Letter From the Editor

| September 08, 2011
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- Justin Fox Burks

There's a nice story behind the puppy pictured above. She was spotted in a ditch along the Greenline. A caring individual took her home, cleaned her up, and took her to a downtown office. Within minutes, pictures of the puppy were being emailed, posted on Facebook, and sent out on Twitter. The response was instant and led to a happy ending for one abandoned puppy. Being cute is sometimes the best survival trait.

How did she end up in that ditch? We'll never know. What about her littermates? They were probably cute too. What happened to them? Were they killed by predators? Did they die of starvation? Or were they taken to Memphis Animal Services? If so, were they deemed "adoptable"? Or warehoused for a while then euthanized like 12,000 other animals were last year?

And what about the dog on our cover this week — the one with the big sad eyes staring from a cage at Memphis Animal Services (pictured below)? By the time you read this, he may already have been put to death. The odds of his survival are not good, since 75 percent of the animals brought to Memphis Animal Services are euthanized.

In 1973, the now-defunct National Lampoon magazine put a picture of a dog with a gun held to its head on the cover with the headline: "Buy This Magazine or We'll Shoot the Dog." It was a parody, but it illustrates a point. If we're faced with killing a dog or saving it, 99 percent of us will figure out a way to save it.

So how do we justify killing 12,000 animals a year in Shelby County? As Bianca Phillips points out in this week's cover story, there are larger cities than Memphis that have figured out how to run a no-kill shelter. It takes marketing, a dedicated staff, and an involved public.

We can either learn how to do it or kill another 250 animals this week. Take another look at the cover and ask yourself what you think we should do.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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Comments (14)

Showing 1-14 of 14

Cheers, Bruce. Who's going to speak up & stand up for the discarded dogs that Animal Services thrill kills? Memphians are better than that; give a pal a chance and give your heart a whirl. Adopt, keep & care... before the next dog dies.

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Posted by Patrick Young on 09/08/2011 at 11:36 AM

What a wonderful letter. When looking in their eyes of the Cover Dog, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what we need to do. It is past time for a change!

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Posted by Pete on 09/08/2011 at 4:27 PM

Thank you, Bruce for helping make the public aware of the horrific holocaust happening at Memphis Animal Services. Mass Euthanasia is nothing any of any human should be proud. This article will help save lives and hopefully motivate others to ask, “What can I do to help save a life at Memphis Animal Services?” What is the answer? Foster, Adopt, or donate to an Animal Rescue!!

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Posted by brendarakestraw on 09/08/2011 at 4:30 PM

Finally an editor who isn't afraid of the big bad wolf that runs the city of Memphis and the animal shelter there. I hate to call it an animal shelter because that sounds as if the dogs and cats there are living in a safe environment, which they are not. Not only are their lives hard before they make it into the shelter, but once there it is probably a place no one would want to end up in.

There are good people in Memphis that want to help these dogs and cats find homes. The funny thing is, for some reason the people at this animal control facility don't want to work with them? What gives? Don't they want to find good homes for these dogs and cats? If so then open those doors and invite them in and you will see more and more dogs and cats being adopted. Stop hiding the dogs where no one will see them, makes you wonder what they might be doing to them that they want to hide them??

It is a bold statement for an editor to come out against the officials in any state. For that I thank you for doing this. But you need to get all of those great people who want to help and you need to start making changes. If those officials don't want to do this, it is then time to start making changes. Put those people in these offices who will make the difference in the lives of these creatures.

They deserve so much more and it is up to the people of Memphis to make those changes. As I know they will if given the chance!

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Posted by S.A.V.E. on 09/08/2011 at 4:54 PM

Bruce, Bianca Phillips wrote an article about Memphis Animal Services in which Dr. Stephen Tower, vet and chairman of Memphis Animal Services Advisory Board states that he agrees with the city's decision to remove the webcams at Memphis Animal Services.

Dr. Tower is quoted as saying, "It was the intention of the city to be transparent, but it's to a point where it's created a voyeuristic response from a group of animal lovers who crop photos and caption them so they can demonstrate how broken they think the shelter is," Tower said.

In response to this article, a friend of mine sent the following email to Tower.

Doctor Tower, I am shocked at your comments in the Memphis Flyer relative to the web cams and the people who actually want to give the tax paying citizens of Memphis an opportunity to adopt an animal of their choice. I would have thought you were above the crimes of the Memphis shelter. Clearly your intelligence has failed you in blindly passing judgment not only against animals but humans also. As a doctor you are expected to make ethical decisions, rather than the decisions and comments you have publicly made. I do not want my taxes to pay for a blacked out torture and death camp. I want my taxes to pay for a true shelter with accountability with nothing to hide. I am not alone in this issue, as I would hope you know. To remove the web cams does send a very clear message to Memphis, and it is not based upon the weak reason that you publicly stated. What is the City of Memphis, the board and you trying to hide from the very people that fund the shelter. First you say there will be transparency, then not. The list of broken promises just gets longer and longer, and you and the City dig deeper and deeper into what the public sees as humiliation.

