A controversial photo from Memphis’ high-kill animal shelter that’s been circulating online has sparked outrage from animal lovers in Memphis and beyond.
The image, a still taken from the Memphis Animal Shelter’s webcam, shows puppies being transported in a garbage can by a shelter employee.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. Wednesday afternoon issued a statement addressing the disturbing photo.
“While this may be an isolated instance of poor judgment, we apologize for the perception this photo has created,” Wharton said. “Our webcam captures approximately 63,000 images each day or 2 million images per month. While we are not ignoring this single image, we can assure you our employees are well trained and compassionate.”
“Further, we are looking into this matter,” he continued. “Should we conclude that disciplinary action is needed, we will take the appropriate action. The city of Memphis has made great improvements to the facility and will continue to do so.”
The statement went on to say Memphis Animal Shelter’s euthanasia rate has decreased slightly from 77.4 percent in 2010 to its current rate of 73.1 percent, and that adoption numbers have risen from 674 at this time last year to 950 so far in 2011.
The release said more information about policies will be posted on the city’s website at www.memphistn.gov and that the city plans to respond to each email it receives.
The city shelter has a history steeped in controversy. In late 2009, MAS was raided by Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies and former shelter director Ernest Alexander and two administrators were indicted on multiple charges of aggravated animal cruelty.
In early 2010, Wharton named current shelter director Matthew Pepper as Alexander’s replacement.
Despite having passed a spay-and-neuter ordinance in late 2010, the city continues to struggle with pet overpopulation and with controversy surrounding the treatment of animals brought to the shelter.