Wharton calls for community action to fight pet overpopulation

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor A C Wharton called for community action Sunday in the wake of a disturbing incident involving an animal control officer.

Wharton said he is taking animal control officer Demetria Hogan's arrest very seriously after one pit bull she picked up disappeared and another dog on her truck died.

"We'll get to the bottom of it," said Wharton.

Wharton said the pound needs work, but the community at large must also get its house in order.

"When are they going to take responsibility by coming down hard on spaying and neutering?" asked Wharton.  "They see these gang bangers walking up and down the street with pit bulls with long chains around their necks and then when they abandon the dog, one little animal shelter is supposed to rush in and solve all the ills of society."

The Memphis Animal Shelter is the only pound in the Mid-South that does not turn away any pets.

"We take everybody," said Wharton.  "These little boutique shelters around the country that have all of these rules: We won't take three-legged dogs, we won't take dirty cats, don't take unless you live there.  If an animal shows up, we take it."

The ASPCA said a fertile dog can give birth to six puppies per year.  A fertile cat can give birth to almost a dozen kittens.  That is why about 4 million animals across America are put to death each year.

"We will stand up and take responsibility for our shortcomings, but when will this region?" asked Wharton.  "And I say region because we take in pets from Arkansas and other counties in Mississippi."

The Memphis Animal Shelter took in 15,401 pets in 2010.  They had to put down 11,906 of them despite an increase in adoptions.

"The conduct is changing and will change inside the shelter, but the more important question is what are we going to do as a society to change the way we are abusing these animals and then dumping them," said Wharton.

In 2010, the city council passed a mandatory spay/neuter law.  The city is opening a new shelter this fall, but Wharton said that will not solve pet overpopulation.

"We, the City of Memphis, will not be able to ever build a shelter large enough or hire enough people to correct this situation," he said.

Click here for more information on animal adoptions.

Click here for the Memphis Animal Shelter's annual report.

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