Jury Finds Former MAS Veterinarian Not Guilty of Animal Cruelty

When sheriff’s deputies raided the Memphis Animal Shelter in 2009 and found dogs starved to death, the director, veterinarian and a supervisor were all charged with animal cruelty.  The veterinarian, Angela Middleton, was the first to be tried.  She had been charged with aggravated animal cruelty and last night, a jury acquitted her on all 6 counts.

During the trial, Tracy Dunlap, a tech at the pound, and Jeanne Chancellor, a volunteer, both testified that supplies, including food, were short at MAS in the summer of 2009:

[T]he animals were supposed to have been fed twice a day [but workers] were instructed by [director Ernie] Alexander to feed only once a day, Dunlap said when questioned by prosecutor Chris West.

MAS volunteer Jeanne Chancellor told the court Middleton was aware of the food shortage that summer of 2009 and advised volunteers on how to lure the alpha dogs to the front of the cages so canned foods could be tossed to the less dominant dogs at the back of the kennels.

Chancellor said the shelter was low on everything, including toilet paper, and that Middleton had even asked the volunteers for help with medical supplies.

In an interview with investigators, recorded on the day of the raid in 2009, Angela Middleton said she had reported her concerns about worsening conditions at MAS and specifically about the poor quality of the food, to the director and supervisor (both of whom await trial on animal cruelty charges).

Another MAS volunteer offered similar testimony:

[S]helter volunteer Eleanor Gipson testified that the shelter and clinic were “at a complete standstill” in the summer of 2009 due to the lack of food and supplies. She said she e-mailed city public services director Moody about the shortages.

A defense witness, Gipson said Middleton tried to help increase the food for the skinnier animals by giving the volunteers cards to post on the cages that said that they needed extra feedings.

It took the jury just 4 hours to acquit Angela Middleton.

What remains unclear to me is how shelter staff and volunteers who saw dogs starving right in front of them and who were feeding them insufficient quality and/or quantities of food to keep them alive were never charged and in fact, continue to care for pets at MAS.  Perhaps this is part of the reason why dogs are still apparently starving at MAS in 2012.

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30 Comments

  1. mikken

     /  October 28, 2012

    Memphis. It’s never anyone’s responsibility. No one is ever accountable.

    Reply
  2. is it on record exactly the name brand of food that was being given to the animals .. if any?

    Reply
  3. Kim H

     /  October 28, 2012

    So what’s their current excuse? Not only for starving the dogs, but for having the total lack of empathy required to starve them while FULL BOWLS of food lay around everywhere.

    These people disgust me.

    Not only that, from this point forward the city of Memphis and all of its residents are equally guilty in my eyes. This has gone on too long, and as long as the people of Memphis are not storming this place daily, I am holding them equally accountable for the abuse, the suffering, the bloodshed and the death that occurs at MAS. Own it, Memphis.

    Reply
  4. Karen Josephson

     /  October 28, 2012

    AGREED. The City of Memphis AND all the citizens are guilty. There is a culture in Memphis that believes cruelty and neglect are NOT issues and even providing simple food and shelter are NOT required. There are companies everywhere that provide food to shelters – but MAS and Memphis do NOTHING to improve.

    Reply
  5. Diane McManus

     /  October 28, 2012

    I’m so disappointed that Jeanne and Eleanor have become such
    enablers of some of the staff at MAS. I asked Jeanne myself, and Jeanne…you know this is true…about a pitiful dog,,,named Stanley…who was suffering terribly. I asked her about this dog…why he was kept in the back and she said,,,so the vet could do anything fot him that he needed…which was nothing. Jeanne,,,is it so important to you to have some pull at a pound that you would knowingly turn your back on them and let them suffer?
    Diane

    Reply
    • mikken

       /  October 28, 2012

      We all saw Jeanne’s true nature during the Mario rescue.

      She and Tracy Dunlap were hiding behind a wall, keeping themselves safe, laughing and joking as rescuers risked bodily harm to save a dog’s life. Neither one lifted a finger to help, they just wanted front row seats in case something terrible went down.

      The cowardice I saw that day was beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed before. I have no trouble believing that the woman I watched hide while others selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to save an animal’s life is perfectly willing to enable ongoing abuses and killing at the shelter as long as it serves her ego.

      Reply
  6. mikken

     /  October 28, 2012

    Hey, she sent an email and taught shelter workers to feed alphas close to the front of the cage. What more could she have done? Clearly she did everything in her power to make sure that the animals that were her charge were as well-taken care of as possible. She sent an email!

