Memphis Animal Shelter: It Gets the Hose Again

I received this photo, captured via the Memphis Animal Shelter live webcams, from a reader.  The photo is from a Facebook album with several more screengrabs showing the cleaning procedures at the shelter on March 17.  I decided to have a look at the shelter’s webcams myself this morning  and pull some shots for the blog:

Via the webcam, I watched this worker step from the main walkway into this side walkway as he continued his cleaning procedures with the hose.
Note the number of empty kennels where dogs could be placed while their kennels are cleaned.
I observed this worker step back off the main walkway, presumably to avoid backspray, before hosing down these cages. Unfortunately, the dogs in the occupied cages had no place to escape the backspray.
Again, the poor dogs in the cages below...
I continued watching after this shot but did not observe the bottom cages being cleaned nor any dogs being moved around.

Memphis Animal Shelter kills 16,000 pets each year.  This is how some of those pets spend their final days in this life – being sprayed with a hose while trapped in a cage.  While we know MAS director Matthew Pepper likes to dress up in a costume and dance to ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ in the face of bad publicity, I think the pertinent question here is, Who doesn’t let the dogs out?  The answer being, MAS staff.  Two of the reasons for keeping a shelter clean are to minimize the spread of disease and provide a comfortable environment for the pets.  Fail and fail.  Can’t we do better?

49 thoughts on “Memphis Animal Shelter: It Gets the Hose Again

  1. And they have a live webcam capturing this? Shall we start the countdown to how long it takes before the webcam becomes, um, broken? I give it a day.

    1. The webcams were installed after it was revealed that MAS was starving pets to death. In the whitewashing that followed, including getting a new director (since the old one was indicted for animal cruelty), the webcams were put up to reassure the public that all is well.

      1. I wonder if that is becoming the new standard for transparency–“Yup, we abuse the animals and we do it out in the open! So there!”

      2. After I stopped laughing….yep, I’m real reassured after seeing those screen shots! Makes me want to leave the webcam screen open on my PC for a day or two and see what other idiotic things we can find!

      3. Just an extremely sad statement for the rights of animals!! They have none!! And, sadly, elderly in nursing homes are mistreated much the same way, left in soiled clothing and beds, ignored. But, guess who does get funding and decent living conditions??? Our prisoners!! Yes, our jails are nicer than our shelters and some nuring homes!! What does this say about society? Let’s get it right out there people!!!

  2. You would THINK that given there is a LIVE webcam they would be a bit more diligent, shall we say, in doing things correctly. DUH! ANYONE can pull it up and watch at any point in time and see what’s going on….

    I think since Mr. Pepper is so fond of dressing like a dog maybe we should put him back in his dog suit and shove his butt in one of those cages for a day or two. Maybe after having to live through what the REAL dogs do he’ll change his procedures!

  3. Um, and, let’s not forget to note the number of empty kennels when the shelter is killing 16,000 a year presumably because they don’t have space for them all.

  4. One of the HUGE problems with cleaning with strong pressure hoses is that it aerosolizes disease. Parvo virus, etc. that is in one pen gets floated, via all the water particles in the air, all over the kennel.

  5. Did anyone notice that there is a link on the right top of the webcam page where you can e-mail them??? I sure did and sent one because this is just plain WRONG!

  6. This link goes to the UC Davis protocol for cleaning shelter kennel areas–and preventing outbreaks of parvo and other infectious diseases. My local shelter has followed this protocol for years and doesn’t have a problem with annual parvo outbreaks like a lot of Atlanta area shelters.

    This info is the gold standard for cleaning and disinfecting shelters. And it’s NOT HARD to implement–just takes care and some extra work.
    And–duh–ya move the dogs to the empty runs first!
    That step is spelled out–can’t miss it.

    1. Thanks for sharing that link Jeanne. My thing is, even if you were a shelter worker who had received poor instruction/training from management on the importance (re disease management) of moving pets out of cages before hosing them down, wouldn’t you just KNOW to do that? I mean, we constantly hear how shelter staff take these jobs “because they love animals” and how hard it is on them to “have to” kill them and yet – they don’t know it’s cruel to hose down a kennel or cage bank w/pets in it?

    2. That dog cleaning protocol is very similar to what we used at a boarding kennel I worked at. The differences are: The kennels had inside/sheltered outside runs, so the dogs were locked on the outside while the inside was cleaned; then brought in and locked inside while the outside part was cleaned.

