Readers may remember Nola, Victoria Henry’s dog who was picked up by Memphis Animal Services and killed before the legally mandated holding period expired, even while Ms. Henry visited the pound looking for her. Tragically, MAS has done it again – this time the victim is a beloved dog named Oliver.
Oliver and his buddy Marlene escaped owner Tish Tonole’s yard on October 13. She began trying to get them home right away by posting notices on social media sites, putting up fliers around town and visiting MAS to look for her dogs. Oliver was wearing his collar and Marlene was microchipped. Ms. Tonole says someone who saw Marlene running loose responded to one of her fliers and she was able to pick Marlene up. But 11 month old Oliver remained missing.
Ms. Tonole visited MAS to search for Oliver multiple times, including October 18. The worker who escorted her through the facility that day said that she was being shown every dog cage in the building, including dogs being held for court cases. But Ms. Tonole told me she only saw roughly 100 cages and half of them were empty. We know MAS has 555 cages in the facility (128 for cats and 427 for dogs) so clearly she was not shown every dog cage. The worker also advised her that it wasn’t necessary for her to come to the shelter every day to search for her pet. He told her about the PetHarbor website saying it was continually updated and that if Oliver was impounded, he would immediately appear on PetHarbor.
Ms. Tonole began frequently checking PetHarbor and on Saturday, October 20, a listing for Oliver appeared on the site. It said that Oliver had been at MAS since the 17th which was troubling since Ms. Tonole had been there on the 18th and did not see him. MAS was closed by the time she saw Oliver on the website and remained closed for the next 2 days. She kept trying to reach someone on the phone but only got a recording.
Finally on the morning of Tuesday the 23rd, Ms. Tonole got a female employee on the phone before the pound officially opened. The employee told Ms. Tonole that Oliver had been killed on October 18, just one day after impound, because he had a hole in his head. Understandably, Ms. Tonole became upset and told the worker that Oliver could not have had a hole in his head because MAS posted a photo of him on PetHarbor which showed him to be his usual happy and healthy self. The worker restated that records indicated Oliver had been killed on October 18 due to a hole in his head.
Ms. Tonole hung up the phone and was very distraught when a friend happened to call her. She told the friend what had just happened and the friend said he would call MAS to try to sort things out. Ms. Tonole says that her friend spoke to James Rogers who told him that Oliver had just been killed that morning due to a hole in the head. The friend asked if they could see Oliver’s body and Mr. Rogers refused. Later, Ms. Tonole says MAS changed its story about the reason Oliver was killed from a hole in the head to a hole in the stifle.
Ms. Tonole told her story to WMCTV and the station asked MAS for comment:
Memphis Animal Services sent a statement offering condolences to Tish Tonole over the loss of Oliver. The statement says Oliver was scanned for a micro chip but did not have one. They said Oliver was visible to the public for four days. The shelter stressed the importance of getting your pet micro chipped.
Ms. Tonole is a single mom who works, attends school and must budget her expenses carefully. She didn’t have Oliver microchipped but she did have Marlene chipped due to her tendency to escape. In fact, Marlene had escaped just a few weeks prior to Oliver’s killing and Ms. Tonole had visited MAS looking for her. Although she wasn’t shown Marlene at that time, Marlene was in fact there. A local pet advocate recognized Marlene’s picture on PetHarbor and responded to a lost dog posting from Ms. Tonole. MAS had never contacted Ms. Tonole despite Marlene’s microchip and the only way Marlene got home that time was due to the watchful eye of a local advocate.
Further, MAS states that Oliver was visible to the public for four days yet glaringly omits the fact that the owner was at the pound on one of them, supposedly being shown every dog in the place, but never finding him. The statement also fails to mention that Oliver was not posted on PetHarbor, where the MAS employee told the owner to look, until Saturday – after which the pound is routinely closed for 2 days every week.
Let’s be clear: It is not the owner’s fault that Oliver is dead. The blame for that lies squarely with MAS. The subsequent lies, spin and attempted cover-up are par for the course in Memphis. Oliver is yet another casualty in the ongoing tragedy that is MAS.
They can try to say they showed the owner every cage in the building but obviously that is not true. They can try to say the owner could have saved Oliver by having him microchipped but obviously that is not true either.
No one at MAS is willing to do their job. No one in a position of authority is willing to hold them accountable. No one local is willing to take legal action to force them to stop hurting animals. And so the killings continue. How many more Memphis?
Every pet has a right to live. Just because MAS refuses to acknowledge that doesn’t make it any less true. The people at MAS don’t know what precious gifts they have been given the privilege of caring for. They don’t know that pets are family and animal services=family services. And they don’t know Oliver.
Tish Tonole said, “He was my best friend. He slept with me every night. I would wake up in the middle of the night to find his head in the crook of my arm and his paws in the air. He was a sweet, kind, good dog. He just wanted to be loved by everyone.”
I’m sorry that no one at MAS could be bothered to do their job and shelter Oliver in his time of need. I’m sorry that when they were caught killing a pet whose owner was in their facility trying to find him they resorted to lies. I’m sorry that in their efforts to deflect attention from their own failures they attempted to shame Ms. Tonole. Most of all, I’m sorry that this silly puppy who brought such joy to his owner has been cruelly taken from this life.