Future uncertain for Memphis animals
By Trisha Gurley
As I write this, the Memphis Animal Shelter (MAS) has no director and an uncertain future, and I’m worried. I’m worried about Memphis. I’m worried about its animals. More than that, however, I’m wondering how our city got to where it is with its problems of excess strays and pit bull fighting. Yet beyond all this, I’m angry.
I’m not angry at Matthew Pepper, the recently resigned director of MAS. I believe he did the best he could under the circumstances he was given and ultimately made the choice he had to make for himself and his family. I’m angry at the lack of support Mr. Pepper had from so-called animal welfare individuals, but that is another story for another day. I’m angry at the mentality that animals are nothing but money makers, status symbols, nuisances to be tolerated, living yard ornaments, or objects to torture. I’m angry that these cycles of abuse are getting passed from generation to generation, neighborhood to neighborhood.
Many of you may have seen the newest ASPCA commercials, which feature the singer Sarah McLachlan and injured animals with posed questions like “When will I eat again?” and “Why did they beat me?” For an animal lover like myself, they are heart wrenching. Some may laugh those ads off as anthropomorphism or sappiness to touch heartstrings and garner donations. Your opinion is your right, of course. For those who aren’t touched by the commercials, I’ve found the most common response is, “Those ads don’t bother me. I’m more upset with ads of starving or abused children.” This response baffles – almost offends – me, and I think is a partial clue as to why animals are suffering in this city and the nation.
Am I saying children are on the same level as animals? Let me be very clear as an ardent animal lover – no, I am not. But do animals feel pain? Yes! Do they have emotions? Yes! That’s all I need to know. A boy is not a dog, but an evil perpetrated to a boy or a dog is still an evil. The root is still the same; it just branched off in a different direction. This is what needs to be stopped. The idea that any human feels they have the dominion to abuse or cause pain to anyone, anything, at any time, for no real reason is killing this city’s – and humanity’s – very soul.
Changing hearts and minds is a gradual process, but there are tactical things we can do now. The most logical start is to spay and neuter; if there are less animals, then there are less strays to be euthanized in shelters and there are less animals to be abused or neglected. We must implore the need for spaying/neutering. It is a need! Too may pet owners see it as optional, or as a thing they’ll get around to when they get time. Spaying and neutering is as vital as getting your pet’s vaccinations and providing food, water, and shelter. Given the overpopulation of animals in Memphis, spaying and neutering is mandatory!
We can stand up as individuals and let our community know that animal abuse will not be tolerated on our watch. If you witness animal abuse or neglect, step up. If the situation is too dangerous to approach, alert the proper authorities. Anywhere we go can be a safe place for animals if we don’t allow anything to happen where we are.
It’s no longer a fight of animal cruelty; it’s a fight of ignorance, indifference, and apathy. It’s about caring for someone who cannot repay you or even say thank you, but nonetheless needs your help. It’s about speaking for those with no voice and little strength against someone much bigger and stronger.
Some say there’s no hope for animals in Memphis. I say we arm ourselves with facts, compassion, mobility, and vigilance and take Memphis back to its rightful place as a City of Good Abode for all its residents.