      It may have been hard work, but it was worth it to make sure the dogs weren’t stressed out or being sprayed etc. Granted, the chances for disease were probably lower, since all dogs were vaccinated and generally healthy. The point is that it’s doable, and even a near minimum wage person or three can get it done in a reasonable amount of time. For 2-3 people it was generally a 3-4 hour job to get all the animals fed, their cages cleaned, and so on.

  7. To all those who were put off by how hard many comments were in regards to Matthew Pepper in the last article on this blog about his conduct –

    Do you get it NOW?

    Again, I have to apologize for not being able to keep my cool, but this is what THEY ARE BROADCASTING. What in doG’s name occurs behind closed doors?

    From this point forward any defense of Mr. Pepper’s actions past, present or future are considered by this commenter as rants of insanity by uninformed individuals.

    After this latest revelation, nothing will convince me otherwise.

  8. In the bottom two photos, are you sure there are dogs in those cages? The cage doors are wide open. Or are there dogs in the bottom cages but none in the top?

    Regardless, whether they are hosed or not, the problem is still that any of these healthy, treatable pets are killed. 16,000 is inexcusable, period.

    1. While I can’t say w/certainty due to the limits of the webcam, my impression while watching was that dogs were in the cages that had closed doors. However, even if that is incorrect, and all the cage banks were empty, you would never hose out the top cages only and allow the backspray to contaminate the bottom tier cages and then not clean the bottom cages (which is what I observed).

  9. Well that’s an epic fail. Isn’t is sad that people (pet lovers or no) don’t just KNOW? Or do they know, and are being instructed to do otherwise by supervisors?

    I know up here, kennel staff in public shelter is a low paying/low skill set job. That doesn’t mean all the employees don’t love the pets they’re working with, but it certainly means some of them took the job for a paycheck alone.

    1. Nope, they do in fact adopt out cats. Yet they kill 16,000 animals a year, and have a slew of empty cages and not a single cat available for adoption.


    2. There are two webcams for the cats. Today, Feline Area 1 appears to have cats in it but the cages into which we can see in Feline Area 2 appear to be empty.

      1. I also watched the webcams again this morning. I just don’t understand what goes on there. I observed a dog, little terrier, wandering in feline area 2. The last couple of weeks at least there have been dogs in those empty cages that are in view. Aren’t cat and dogs to be kept separately?

        There are mostly empty cages in a couple of those aisles. The cages with dogs in them come in one day and a couple days later are walked to the kill room. Sad, sad, sad. No one ever takes any dogs for a walk. They don’t even talk to them. What they do seem to do is walk up and down the aisles and stare into the kennels to perhaps check to see if the poor dog is still alive? I don’t know. This is one very sad outfit! I bet Pepper doesn’t have any webcams in the new shelter! Then those poor animals will really have no one to speak on their behalf.

      2. Yes cats and dogs should be kept separately or, if an emergency (temporary) situation, at least be kept from viewing one another. The increased stress from housing the two together makes them more susceptible to disease.

      3. I couldn’t verify any cats in area 1. Regardless, the same man who claims the shelter is “always above 100% capacity” has live webcams of EMPTY kennels EVERYWHERE, and not a single cat listed on the site. Am I to believe that they ran out of available cats? 16,000 animals a year and they don’t have a single cat to offer?

        Not to mention the disturbingly stark petfinder profiles. Names like “collie girl” “pretty girl” and “pretty boy” – wow, give that genius a creativity award! And such thorough descriptions of their personalities (by which I mean not a single frickin word).

  10. I received this from a reader. A concerned animal advocate contacted Matthew Pepper last month about the inappropriate cleaning practices observed via the webcam. This was the response:

    From: []
    Sent: Thursday, February 17, 2011 10:45 AM
    Subject: RE: I don’t think this is a good way to clean the kennel…..

    Ideally you are absolutely correct. The hoses are pressure hoses but can be limited in flow. Ideally we would like to clean every area like we do the adoption area where we can remove the animals from the cages and thoroughly clean it. Unfortunately there is no where to move these animals and we are always at more than 100% capacity. The staff does do everything within their power not to spray the animals. I will tell you that with the grated bottom to the kennels spraying from the bottom does result in significant ‘spray’ if you will. This facility is simply not large enough to accommodate the animals and built in a way to allow us to remove them from their cage to clean. This is also a measure for disease control as well. Allowing the population to intermingle would result in additional disease.

