Updated: Mass Dog Killing at Memphis Animal Services

 

Empty kennels in one of the main canine areas at MAS on Saturday.

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:

Please ignore me for at least the next 6 months. kthx. Love, The Isolation Ward

Leave a comment

83 Comments

  1. Wait, this shelter doesn’t vaccinate the dogs they take in? *headdesk*

    Reply
  2. Jeanne

     /  March 27, 2011

    This is beyond effing stupid and cruel to the dogs (and adopters) and practically leaves me speechless. But not too speechless to let Pepper know what I think about his cleaning methods, appalling lack of concern for the health of the dogs in the shelter and the community, and his vet (who apparently recommended the slaughter).

    Reply
  3. Not to mention CDV is a potentially zoonotic to humans. It’s baffling why there is not a mandatory state law or county law that incoming animals be vaccinated against distemper (which is arguably more common than rabies).

    You can get distemper vaccines for around $2-3/dog. I’m sure manufacturers would offer discounts for shelters. It’s a low-price to pay to prevent such a virulent, ugly, deadly disease.

    Love the “blame the community” angle. If I never vaccinated my dogs against distemper, guess what? The likelihood of them infecting an entire kennel of dogs is extraordinarily low…that isn’t true of a shelter in which dozens of dogs are in close distance from one another, especially in the case of a virus transmitted via air. It’s the height of irresponsibility to take in multiple animals from unknown sources and do nothing to prevent highly contagious diseases.

    Reply
    • Anne

       /  March 27, 2011

      I’ve never heard that CDV is zoonotic. To be sure, i did a basic google search- everything came up said that it is not zoonotic, but a couple sites did say that the virus can replicate in humans, but will be asymptomatic.
      interesting

      Reply
      • That’s why I said potentially! :) It’s a controversial topic, to be sure. But in almost every single case of Paget’s disease CDV RNA is present. Paget’s disease is confused for other disorders and folks may not show symptoms for many years, but to be sure, it can be a painful disorder. There is still nothing conclusive, but it’s certainly a possibility. Pubmed has some abstracts on the various studies done.

      • Anne

         /  March 28, 2011

        dur- totally missed the use of the word ‘potentially’. my bad :-)
        now i need to go google paget’s disease

    • Erica

       /  March 29, 2011

      Given the present situation I would say the time is NOW to make things like this mandatory.

      Reply
  4. Mega doses of vitamin C Intravenously have been used successfully treat distemper. Please do an Internet search for more info. Please if anyone adopted a dog from the shelter consider giving them extra vitamin C!

    This shelter gets a failing grade for about everything. I hope this will be the final straw that will cause the people of this area to demand reform.

    Reply
    • Important to note that anyone who adopted a dog from MAS and now that dog appears to be sick should contact their vet immediately. Don’t just take the dog in to the clinic (even an emergency clinic) without calling ahead to let them know you are bringing in a dog who was exposed to distemper and is sick. They may ask you to come in via a separate entrance or take some other precautions.

      Reply
  5. K G

     /  March 27, 2011

    If they do not vaccinate dogs upon intake, then putting the little vaccine bottle tags on the cage cards, such as the one on my dog’s cage card, as if they did vaccinate them is a LIE!!!

    Reply
    • I think they may vaccinate once a rescuer or adopter puts a hold on a pet. Not sure on that but hopefully someone can clarify.

      Reply
      • K G

         /  March 27, 2011

        I adopted this dog and he certainly was not vaccinated or microchipped by MAS after I adopted him. I took him to my vet 2 days later and they vaccinated him.

      • KG – Thank you for adopting! Did your dog ever get sick?

      • K G

         /  March 27, 2011

        No, he is fine and never got sick.

      • I am so glad to hear. You can always make a request to the shelter for your dog’s records from their Chameleon software system. That’s public information and they should provide it upon request. If not, you can file a request officially under the TN open records act for the records. That should give you the definitive answer as to the dates your dog was vaccinated, etc. If you do obtain the records, please leave a comment as I know many of us would be interested.

      • K G

         /  March 27, 2011

        All I got to any of my questions was “I Don’t Know”!!! It took me quite a while to even figure out what my dog would eat. They were trying to get me to schedule his neuter until I told them his petfinder page said he was already neutered. It is like the Keystone Cops up there!!!

      • Donna

         /  March 27, 2011

        This article says the animals do get vaccinated.

        http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/mar/27/memphis-animal-shelter-euthanizes-dogs-stem-outbre/
        tinyurl.com/4k5ybg3

      • Donna – MAS does vaccinate SOME pets but AFAIK they do not vaccinate upon intake. They kill most of the pets that come through their doors.

      • Erica

         /  March 29, 2011

        According to one of the articles it says clearly – “We have been in a state of heightened cleanliness,” using bleach to kill the virus inside the environment, Coleman said. “We had a situation where it was working its way into becoming epidemic in the population.”