In summary, as I understand it, the public will be denied their rightful visual access to what is happening at a publicly funded facility. You have appointed yourself, Dr. Tower, as a judge against that very public that has funded that facility based upon your assumptions. The daily operations of the new shelter is to be hidden, yet is financed from the pockets of citizens. Unqualified personnel are allowed to make a decision relative to the life and death of an animal, healthy or not, and the board and City are standing behind that action. Without question, the 'shelter' has determined what the public wants to adopt in-spite of its massive gross errors in judgment. The shelter, board, and City obviously do not want to be accountable. Should this list continue or should it be continued in a forum on accountability and ethics? Perhaps you would like to hold a public forum to try to clear your name before the citizens of Memphis and your clients that had previously trusted in you.

Dr. Tower, I personally know of one very healthy puppy that was spared from the kill room recently. That puppy has brought great joy to an entire family whose wife and mother has been stricken with progressive Parkinson's Disease. Today that puppy is a very happy animal that is full of life and joy and gives joy to that family everyday. A joy that had been missing. Everything about that spared dog has been documented including the fact that the life of a young healthy dog was to be destroyed and the citizens were denied adoption possibilities. Would you think your clients would be concerned that you would have been involved in something like this? Whether you were involved, directly, indirectly, or not, you have sent out a public message to the citizens of Memphis and your clients that you approve of such horrendous actions, and then want to hide it. You of all people a 'trusted' doctor and business man should realize what such a message brings upon you. I wish you well and hope that you can recover from your public comments.

I understand there are people that can misunderstand the images they see on the cheap non-streaming web cams, but to blackout the web cam system sends a very bad message in itself. The web cams serve as our eyes, whether it be public or an appointed monitoring group. The citizens have a right and a duty to protect the innocent helpless from abusive and harmful crimes against them especially when we the citizens are the owners of the shelter that is guilty of such. That is our right, it is a human right, and a humane right. All the world is watching for the next move, the next statement, and the next decision, and you and the City of Memphis are on stage. The City administration needs to stand strong and show the world that it has nothing to hide, and that it stands with its people.

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Posted by SOS Memphis on 09/08/2011 at 4:55 PM

Wouldn't take my pet to Tower or his practice, he IS NOT AN ANIMAL LOVER

"from a group of animal lovers" quotes Tower

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Posted by Chester Burns on 09/08/2011 at 5:58 PM

Just shows.....Spay/Neuter is the only way to go! Time to re-think how we handle overpopulation. Killing cats and dogs is NOT the answer.

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Posted by no kill on 09/08/2011 at 6:23 PM

If your animal control employees are hiding dogs from the public and killing more than they adopt out. If they have hours that are not friendly to the public. If they spend no time trying to rehabilitate dogs who are ill or may have been abused, FIRE your Director of Animal control because he or she is not an animal welfare believer but a hater of animals. Period. Do what is right, and insist that your public EMPLOYEES do the same.

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Posted by havvy on 09/08/2011 at 7:54 PM

Thankyou Bruce and Bianca...for an article that brings attention to the horrendous actions of MAS..all dog advocates, rescues, fosters, etc. have known what goes on but evidently there are not enough of us to get the WORD out...again, Thankyou for bringing awareness to citizens of Memphis. By the way, only when Dr. Tower became chairman of the Memphis Advisory Board was the public locked out. Until then, we could go to every monthly meeting and voice our concerns...now the public will only be allowed once every quarter...Yes we need more and more responsible owners but first we need a compassionate, caring place to "shelter" the helpless, abandoned, abused lives that are totally dependent on us. While I'm at it, I want to mention the area that is known as the "stray area." This is where most of the dogs are housed and it is off limits to the public. Before Matt Pepper came to MAS, I was allowed to go to the stray area and I chose and adopted a big, ugly, black, feral male dog. His name is Bullet (he dodged one) and he is the sweetest, biggest baby and with good food and lots of love has become very handsome....There are many, many dogs in the off limit area that are very adoptable! The public should be allowed to go there!

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Posted by coldwaterann on 09/08/2011 at 8:42 PM

Thank you, Bruce, for your inciteful, thought-provoking comments about MAS.

It is the city that controls the shelter, and the city has not been interested in listening to its constituents, nor has the city made any real attempt to fix problems at MAS that have been going on for YEARS.

The citizens have LONG been more than ready for an animal shelter that employs workers who are COMPASSIONATE, that institutes processes and policies (many of which are ALREADY doable) to significantly increase adoptions, increase redemptions, and decrease the daily killing of healthy adoptable pets.

When will the CITY of MEMPHIS actually decide to REALLY do the RIGHT things at MAS?

When?

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Posted by jcs on 09/08/2011 at 11:55 PM

Thanks for a very caring article.

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Posted by Diane McManus on 09/09/2011 at 7:00 PM

Yes, absolutely, I would NEVER take my animals to Dr. Tower!!

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Posted by widtmuh on 09/09/2011 at 7:03 PM

Stephen Tower and his groomer abused my MAS rescue dog after I began asking questions about what was going on there. The last time I took Rudy to be groomed there, they did a horrible job and when they brought him out, he was shaking and limping quite badly. Needless to say, Rudy is no longer a patient at his clinic!!!

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Posted by Susan Howard on 09/10/2011 at 10:49 AM

Where's Kapone and why is the hearing of the woman/employee who had him in her possession and "misplaced' him on the way to MAS being postponed again? People from all over the country are watching how Memphis handles this matter and, so far, don't think your investigative reporters or your law enforcement is very competent!

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Posted by Ginich on 11/05/2011 at 10:43 PM
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