End the Injustice in Memphis

In April 2011, the Memphis shelter advisory board was a very different entity than it is today.  At that time, the board chair not only upheld the open meetings law but welcomed the public into the meetings.  Veterinarian Stephen Tower was a member at that time.  He is now chairman and, along with the head of the “Friends” group and others who defend the abuse and killing at MAS, the board has illegally, in my view, shut the public out of most meetings, opening them up only a few times a year.  Even then, the public is only permitted to speak if Dr. Tower allows it.

During the April 2011 meeting, the subject of sedatives prior to fatal injections was discussed.  Advocates were requesting that sedatives be administered to all animals being killed at MAS.  Dr. Tower responded:

When I was on the task force, I went out there December two years ago and witnessed the gentlemen performing the euthanasias and they were technically performing them in the manner in which it should be done. It wasn’t an easy thing to see, the room was sort of inadequate and I really look forward to getting into the new shelter for a number of reasons and that’s one reason. And they did use tranquilizers in cases where they needed to tranquilize an animal that was being fractious…

Watch the video here.

He doesn’t say which “gentlemen” he watched killing pets at MAS but possibly it was Archie Elliott and/or Frank Lightfoot, both of whom have confessed in court to torturing pets in the kill room.  Specifically, Archie Elliott is quoted as saying to a scared dog slated for killing, “I know how to take care of this. This is my sedation.”,  as he proceeded to hang the dog over a sink by a noose.  Is this Dr. Tower’s idea of “the manner in which it should be done”?  I don’t know and he’s made sure that no one can ask him.

In anticipation of angry pet advocates exercising their rights at the upcoming shelter advisory board meeting next week, Dr. Tower has bravely cancelled the public meeting, opting instead to hide in an undisclosed location while he and the rest of the board have a secret “work session”.  Because he can.

Similarly, the pound keeps killing healthy and treatable animals.  Because it can.  The workers at MAS force pets to suffer.  Because they can.

The way forward for those who value the lives of shelter pets in Memphis is as clear today as it ever has been:  Someone must wage a political campaign for reform, taking meaningful action to demand no kill.  It will be a difficult and frustrating endeavor – one that will probably take years given the apparent widespread cronyism and corruption within city government.  But I believe it is achievable.  And besides, what other ethical choice is there?

If anyone is willing to engage in such a political campaign, there is immediate and future support available.  You will not be in this alone.

1.  There is a guide taking you through the process step by step.

2.  Christie Keith, renowned journalist and media expert, has generously offered her assistance.

3.  Reader Denise is heading to Mayor Wharton’s office on Monday to demand accountability.  Join her.

4.  This blog will support you by publicizing your efforts and I will do anything in my power to help, offline and online.

The no kill community is fiercely loyal and if anyone in Memphis is willing to engage in a political campaign to force those who have enabled the abuse and killing to finally put the misery to an end, we have your back.

The person is you.  The time is now.  If not you and not now, it will be no one, ever.  The pets being hurt and killed at MAS can’t wait anymore.  Do it because it’s the right thing to do.  Do it because it needs doing.  Do it because you can.

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50 Comments

  1. mikken

     /  September 7, 2012

    Thank you for being there, Denise!

    Reply
    • You are welcome. Someone has to do something, and, since I am unemployed I have the time and it is a worthy cause. One I am adamant about.

      Reply
  2. Linda R

     /  September 7, 2012

    Denise, I’ve stood at the front gates of MAS protesting before, had my face splashed on the news, I would gladly stand with you… but I’m afraid the only day I can manage next week would be Tuesday.

    Reply
    • It wouldn’t displease me if we had two people going to see the mayor – one on Monday and another on Tuesday. Just sayin. And actually, if a third person wanted to go on Wednesday, that would be good. Then I’ll work on Thursday, Friday and every day forever.

      Reply
      • Lorraine Martinez

         /  September 7, 2012

        GREAT IDEA! How about camping out in City Hall outside his ofc–if I lived in Memphis, I’d definitely be into doing that!

        Thanks Denise and Linda–I’ll do what I can from afar–would be willing to come protest again if we can get something going….

      • Lisa in OH

         /  September 7, 2012

        I’ll donate towards tee shirts that read “I’m waiting to see the Mayor”

      • I like that idea..

      • We may want to get tshirts made. However, I plan to get my point across. He is OUR employee, WE pay his salary. If I want a meeting for whatever cause, I should get one.

    • That is ok. I go to school on Tuesdays, so I can’t on that day. I may be able to come other days, but I am going to demand an appointment on Monday if I do not get a response. I will not leave until I have an appointment with the Mayor.

      Reply
  3. Patti

     /  September 7, 2012

    The time is now. The MAS and it’s board are substandard and we need change “now”. To continue to have cancelled and secret meetings is unacceptable to our community. No one but a licensed vet should be allowed to euthanize an animal anyway. Why is this even allowed by MAS employees? By the way the name of MAS is Memphis Animal Services NOT Shelter and it shows. We are sickened by case after case of animal cruelty and abuse. Everything from animals starving to being stabbed in the heart. Why isn’t anything being done about this Mayor Wharton? There are solutions and it seems that nobody is looking for one when it comes to MAS.

