MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A former volunteer is breaking the code of silence at the Memphis Animal Shelter. ABC 24 News uncovered claims the animals are being neglected and starved, and that the brand new building already has issues. Volunteers say city leaders blew off their concerns. ABC 24's Jeni DiPrizio asked shelter boss Janet Hooks for the truth.
Shelter volunteers sign agreements they won't talk to the media, but after seeing our stories last week, one came forward.
She doesn't want to be identified, fearing retaliation, but she and seven other volunteers met with Division Director Janet Hooks and Deputy Director Lasonya Hall more than two weeks ago. They'd compiled a long list of concerns, and said of Deputy Director Hall's reaction, "She was upset about the document; she said it was unfortunate it was sent via email because now it became public record."
The main issues included dirty cages, filthy conditions, and animals not being fed enough. Volunteers noticed animals getting thinner and thinner.
The meeting took place just a week before an animal control officer filed a police report saying animals were being neglected at the facility.
"Every dog should be getting enough to eat," the volunteer said. "There are barrels in every room so it's not that it's a food issue or a rationing issue."
Volunteers also brought up concerns that new paint is chipping away at the brand new facility, brand new pet beds are rusted, equipment used to keep kennels separated are broken, and there are water pressure problems.
By the end of the meeting the volunteer says Hooks and Hall made it seem like the volunteers were the problem.
"We felt deflated," she said, "everyone felt completely deflated."
Hooks take on the meeting was very different. She told abc24.com, "I think it was a fruitful meeting … Some of the issues are unfounded."
Hooks says some of the items pointed out by volunteers were already addressed. For example, a vendor sent replacements for those rusty beds. New parts were sent by the manufacturer free of charge to fix the broken equipment that separates the cages, and the city is working on a water pressure problem that arises when pressure hoses are being used to clean kennels.
Hooks said, "MLGW has been out to take a look at the situation within the last week."
Hooks denies dogs are being starved, but says the truth is the shelter is understaffed. "I do think we are under a microscope and every step we take is being criticized."
"Somehow they always put a spin on it, explain it away or ride it out and it goes away," said the volunteer.
The volunteer was so disgusted with the conditions at the shelter, and what she calls the lack of response from the city, she resigned.
Police are still investigating the complaint filed by the animal control officer.