Retaliation: Volunteer Dog Walker at MAS Banned Due to My Post
May 21, 2012
Regular readers may remember Jody Fisher’s story of how she was fired from volunteering at MAS last year because, per then director Matt Pepper, she wasn’t “on the same page” as the pet killing facility. After James Rogers took over as interim director, Ms. Fisher asked if she would be allowed to walk dogs at the pound. She received permission and was told she would only be allowed to walk dogs in the adoption area and not the healthy hold area (both are open to the public). On April 7, 2012, things began to unravel. Ms. Fisher writes:
I happened across a mama dog who appeared to be lactating –filled with milk – to the point it was painful to look at her. She looked so sad. I had no idea if she had puppies (somewhere) or she was pregnant and about to give birth. I took her picture because no one was around to ask and I had NO idea about pregnant or post pregnant dogs.
When I got to the lobby, I showed Jeanne Chancellor [head of the "Friends" volunteer group] the photo and she shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t know anything about the dog. There was no concern from her. I went home and couldn’t get this dog out of my head, so the next day (Easter Sunday) I posted her picture on my FB page and asked – “Where are her pups?” I did not accuse anyone of doing anything with them – had NO idea what her situation was. Yesbiscuit also posted her picture. I then sent James Rogers an e-mail and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply.
This is the e-mail Ms. Fisher sent to James Rogers:
From: jody fisher
Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2012 11:52 AM
To: Rogers, James
Cc: Beamon, Chelton; Dunlap, Tracy
Subject: Very concerned about mama dog – just had puppies – alone at MAS
I apologize for e-mailing you on this holiday. I wish for you and your family a blessed Easter!
When at the shelter yesterday, I saw a mama dog who’s teets (sp?) where so engourged with milk – looked absolutely painful. There were no puppies with her. Her ID#239268. I asked Jeanne Chancellor about her and she didn’t think it was critical. When I got home, I researched and found that is emotionally and physically painful for animals to not be able to nurse their offspring (just like humans). The card said she was a stray, She came into the shelter yesterday. Her puppies need her in order to survive (where are they?). I , as a few more of my animal-friendly-friends, will go to the place she was picked up and look for her puppies. Time is of the essence. If we can’t get that information, we could alleviate her pain by offering her a motherless pup. There is a 12 day old pup, on Petharbor – ID# 239198. Maybe this would work?! Can you help to make this situation right?
Again, I am sorry to interrupt your holiday, but I think this is most critical.
Thank you and look forward to hearing back from you,
Mr. Rogers sent the following reply:
Subject: RE: Very concerned about mama dog – just had puppies – alone at MAS
To: Jody Fisher
Date: Sunday, April 8, 2012, 12:37 PM
I have reviewed the matter. The 12 day old pup has parvo and cannot be exposed to other dogs.
The mama dog was brought in over the intake counter with no further information on origin.
We have no other motherless pups to allow her to nurse. We will continue to monitor. Thanks you for your concern.
Behind Ms. Fisher’s back, Christi Long was feeding Mr. Rogers false information about the question I had asked on this blog about where the mama dog’s puppies might be:
From: “Christi L.”
To: James Rogers
Subject: Link to originator of the false info about mama dog
Date: Sun, 8 Apr 2012 13:07:15 -0500
Sent from my iPad
From: “Christi L.”
To: James Rogers
Subject: Facebook page that shared the incorrect info on mama dog
Date: Sun, 8 Apr 2012 13:10:32 -0500
This Facebook page re-posted the original blog about mama dog on Yesbiscuit.
Now it is being circulated by numerous people.
I will continue to explain the actual situation and that they have the wrong facts and have been mislead by Ms. Thistlethwaite of Yesbiscuit.
Sent from my iPad
After reading Christi Long’s e-mails, Mr. Rogers apparently became angry with Jody Fisher, who is not, nor has she ever been, responsible for the content of my blog. Mr. Rogers fired off this angry e-mail to Ms. Fisher, copying several other people:
From: Rogers, James
Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2012 1:29 PM
To: Fisher Jody
Cc: Hooks, Director Janet; Hall, LaSonya; Dunlap, Tracy; email@example.com
Subject: FW: Very concerned about mama dog – just had puppies – alone at MAS
I am concerned about the latest portrayal of MAS on Yesbiscuit.
