Outraged over alleged abuse at Memphis Animal Services, also known as the Shelter, animal advocates are circulating a petition urging people to boycott Memphis until a new Shelter director is hired and the Shelter is reformed. The outrage was sparked by an image of a Shelter worker apparently hauling a dog off to be euthanized. In the picture, the worker appears to be picking up the mixed-breed animal by the skin of its back, an act that has prompted advocates to call the animal "the little suitcase dog."
The petition originated on the Care2 Petition Site, a website that allows groups to circulate petitions internationally about topics that range from stopping price gouging on Canada's Internet, to protecting grey wolves in Montana.
The petition, which we received from a Memphis organization called Good Dog Rescue, urges readers to boycott Memphis as a travel destination, saying, "We will not recommend your city to anyone who is looking for a good vacation spot until [director] Matthew Pepper and staff are replaced and the killing stops." The petition also states that more than 3,000 animals were killed between January 1 and April 12, 2011.
Pepper — who was hired in 2010 — confirms the numbers and agrees the Shelter has its problems. "We see what's in the photo and yes, it concerns us a lot," he says. "But we don't know what happened a second before or after that picture was taken. I'm not making excuses, because we do take this report very seriously. We have made improvements in some areas, but we have a long way to go before we make this organization what I want us to be."
The Shelter was raided in the fall of 2009 by the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, and several high-level employees, including then-director Ernest Alexander, were charged and indicted on multiple counts of animal cruelty.
For more information about the petition and to see the photo that prompted the boycott, go to MEMPHIS ANIMAL SERVICES - STOP THE KILLING.