Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Doppleganger from hell

I'd read about this when it was first reported last year but never paid much attention to it in part because of what was happening at our own Humane Society but now revisiting what went on in Memphis, I'm amazed by the parallels in the two investigations.

Last October, the City of Memphis Animal Shelter was raided by the sheriff's department after reports of animal cruelty.

From The Commercial Appeal:

Starving, thirsty and sometimes ailing, more than 200 dogs and cats were in the care of volunteers Tuesday after law enforcement officers raided the City of Memphis Animal Shelter.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies executed a search warrant at the shelter, 3456 Tchulahoma, after a tipster complained about abuse and cruelty to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office.

“From what we’ve seen this morning, it’s evident there’s been some neglect,” said Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, who said he’d been told of deficiencies in staff training.


Animal-rights advocate Jackie Johns, who was recently appointed to the shelter’s advisory board, said she’d heard complaints about dirty conditions, malnourished animals and rude employees.

“There’s been issues for several years now,” she said. “Hopefully they can clean it up, and it can be something that’s good for the city.”

If this is sounding familiar, it might be because it is. Here's part of the press release from the OSPCA after they first did a "surprise" inspection on the THS:

The Ontario SPCA conducted an inspection at the Toronto Humane Society yesterday in response to numerous complaints regarding allegations of the unnecessary suffering of animals in care at the Toronto Humane Society. Ontario SPCA Orders regarding the Standards of Care for four animals were issued.

The Ontario SPCA is required to respond by legislation to any credible allegation of neglect, abuse or cruelty as mandated by the Ontario SPCA Act.

"The investigation is ongoing and we are limited as to the information we can provide at this time. We can disclose that we found animals in distress requiring immediate intervention and as a result, Orders have been issued," says Ontario SPCA Senior Inspector Mindy Hall who is the lead investigator on the case.

Since the Globe articles were released, the Ontario SPCA has received dozens of additional, credible complaints outlining serious concerns that point to a pattern of poor care over the course of many years.

Although initial reports about the reasons for the Memphis raid were pretty generalized and I'm sure if someone wanted to make a stink about it, one could've said that it was politically motivated, but then about a week later this came out in the papers:

Both are photos of the same pup, Puppy No. 199287, taken about 3 weeks apart. No. 199287 died from starvation while under the "care" of the shelter.

The photo of this poor pup reminds me of this photo from the National Post article, Mummified cat found in ceiling at Toronto Humane Society:

The above cat was a cat caught in a live trap set in the ceiling at the THS and left to starve and die.

In both investigations, it wasn't until several weeks after the raids that the directors were arrested.

From The Commercial Appeal, Former Memphis animal-shelter director Alexander arrested in New Mexico

Former Memphis Animal Shelter director Ernest Alexander was arrested on animal-cruelty charges at his Albuquerque apartment Friday night.

He had been reported to be on the lam most of the day following his indictment the previous day.

Police in New Mexico found Alexander at about 6:45 p.m. Central time after the Shelby County Sheriff's Office tracked him to his native state, said sheriff's office spokesman Steve Shular.

Shular said it was unclear whether the former director was in hiding, but he "was not surprised. He knew officers were looking for him, and he confirmed that when he was arrested."

Shular added that Alexander came peacefully.


Also indicted Thursday on multiple charges of aggravated animal cruelty were former shelter supervisor Tina Quattlebaum and veterinarian Angela Middleton. Both women turned themselves in Thursday evening and were released on $25,000 bonds.

Each of the three former shelter supervisors has been indicted on six counts of aggravated animal cruelty stemming from the deaths of three terriers.

They face a standard sentencing range of one to two years in prison if convicted, but could be eligible for diversion.

Here's the Globe and Mail article, Toronto Humane Society officials arrested, face animal-cruelty charges, reporting on the arrest of THS heads:

The Toronto Humane Society’s president and chief veterinarian are facing criminal charges of animal cruelty for running a dysfunctional shelter where animals were allegedly denied food and water and left to die suffering in their cages.

The charges against volunteer president Tim Trow, veterinarian Steve Sheridan and three other senior officials came six months after a Globe and Mail investigation uncovered widespread allegations of problems at the River Street facility.


If convicted, Mr. Trow, Dr. Sheridan, general manager Gary McCracken and senior staff members Romeo Bernadino and Andy Bechtel all face a maximum of five years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

And perhaps most interesting, is that in both cases, the search warrants have been made public and are available online. These relate the detailed allegations against the respective agencies which convinced judges to issue search warrants.

The one for the Memphis Animal Shelter is here. Be warned that it contains some graphic photos.

The one for the Toronto Humane Society is here. Be warned that it contains many graphic descriptions.

Funny how the Memphis police only required a few pages worth of allegations to get their warrant whereas the OSPCA provided almost a hundred pages and dozens of witness testimonies to get their warrant.

It'll be interesting to compare the progress of the two cases as they wind their way through their respective courts. Regardless of the final legal judgments, let's hope the animals are the winners in both cases.


Barb said...

The really, really sickening thing about this is that I believe it's not all that uncommon for shelters to treat animals cruelly. If the staff is convinced that there are "no homes" for the animals and they all will need to be killed eventually, sometimes they just stop caring altogether. I'm sure it's a defense mechanism of some sort but it's awful for the animals.
A friend of mine rescued a Shar-Pei a few years ago from a shelter. The ironic thing is the dog had initially been seized in an animal neglect raid. She wasn't all that thin but had some skin infections etc. There were other dogs seized at the same time in various states of moderate neglect.
The owner fought the seizure so it was several months before the shelter won custody of this dog. Apparently they figured they would have to kill her as soon as they got custody since she was old and had skin problems and wasn't all that lovely. The shocking thing was that for all those months they didn't bother to take care of her at all, just gave her a little food now and then. After the shelter got custody my friend stepped in for rescue and took the dog and was shocked at how much worse she looked. Covered with parasites, filthy, skinny, raging skin infections you name it.
She was a lucky dog - she's happy and healthy now. But so many others aren't so lucky.
It's sad when they have to be saved from the "shelter".

Barb said...

Change of subject, I love the new photos in your banner!
So, how much time do you spend every day wiping nose prints off the camera lens?

Amy said...

The picture of the starved puppy is beyond disturbing. It makes me sick to know that animals die in shelters like this. I know that shelters are not happy, ideal places for animals by any stretch of the imagination. But a shelter should be a safe place for animals, where their most basic needs are met. This poor puppy clearly would have been better off left on the streets as a stray or wherever he came from - at least he would have had a chance at survival. That is beyond sad to me. I hope that the shelter staff responsible for this sickening crime is punished to the fullest extent of the law. What they really deserve is for what the did to these dogs to happen to them.

Lynn said...

Seeing the before picture of that puppy made the after picture that much more painful. He seems so uncertain and lost as he gazes into the camera lens and nobody did anything to make it better for him. That's not how the story is supposed to end. Sorry little puppy.

Anonymous said...

Looks like some hucksters took over an animal shelter to pay themeselves and their cronies a salary, just like at the THS. I imagine many many people witnessed these neglected and abused animals and they claimed that the animals came in that way and used that as a way to get donations, or in the case of this municipal shelter, keep the public money coming in.
I hope that their will be more charges forthcoming at the THS - as in all the supervisors, the senior administrators, and vets. What a disgrace! And to think that the Board is still there, there cronies promoted, and that it may all happen again, if the OSPCA leaves them.
Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Fred. But we didn't have to go far from home to see cases of neglect at other shelters. There's the Durham HS, I believe, that burned down and killed all those animals, and they have the nerve to use that as a rallying cry to build them another shelter, when they didn't even accept any responsibility.