    Reply
  4. Thank you for all you’re doing for the unfortunate animals everywhere and especially MAS. I made myself watch all the video’s of MAS you’ve posted and they are enraging!!! I would like to see the people of Memphis Stand-UP for what is right.

    Reply
  5. Whoop Whoop, I am more than ready. If I get turned away, I will demand an appointment, with a call from the Mayor. No more, no less.

    Reply
    • Sicum Denise!

      Reply
    • Lorraine Martinez

       /  September 7, 2012

      Denise, do you plan to notify any media of your attempted visit? Whether you get in or get turned away, it would be newsworthy. Anything that keeps this issue in the Public Eye would be very useful. Eventually people will wake up and take notice–remember (perhaps you don’t) how long it took for the Vietnam War?

      Reply
      • Yes, I do plan on alerting the media, because we cannot let this go on forever. It is time to take a stand. I will be calm and patient. For a minute.

  6. Meaghan Edwards

     /  September 7, 2012

    There is a direct link to animal abuse and human abuse. These people are clearly not fit for society. Thank you all for speaking out about these horrors.

    Reply
  7. Jean Farris

     /  September 7, 2012

    This article is so disheartening that I can’t get thru all of it in its entirity. There needs to be an end to the abuse, neglect, and killing of animals across the board. The people involved in the misdeeds in this article need to be dealt with by an authority that can met out punishment based upon the outcries of the pubic/animal advocates.

    Reply
  8. no name please. PLEASE do not under any circumstances post my name.Thanks.

     /  September 8, 2012

    Denise, there is protocol ande security at City Hall. When you go in, there is a reception desk on the right and security screening in front of you, facing the entrance. You have to go to the desk and sign in and tell them who you are there to see. If you do not have an appointment, you are not allowed in. You will be told to first call for an appointment and then to come back at the time of the appointment. The Mayor’s office is on an upper floor. The last time I was successful in getting an appointment with the Mayor with regard to MAS, it took a lot of phone tag, emails, and several weeks. You will most likely be directed to Janet Hooks’ office. I think you should know in advance what you are up against. The last time I went in to City Hall to see Hooks, they called additional security.

    Reply
    • Really? I’ve been to city hall numerous times for other reasons and never had security bother me or had me sign in. I’ve been to the mayor’s office before to drop off some information on another subject. No on stopped me then. We will just have to see. Thanks anyway though.

      Reply
  9. I would love the chance to step up to the plate and get right up these animal abuser’s asses… But unfortunately I live in Washington state. However, I will do everything I possibly can from here to help put an end to this abuse of animals and the abuse of power at MAS. If anyone has a letter / petition I can print out and have people sign I will and I will mail every one of the letters seperately and I won’t stop until something changes. I have found that mailing 9+/- envelopes a day for a month or more is actually a lot more effective than I thought it would be. Anything else I can do to help I’ll do also. Best wishes to all who care for these critters. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. I live in New Hampshire so there is not much I can do from here I don’t think….we have no kill shelters here (unless it’s hidden from us) and MASS is getting them also (no kill)..so it’s possible..it sounds like these people like to kill the more I read and torture…there is a correlation between animal abuse and child abuse and sexual predators and serial killers….these people need to be stopped…it you ever start a public petition you can do it nationwide just like HSUS does for puppy mills and you can ask the Animal Rescue Site if they would profile the abuse…HSUS it working on puppy mills now but they might be interested in this cause also…..these kittens were newborn and defenseless and as far as the cruelty on video that got those guys fired, it is not excusable and a slap on the wrist is not enough….you need to get alot of people involved not just in your state…..WE ALL CAN make a difference if you can find a way to get a spotlight on them…..
    Keep me in mind and I will be watching…..I know alot people who would at least peition and really call the Humane Society of the US and get some input ….it might help…I know not everyone likes them but they have alot of experience in these matters as does the ASPCA.
    .

    Reply
    • I’m sorry to burst your bubble about the HSUS and ASPCA. They are really more about raising a lot of money and PR than helping animals. They will most definitely NOT be the ones who will step in to stop the abuse and the killing.There’s a lot of information about these organizations and they are definitely NOT who you think they are (or want you to think they are).

      Reply
    • mikken

       /  September 9, 2012

      db is right. HSUS and ASPCA have stood in the way of the No Kill movement and they are not going to help this fight any time in the near future.

      Reply
      • Eucritta

         /  September 9, 2012

        Both have also explicitly defended high-kill animal control facilities, even to the point of awards and grants. On the basis of the evidence, in fact – rather than their mealy-mouthed excuses and justifications – I’ve concluded that both don’t just accept killing of homeless pets, they actively approve of and encourage it.

  11. Yes, the shelter is terrible but realistically where are you going to put all of the stray animals that pour in daily? You will have to raise money for an even larger shelter and one doubts if the taxpayers will agree to fund it.

