I have yet to see any media reports on this so I’m reporting the limited information I have at this time and will update as hard news comes in.
Ona Cooper, a reader and local rescuer, sent her husband Jon Cooper to the shelter to pull a puppy for her under Meows and BowWows yesterday, March 26. The puppy had just been listed by the Friends of Memphis Animal Services FB group on March 25:
Friends of Memphis Animal Services
Here is a little boy that needs some special love. He is pretty scared right now, and he needs some extra loving. He was brought in by an owner, and probably just has not had any attention at all. He is very sweet just needs some extra tlc. This little boy is just 4 months old. His id number is 223964, and he is in cage 9. Please come meet him. He just would love a home with lots of love to give him.
When Mr. Cooper arrived at the shelter, he learned the puppy, along with all the other adoptable dogs, had been killed due to a distemper outbreak. He asked to speak with shelter director Matthew Pepper and was told Mr. Pepper was not working that day.
Last night, Friends of Memphis Animal Services confirmed the mass killing via a posting on their FB page which reads, in part:
Friends of Memphis Animal Services
It was a sad day at the Memphis Shelter today. The animals in the adoption area were euthanized in an attempt to contain a distemper outbreak. Distemper has been confirmed by tests done on some adopted dogs by the Ms. State vet school. Many pets were coming back to the shelter sick.
The real fault goes back to the community at large who does not vaccinate their pets. If the pets of Memphis were largely vaccinated the shelter would not face the issue with distemper that crops up its ugly head so often.
It would seem, assuming this information is accurate, that the shelter knew about the distemper problem for at least a significant period of time as dogs were adopted out, developed symptoms, had samples sent for testing to a vet school and the results came back as distemper. In addition, the shelter was having adopted dogs returned with symptoms. During this time, as far as I know, the shelter said NOTHING TO THE PUBLIC about this serious developing situation. They did not advise adopters, they did not reach out to rescue groups for assistance, nor did they go to the media with a plea for help.
Furthermore, the killing apologist FB group turns around and blames the public for not vaccinating their pets. Hullo – MAS does not vaccinate its pets upon intake. If they did, and if they followed recommended cleaning procedures to minimize disease, distemper might not rear “its ugly head so often” at MAS.
So to summarize the limited information we have at this time: MAS knew it had a serious distemper problem but carried on with business as usual – no vaccination upon intake, no change in their grossly inadequate “cleaning” procedures, no warnings to adopters, and no pleas to the public for assistance quarantining the dogs. They waited until a Saturday to kill the adoptable canine population when the shelter director was reportedly enjoying a day off and – oh yeah, the shelter is closed on Sundays and Mondays so neither the media nor the concerned public will have access. Total coincidence, I’m sure.
Here are a few comments visible on the Friends of Memphis Animal Services FB page this morning:
Update: The Commercial-Appeal has an article on the story tonight indicating approximately 25 – 30 dogs were killed, per the veterinary medical director, Dr. Coleman. I guess it would be too much to ask for the veterinary medical director to know exactly how many dogs were killed. Dr. Coleman is quoted as saying “We have been in a state of heightened cleanliness” which seems uh, questionable at best. She describes the mass killing as “not a pleasant experience”. I bet it was no picnic for the dogs either. Then there’s this:
The shelter is hampered by the lack of an isolation facility, which would allow workers to separate sick animals, a dilemma Coleman says should be resolved when a new facility is ready, hopefully within six months.
Shield your eyes everyone, because the following photograph, taken from the shelter webcam tonight, depicts a place that does not exist: