Retaliation: Volunteer Dog Walker at MAS Banned Due to My Post

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

Mr. Rogers,

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,

Jody Fisher

Mr. Rogers sent the following reply:

From: James.Rogers@memphistn.gov
Subject: RE: Very concerned about mama dog – just had puppies – alone at MAS
To: Jody Fisher
Date: Sunday, April 8, 2012, 12:37 PM

Ms. Fisher,

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

http://yesbiscuit.wordpress.com/

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.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Voice-for-Memphis-Animal-Shelter-MAS-Animals/222856771075294?ref=ts

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; mingostar@aol.com
Subject: FW: Very concerned about mama dog – just had puppies – alone at MAS

Ms. Fisher,

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

Administrator, MAS

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

Ms. Fisher,

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

Administrator, MAS

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.

Leave a comment

34 Comments

  1. If how things LOOK are what matters, how things ARE will never change…

    Reply
  2. It seems to be the new tactic in Memphis to drag out FOIA requests until the tapes are over written and then telling the requesting person that the FOIA request was filed too late.
    It will fit perfectly in that picture that volunteers are being chastised for trying to help a animal in need.
    It seems the politic at MAS is “shut up and line up with the Friends”.
    it is very sad to see that change in management hasn’t changed anything at MAS. It still is the same abusive hell hole that it was last year.

    Reply
  3. animalnewsinfo

     /  May 21, 2012

    Too many animal shelters turn down free help. It is sickening.

    Reply
  4. mikken

     /  May 21, 2012

    And once again, Jeanne Chancellor *could* have made a huge difference in the life of an animal at the shelter, but did not. She does not advocate for the animals, she does not advocate for the volunteers. The woman is a roadblock to progress and an enabler of abusers.

    I don’t know how “Friends” of MAS is set up, but if they truly intend to advocate for the animals at MAS, the leadership must change.

    As for Mr. Rogers’ decision to remove Jody from dog walking duties because they had not “been given the opportunity to address the issue” before it was made public, I call foul. Jody went to Jeanne, who did nothing. Jody wrote to Mr. Rogers, who did nothing. TWO opportunities to “address the issue” were ignored in what was potentially a very serious health situation for this dog, so according to his own words, Jody was now free to “take whatever course you deem necessary”. In advocating for the dog, yes, the plea went public – here and elsewhere.

    Mr. Rogers needs to realize that outside criticism is his friend. Outside criticism is what has fueled the drive to change MAS. He simply cannot rely upon the people within the system because they are too accustomed to “hiding the bodies”, as it were. They shielded horrific abusers for YEARS. They allow animals to go untended and untreated and uncared for because they don’t want to “get anyone in trouble” and don’t want to “make waves”. And the few who do speak out are punished, which only reinforces the silence.

    If Mr. Rogers is truly intending to make improvements at MAS (rather than just hiding the problems better, which has been SOP in the past), the I respectfully submit that he must embrace the outside criticism and stop relying entirely upon those “within the system” for his information. The established culture at MAS is blind to its own failings and has been for some time.

    Reply
    • Fun Is Best

       /  May 22, 2012

      I couldn’t of said it better myself, Mikken. You are exactly right.

      I fear any requested discs, if it shows MAS’ fouls & errors, will continue to be deceptively missing, taped over or unaccounted for. How many times has it already happened?

      Reply
  5. Jody

     /  May 21, 2012

    You all are making such good points…..so disappointed that the biggest concern to MAS (those affiiated with that place) is the image rather than the welfare of the animals….once they start doing the right thing, their image WILL improve….this is such a no-brainer….why can’t they see it? And as always, thank you, Shirley, for being the voice for animals who have none!

    Reply
    • Ona

       /  May 21, 2012

      Thank you Jody for being instrumental in saving the lives of both dogs in this article.

      Reply
      • Jody

         /  May 21, 2012

        Ona- Thank you (Meows and Bow Wows) for making it possible. Your rescue group helps so many of the dogs/cats at MAS – you all are angels on earth!

      • Ona

         /  May 21, 2012

        Maddy, the 11 y/o senior girl in the video has an appointment with a doggie dentist specialist tomorrow. She has the worst teeth I have ever seen. Her skin sure has cleared up though. She is such a happy dog with a tail that never stops wagging.

  6. kim

     /  May 21, 2012

    I say get a lawyer. You don’t want money, you want your ability to walk shelters dogs reinstated. Let them bare the burden of proof.
    This actually sounds like good old fashion bullying.

    Reply
  7. db

     /  May 21, 2012

    Open comment to Mr Rogers:
    Since you seem so very concerned with the image of MAS, it’s really quite simple. If you do what compassionate and effective shelters do for the animals; if you treat potential adopters, rescuers, volunteers and community members with respect; if you make some effort to take care of the animals in your “care” and treat them with kindness and meet their basic needs; if you start opening up your doors, your minds and your records so everyone can see what you are doing; if you would do those things, then your “image” would take care of itself. People would see that you truly have the best interests of the animals as your main purpose.
    Because you seem to have done the opposite of all of these things, your “image” is not what you would like. Your “image” and reputation is accurate and has been built on the blood and suffering of those very animals you claim to be caring for.

    You have the power to make a difference. Will you?

    Reply
  8. Karen F

     /  May 21, 2012

    I agree with mikken, db and everyone else here: those who criticize MAS are the best friends the shelter’s animals have. They should be courted and included in a big way, their ideas solicited, their enthusiasm and passion valued. Instead, they are controlled, lied about, and banished so that the status quo can be protected.

    Treating animal advocates this way will never work. It will only continue to create problems.

    Reply
  9. JM

     /  May 21, 2012

    Who is Christi Long from your post?

    Reply
  10. scarlett

     /  May 21, 2012

    Christi Long’s Facebook page: Save a Pet in Memphis

    Reply
    • Tammy

       /  May 22, 2012

      Well, I have “liked” Save a Pet in Memphis on facebook. I’ll be rethinking that. We’re here to support you Jody and Shirley. keep up the great work!

      Reply
  11. Debbie Smith

     /  May 21, 2012

    “Had we been given an opportunity to address the issue you would have seen the positive outcome listed below. No opportunity was given.” So is James Rogers a bald-faced liar, or an idiot, or ????

    Reply
  12. Lorraine Martinez

     /  May 21, 2012

    Perhaps if all of the “banned” volunteers could take some photos or video outside of MAS to demonstrate just how much dog-walking the “Friends” are actually doing, it might lend some credence and evidence for a future (class-action?) lawsuit against MAS….I will definitely donate towards the “Legal Fund”.

    Reply
    • Lorraine Martinez

       /  May 21, 2012

      PS. In my book, Jody is practically a saint for even being able to walk in and talk to Mr Idiot, I mean Rogers, to his face. It’s a lot more than I could do, that’s for sure. And Ona’s right up there with her!

      Reply
  13. All I can say is WOW!

    Reply
  14. Cee, Ontario, Canada

     /  May 22, 2012

    I’m not in the U.S. so I’d like to remind those at MAS and the City that this blog is read globally. A city’s ethics and attitude affect tourism and where people want to live or locate their business. The ones making MAS and the City of Memphis look bad are those in charge of MAS and the City. Don’t blame others for your bad decisions and policies.

    We know what has been possible in other cities and communities. This info is available to everyone. It’s a huge failure of leadership not to embrace changes which would be beneficial for taxpayers, animals, the community as well as the City’s image.

    A good leader wants info on how their organization can improve and does not silence whistleblowers. Heck, companies often hire people to critique them so they can improve and serve the public better. Reacting in fear and “killing the messenger” won’t solve the problems.

    MAS needs to demonstrate that pets are not disposable. Work with other groups to stop killing pets. Some communities have service agreements with rescue groups to help rehome pets and do TNR. Because the people in charge have never done this elsewhere, they need to work with others in the community to achieve this goal. It has been done in other places and is being done in more all the time.

    Change for the better will come to Memphis. Will the current leadership continue to delay and impede progress, or will they stop being afraid and embrace change? Perhaps the public will decide others can do a better job.

    Reply
  15. Triangle

     /  May 22, 2012

    Sorry about posting this here, but I have an urgent situation. I’m looking for a foster or any available help for a feral cat near Nashville, TN. A poster in another forum found her on a campsite and is describing her as walking skeleton covered in ticks. It is likely she was dumped at the campsite as a kitten.

    The cat has been hanging close to them and accepting food, but appears to be a full feral. She will not allow them to touch her and threatens them if they try.

    The reason this request is urgent is that they are leaving on Friday and cannot take the cat with them as they have 3 cats already in an RV and no way to safely contain her. They are trying to get her to a vet for care, but cannot adopt her. If someone else cannot be found to take her, they may have to leave her at the campground. .

    I will cover the vet fees and transport costs if needed. She most likely needs a managed feral colony, not a pet home. ANY help would be deeply appreciated.

    The cat appears to be young- probably around a year. She appears in good health other than starvation and a heavy tick load. We’re trying to get a picture.

    Reply
    • Fun Is Best

       /  May 22, 2012

      Would the cat accept living with other cats AND dogs? I’d be glad to supply the home and the spay/neuter.