    Reply
    • I honestly wonder what it would take for anyone at MAS, past or present, unpaid or paid, to take a stand. To say, “I will not participate in this any longer and I will do everything in my power to stop it including alerting the media, starting immediately.” Because of all the atrocities we’ve read about – degloved cat left to suffer in a cage for 5 days, heart failure dog left to lie on a cage floor for 4 days, pets being hanged and stomped to death in the kill room, starvation, cannibalism, etc – none of those things apparently qualify. I can’t imagine what will.

      Reply
  7. Arlene

     /  October 28, 2012

    Memphis is guilty as charged! Enter Memphis and you enter HELL. Reading their news papers and seeing the corruption that is at all levels of their city government….seeing the heinous crimes that occur not only to the animals but also to the citizens….it is truly a hell. It is a city that is devoid of any human decency.

    To those of you who have been trying to change things there, especially at MAS….do not give up. Those poor animals need you. Whether they know it or not those who are guilty of the atrocities that occur there need you too. They need you to remind them that they are not better than the worst of the worst. Remind them enough and loud enough and they may eventually come to believe it.

    Reply
  8. db

     /  October 28, 2012

    Is there anyone in Memphis who is doing anything – besides abusing/killing animals or looking the other way pretending it isn’t happening? Is there anyone in Memphis who is willing to go to the wall for these animals? We cannot do it for you.
    My heart breaks for each and every animal who ends up in that killing factory.

    Reply
  9. db

     /  October 28, 2012

    Marlo Thomas (St Judes of Memphis) is on Facebook (I’m not). I wonder what she would say about all of this killing and abuse going on in the city that claims to be so compassionate about sick children. Is it worth asking that question? Is anyone on Facebook willing to ask it?

    Reply
    • is that Marlo Thomas the actor?

      Reply
    • Patti

       /  October 29, 2012

      Fred Smith should get involved too. I think Fred is in a position to have huge influence in the City of Memphis. Surprised he hasn’t done anything to speak out for the change needed at MAS.

      Reply
      • db

         /  October 29, 2012

        Who is Fred Smith and why would he be a good voice for the animals?

    • Patti

       /  October 30, 2012

      Fred Smith is the CEO of Fed Ex and Fed Ex employees a majority of workers in Memphis. Other big companies based here too like International Paper but this city survives because of Fed Ex. His voice would be far reaching to those who run this city. It may be the large companies based here could finally reach the ears of Mayor Wharton and appeal for change at MAS.

      Reply
  10. Arlene

     /  October 28, 2012

    I think Justine Timberlake is from Memphis too. He just married Jessica Biel and she has a pittie she loves dearly.

    Reply
  11. Amy

     /  October 28, 2012

    How the jurors could find her not guilty is beyond belief. It makes me sick to my stomach. If people want to know why the crime rate is so bad-look how we treat the innocent animals and children of Memphis. You must value the life of those dependent on you if you every hope to the value the life of others. God help us.

    Reply
  12. Mike Bauch

     /  October 29, 2012

    As a resident of Memphis, a rescuer, a foster, a transporter, and an owner of six dogs I take offense to all of you out-of-town-keyboard-wannabe-uninformed rescuers who say “all of the residents in Memphis are guilty”. That’s like me saying, “All of you are guilty for our nation being 16 billion dollars in debt”. Please know there are MANY of us here who try everyday to change, help, voice, demonstrate and vote for those who promise change at MAS. We are fighting against a corrupt bureaucracy, management style, and city union that is continually voted in and supported by the majority of the minorities that ‘are there own kind’.

    So, please know, NOT “all residents of Memphis are guilty”. Please give us who are trying credit for our efforts and never ending battle to bring change at MAS. And yes, we are losing the battle. But, we deserve recognition for trying. We are the 1%!.

    Reply
    • Arlene

       /  October 29, 2012

      Perhaps you missed reading this section Mike.

      “To those of you who have been trying to change things there, especially at MAS… .do not give up. Those poor animals need you. Whether they know it or not those who are guilty of the atrocities that occur there need you too. They need you to remind them that they are not better than the worst of the worst. Remind them enough and loud enough and they may eventually come to believe it.”

      I understand your frustration in the bureaucracy that permeates Memphis. I understand that “the majority of the minorities” vote in and support that behavior that’s going on.

      What I don’t understand is that those who are the “1%” aren’t going to the city council meetings making yourselves heard. That you aren’t charging MAS with neglect of animals in need of medical treatment and for God’s sake…feeding properly the animals. That those of you who care so much for the animals aren’t raising holy hell because rescues are not being called. That owners of dogs with tags and collars aren’t being told that their pet has been picked up. Better yet that the ACO isn’t even trying to contact the owner in the field. That no one is demanding that ALL the pets picked up be listed on Pet Harbor along with a picture that truly shows what that pet looks like along with an accurate breed description.

      This is a city run tax funded facility. You are taxpayers. You have the right and the obligation to demand better.

