Memphis Animal Services: Always Funny Until Somebody Loses an Eye

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After I posted some shots from the dog areas grabbed from the Memphis Animal Services web cam this morning, a  reader sent me some more screen grabs – these are from the cat areas.  The photos appear to show workers poking a stick into each of the cat cages.  There appear to be cats in each of the cages.  Anyone care to guess why each caged cat is subjected to poking with a stick?  Maybe they are all part of MAS’s TNR program for feral cats and therefore can not be safely handled?  Oh wait – MAS has no TNR program for feral cats.  (As an aside, I wonder how compliant the feral cats of Memphis have been with the dumbass MSN ordinance put into effect last year?)  Plus, were these cats feral, surely the cage door would not be wide open as shown in the first and last photos.

What I’m wondering is, since the shelter is closed today, if the workers have time to poke cats with sticks, what about that thing called petting – any time for that?

32 thoughts on “Memphis Animal Services: Always Funny Until Somebody Loses an Eye

  1. I am sick to death of people defending “shelters” ….like the “Kill the Kitty” video put on youtube by workers of a shelter in NYC…made me ill. This seems to be quite common…and very, very upsetting!!!!

    most of our dogs come from hell holes, and this is yet another one.

  2. Too weird! I e-mailed them and asked what they’re doing. It looks pretty methodical–like it’s part of their job but ???

  3. E-mail away I say…..been watching the webcam periodically throughout the day and have questioned MANY things I have seen. MAS is probably going to know me by name after today! To see this kind of crap you have to wonder…do these dumbasses know that there are webcams?!?!?!?! Sorry but I am REALLY getting irked at what I’ve seen throughout the day!

    By the way – after I have sent 10…yes, count them TEN…e-mails I have yet to receive ONE response! Poking cats with sticks, rinsing cages & floors while dogs are still in cages/kennels, watching the SAME 2 men standing around BSing for l-o-n-g periods of time. Seeing them go from cage to cage with the same pair of gloves (unless they are masters of changing them in under 15 seconds while throwing them away) – and that was going from area to area.

    The entire thing is a full case of BS! It’s time to create a petition to remove Matthew Pepper from his position and find someone who knows what the hell they are doing AND cares about the animals.

    I get it about stress of moving animals around all the time – but I also know from the kennel at my vets that they remove the animals to a completely clean and disinfected kennel/cage and then clean their previous cage. They keep the same food & water dishes, as well as litter boxes for cats (after cleaning them out)…plus they each get a nice clean fluffy sheep’s wool blanket to lay on. The cleaning & disinfecting is more important to me than the ‘possibility’ of additional stress to the animal by moving cages around. Besides, I have found that it actually seems to stimulate some animals by giving them new neighbors and keeps them happier. (And, yes, some of these are ‘long-term’ residents…they do boarding.) Not to mention removing the animals requires interaction between the animal and a person…you know that ‘thing’ that they were meant to have.

    Pepper’s BS and continued BS about full capacity and such…in each and every webcam shot I see MANY, MANY empty cages/kennels. So, why is it again that they have to kill so many animals a year? Overcrowding? Ummmmm, yeah and I have 6 toes on each foot!

    1. Well the UC Davis Shelter Medecine program would disagree with the disinfecting = more important than added stress
      Why would you need to disinfect a cage every day if it’s only housed the same animal?
      Also, disinfectants typically have a pretty strong odor- they’re erasing the cat’s natural smell in the cage and replacing it with cleaning agents.
      And do they replace the blanket when they clean? Again- erasing the cat’s smell.
      There’s a lot of support for giving cats a blanket when they arrive (spritzed with a little Feliway to reduce stress and induce calmness) and keeping that same blanket with the cat the entire stay- it becomes a security blanket infused with their own scent which helps them feel comfortable with the ‘sameness’ and familiarity. Many shelters even send these blankets home with adopted cats to help their new home smell ‘familiar’ and make for a quicker transition.

