Head Vet at Memphis Animal Shelter Cited for Cruelty, Incompetence

Head Vet at Memphis Animal Shelter Cited for Cruelty, Incompetence

There's more trouble at the Memphis Animal Shelter, and this time it involves the lead veterinarian. The woman who is supposed to be in charge of the health and safety of the animals, is now accused of letting a dog suffer in pain without giving it proper medical attention.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - There's more trouble at the Memphis Animal Shelter, and this time it involves the lead veterinarian. The woman who is supposed to be in charge of the health and safety of the animals, is now accused of letting a dog suffer in pain without giving it proper medical attention.

The incident happed late last fall, but it took a long time for the city to turn over the records connected to this incident.

The five month old pit bull mix arrived at the shelter with an embedded collar. It's a condition that's often very painful for the animal.

"I've seen dogs with their necks so exposed and infected, the wound would be so deep you could see the neck muscles. It would begin to smell and they would be suffering from the infection," said John Cox, a former MAS board member. "It's heinous! I mean come on, you don't do that - it's just awful."

According to city records, for days MAS Medical Director Rebecca Coleman did nothing, leaving the dog in its cage with an embedded collar.

"You have to be blind, dumb and stupid not to be able to see a collar that's already ruptured the skin and embedded in the neck," stated Cox.

How it happened is the big question. Last fall, Coleman testified during an unrelated court trial what the staff veterinarians are supposed to do.

She stated, "Rounds are done - hopefully more than once a day, but at least once a day - doing health surveillance, looking for issues that may have been overlooked by technicians or the individuals caring for the animals."

So in this case, were rounds never made, or was Coleman just not paying attention?

According to shelter records, Coleman was the only veterinarian on duty the week the dog arrived. Four days after the dog arrived, it finally received medical attention for what was described as a "severe collar injury." It was ingrown into the neck with a foul odor. It was so bad that not all of it could be removed; the clasp was left inside the dog because tissue had grown in.

Two days after treatment the dog was euthanized to ease its suffering.

Cox said of the lapse in care, "This is the height of laziness, it's just plain laziness."

As for the lead shelter veterinarian being accused of animal cruelty, the city's Chief Administrative Officer, George Little, replied, "Well, I don't think it was willful." He added, "Perhaps it was an oversight on her part, and we still can't accept that."

Coleman is paid $87,000 a year to be the medical director. As for her punishment, she was written up for the "cruel and inhumane treatment" of the dog, and being "incompetent" and "unprofessional".

But some question if more should have been done. She has an appointed position, which means it can be terminated at any time.

Cox said, "I would have simply said goodbye. No hard feelings, don't tell anybody that I'm mad at you, but I don't want to see you anymore, goodbye."

Of course we wanted to talk to Coleman about this, but she did not return any phone calls. The shelter administrator also wasn't talking.

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