Three Memphis Animal Shelter Employees Indicted

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UPDATE 3/30/2012) All three of the indicted employees were terminated 3/30/2012.

(Memphis 3/8/2012) Three Memphis Animal Shelter employees have been indicted on six charges of animal cruelty following a police undercover operation.

The employees charged are Billy D. Stewart, 28, Frank Lightfoot, Jr., 59, and Archie Elliot, III, 35.

Stewart and Lightfoot, Jr. are charged with four counts each of aggravated animal cruelty.

Elliot is charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty.

All three are in custody.

The charges are a result of an undercover investigation which started in November, 2011 looking into allegations of dog fighting, animal cruelty and missing or unaccounted for animals.

An MPD undercover officer began working as a technician at the shelter, “While there the. the officer witnessed several acts of cruelty against animals committed by the defendants on duty in the shelter.”

The investigation did not uncover any link to dog-fighting at the shelter.

Aggravated animal cruelty is a class E felony with a sentence range from 1-6 years.

Each of the 3 employees are suspended with pay for now. According to Mary Cashiola with the City of Memphis, the city is working to terminate them.

Although details were not released about the abuse, Mayor Wharton did claim “these acts are not up for interpretation as to whether or not they constitute animal cruelty.”  “The examples are plain concise and direct, easy enough for a 2nd grader to know that somebody ought to get in trouble,” said Wharton.

Wharton said with all of the claims of abuse he felt an undercover was officer was necessary. “Only by getting somebody inside there who is credible and willing to talk and to name names and to give dates and to give places, only through that were we able to get to this point.” Wharton said no evidence of dog fighting or starvation was found during this investigation.

Although the undercover officer is no longer at the shelter, Wharton said the shelter will still be monitored closely. Shelter employees are in the process of retraining, “We had three representative from the humane society of the us doing training right here on sight.”

Each Thursday night, the shelter hosts a “Yappy Hour” at which time all adoptions are $40.

Statement from Mayor A C Wharton:

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