      There has been a lot of research and advancements recently in regards to feline enrichment in shelter. It all comes back to the importance of reduced stress (which reduces illness). And it’s important to remember that what we as humans feel like would reduce stress (cuddling cats) may actually not be what a cat needs (not to be handled by a stranger) or prefers (privacy). Now obviously, each cat is an individual, but generally in shelter/population medecine, you make policies for the many, not the exceptions. And one stressed/unhappy cat can cause an explosion of stress in other nearby cats

      1. Anne,
        While I agree that certainly not all cats (especially in a shelter environment) want to be cuddled (as you say), I’m talking about a friendly scritch between the ears or at the base of the tail for those who are receptive. With the possible exception of the holding/sick wards, I can’t think it would be necessary to gown/glove up and change between every cat pat. My favorite way to keep healthy shelter cats is in a room, like they have at UPAWS, where they can roam freely. And again, I’m sure a friendly pat is given out to more than one cat in those environments without a complete change of protective gear. For cats kept in cages, I always like to see them with a hidey hole – a space where they can prevent themselves from seeing what’s going on in the ward and from being seen.

        If the stick was being used to test temperament, wouldn’t it always be used w/the cage door closed? Once you have your answer as to whether the cat might be open to handling, only then would you open the door – right?

      2. The vet office also uses Feliway – they spray the blankets/cages & use a diffuser. When they are changed out it is normally because the old one is soiled and needs to be clean. Also the products that they use do not have strong chemical smells and are safe for use in a resturant (food grade safe). While you can take the stance that the smells are comforting…when there is vomit/hairballs, urine or feces in the cage then it is a NECESSITY to clean it.

        I have personally worked the kennel at my vets while my sister was the kennel manager and I saw the day to day procedures…maybe it isn’t the same when dealing with shelter “pets” but I’m kind of taking the stance where the animals in the shelters need to have attention (however slight it may be) because let’s be real, if they aren’t use to people touching them then they quite likely are going to be hiding at the back of their cages and therefore to a potential adopter it can be a turn off. Also, if I were to go into a shelter to locate a new pet I would want to see clean cages and happy animals that WANT human interaction.

        While I was helping at the kennel we managed to catch a feral cat & her litter of kittens. I have the scars to prove I worked with this cat daily to get her use to human touch. Due to the kittens we HAD to clean the cage quite often throughout the day…I was the ONLY person that would do it because she was feral. The goal of the vet techs was to get the kittens use to people and adopted out. My goal was to get them ALL use to people and ALL adopted out. We kept Momma Kitty for 6 months just so I could keep working with her (while I paid the boarding fees to keep her there). She was feral and I know that she was stressed more than any of the other cats…but I made sure that I sprayed myself down with Feliway everytime I worked with her to try and help her be less stressed. After her kittens were adopted we began to see her get depressed…I started playing around with different ideas of what to do to help her because I didn’t want to see her get sick. When I began moving her cage from one spot to another each day I began to see a change in her behavior. She went from trying to eat each person who came close to actually rubbing against the cage door when people walked by – even without talking to her. If they took a moment to talk to her she would even purr!

        Granted I know that not all shelter cats want to be grabbed and to be snuggled…the human touch and a rub against the side of their head does wonders at times in making all the difference between a cat that actually hides in the back of its cage all the time and one that will step forward when approached by people. While I can’t speak for all the studies that have been done…I have seen a HUGE difference between happy cats that have been moved around to accommodate their preferences. The ones that crave to have a hiding spot do better in a more secluded cage, while those that crave human interaction do better closer to where people are walking by all the time.

        I know that the policies are done for the majority, not minority….but it is important to point out that regardless of what the policy is that each cat needs to be taken care of in a way that makes THAT cat happy. If people aren’t “working” with the cats in some form and they are just left in the cages don’t you think they are going to actually reverse the way they feel about human interaction and shy away from it, instead of embrace it? With an end result of a more “feral-like” attitude & behaviors.

