Cats Chemically Burned by Unsupervised Inmates at Memphis Pound

On May 31, 2015, a kitten named Snowflake, ID # 277907, was sprayed with an undiluted cleaning chemical (San-O-128) by an unsupervised inmate at Memphis Animal Services.  She suffered painful chemical burns on her legs, tongue and mouth.  She was treated by an outside veterinarian and survived.  This is security camera footage, obtained via FOIA request, of Snowflake being burned with the chemical by the unsupervised inmate at MAS.  (Note:  I edited this video to show both incidences of the kitten being sprayed with the chemical.)

On June 1, 2015, a one year old cat named Sydney, ID #277271, was also abused by the same unsupervised inmate at MAS.  She suffered painful chemical burns on her eyes, tongue, mouth and ears.  Sydney was treated by an outside veterinarian and survived.  (Warning: The video below depicts animal abuse and readers will find it disturbing.)

A month and a half later, it was noted in Sydney’s medical record by the MAS vet that she has a corneal defect:

Portion of MAS records for cat ID #277271.
Portion of MAS records for cat ID #277271.

On June 5, 2015, an owner was trying to reclaim his spayed, 10 year old cat called Uptimus (ID #278237) from MAS.  Due to the mandatory spay-neuter law in Memphis, MAS refused to release the cat without verifying a spay scar.  Uptimus had spent her whole life as an indoor pet and was very scared at the pound.  She would not allow a stranger to shave and examine her abdomen and so MAS continued to hold her until the veterinary staff could sedate her for an exam.

While Uptimus was waiting to go home, another inmate, also unsupervised, intentionally sprayed her with the same undiluted cleaning chemical used by the inmate in the previous videos to hurt the other 2 cats.  Uptimus was trapped in her cage and could not escape her torturer.  (Warning:  Although Uptimus can not be seen in the video, some readers will find it disturbing.)

Uptimus, her face swollen as a result of chemical burns, at MAS.
Uptimus, her face swollen as a result of chemical burns, at MAS.

Uptimus was found on June 6 wedged between the feral box and the side of her cage with severe facial swelling, severe drooling, and suffering from severe dehydration.  MAS staff determined she had been exposed to the undiluted cleaning chemical and sent her to an emergency vet clinic.  At the emergency clinic, Uptimus had an IV catheter placed as well as a feeding tube as her mouth was so swollen, she was unable to eat normally.  X-rays revealed she was suffering from chemical pneumonia.  She was found dead in her cage at 2am.

In light of the abuse which MAS failed to prevent and the terrible suffering endured by Uptimus as a result of this abuse, it is very difficult to read the notes from MAS staff members regarding their interactions with the pet’s owner, Mr. Kotee:

Portion of MAS records for Uptimus, cat ID #278237.
Portion of MAS records for Uptimus, cat ID #278237.

MAS staff wasn’t any nicer to Mr. Kotee after his pet died either:

Portion of MAS records for Uptimus, cat ID #278237.
Portion of MAS records for Uptimus, cat ID #278237.

I am so sorry for the needless heartbreak Mr. Kotee must be suffering. MAS management should have followed protocol and supervised inmates at all times. Instead inmates were left alone with cats to hurt them. And then MAS staff treated the owner like he was second class. I can absolutely understand Mr. Kotee not wanting to give these people his ID. MAS staff are apparently sticklers for following the rules when it comes to EVERYONE EXCEPT THEMSELVES.

Records for Snowflake and Uptimus, obtained via FOIA request, can be read here.  Additional records on Snowflake and Uptimus, as well as records for Sydney, can be read here.

A local paper reported that both inmates were charged with animal cruelty.  On July 11, a shelter supervisor who allowed the inmates to work unsupervised – a failure which resulted in the torture and death of a beloved pet and painful injuries to two other cats – received a written reprimand from MAS.  A second supervisor also received a written reprimand but it was rescinded 2 weeks later by MAS director James Rogers.

Number of cats chemically burned by inmates whom MAS staff failed to supervise:  three.  Number of cats who died as a result of their injuries:  one.  Number of MAS staffers who lost their job as a result:  zero.

How many more, Memphis?

27 thoughts on “Cats Chemically Burned by Unsupervised Inmates at Memphis Pound

  1. I almost threw up while reading this. Doesn’t anyone give a flying fuck at the place? Why hasn’t MAS been put on lockdown? This place needs to be shut down and all employees need to pay the price for all the abuse. I HATE THIS FUCKING PLACE!!!!