    People will also have to reach those who don’t spay and neuter to advise them of low-cost S/N clinics as I think a lot of them do not have access to computers, let alone transportation to get to their pets to one. I doubt many of them can afford to put up fences for their pets either.

    I would think most of the poor animals who wind up in the shelter belong to the very poor and those with little education. So this is going to be a very difficult task. Maybe volunteers can help people take their dogs and cats to S/N clinics and get them vaccinated while others can build fences for poor homeowners on weekends – this has been done in other areas.

    Reply
    • We do all that you mention. I do not think most of the strays are from a particular demographic. They come from all over the city. People love animals or they don’t. It has nothing to do with being poor or educated. It is a law to have all animals behind a fence here in Memphis. There is also a leash law. There are spay/neuter clinics here that provide low cost programs.

      Reply
      • Obviously it takes more than laws. I agree that it’s more about attitudes than income. These workers at MAS know they are being videotaped and break the laws anyway. They know they can do it, so they do.
        MAS needs a huge change in administration – top to bottom cleaning. (Hmmm, sounds like that’s what the city needs, too; maybe the state?)

      • Yes, db, that is exactly what needs to be done. From top to bottom, fire everyone and hire qualified, competent, caring people.

  12. ..and one often gets sub-standard employees when wages are low – which may well be the case with MAS.

    Reply
  13. A continual regression by the verinerary community. These Drs. Of Animals took an oath to do no harm, yet time and time again I see that oath not only broken, but trampled on.
    The Vetinerary associations should revoke the licenses of vets who act in the capacity that made Nazi Germany so despised.
    They are just as guilty for allowing these vets to practice and endorse the policies of cruelty- against their oath and the AVMA protocols.
    These vets need to be exposed for what they are.

    Reply
    • Eucritta

       /  September 10, 2012

      Actually, the veterinarian’s oath doesn’t include ‘do no harm.’ That’s the doctor’s oath. Here’s the current version of the veterinarian’s oath:

      Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge.

      I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

      I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

      This is a fairly recent revision, to include relief of animal suffering. However, even with this inclusion, the oath is primarily about people and human benefit, not animals.

      Reply
  14. I went to city hall this morning. No one came to meet me. I alerted the media, but they did not come either. It appears that just one person standing up for animals at MAS is not newsworthy. I was immediately turned away and given a number to call to schedule a meeting with Mayor Wharton. Maybe one person can make a difference. I will call and call and call until I get an appointment. There is no transparency in city government. It appears the mayor doesn’t care what us “regular” citizens have to say. I suppose the infighting on the Shelby County Commission was more newsworthy than the poor animals at MAS. I think I will write a letter to the mayor and hand deliver to his office in person. Surely I can do that.

    Reply
    • Thank you for doing what you can. Clearly this is not going to be a quick or easy fight, but one that must be fought. Bless your heart for putting yourself out there. Is there no one else in Memphis who will stand with you?

      Reply
      • No one else showed up. I am just one person, but maybe I can make a difference. I will keep at it and get that meeting, sooner or later. Thanks.

      • One person absolutely can make a difference. In fact, they teach a class to every high school kid in America about the “just one person” phenomenon. It’s called History.

      • Yes, and thank you. Once I deliver the letter, I hope a meeting will be scheduled with the mayor and me. Either way, I am not giving up.

  15. Can’t we file a law suit? They are breaking the law and should be held accountable!

    Reply
  16. How do we go about finding an attorney? I’ll be glad to go through the phone book and call. Can we set up a fund. I’m sick of these bastards!

    Reply
    • I have some money leftover in the FOIA fund – enough to get started, if we find an attorney. After that, certainly a ChipIn could be set up.

      Reply
      • Let me see what I can come up with. Problem is, the City of Memphis has most law firms on retainer….with our tax dollars. But I will see if I can find one.

  17. Jessica C

     /  September 14, 2012

    Ooh! I love stuff like this; protesting, change, reform. It gets my liberal side all fired up! Haha. I’m glad to see so many willing to help out. I live on the west coast, otherwise I’d be joining you all, for sure! Just let me know what can be done from here and I will! Emailing and phone calls only go so far and I have no money to travel with. Bless all the people like Denise, Linda, and whoever else that are helping these poor souls! Change needs to happen, and it needs to happen now! Don’t give up the fight!

    Reply
  18. God I hope we can find a way to end this once and for all. These inhuman bastards must be stopped now!

    Reply
  19. Are we any closer to finding a lawyer?

    Reply
  20. ezbuddy

     /  December 18, 2012

    Still, nothing has been done, or not enough of it, to stop MAS from excessive killing or for them to understand compassion, kindness or respect for dogs/cats. Not much has ever changed at MAS.

    Reply
    • Nothing will change in Memphis until we are rid of the good ole boy network, and we get a new Mayor and fire Mr. Rogers. It just won’t happen unless all these city employees are fired, and that won’t happen either.

      Reply

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