Update Feb. 10, 2010: Fired Memphis Animal Shelter Director Ernest Alexander has been indicted on charges of animal cruelty. Both the veterinarian, Angela Middleton, and former shelter supervisor, Tina Quattlebaum, have also been indicted on animal cruelty charges.
In addition to the cruelty and mismanagement of animal care discussed below, auditors have uncovered mismanagement of cash and also of drugs.
For more on this unfolding story, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.
Mathew Pepper has been hired to be the next Administrator of the Memphis Animal Shelter.
Pepper is currently the director of Caddo Parish Services in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Update Nov. 16, 2009: Many in Memphis are questioning whether new Mayor A.C. Wharton has any more interest in a professionally, let alone humanely, operated city shelter than his predecessor.
Demetria Hogan, a licensed euthanasia technician, and who also has a long criminal record, which includes most recently a forgery conviction, has now been named supervisor at Memphis Animal Shelter.
Nearly half a dozen employees who also have felony convictions are still working at the shelter.
This despite last month’s raid, discussed more fully below, that revealed gross animal abuse and neglect, a shelter where animals starved to death and lived in their own waste.
On top of this, no changes have been made to the Board of MAS. Frank James, a long time member of the Board of MAS has even appeared on camera disputing allegations about the condition of the shelter as found by sheriff’s deputies and animal welfare organizations during a raid last month. James said, for example, a photo of one dog nearly starved to death was not the same dog shown in a photo as healthy when he entered the shelter. A veterinarian has said the photos are of the same dog.
One Memphis resident said, "I watched in horror tonight as Frank James defended the animal shelter [on television]. This is a man who worked at the shelter for 43 years when it was even more of a hellhole than it is now!
"Additionally, Demetria Hogan, a woman with a ‘long arrest record’ according to the report, has been put in a supervisory position. It just boggles the mind, honestly. Is this the best we can do!!?
"None of this is making any sense and there are many hurt, angry and disappointed people out here".
West Tennessee Animal Coalition called on the mayor to hire professionals, people with no criminal record, and who have training and experience in animal care to operate the shelter. p>
For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below.
Original report: While Shelby County, Tennessee District Attorney General Bill Gibbons weighs possible criminal charges in the wake of a raid by deputies for Sheriff Mark H. Luttrell, Jr on the Memphis animal shelter, new Mayor A C Wharton has fired the city’s Animal Services Director, Ernest Alexander.
The raid took place on October 27, 2009 after the shelter was served with a search warrant, citing animal cruelty including the case of 3 dogs who starved to death while at the shelter. There were also concerns the shelter was housing animals on rabies quarantines with animals not required to be quarantined.
The sheriff’s department was assisted in the raid by ASPCA. Catherine Desteza, an animal investigator with ASPCA, and Dr. Melinda Merck, DVM, Senior Director of Veterinary Forensic Services for ASPCA, were part of the team.
Authorities and ASPCA officials reported finding starving and malnourished animals and animals that were just not cared for properly, animals living in their own waste and dirty cages. They also reported finding sick animals placed with healthy ones and aggressive dogs housed together.
Alexander was hired in 2008 by former Mayor Willie Herenton, now possibly the target of a federal investigation for unrelated crimes.
Mayor Wharton whose first day in office was the day of the raid on the shelter, has said 3 other shelter employees will remain suspended with pay pending completion of an investigation.
Kenneth Moody, division director; Angela Middleton, a veterinarian; and Ivan Russell, a field supervisor, were named in the search warrant, along with Alexander.
The abject cruelty and likely criminal activity that prompted the sheriff’s raid began long before Alexander came to work there, however. The city shelter was also the target in 2007 of a clarion call by Memphis-based Animal World USA for changes in the shelter’s operation to stop the killing of over 80% of the animals.
Justice was one of the dogs starved by Memphis shelter employees. Go here for photos of this healthy dog brought to the shelter and his condition after just a couple of weeks.
The autopsy of one dog proved the animal had not eaten in 3 days and had no body fat.
Really, as the mayor pointed out, what does it take to fill food and water bowls? To bring in a vet?
The mayor also acknowledged that a dog had been killed this past week before its owners could be notified that the animal had been impounded. The mayor cited sloppy record keeping of drugs used for euthanasia and just overall poor management.
It is not yet known how many animals were simply killed before owners were contacted or efforts made to place them in foster or permanent homes. It is not known what shelter employees did with many of these animals, whether they were stolen and sold to people who fight dogs, or for research or the like.
At a candlelight vigil following the raid, citizens called for the firing of everyone on the staff.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO
Don’t let politics or indifference get in the way of a full investigation and charges of animal cruelty. Go here to sign a petition calling for prosecution of employees responsible for this cruelty and abuse.
Go here to watch the shelter on the webcam and also contact the Mayor’s Action Center with any complaints or concerns and let the Mayor know that you want to see responsible individuals prosecuted and new, competent, well-trained staff brought in to manage the shelter. Mayor’s Action Center: (901) 576-6500; Mayor@memphistn.gov
Contact Shelby County District Attorney General William Gibbons and urge him to prosecute those responsible for this abhorrent cruelty to the fullest extent of the law.
Shelby County District Attorney’s Office
201 Poplar Avenue, Third Floor
Memphis, Tennessee 38103
Volunteer at the Memphis Animal Shelter, foster or adopt an animal. Go here for information.