  2. Inmates were to be supervised AT ALL TIMES not only for the animals’ safety, but also for the staff/volunteer safety.

    This is James Rogers “saving money” by getting free labor. But hey, MAS has a history of paying animal abusers quite a lot of money, so yeah, I guess he’s saving money. Just as long as you don’t care about the ongoing torture, I guess.

    Those poor cats. That poor man who is now mourning the horrible, painful loss of his pet – and being shafted by MAS again because they just don’t understand this concept we call compassion.

    How could no one be fired for this?


  3. Whenever I read a vile story about MAS, which is frequently, it reminds me of “the emporer’s new clothes”. Everyone KNOWS MAS tortures animals but nobody is willing to actually address it. The local and state government is content to look the other way. Why has nothing substantial been done to make MAS safe for animals? I wish Nathan Winograd would wage war on them.


  4. As a Memphian and an animal lover this infuriates me. Step 1 in change is ditching AC Wharton b/c he hasn’t held Rogers accountable. I plan to make sure I cast my vote to that effect.


    1. Wharton is the head of this whole fiasco. He knows what’s going on, has been called out for it many times (often from people who are readers here) and he just doesn’t care. There were once video cameras and because they caught on video exactly what was happening, the cameras were turned off (or footage happened to be erased or something). Wharton knows, Rogers knows, everyone knows but these things continue to happen. I believe Memphis Pets Alive is trying very hard to help as much as they can. I encourage those in Memphis who are concerned to get the word out and get involved. I, for one, will never set my foot in your city because of the awfulness of what goes on there. Step 1 is getting the word out and getting people together to fight these atrocities. Awareness then action!


  5. I’ve been wondering what many of the commenters have been wondering: when is someone going to do something about MAS, and James Rogers? Do these stories ever make the local news in Memphis? Or do they just get swept under the corruption rug? Memphis has wrung taxpayers dry, I’m sure there is enough money to hire some decent people to staff this place. Well, maybe not, since Memphis adminstrators don’t seem to know how to manage the tax money they’ve gotten other than to stick it in their own pockets or the pockets of their friends.


    1. There is some local news coverage on MAS but not as much you’d think. I wonder if some citizens are suffering from a form of PTSD where they’ve seen and read about so much animal abuse at the pound, they no longer experience the kind of outrage they would otherwise.


      1. I think YesBiscuit is exactly right. The locals probably do have PTSD or are desensitized. I remember when I first moved to Memphis- the local news was horrifying: graphic accounts of child abuse, murder, abductions every night. Then it gradually lost its shock value. I no longer live there but Memphis has so many issues the people probably are overwhelmed and don’t even know where to start.


  6. I am unable to call up the video. I would watch it if I could… and I know what would be left of me afterward… Something terrible is happening, after years of animal advocacy (and environmental/social) activism: I cannot even get angry any more. I can’t even make a fist. I can hardly bring myself to take any kind of action ~ after working hard and energetically to save animals from abandonment, murder in and out of shelters, and torture by sick individuals, communities, businesses and industries… I keep trying to drag myself through it. But I am watching my spirit die a slow, horrible death because I just can not find a way to live with the reality of what people can and will do to other living beings. I don’t know what to do. I am of no use to any cause in this condition and I must do something about it. Do you have a blog going on this topic? Or know of a page or site where people can find and share support in surviving the horror we must face in order to change these inconceivable realities?


  7. I am not tech savvy but would love to cut and paste this article and james rogers name on to the Memphis tourism page . Hmm… will experiment with!


  8. Throw those scumbag jailbirds UNDER the jail. They should not be unsupervised. I would never want to live down there. And as the cat owner, I would lose my sh*t and go off on a new level . Their little “notes” would be very interesting by the time I am done ripping all of them a new a**hole for killing my pet and being so HEARTLESS. Kindness takes less energy than being a prick your whole life and….guess what? You actually might FEEL GOOD about yourself to BE KIND and not such an A**HOLE!!


  9. THis was so hard to read – just despicable!!!! Thank you for sharing so the world continues to see what an epic failure MAS is!


  10. One of several infuriating things about this whole mess is that it happened over and over. They find the chemically burned cat, get her treated, then they find the next chemically burned cat, get her treated, then they STILL don’t bother doing their jobs supervising the inmates, giving them free access to animals. Then they find the third chemically burned cat, who dies, and their response at that point is oh gee, I guess maybe we should write up some type of reprimand or whatevs. NO ACCOUNTABILITY for these repeated violations. And yet they hold Mr. Kotee to the exact letter of the law, not yielding an inch, because rules is rules.


