S.O.S. says problems could persist at new Memphis Animal Shelter

(WMC-TV) - "Save Our Shelters" took to the streets of Memphis Saturday to rally for action.

S.O.S. Memphis said a recent Rotary Club report brings to light some unconscionable problems at the Memphis Animal Shelter and they want the public to know about it.

Protesters said the grand opening of the new Memphis Animal Shelter this Tuesday is only a small step toward change.

"They're in a new facility, but same old employees," said protester Jan Courtney.  "You might as well put lipstick on a pig.  No offense to the pig."

The Memphis Rotary Club's independent audit of the shelter prompted Saturday's march.

"Show the city that we support the findings of the Rotary Club report," said Sylvia Cox with S.O.S. Memphis.

In October of 2007, 46 Pit Bulls and Rottweilers with scars and injuries consistent with dog fighting were stolen right out of their cages.

The current and previous mayors of Memphis have faced criticism for assigning Second Chance Program participants to the shelter.  Second Chance places convicted felons in city jobs, and some participants are currently in court over animal abuse and robbery arrests.

Some say the problems will persist at the new $7 million facility.

"The city has turned its head for years saying they can't fire employees because of the union," said Cox.  "The Rotary Club disputes that."

S.O.S. compiled a list of 14 grievances about the animal shelter, including the euthanasia rate to certain employees.

Protesters said they hope the march will galvanize the community to push for a shelter staff overhaul.

"Put pressure on public officials to take action," said protester George Grider.

Protesters did point out that the shelter does have some dedicated employees.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's first official action as mayor in 2009 was to observe an overnight raid on the shelter.  Three people, including the shelter director, were indicted for aggravated animal abuse.  They were in court earlier this month.

The new Memphis Animal Shelter opens at 2350 Appling City Cove on Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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