Saturday, January 2, 2010

Another Dog Wrongly Euthanized at Memphis Animal Shelter

Reported by: Joyce Peterson
Last Update: 12/30/2009 10:07 am

MEMPHIS, TN - Another heartbreaking and deadly mistake at the Memphis Animal Shelter. A Golden Retriever already chosen for adoption was put down by a shelter employee who violated new policies and procedures.

"What happened here is not right," says Rita Leone, "I'm sorry, but it's not right."

Tuesday morning, Leone showed up at the shelter to pick-up the dog she'd selected days earlier to adopt. But the dog was gone, wrongly euthanized, although shelter officials first told Leone the dog was put to sleep because it was sick.

"There is no reason for the dog to be put to sleep," says Leone, "when there is a person to adopt like I was. And there was no reason for me to believe the dog was sick."

Two weeks ago, told you about another dog, a pitt bull, that was about to be adopted but was put down instead. Animal control workers gave conflicting stories as to why the dog was euthanized.

Lucy Shaw, the consultant hired by Mayor A C Wharton to get the shelter back into shape, refused comment to when asked about this latest problem. As the current manager in charge of the shelter, any explanation of what went wrong would have to come from her.

As word spread to City Hall that another controversy surfaced at the shelter, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton paid a visit to the facility. He ordered the swift and immediate discipline of the employee who failed to follow proper policy and procedure.

A Wharton spokesperson says the Mayor is as sick and tired of the constant trouble at the shelter as the citizens of Memphis are. In fact, Wharton plans to name a new shelter director in one week's time.

"Let me tell you," says Wharton's Chief of Staff Bobby White, "we've had interest come in from South Carolina, North Carolina and Detroit, Michigan. From all over the country."

White says people from across the nation have expressed interest in the top job at the Memphis Animal Shelter. But finding the right person to right the wayward ship isn't easy.

"You know," says White, "the Mayor says finding a good animal shelter director is almost like finding a good medical examiner. It is difficult."

White also says interim manager Shaw didn't have time to take a reporter's questions Tuesday because she was busy disciplining the employee who killed the dog. She is also helping to narrow down the list of candidates for director down to five names.

"Ultimately," says White, "it's the Mayor's call."

And Mayor Wharton wants to fast track this hire to bring calm and order to the embattled shelter.

In addition to the dogs that keep losing their lives because of human error, there are three shelter employees, including a supervisor, who have been suspended since the the Shelby County Sheriff's Office raided the facility in October.

"We want to free those positions up," says White, "because one of the problems we're having at the shelter is, it's understaffed."

Those positions can't be freed up until the Sheriff's Office completes its' investigation. Steve Shular, spokesperson for the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, tells, "the detectives should finish up their work and submit their findings to the Shelby County District Attorney's Office sometime after the first of the year."

And the citizens of Memphis can expect Mayor Wharton to name a new director in just a matter of days.

"In seven days," says Bobby White, "you should hear something from the Mayor's office. The Mayor will make a decision on the director in one week."