A three week investigation has been ongoing at the Memphis Animal Shelter in Memphis, Tennessee after authorities discovered deplorable conditions at the shelter. Sheriff’s deputies raided the facility on October 27 2009 after receiving numerous reports of abuse at the shelter. (photo gallery from the shelter raid here) Complaints about the conditions of the shelter have been thrown around at least since 2007. In 2007, the state found that the shelter was out of compliance with the minimum standards established by the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. The state found various violations of record keeping concerning drug usage for euthanizations.
Memphis City Mayor A. C. Wharton fired Memphis Animal Services supervisor Ernest Alexander nine days after law enforcement authorities raided and closed the shelter. (see City’s search warrant here) Alexander previously oversaw a shelter in Albuquerque, NM until 2008 when he was hired after a nationwide search by former Mayor Willie Herenton. Herenton was searching for a new administrator in response to long term complaints about the shelter from animal rights activists. Three other shelter employees remain suspended with pay until the city finishes their investigation.
Mayor Wharton was forced into action after the initial raid on the shelter uncovered starvation conditions, resulting in a candle light vigil outside the shelter and a call for those responsible to be fired. At least three dogs are said to have starved to death while in the shelter’s control. Another incident involved a dog being put to sleep before the owner’s were even notified of the dog’s presence at the shelter. Mayor Wharton has stopped all euthanizations at the shelter until the investigation is concluded.
Operations at the shelter have consistently been called into question. For years there have been allegations of theft from the shelter, including food, euthanasia drugs, and even animals themselves. The shelter cancelled its contract with Hills Nutrition, the makers of Science Diet dog food, in 2008 and have been slow to acquire a new source of food for the animals of the shelter. Additionally, unauthorized employees have been euthanizing animals and parts of the investigation will focus on whether or not higher-ranking authorities knew of these violations. This instance highlights the problems that may exist in any city’s animal shelter. Citizens should take action and demand action by City officials when conditions at shelters fall below animal welfare standards.