MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Three Memphis Animal Shelter employees were busted for animal abuse after an undercover investigation. So why didn't the police go undercover years ago?
Claims of shelter employees abusing animals and their connections to dog fighting haven't been a secret. Mayor A C Wharton took action and initiated an undercover operation last November.
"It certainly is an extraordinary step to have to use undercover officers," Wharton said.
The truth is it should have happened years ago.
But long before A C Wharton was the Memphis mayor, police had the chance to get to the bottom of what was happening inside the animal shelter.
Surveillance video from inside the old animal shelter shows thieves coming in the back door and stealing dogs. Footage shows 36 pit bills connected to a dog fighting ring were stolen one night in 2007. From the beginning, employees were suspected of being connected to the break-in.
"The outrageous thing to that, all the pit bulls were seized one night; the next night they disappeared," said Buddy Chapman with CrimeStoppers of Memphis. "There was no sign of forced entry and the only dogs taken were the ones seized in the raid."
Chapman says the CrimeStoppers tip line got a call about the stolen dogs.
According to the closed case file, police were investigating if a shelter employee was selling dogs on Jackson Avenue. They were also investigating if an employee was paid $500 to leave the back door of the shelter unlocked that night.
No arrests were made because the truth is the case fell through the cracks. The investigating officer was reassigned three days after he began asking questions and the case was never turned over to another officer to investigate.
"Let me tell you, the investigator wouldn't have been reassigned or it would have been reassigned to a new investigator if the city wanted follow up and to solve that case," Chapman asserted.
That was then; this is now.
Five years later, Wharton has vowed to fix the shelter. The mayor stated, "We made it clear we want to root out corruption and wrongdoing in city government."
This week three employees were arrested for animal cruelty after a three-month undercover police investigation.
It's a good start, but Chapman says with the long history of employees behaving badly, the truth is the undercover officer probably should have stayed a little longer to see what else is going on.
Sources tell ABC 24 News the undercover officer would have stayed longer, but what was being done to the animals was so cruel he wrapped up his investigation and took the findings to the District Attorney.