    This is one of those theoretical versus practical issues. Theoretically dogs should be removed from the cage but we simply do not have the facility, the staff and the resources to make that a reality.

    I appreciate the input and am always looking to review what we have in place.

    Matthew Pepper

    Administrator of Animal Services

    City of Memphis

    3465 Tchulahoma Rd.
    Memphis, TN 38118

    Phone: 901-362-5310

    Fax: 901-362-6876

  11. Allow me to play a bit of Devil’s Advocate

    1) at least they are cleaning cages! (ha- so sad to have to be excited about that, amiright?)

    2) MANY disease protocols (including those from UC Davis) actually call for LIMITING the moving of animals from one cage to another to help prevent the spread of disease. This is especially true for cats- where the stress of moving to a new cage every day makes them at increased risk of developing URI- at least when staying in the same cage every day they are only exposed to their own ‘germs’. of course, this protocol also calls for spot cleaning the majority of the time and only full cleaning once a week (or in between animal occupants)…so…yeah…

    ha! devil’s advocate fail

  12. I just sent an email to Mr Pepper about this cleaning protocol, as viewed on the webcam. His reasoning in the response you posted is simply bulls#%$!

  13. It’s unfortunate that this topic had to come up but I am glad that it did. The link provided by Jeanne I found very useful. This all made me come up with the following question. When does a make-shift shelter become a formal shelter and when should these cleaning protocols be implemented?
    I can elaborate. I know of an area organization that allows it’s cats to roam freely at night in a retail setting. The litter boxes are placed throughout the facility. The cats are then put up during the day.
    I have always found this to be a health issue to the public.

    1. I think I understand what you are saying – but it seems to me that the well-being of the animals is top priority, to the extent possible.
      What is your concern about the cats who are allowed to roam during the night? I’m not sure I understand. Is it that the litter boxes are set up around the facility?
      IMHO, there is no excuse for not implementing “best shelter practices” to the best of their ability. I know that sometimes, as with Katrina or puppy mill seizures, that people do the very best they can. But I don’t see that being the case with this particular “shelter”.

      1. My thought is that the cats use the liter boxes at night, then roam the store. They may walk on keyboards, dishes. They might hack in certain areas. Maybe I’m a germaphobe. It just doesn’t sound very sanitary to me is all.

      2. It’s a resale store. It’s at best a “make-shift” shelter. It’s all open space. There are cages for the cats to be put up during the day so they don’t make a break for the door when customers come into shop.

  14. I can’t figure out if these shelter workers are idiots or psychotics…. or BOTH?

    Question: Has anyone sent that e-mail link about proper shelter cleaning protocols to this Matthew Pepper imbecile? If not, IMHO if I lived in Memphis, I’d be sending that link to EVERY e-mail address in that shelter with CCs (with dated screen-shots from the webcam) to any and all nationwide U.S. animal organizations, plus CCs to the IFAW (Int’l. Fund for Animal Welfare), WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), etc., AND any Memphis and/or Tennessee politicians who are even remotely animal friendly….

    [I’ve no doubt that, if I sent it, they’d just call me a “Dumb Canuck” :-(.]

    *Don’t club seal pups, club seal hunters!!*

  15. The focus of blame should go to the leadership of this “shelter”. Rather or not the workers are following or not following orders — both show a lack of caring leadership.

    I believe I have read that the USA has more people in jail than any other country. Many of these people like animals, so why not use them to help care for the homeless and lost pets? Both the pets and the prisoners benefit and the pets receive, love, attention, and care better than nearly any of the shelters can give. The prisoners can also train the dogs and make them more adoptable.

    Also what programs are be implemented in this shelter to reduce the numbers of animals entering the shelter? Or to help return lost pets? When the number of pets going into a shelter is reduced it is easier to care and place these animals.

    Looks like this shelter director has failed and time for a new one to take his place — but the right new person — one with a caring heart and a passion to end the killing. Even one just willing to end the suffering of the animals while they are there would be an improvement.

    1. Actually adoptions are WAY up-200 alone in the month of Feb. They now scan for microchips that they NEVER used to do. They do mobile adoptions, again that never happened and their volunteer base is also way up. This director has made good improvements but still has a long way to go.