      Reply
      • Mike Bauch

         /  October 29, 2012

        With all do respect Arlene, my comment was addressed to those who ranted that “all Memphis residents are guilty”. And we are attending city council meetings and MAS Advisory Board meetings. Maybe you don’t realize that every question to these meetings has to be submitted for approval before asked in said public forum. And the MAS Advisory Board only allows a public attendance only a few, selected, and often changing times a year.

        As far as dogs with tags (i.e rabies, owner info) coming into MAS, a dear and close friend has linked with MAS to offer hours of research to find these owners only to hit a dead end because the phone #’s no longer exist because everybody has cell phones now and there are not traceable. But, not one research of a tag by my friend has ended without finding it’s owner. I have spent relentless hours investigating the owners from such tags for my friend and have even paid the fine or release cost for these owners.

        Regarding your other suggestions, ACO contacting the owner (by tags) while in the field (1), all dogs/cats picked up be put on Pet Harbor with a proper picture and proper breed description(2).
        1. It’s MAS policy not to do so.
        2. We, the 1%, has offered a professional photographer to MAS to take quality photo’s of all the animals for FREE and they declined at every request. And we can’t control a MAS employee (aka idiot) for labeling a Chihuahua as a Pit Bull.

        And lastly, regarding your suggestion for us as tax payer’s, to have an obligation and right to demand better: We are limited with a little voice and a little vote against a giant who doesn’t care about animals, but a paycheck to pay their Mercedes note.

        BTW, have ever fought a Gov’t entity and won? If so, I will fly you down here, put you in a room at the Peabody and chauffeur you to MAS.

      • Mike,

        This is the first I’ve heard of animal advocates attending the city council meetings and I’m glad to hear it. Please let me know what dates animal advocates have spoken so I can get the minutes and share here.

  13. db

     /  October 29, 2012

    Apologies to those of you on the ground there in Memphis who are trying to do the right thing. I’m sure it’s a daunting task, but you have had offers of help from Shirley and from Christie Keith, that I know of. Have you contacted any of the “big names” in no-kill to see how they are doing it? Is anyone who is directly involved with the “oops-killings” willing to take this to court? Are you contacting the state officials (or are they as corrupt as the city officials)?

    I am working hard in my own community to stop the abuse and killing of animals, so I make no apologies for saying what I believe. I’m surely not sitting behind a computer just ranting. I have donated money to help rescues pull from MAS, I have written more letters, emails and made phone calls than you might imagine. I’m just incredibly frustrated that the only thing we hear is about the abuse and the killing, not much about those of you who are trying to make things better.

    How can those of us who love the animals help you from a distance?

    So, to you in Memphis who are doing what you can, kudos.

    Reply
  14. Mike- I understand the emotional pain you work in- for I too live in a dysfunctional community.
    If I go to BOCC meetings and bring up the lack of funding and obvious lack of humanity by those in leadership, I must be extremely careful as I can bring down a whe lot of whoop ass on my family-
    The only protection that can be afforded the 1% is to be part of a larger group.
    One of the problems we have in America now is that many of us live in fear of our own government. Regardless of the nobeless reason – our voiceless animals- government has to ability (without cause) to do you harm if dismissing/or marginalizing your cause doesn’t work.
    That is why – devoid of a national leadership in Animal Welfare that can take on insular places like Memphis and force change- I believe we need National Standards that have teeth- just like civil rights, without the Federal Government stepping in we would still have segregation. We need a march on Memphis for the animals.

    Reply
    • db

       /  October 29, 2012

      But we also need organized united efforts in local areas – this idea of little pockets of change are important but to make the system change, we need to stand together.
      Memphis animal advocates – is there a way to stand together in a united front to deal with what you are dealing with? Can you organize a meeting with concerned folks so those in power can see that there are numbers of people they have to deal with, not just a few at a time.
      A house divided will not stand – and so far we have been too divided, doing our own little thing. That’s happening in a lot of places, not just Memphis.
      What’s happening with the organizing group that is trying to create an adoption center?

      Reply
  15. Jessica C

     /  November 3, 2012

    Ugh. Just UGH. Unbelievable!

    Thank you to all, like Mike, who are helping these poor creatures. But I hope that something big can happen soon. This has been happening for far too long and I’m afraid that while nothing gets done about it, the atrocities themselves will just get worse. Something needs to happen right here, right now, Memphians. Please let us, who live out-of-state, know what we can do to help. Thanks.

    Oh, also, people were mentioning celebrities that may be able to help out—what about Harry Connick Jr? He is from there and since he’s not in the spotlight so much anymore, I can see him more willing to take the time to help out. Please he seems like he likes to do things for a good cause.

    Reply

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