        I just think that far too many times when a cat is brought into a shelter they are just put in whatever open cage there is and left there until they are either adopted or killed. This policy does nothing to improve the chance of some cats getting adopted – as there will always be those cats that crave attention and therefore need to be closer to people and there will always be those that don’t want to be bothered.

      3. Shelter protocol and veterinary holding cages are two different scenarios – let’s not get bogged down in arguing these two tidbits, let’s find out why WE can’t poke those IDIOTS in the eye with a stick!

      4. You are right Morgana…..I did let that get OT a bit. AND – we CAN poke the idiots in the eyes with sticks – just remember that when you do they might charge you with “assualt with a deadly weapon” so PLEASE make sure if you are going to do it that you MAKE IT COUNT. Nice big, hard jabs please….

  4. This keeps getting worse and worse. I’d like to have just one day with these people. Maybe a little empathy training would help – ya know like putting them in cages and runs and hosing them down (oops are you wet?) and poking them with sticks (sorry, didn’t mean to put your eye out). They need to just shut down the whole thing, get those animals out of there and start over.
    Is there no one in Memphis, Tennessee who can do something to stop this?

  5. i have a couple ideas of what the stick might be (based on my shelter experience)
    1) test temperament- petting a cat with a stick or a fake hand will give you an idea of how a cat will react to you reaching into their cage. Also, if you hold your finger (or, more safely a pencil/stick/what have you) in front of a cat and they reach forward to touch their nose/rub/or just smell it, it’s an indication that the cat is comfortable to proceed with handling
    2) it’s a syringe pole- used to sedate aggressive animals where it’s not safe to open the cage door- it’s basically a syringe on the end of a stick/pole. You stick it through the bars and then stick the animal with it- injecting the sedation (or whatever- i suppose any sort of medication could be in there as long as it can be delivered IM- i’ve only ever seen it used for sedation).
    3) some sort of cleaning implement? On the first pic it looked like it was high enough in the cage that maybe he was cleaning with it

    I’d go with temp test, as it appears obvious in pics 6 and 7 that they are touching the cats with the pole (and i don’t want to think why they’d need to sedate every cat in a ward)

    One note about petting- again, most disease protocols call for minimal handling (especially of cats) during cleaning- to minimize stress and prevent spread of disease (especially in holding wards where animals may not yet have a clean bill of health). Workers that cuddle each animal should wear disposable gloves and smocks and change in between each animal- that can get quite pricy quickly if you care for a lot of cats
    That’s not to say there aren’t other ways to socialize cats in holding- it’s just not typically done during cleaning

  6. I’m guessing it’s to see who is still responsive? In any case, it’s another great way to spread disease – one stick touching each and every cat in turn. F’ing brilliant.

  7. Our local humane society does not poke animals with sticks . . . period! They don’t do everything right, but they do a heckuvalot more right than these idiots. Those poor, poor animals.

  8. The sticks are to close the openings on the feral cat boxes before the cages are opened. There are special boxes for feral cats that they can hide in. Hope this helps.

    1. So they have ferals in cages? PLEASE tell me that they have a TNR program in place where they DO release them again!?!? Otheriwse I might get sick at the thought that they are caging ferals and keeping them around long enough to stress them out and THEN kill them…..

      1. Yes – I read down to the end of the comments and found that out while you were responding….

        I have 3 “feral” cats right now…that I have as pets. I captured them and worked with them until they were comfortable being around people. My dog Gracie has been right by my side playing “Momma” with them all – so a few of them think they are dogs now instead of cats, But they are some of my best cats – with the exception of the one who still pees all over the place unless she is put up at night. But my male feral is a BIG baby and walks right up to people when they come over – checking them out like a dog would. And he’s not shy about when he wants attention – he’ll walk up to you, jump in your lap and grab your hand to pull it to him when he wants attention – and he won’t take no for an answer.

        This place just keeps getting me more and more upset!!!

  9. I’m no expert by a long shot, but it seems almost as if they are checking to see who responds, as said above. I guess the best I can say is that it doesn’t look like a deliberate attempt to harm the cats? But the potential for spreading disease from cat to cat, and the possible stress doesn’t seem worth it.

