There are places in Memphis, Tennessee, that are dumping grounds for not just garbage and unwanted furniture and tires — but also dead and live animals. It’s not in a rural area, but rather in a highly residential area and within a half-mile of an elementary school. Mallory Mcgaughy, a neighborhood resident, first found an abandoned dog there two-and-a-half years ago.
“I went there and saw a dresser. Then a puppy came out of it. I had brought some baloney, so I gave it to the puppy. I took him home and still have him.” After that incident, Mcgaughy continued to visit the road occasionally, driving down it to see if there were more dumped dogs. She has rescued several dogs over the years from the road, most of them pit bulls or pit mixes.
It was in January of this year that she first noticed a dead dog. “It was a female pit bull, just lying in the ditch. She looked like she was asleep.” But when Mcgaughy approached the dog, she realized that the dog was dead, not asleep. After that, when she drove down the road, she would notice more dead dogs. Some were in garbage bags that had “weird shapes,” others were just lying exposed to the elements. She called the police, but they said that dead animals were just property, and they would call animal control to scan the bodies and then have them taken away and disposed of. Mcgaughy reached out for help, and animal advocate Cindy Marx-Sanders agreed to look at the remains and contact local media.
Marx-Sanders met with the reporter on East Levi Road in Whitehaven. It was along this wooded stretch of road that the animal advocate identified the bodies of between 15 and 20 dead dogs.
“Kids walking from the elementary school to the park nearby could have easily been exposed to this,” she commented. “Skulls, rib cages, I mean I was there to look for that. So that’s what I noticed. Skull after skull, some had collars.”
Marx-Sanders reflected on the gruesome remains, “If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you might not even notice it because they had been bleached by the sun and scavengers had moved them. Many were broken, and just looked like white garbage, pieces of paper. Then when you got closer you could see, oh, that’s a skull, not a piece of paper. Some were in garbage bags, some had been in garbage bags and pulled out by scavengers.”
Marx-Sanders has a definite opinion on what the plethora of dead dogs represents. “There were enough bone fragments, skulls-intact, some in early stages of decomposition, that it was obvious this is not a place where pet owners are taking their family pets. This was, in my opinion, a dumping site for dog fighting and/or dogs that had lost fights or bait dogs. There were too many carcasses and skeletons.”
Ms. Marx-Sanders is a former federal officer and she works with animal cruelty and neglect cases. She attends court regularly and has been an expert witness in cruelty cases. Sanders was instrumental in setting up a task force under a previous police director, Larry Godwin. The subsequent police director disbanded the task force.
“There are streets like this in every major city,” Marx-Sanders avers. “In fact, there are ten sites like this one just in Memphis.” She went on to state that, “dog fighting is indicative of other crimes — gang activity, prostitution, gambling, outstanding warrants, illegal firearms, drugs. It’s considered the cornucopia (for criminal activity) because when you bust a dog fight, it leads to so many other things in addition to the terrible animal cruelty.”
The new administration in Memphis cares about animals. There is a new shelter director who has begun to take steps to improve what animal rescuers considered one of the worst in the country. If it’s true that the new administration cares about animal cruelty, then they would have no better ally than Cindy Marx-Sanders. She was part of helping to develop the previous task force.
There was a special group of detectives trained in the humane laws and in what to look for in animal fighting. She explained, “The evidence you gather for animal cruelty is different than other cases. For example, in a neglect case, the investigator must take pictures of the dog with the empty dog bowl and the dry leaves in it (to show lack of water). They were a specially trained group of officers.” Sanders concluded the interview by saying, “I have complete faith that the new mayor and police director will take this and all animal cruelty seriously.”
Animal lover and rescuer. Lives with 4 cats, 3 dogs, 1 bird, 2 frogs and usually at least one foster animal (and very understanding husband). Reviews books (especially about animals) and educates children about compassion toward animals. Former household animals include rabbits, rats, and other assorted creatures. Also writes at pamelakramer.com