    1. Well, the public is irresponsible, don’t you know. They’re not “professionals” like the staff at MAS.

      Never mind that Mr. Kotee’s cat WAS spayed and should have been released immediately.

      I wonder if anyone even bothered to take him aside and tell him that they were sorry…you know, just basic human compassion?


  11. MAS says they no longer use inmates BUT petition for director, James Rogers to be removed and fired! He has also been entangled in improper euths at that shelter. Can someone start a petition?Write to the board of supervisors: Jeanne Chancellor
    Jill Madajczyk
    Stephen Tower
    Taurus Bailey
    2350 Appling City Cove
    Memphis, TN 38133
    Phone: 901-636-1416


    1. I find it hard to believe anything mas says. Is this the same Jeanne who was working with the “friends” group? If so, she’s on the same page as mas. I applaud you for doing something.


      1. The very same Jeanne Chancellor who hid behind a wall with Tracey Dunlap, laughing and peeking around the corner while a VOLUNTEER risked her own safety to get Mario into a transfer cage. She came to see a show, perhaps hoping that a kind, compassionate person would be mauled by a feral dog – she watched and giggled at another person taking a risk, but kept well out of harm’s way herself and never once offered to help.

        The same Jeanne Chancellor who has stayed with and supported the powers that be at MAS while horrific abuses continued on day after day. The same Jeanne Chancellor who held a small dog up by one leg while she sprayed that dog down with flea spray because she was “helping”.

        Don’t count on her for compassion. Ever.


  12. Dear Shirley ~

    I very much appreciate your sending me the link to the blog about coping with the heartbreak entailed in trying to work for animal rescue and advocy. I can not log in to comment on the page, and have been unsuccessful in trying to reset my password using either my name (as it appears on your blog pages) or my email address (to which you send notices about new blogs).

    In fact I find that today, I can not call up any YesBiscuit! pages which are not already open (I’m trying to click on links in emails from you, and it is not working; All I see is ‘Page Not Found’).

    Can you advise me as to whether I should wait for site maintenance of some kind on your end, or if there is something else I can do to retrieve or reset my password so I can log in successfully?A few questions about guidelines:

    Do you mind if I share the link to the blog page ‘How Do You Cope?’ with a friend or two who are feeling the heartache?

    Would it be appropriate or not to share it on a fB page, if the topic comes up?

    On another note: I am aware of some really sickening kill (as many as you can) practices at places such as San Antonio ACS ~ a real death camp, of which I know you are aware, where hundreds of animals are slaughtered several times a week, with no discrimination concerning the health (or pregnancy) of animals, the need for space (not), or the status of peoples’ attempts to place an adoption hold on an animal. Clayton County AC, Manhattan ACC, Orange Cty. AS, and Miami-Dade AS are also abominations, and there are more I find out about as I go.

    I have wondered whether it would be appropriate for me to suggest to people struggling to save animals at San Antonio ACS that I mention this page to them as a location for documenting abuses by S.A. ACS director Kathy Davis, the recent defeat of a Senate bill (1781) making it illegal to kill healthy animals when kennel space is available (by an out-of-district congressman whose area of jurisdiction was unrelated and (relatively) unaffected by the bill, for no apparent reason other than a grievance against a recent ruling in favor of the opposing party, the struggling attempts of San Antonio advocates to work with a new board member who is extremely interested in ameliorating the situation, but for some reason their efforts are not adding up. I have also considered sharing what I have seen on your site about San Antonio ACS in past with some of these indivduals so they might add it to their case against Kathy Davis’ abuses as shelter director. I wanted to ask you first whether this would be something you would be comfortable with or not.

    Sorry for throwing all this into one email!

    Thank you for the wonderful work you are doing. I hope your page (&/or my connection to it) is up and running again smoothly very soon.


    Claudia Rullman


    1. Hi Claudia,

      I am not sure that I am completely understanding the problems you are having with commenting. Obviously you were able to comment on this post but apparently are unable to do so on some other posts. Can you tell me what happens when you attempt to comment on the posts where you are having trouble? If I know some specifics, I can search the WordPress help forums.

      Also, yes – please share anything on the blog you think might be useful to anyone trying to save animals. I always appreciate people sharing the blog because it means someone likes what I wrote enough to think it might interest someone else.



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