An Open Letter to the People of Memphis
August 12, 2011
The head of your city’s pet killing facility is leaving. Change is upon you. What are your expectations and goals? And more importantly, what is your plan to get there?
I am asking you to tell us because, as we have demonstrated these many months, we are able and willing to mobilize to support your efforts from afar. We will write letters, make phone calls, raise money, crosspost pets, and do anything else we can from our home states. Just let us know how we can best help you.
Many readers who have dedicated themselves to assisting in Memphis reform efforts from outside the state of TN have expressed frustration and concern as to the apparent lack of leadership and boots on the ground action in Memphis. I share in these concerns but I also realize that we outsiders don’t know everything that may be happening in Memphis. So tell us. Who are your leaders? What are your plans? We stand ready to back you up.
And if no clear leaders have emerged yet in your movement and no solid plans have been put into place – don’t worry, it’s not too late. That can change today. I’ll leave a sign up sheet on the bulletin board and anyone who has the desire to make a commitment to reform can just write in their names. And Ryan Clinton, no kill advocate in Austin, has a plan outline ready for you to customize and set in motion:
It is a story as old as our movement. The shelter in your community is killing large numbers of animals, the quality of care in the shelter is low, and the bureaucracy that oversees the shelter appears indifferent. A group of advocates wants the shelter to stop the needless killing and to start treating the animals as they deserve. But everywhere they turn—to the City Council or County Commissioners, to the media, to the large national organizations like the ASPCA or Humane Society of the United States—leads to nowhere. They get excuses, “It’s pet overpopulation,” “It’s the public’s fault,” “There is nothing we can do.” But someone has to do something, you think. That someone is you.
Austin’s success was not the result of “community collaboration,” as others have suggested. It was the result of a fight. A fight against the powers-that-be. A fight against indecency and uncaring that took place every time an animal was injected with poison from a bottle marked “Fatal-plus.” It was also a fight over community values and priorities, and it was a fight for access to the animals that the shelter wrongly deemed “unadoptable” and “unwanted.”
Nothing happens without leadership. Achieving No Kill success in your community depends on individuals willing to take on the difficult task of fighting for change. But do not go looking for “someone to do something.” That “someone” is you. In Austin, a handful of people with busy, hectic lives including full-time jobs, companion animals, relationships, and more, fought for a No Kill Austin and ultimately prevailed. You can do it, too.
I ask again – What are your expectations Memphis? Do not be constrained by the learned helplessness that comes from years of being told “It can’t be done here.” Do not accept the low bar set by the city politicians who proudly send to the media a video of inept MAS workers mishandling dogs and beating them with steel poles on their way to the kill room. Hey look – they weren’t involved in organized dogfighting – huzzah! Yay us!
In any other city, the politicians would be ashamed of the negligence and cruelty exhibited by their own trained professional animal handlers on this video. Heads would roll and taxpayers would be reassured that their tax dollars would not continue to fund this blatant negligence. But Mayor Wharton and friends display the video without shame and in fact, wag their finger at anyone who expressed concern over the dogs who were mishandled, beaten and killed.
You can do better than this Memphis. Much better. Set your own goals. Meet your own standards. It’s a new day. We’ve all got your back. We believe in you. Tell us who to look to for direction and how we can help. We are standing by.
People of Memphis – we need YOU to stop the abuse and killing at your pound.