      Reply
      • Triangle

         /  May 22, 2012

        I can’t say for sure, but unfortunately I doubt it. She’s been hissing and making fight at the camper’s 3 cats through the RV windows

      • mikken

         /  May 22, 2012

        There’s no way to tell for sure under these circumstances…my “ex-feral” was completely out of her mind when she was “in the wild”. Spaying, regular food, and a couple of months in a taming cage situation has made her a total love. She even rubs up against the dogs (when they’ll stand still for it). Not bad for a cat I thought for sure that the best we’d ever do is get glances of her now and then.

        The fact that this cat is even willing to allow humans to be anywhere near her makes me think that she’s had human interaction before and may be open to the process again if someone is willing to give her a try with a taming cage and time. This yahoo group -

        http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/feral_cats/

        has a lot of good information in the files section that will help.

      • db

         /  May 22, 2012

        She is also scared out of her mind, starving and infested with ticks. That would put anyone in a “hissy” mood! Hope that they can get her trapped and vetted at least and then find an experienced caretaker who can add her to an established colony. Poor little girl . . .

    • Karen F

       /  May 22, 2012

      Try:

      Colonies
      Nashville, TN
      Phone: 615-945-7025
      2Colonies@comcast.net
      Colonies is a group of caring individuals dedicated to relieving the suffering of feral, abandoned and homeless cats in the Middle Tennessee area. We provide neutering and medical care for each cat and kitten we take in. Pets are placed in loving, forever homes. Ferals are released back where they came from when possible or relocated to a safer setting when needed. Caretakers feed and look after these ferals for the rest of their lives.

      Doodlebug Manor
      PO Box 100644
      Nashville, TN 37013
      doodlebug.manor@yahoo.com
      http://www.doodlebugmanor.webs.com
      Doodlebug Manor is a labor of love, and was established to save the lives of shelter cats in high kill facilities in our Middle Tn area, and to work with abandoned and/or feral cat populations.

      This blog post gives a couple of contacts in the Nashville area, including a place where a trap can be rented for a small deposit:
      http://www.examiner.com/article/techniques-for-trapping-feral-cats

      I think you’ve already posted at ACA’s FB page. That was going to be my other suggestion.

      Please let us know what happens . . . so often we read about an animal in need without ever learning the result. Thank you for trying to help this cat.

      Reply
      • Triangle

         /  May 22, 2012

        I already emailed colonies and Doodlebug last night (but thank you for the suggestion- if anyone has more, keep them coming!!!) I’m kind of just e-mailing bombing anyone dealing with ferals in the area. It’s hard because I’m in a completely different state and don’t have any established contacts in TN.

        The campers are making plans to try and trap her. They think they may be able to move their own cats up to the towing trailer and keep her in a cage in the RV, but it’s still at temp. solution.

  16. OH NO!!!! Trouble in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood??? Looks like his true stripes are running…business manager (read: Director of Management Perception aka Who Cares About the Animals All We Want is a Good Reputation). HEY AC!!! You blowed it, dude.

    Reply
  17. Amelia O.

     /  May 23, 2012

    I agree that the shelter has serious issues but putting the picture on Facebook with the caption “Where are her puppies?” was inflammatory and, without Ms. Fisher knowing the full story herself as she stated, left it up to the reader to imagine the worst. I think a better response would have been to approach the Director about the mama dog or email him the picture with her concerns about the puppies.

    It takes a long time to clean up a mess, particularly in government and by posting the picture, Mr. James had to then spend time putting out the flames of angry feedback instead of working on the problem of the animals not being taken care of. I live in Chicago and was told by an employee at the shelter here that it takes forever to get rid of an employee if they are union even if that employee has been caught mistreating an animal. In one instance she said that they had a hard time firing an employee that was no only mistreating the dogs but also threatening the other employees. Give the man a chance to plod through the red tape of government bureaucracy before deciding that nothing is being done to improve the lives of the animals at that shelter.

    Reply
    • I think it’s important to bear in mind that the place was closed and that Ms. Fisher had already approached the head volunteer about the dog and been blown off. Indeed “where are her puppies?” seemed a legitimate question to me which is why I posted it as well. The bitch had obviously been separated from an actively nursing litter. It was an emergency situation, regardless of whether the puppies were locatable. It’s hardly a leap to “imagine the worst” at MAS where they have a long and well documented track record of abusing animals and causing needless suffering.

      Reply
  18. Rob

     /  May 23, 2012

    lunastormcrow Says:

    “HEY AC!!! You blowed it, dude.”

    Says it all.

    Reply
  19. Jessica C

     /  May 29, 2012

    Mas: “Same Sh*t, Different Director” about sums it up doesnt it?

    Reply

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