  10. It seems to me that if you are so concerned about keeping stress levels down, poking cats through a cage door is NOT the way to do it. YIKES!!!

  11. Has anyone been watching the shelter cams today? I’ve seen the cats in Feline Area 1 get their cages cleaned but no dog area cleaning so far today. I can’t stand to see when they take a pet out and away because it makes me wonder if I’m witnessing the last minute of that pet’s life.

  12. I finally called them. Waited on hold for about 15 minutes while I watched a worker come and go and the stick disappear and reapppear on the webcame (Feline Area 2). Finally got Mr. Gibson on the phone and he told me they have some feral cats in this area.
    There’s small holding box with a latch on it inside the regular cage. When the cages are cleaned, the worker has to make sure the kitty is in the holding box and then latch it. Stick is for the worker’s protection so his arm won’t get shredded. This makes sense to me and explains why the stick-poking seemed to be part of the cleaning routine. Once the feral cat is safely in the holding box, the worker can go ahead and clean the cage. For me the big issue is what happens next? They really need a TNR program so the cat can be neutered and released, not killed.

    1. ALL those cats being poked w/the stick are feral? Even the two where the cage door is wide open? I guess this is Memphis AS’s TPK program – trap, poke, kill.

      1. Just got a surprise “courtesy call” from the City of Memphis. They just wanted to make sure my question about the poking was answered. And were VERY chipper and perky on the phone.

        Might be an opportune time to push for a TNR program, more humane cage cleaning, more adoptions, more rescues, less killing and whatever else is on your wish list.

    2. Guess I should have kept reading before posting above….no TNR…so why in the hell do they spend time, resources, money, etc. on capturing ferals only to TOTALLY stress them by putting them in cages…for how long? 3 days….4 days…and then kill them?

      While I TOTALLY support TNR and don’t understand why it couldn’t be put in place at MAS…well we ALL know it ‘could’ they just haven’t. To me it is cruel to trap a feral and force it to live in a cage for days only to turn around & kill it. I would think it would be more humane to just kill them from the start instead of forcing them to be highly stressed out and THEN kill them. I mean – there is no reason to keep them around if they are just going to kill them anyways.

      Which brings me to this question…HOW do they kill ferals at MAS? If they go so far as to have special boxes for the cats and have poke sticks to close the cats into them for the “workers protection”…then how in the world are they going to be able to inject a feral with an itty bitty needle to kill it? That would be the time they should be worried about the “workers protection”…

      Egads…this place just gets worse and worse. At least they spoke with you AND gave you a callback. I am still awaiting ANY form of response from any one of my 10 e-mails…..

      1. i would assume they’d use some form of sedation- probably with a syringe pole

        I agree- housing ferals for any length of time is cruel

        however, it’s possible state laws require they hold the animal for a certain period before euthansia (since ‘proving’ an animal is feral can actually be quite challenging)

  13. I worked in a kill shelter for a month and a half. I cleaned both cat cage banks and dog runs while there. I cleaned the cat cages by either moving the cat from one cage to the other (or letting them run around the floor) and then cleaning the cage. The cats did not have blankets or anything. They had newspaper and litter boxes. I never wore a gown or gloves, and I petted all the cats (which is why I cleaned slower than my boss would have liked, I actually gave the animals ATTENTION).

    The dogs were all kept in runs, with a guillotine door dividing the middle. The dogs would be moved back and forth while cleaning. You do have to clean dog runs every day even though the same dog is in them because they poop and pee in there! Would you leave them sit in their poop and pee? That would be gross. The dogs never had blankets either, I don’t remember if they even had beds or anything. Maybe small Kuranda beds. Memory evades me.

    But we never poked cats with sticks, and we never cleaned cage banks with hoses (paper towels and spray cleaner was the norm). I find those practices weird. Maybe there are different laws for cleaning in different states (I’m in VA), but it seems weird to me that the dog runs would have a divided guillotine door setup? Every shelter I’ve ever seen has that setup.

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