      While I wish this could be a no kill shelter, it is an open one and they turn no one away, unlike some of the rescue groups. We need stricter spay/neuter laws, community outreach for vacinnation programs and stricter laws for abuse and dogfighting.

  16. How interesting. I just saw on another forum that the Miami Dade shelter has suspended services for the same reason. However, part of their strategy has been to institute free adoptions, to help clear the shelter, and to ship animals out to other rescues and shelters. The piece didn’t say whether these animals had been vaccinated or not.

    I am sorry to say that I would no be willing to adopt a dog at any price from a shelter to help them clear the animals out. If I were a rescue or other shelter, I would be similarly reluctant.

    And I wonder, seeing this – has Memphis and Miami Dade been swapping stinking fish, so to speak? Trading the disease back and forth?

    We need some serious regulation of shelters and rescues. At the least, we should demand that they give minimal vaccines, including first and foremost, distemper to any intakes where there is the least bit of doubt whether the animal has received them.

    I’m required now (by convention, not by law) to pump any vaccines BigPharma can devise into my dogs on a *yearly* basis. This is excessive, but if I am required to vaccinate for everything veterinary medicine has ever heard of, shouldn’t shelters and rescues be required to vaccinate at least for distemper?

  17. Did you know that they killed all their adoptable dogs this weekend, I mean all of them, because of distemper. And everyone wonders how it spreads so rapidly through the shelter. Absolutely horrific way for those poor animals to spend their last days on earth.

  18. Okay, I have to agree that washing down the kennels with the dogs inside is not the best way. I know things are tight with staff and budgets, but what about having staff remove the dog and hod it on a leash while another cleans? But I also agree with Mr. Pepper that moving dogs to another kennel could cause other issues (such as parvo virus, which is also a airborne diease)Distemper is spread (from everything I read, is from contact with a diseased animal, coughing, sneezing etc.)What about the staff that touches an infected animal and doesn’t wash thier hands afterwards? When I volunteered with the humane society at the thier old place on Central, you washed/scrubbed your hands/arms EVERY time after handling a dog before touching another one. With the ancient HVAC system (instead of seperate ones) and no way to properly isolate sick animals this was just a horrible tragedy.

  19. I reposted this on my facebook account. I can honestly say that I have a vested interest in what goes on at the MAS, as I have personally fostered, rehabilitated, and re-homed dozens of their dogs. This is an outrage! Nothing ever changes in Memphis.

  20. This has been a no go deal with these union employees, they know they can’t be fired unless it comes down to a civil service board meeting, which is about like the president getting impeached, why should they care, its no sweat off there a##, Pepper doesn’t care, he’s making 90K a year at a job he is just a yes man for the CITY for, thus, Wharton, Hooks and the city council.
    In the first place most are 2nd chance felon employees who were given there 2nd chance by working this job, then another chance after the 2009 bust, then even more chances after all the things that happened there since, with the excuse they have been retrained, even dr DEATH who should have KNOWN these animals were starving back then failed to do her job, her job was to monitor ALL the animals who come through there, NOT STARVE them, yet even she has been promoted.

  21. @ Chester,
    There are currently 2 ex-felons working at MAS, not most.

    Those two are animal control officers.

    The current vet was not the shelter vet at the time of the raid. The shelter vet was indicted as she was responsible for the monitoring of all the animals. The current shelter vet was a contract vet with MAS before the raid and was clocking in 20 hours a week, most of it spent doing spay/neuter.

    I don’t like MAS or the way they treat the animals before, during, or after killing. But I want things to be factual.

  22. This is ugly in God eyes.. what wrong with your people don’t you love animals.. so why you working for them.. for the money only.. but what about love.. You people watch your back because a lot people will fight for the animals..

  23. i am so sickened to see that. i had to walk thru there twice to rescue my mischievious lab who always got out of the backyard… but he has passed due to health and bein an old man. walkin thru that gauntlet was disgustin and horrible… i wanted to take every pet with me and then have the workers get the old mexican army way of bein tended to… out in the back, the way these people behaved – apathy to the care. i know its not a quiet place to work BUT if you do not like animals and do not have a passion for caring of life… then dont work there. memphis animal shelter is hell… for the creatures that depend on us and deserve the love that they unconditionally give.

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