to the officer, this happened to at least five dogs between December 2011 and February 2012.

Stewart denied the allegations and claimed that aggressive dogs sometimes choked themselves with the noose of the catch pole as they tried to break free from its hold. He also said he was not given proper training for the job.

And without proper training, Mr. Stewart didn’t know it was wrong to choke dogs until they passed out?  Gee, I can’t imagine why it only took a jury 3 hours to find him guilty.

The undercover officer witnessed Mr. Stewart choking dogs in a metal noose on five occasions.  Frank Lightfoot, also convicted of animal cruelty in the same undercover operation, witnessed and testified to four of the events.  The 5th dog, whom the undercover officer witnessed being tortured by Mr. Stewart, was not given the same justice as the other four and the jury returned a misdemeanor count on the crimes against that pet.  Who knew a convicted animal abuser’s testimony carried so much weight in the eyes of the jury?

The Commercial Appeal reported information new to the general public:  In addition to MAS providing chokepoles to workers, there is also a squeeze gate on the wall in the kill room, which can be used to restrain large, human-aggressive dogs.  Although the use of such devices should be extremely rare in any shelter, we know based on security camera footage and webcam images from other areas of MAS that workers have misused chokepoles on many dogs in the facility.  I can only imagine how that squeeze gate has been used and I feel sorry for any dogs who spent their last conscious moments on this earth in that thing at MAS.  It is undoubtedly one of the reasons the city refuses to place a camera in the kill room, where at least some of the employees who witnessed pets being tortured and did nothing still work.

The four felony counts each carry up to two years in prison, though Stewart is eligible to ask for diversion or probation when he is sentenced next month by Judge Paula Skahan.
He also was convicted of one count of misdemeanor cruelty that carries up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
Stewart, who showed no reaction to the verdicts, remains free on bond.

I will post about Mr. Stewart’s sentencing next month.  The other two MAS workers caught in the same undercover operation were Archie Elliott and Frank Lightfoot. In October 2012, they pleaded guilty to six counts of aggravated animal cruelty and requested diversion so that they would not have to serve time in prison and could have their records wiped clean in future.  The judge denied this request, sentencing Mr. Elliott to 2 years and Mr. Lightfoot to 20 days in prison on the weekends.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

17 thoughts on “Another Former MAS Employee Convicted of Animal Cruelty

  1. And now that we have convictions on all, can we PLEASE fire the witnesses who did nothing, said nothing, and went on with their days like it was all fine for YEARS of this kind of abuse?

    Put a camera in the kill room. Turn the webcams back on. TRANSPARENCY. It’s the only way to prevent the future from being exactly the same as the past, jackasses.

    1. Though I fear I cannot stand being a part of the same race as these people, I feel I must speak up. Too many of these same types of cruelties have occurred and I have read about to not be outraged. This man is sick. And I feel the system is broken. After reading all of the stories of cruelty to animals in shelters, I feel as though it is so big and it is just going to continue. Constant surveillance of the area is necessary. Turn the cameras on. TURN THEM THE FUCK ON!!! Carson City Animal Services is now under scrutiny for killing a pet whose owner was too poor to pay the fee for release, even though he begged for them to wait until her husband got paid two days later, and she, according to her daughter’s posts, offered to then pay any extra fees that may be incurred for the extra days there. Instead, they killed.
      This is an entirely different scenario. This man is sick. Who allowed him to be employed there? PEOPLE WHO WORK THERE GET OFF ON KILLING ANIMALS!!!
      But what can we do?
      One of the same scenarios (a woman asking for more time to pick up her beloved pet, who was killed regardless) has happened several times in the Grand Rapids Michigan area, and nothing ever came from it.
      I am glad this man (these men- if you can call them that at ALL) went to jail.

  2. This guy still has excuses and doesn’t think he did anything wrong. That scares me as much as what he has done (and will likely continue to do).
    I agree that everyone who knew what was happening and didn’t stop it should be fired NOW! And I agree that the cameras need to be turned on and that includes one in the kill room.
    But to do that would mean they are serious about cleaning up the cesspool that is MAS.
    What about it, Mayor Wharton? Are you willing to make the changes necessary to have a true “shelter”? Or will the killing, torture and abuse continue?
    Time will tell . . .

  3. there should always be two or more signatures on a euth order to avoid questionable activity as much as possible. people need to be careful who they put in place to care for animals just like they do for children to avoid predators that seek out jobs that put them in positions with easy access. another thing that these predators look for are free animals to be given away in newspapers, craigslist and sometimes even shelters because abusers come in all packages and they don’t all look alike. when animals are given away free then many times the public won’t put a value on that animal’s life either and they dispose of easily or even worse. there was a Texas shelter advertising free adoptions this weekend that concerned many for this very reason. i’ll share the link:

      1. i still think they would have just as much success if they reduced the fee to even $25. I think waived adoptions are fine for programs like senior pets for senior citizens etc but i think even a small fee would deter some of the abuser/predators and still attract a large adoption yield because $25 isn’t that much to ask considering all the vetting etc that is usually done prior. adoption specials like adopt one and get second fee waived for taking a pair is all fine to me but i’d still like to see at least a $20-$25 fee charged for the vetting costs just to prevent someone will ill intentions from getting their hands on a pet and harm it.

      2. In Memphis, taxpayers PAY PEOPLE to harm the shelter pets. I’m far less worried about adopters. Picture ID, run the name for cruelty convictions online, good to go.

      3. Maybe if they ran the names for cruelty convictions of employees…

      4. We waive adoption fees several times a year for special events. There is no statistic that supports the argument that “free” animals are less valuable.
        By the way, we waived all adoption fees for June, 11 ;-)
        Speaking of, MAS does participate in the Just One Day campaign. That would be a good opportunity for MAS to hold a great adoption event. At least it would be something positive from MAS for a change.

  4. They have Yappy Hour on Thursdays where pets are half price. I heard that all the employees that testified came wearing their uniforms proudly, with name tags. I believe we can’t go from worst to first until all shelter employees are replaced with competent animal advocates. MAS is still a horrible, horrible, place. They are rude when you go inside and you are not allowed to see any animals without supervision of a staff employee. It’s a sham and I’ll keep supporting SOS (Save our Shelter) with my time at peaceful protests and money when I have it. Memphians need to continue to implore Mayor Wharton to get involved and stop hiding behind his desk on this issue!!!

  5. Peter- I know of several emails that have been sent to Rogers about Just One Day… He has repeatedly been asked how he would “celebrate ” that day. He was asked what kind of marketing campaign had been put together to promote June 11th. We gave him several suggestions……. He said the media was contacted- I didn’t believe him ( why would I?) so we contacted one of the news stations and they had no idea what we were talking about. Rogers was quick to tell us that new shirts were ordered for July 11th…. You know that new shirts save the pets, rights?! ( sarcasm). MAS will stay open one hour later on the 11th. As of yesterday, not one mention on the city’s website. Epic Failure!

  6. mikken – Yes, they were closed last year and when it was brought up at the MAS Advisory Board Meeting, that nothing had been done – and he was told how other shelters handled things that day – he PROMISED (need to find the minutes from the meeting to get his exact wording) this year, he would make sure he acknolwedged the day and market it, etc.
    By the way – I think I saw on FMAS FB page, the shelter would NOT be open any exteneded hours, which means, he lied – WHAT?! Say, it’s not so! (more sarcasm).

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