This is not what MAS is about. I have explained our mission to you in person. You assured me you understood our goals and objectives.
You agreed with the changes being made. You stated you are willing to help MAS if needed.
MAS is doing everything within its power to care for the animals entrusted to us. You, yourself, walk animals here to assist us. You are trusted and given open admission. You stated you wanted to help. But to give incorrect statements about the employees and the impoundment of animals here at MAS is inconceivable and inflammatory.
The allegations on the attached are disheartening to say the least.
I am truly disappointed.
James M. Rogers
Approximately one week later, Ms. Fisher received a certified letter from the city, dated April 10, revoking her dog walking privileges and unescorted access to the kennels at MAS. In addition to citing my post on the blog about the mama dog which again, Ms. Fisher bears no responsibility for (and which I stand behind), the letter referred to an incident at MAS on April 7th. Ms. Fisher was allegedly observed attempting to walk dogs in the stray area on that day. The letter goes on to say that Ms. Fisher offered to sit in a dog’s kennel in lieu of walking the dog and that Chelton Beamon admonished her about these attempts.
Ms. Fisher contends that she never attempted to walk dogs in the stray area on April 7 or any other day, that she never explained she wanted to sit in a dog’s kennel, and that Chelton Beamon never spoke to her about these alleged incidents. In an effort to prove that these allegations were false, Ms. Fisher requested from the city, copies of the security camera footage showing all the dog kennels for the hours she was there on April 7. She filed the request with subject line “FOIA – Memphis Animal Services – Video – DO NOT OVERWRITE!“ Despite several follow up attempts to protect the footage from being overwritten, none of which were acknowledged by the city, Ms. Fisher ultimately received a response that the footage had been overwritten.
At that point, Ms. Fisher wrote a letter to Mr. Rogers in response to the allegations and requesting to have her dog walking privileges reinstated. She included a link to a video she made at MAS on April 7th where an employee can be heard in the background telling her not to walk the dog she is filming. Ms. Fisher replies that she was not going to attempt to walk the dog. The video shows Ms. Fisher petting the dog from outside the cage.
Mr. Rogers replied to this letter as follows:
From: James Rogers
Date: April 26, 2012 8:21:52 AM CDT
To: Jody Fisher
Subject: RE: Certified Letter from Tracy Dunlap
You are not a volunteer. I allowed you to walk the animals at MAS because you had been a volunteer. It was a privilege granted to you because you came and asked me personally. Those privileges have been revoked. Friends of Memphis Animal Services is the sole entity that is allowed to walk animals for MAS at this time. You are a valued member of this community and I respect all your rights and privileges as a private citizen to visit MAS. You will be escorted by a volunteer or an employee as any visitor to this facility. You may also help to place animals that are in the adoption area and in the healthy hold area. I have explained to you personally and in emails that if you have an issue or see anything wrong in this facility you should speak to me. If the issue is not corrected immediately then you can take whatever course you deem necessary.
As far as the “YesBiscuits” posting, it was a negative for MAS. Had we been given an opportunity to address the issue you would have seen the positive outcome listed below. No opportunity was given. It was just posted. The inflammatory damage had been done. It is not fair to this city, its citizens and the employees and volunteers to have our image tarnished without merit. So I do understand your frustration. If it is deserving then so be it.
We are moving in a positive direction and I wish to have you aboard, but not under these circumstances. If you wish to discuss this further, I will speak to you in person, my door is always open to you.
James M. Rogers
So while MAS turns down volunteer dog walking services from Jody Fisher, we learn that “Friends of Memphis Animal Services is the sole entity that is allowed to walk animals for MAS at this time.” How many “Friends” are there walking dogs each day at MAS? Is the number sufficient to give every one of the hundreds of dogs at the pound at least one walk per day? Because anything less is cruel.
Ms. Fisher continues to save animals from the MAS kill room by networking them and advocating for their right to live. She keeps me in the loop on many of these rescues and there have been so many, I have lost track. But I am grateful the homeless animals in Memphis have her on their side.