The Investigators: Problems at the Pound - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

The Investigators: Problems at the Pound

For months, Action News Five has received emails, letters, and calls from viewers with complaints about the Memphis Animal Shelter. Most of those complaints concern animals being put down too soon, and accusations of inhumane treatment.

Now, a person who worked at the shelter has come forward with a list of concerns, from questions about the backgrounds of shelter employees, to claims of dog dealing.

The mission at the Memphis Animal Shelter is "to keep animals safe from mistreatment and abuse." Part of that mission failed when dozens of Pit Bull Terriers were stolen out of their cages last November.

The pit bulls were removed from their cage after locks were cut. Police investigators said access to the security door at the shelter was from the inside only.

Now, an inside source says the heist highlights much larger problems.

"They're being stolen or sold," the source said in a recent interview. "Someone is making a profit."

The source requested to remain anonymous, and would only speak with Action News 5 after we agreed to disguise the person's voice and appearance.

According to the source, the dogs that go missing usually go back to the streets or their owner, and are usually pit bulls. The profit for a dog on the street can start at $20, but a pit bull trained to fight can sell for up to $25,000.

"If that's happening, someone witnesses it," said Ken Moody, Director of Public Services. "They can make us aware of it. We will deal with that, and we'll deal with it severely. That's something we don't tolerate."

Moody said he's never heard of dog dealing at the shelter, but could not explain this: Records show the shelter took in just over 16,000 animals last year. Only 15,700 were adopted, euthanized, or returned to their owners. That means nearly 400 animals disappeared from the books.

Documents also show at least five employees have criminal pasts that include drug-related arrests. Our source at the shelter says those employees have access to the drugs used to euthanize animals at the shelter- a violation of federal law.

Kontji Anthony: "What is your concern?"
Shelter Source: "A lot of it could come up missing and be sold on the street, and that's your taxpayer money."

One of the chemicals is the sedative ketamine, known as 'Special K' on the streets. It's called a date rape drug because it leaves a person unable to feel pain or move. The Drug Enforcement Agency has busted Special K rings across the nation, where dealers stole the drug from vet clinics or animal shelters.

Some states have pulled ketamine from animal shelter shelves.

Moody called the claims baseless.

"First of all, they're all accusations, and so there's not been confirmed that they've actually taken place," he said.

According to Moody, the chemicals are only accessible to employees certified to euthanize dogs.

"We have no one who shouldn't be euthanizing, euthanizing," he said.

The Tennessee Health Related Boards recently confirmed that its Investigations Unit has an open case on the shelter, but they cannot release details until it's complete.

Our source says a state investigator has been asking specifically about the euthanasia drugs.

"I think a full investigation of the whole place, an audit of the whole operation should be done, a cleanup from the top down," the source said.

The source worries the missing dogs are being sold into dog fighting or to research, but there's no proof.  No one was ever prosecuted in the Pit Bull heist.

As for those ex-felons on the payroll, they all went through the city's Second Chance program and according to Mooday, if the city doesn't put ex-felons back to work, how can they encourage others to do so>

The shelter has been without a manager for nine months. A new manager takes over March 3rd.

Three days after our report aired, a City of Memphis spokesperson shared more information about the shelter operation.  They say Ketamine is not used during the euthanasia process.  However, they do admit Ketamine is on the premises for animal sedation.  They say their veterinarians have the Ketamine under lock and key.

Click here to send an email to Kontji Anthony.

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