Rotary Club investigation finds links to dogfighting at Memphis Animal Shelter

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  November/December 2011:

MEMPHIS--A report to Memphis mayor A.C. Wharton, Jr. by the
Memphis Rotary Club Animal Shelter Evaluation Committee on October
26,  2011 affirmed longtime activist suspicion that dogfighters are
operating with impunity within the city animal control department.
Opened the report,  “A review of the labor contract would
show no articles that would interfere with  or hinder the appropriate
and efficient operation of the facility. The interpretation of the
contract,  and more important,  the interference of city hall in this
interpretation, is a different matter. 

Some of this direction has been resolved by a change in the leadership of the personnel
division,  but there remains the clear understanding,  on the part of
all employees,  that certain individuals are exempt from the rules.”
“Employees at every level,”  the Rotary Club investigation
found,  “while not willing to say so on the record,  will readily
volunteer that there has been a relationship between certain
individuals and illicit dog fighting rings.

This is particularly true where those who are perceived to be in a protected status are
concerned.  The vast majority of dogs brought in to the shelter are
pit bulls,”  the Rotary Club noted.  “Therefore,  the potential for
criminal activity is very real,  and checks for criminal background
must be made.  Under no circumstance should any employee,  regardless
of rank,  be allowed to conduct viewing and adoption ‘off the books.'”
“I’m going to turn the report over to the district attorney
immediately,” Wharton told Amos Maki of the Memphis Commercial
Appeal.  “She has subpoena power.  She can compel the employees to

Finding serious flaws in the Memphis Animal Shelter tracking
system,  the Rotary Club said “We strongly recommend a dedicated
internal video system that records every step of the system.”
Earlier,  “The city announced that  it would no longer use
web cameras,”  after moving into a new shelter in September 2011,
reported Maki.  “Web cameras were installed at the old shelter,
built in 1972,  after an October 2009 raid by the Shelby County
Sheriff’s Office found abused or neglected animals,  including
evidence that three dogs at the shelter starved to death,”  Maki
summarized.  “Former shelter director Ernest Alexander,  veterinarian
Angela Middleton,  and administrative supervisor Tina Quattlebaum
were indicted on charges of aggravated cruelty to animals.  This
year,  former Memphis Animal Services officer Demetria Hogan was
charged by Memphis police with three counts of animal cruelty,”  Maki
added.  Under criticism for actions shown by the web cameras,
including alleged dogfighting within the kennels,  “Employees had
asked that the web camera transmissions stop immediately,”  wrote

“The last point,”  concluded the Rotary Club,  “is the
overriding community-wide issue of pit bulls,  dogfighting,  and the
attitude that animals are disposable.  Until this is addressed,  the
shelter will continue to be not logistically capable of approaching
any semblance of becoming no-kill.”

“I think the last paragraph of the report summary is spot
on,”  Humane Society of the U.S. anti-animal fighting campaign
director John Goodwin told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “We are working with the
mayors office to address shelter protocols and community engagement,”
said Goodwin,  a Memphis native.  “I feel the best case scenario
would be if this leads to more than just a vastly improved shelter,
but also to improved attitudes toward animals in Memphis.”
The new Memphis shelter “is a major improvement over the
existing building,”  found the Rotary Club,  except that “There are
not nearly enough employees to make effective use of it,  and there
will be a real need to increase volunteer efforts to make it run

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