Memphis Animal Shelter report reveals disturbing trend

(WMC-TV) - More unsettling revelations surfaced Sunday from the Memphis Rotary Club's evaluation of the Memphis Animal Shelter.

A 22-page evaluation of the shelter by the Memphis Rotary Club confirmed suspicions that shelter employees were selling Pit Bulls to dog fighting rings "out the back door."

"Things have to change on the inside," said Sylvia Cox with Save Our Shelter Memphis.  "Things have to change in the way it's operated."

Rotary interviews with shelter employees and administrators over two and a half months revealed a disturbing trend.  The death rate of Memphis animals is so high, the shelter staff that performs euthanasia told Rotary evaluators they need grief counseling to "deal with death on such a large scale."

The report said the city takes in 16,000 animals per year, four times more than comparable cities.  Of that number, 38 percent are surrendered by owners.

Fifty animals are euthanized per day, five days a week.  On the flip side, 50 animals are reclaimed, adopted or rescued daily.

The report also revealed the majority of animals surrendered to the Memphis Animal Shelter are Pit Bulls.

"Until we can get this Pit Bull situation under control, even this new facility is going to be overcrowded," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

The Rotary Evaluation Committee found that dog fighting and the attitude that animals are disposable are "overriding community-wide issues."  The shelter is also trying to manage of disposable animals with a lack of funding and a short staff.

One employee said it takes five hours to inventory all of the animals daily, but sometimes the employee has only 45 minutes to get it done.  That means the count is always off and animals are not logged into the computer properly.

When the shelter had 660 animals in house one day in August, the Rotary Club checked for adoptable animals on the website that is linked to the shelter software.  It showed only one dog and six cats up for adoption.

When animals are not adopted, they are eventually euthanized.

The report revealed there is not enough staff to manage the new 36,000 square foot facility, which is more than three times the size of the old shelter.

Evaluators said volunteers are the shelter's only hope.

Meanwhile, Wharton said the city has already launched a series of actions in response to the Rotary Club's report.  They have turned over the dog fighting allegations to the attorney general's office, which could lead to a grand jury investigation.  They are also putting GPS devices in animal control trucks to track officers' whereabouts.

Earlier this year, Pit Bull "Kapone" disappeared from Animal Control Officer Demetria Hogan's truck and is missing to this day.

The mayor said the city is working to stream shelter video to the Real-Time Crime Center and store it in a secure location for an extended period of time.  After 46 Pit Bulls were stolen out of the old shelter in 2007, the shelter video disappeared.

The city is also working on a request for proposal to have a private company take over the shelter.

To find adoptable pets, click here.

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To read the 2011 kennel statistics, click here.

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