        So now they are using high pressure hoses AND bleach to clean? So the dogs and their food is getting soaked with bleach as well? Not to mention that it is spread by mucous…which I am sure the high pressured hoses they use to clean, while failing to remove dogs during the cleaning has helped enable the problem to become worse!

        As for vaccinating one of the articles says “Workers at the shelter assume all dogs coming in have not received the necessary vaccinations and administer them.” So IF that is the case then they shouldn’t be having the problems they are right now!

        After much “soul searching” they reached the heartbreaking decision that this was the only way to control the problem of the outbreak? Really Pepper did soul searching? Because IF he did then maybe he discovered that his soul wasn’t fit to be a shelter director…and decided that a murderer would be better.

  6. Rose Buoncuore

     /  March 27, 2011

    Please shut them down.

    Reply
  7. Morgana

     /  March 27, 2011

    “Add a comment to this post”…**dumbstruck once again*.

    Reply
  8. db

     /  March 27, 2011

    These people need to be . . . something needs to be done. This is beyond belief, again! Is incompetence and liking to kill animals a prerequisite for working there? Dear God, send someone to help these animals. To all those who lost their lives – WERE KILLED – rest in peace.

    Reply
  9. db

     /  March 27, 2011

    Just checked out the FB link and there are a lot of folks who simply don’t get it! They feel sorry for the employees and volunteers (yeah, I feel worse for the volunteers) because this awful thing has happened. It sounds like the public has no factual information about how things are run in this particular “shelter”! How do you get the word out to the public?
    Just so sad and frustrating because this does not have to happen.

    Reply
  10. I hope one day we can move beyound this! Taking animals into shelters and then putting them away. I would give a monthly amount of my check (into the hands of people that care about and love animals, not money hungry person!) just to keep animals fed, alive, and healthy to live out their natural lives. It is my dream to one day see an animal sanctuary that will allow this. Animals need caring for too.

    Reply
  11. CristyF

     /  March 27, 2011

    Municipal animal controls are run by the State, are they not? Then wouldn’t the State need to give these municipal animal controls funds to buy vaccinations? And don’t municipal animal controls have to get permission from somewhere to change policies and procedures? I’m not trying to make excuses for the shelter, I’m genuinely wondering.

    I agree, they should have had much better cleaning protocols to prevent the spread of disease. Sadly, the attitude in a lot of places like that is “we’re just going to kill them anyway, who cares if they get sick?” There are two in Maryland that are well known for being cesspools: Prince George’s County Animal Management Division, and Montgomery County Humane Society (MCHS).

    Reply
    • If TN had CAPA, then they would be required to vaccinate. Will this inspire TN advocates to follow Texas and Delaware’s leads?

      Reply
      • Jeanne

         /  March 27, 2011

        Excellent point! Memphis has a no-kill organization called No-Kill Memphis–hope they will back CAPA for TN!

    • Jeanne

       /  March 27, 2011

      No, this shelter is run by the city gov. So it’s up to the City of Memphis to make changes. Shelter directors usually have quite a bit of leeway when it comes to the day-to-day operation of the shelter.
      Also, if they can’t get funding from the city for a vaccination program, they can work with volunteers and fund the program through donations instead. A lot of shelters do this.

      Reply
      • Erica

         /  March 29, 2011

        If Pepper can make the decision to refuse to release someones pets because they are not neutered and he demanded that the procedure HAD to be done within his facility it appears to me that he has a little more “room” to make decisions that don’t follow protocols that have been put in place, wuite possibly by the city. He can’t have it both ways – either it’s ALL up to the city or it’s all up to Pepper. This is just beginning to sound more and more like CYA, on Peppers behalf!

  12. Mathew Pepper needs to be fired. (There are a lot of other things I’d like to see done to him, but I’ll linger on the side of the legal for now, and say that he needs to find employment elsewhere.) Let’s start a letter campaign to whichever governmental body oversees the Memphis shelter.

    Reply
  13. Heather

     /  March 27, 2011

    Matthew Pepper has done an amazing job so far turning the shelter around. I adopted my doggie from MAS last April and had a great experience. I’ve been back several times to visit, and just completed my volunteer orientation. First of all, the dogs weren’t killed as you claim. They were humanely euthanized. It hurts, and I cried quite a bit last night when I first heard the news. But distemper is serious and extremely contagious. I know the employees are hurting right now–they truly love these animals. How many of you have been to the shelter to see this? All of you calling for Matthew Pepper to be fired, when did you visit last? When did you go by to visit the doggies, or support a volunteer event? Because I do both often and I know the employees are hurting right now. For them to make this call… the situation must have been dire. I’m not happy by any means, but MAS is working with extremely limited support. Situations like this hopefully won’t happen again when they move into their new building this Summer. They are doing the best they possibly can, and have made huge strides in the right direction. Don’t you even try to tell me Matthew Pepper should be fired. His employees are very fond of him, as are the volunteers. This is a sad, sad day and there are so many hurting. Your ignorant comments aren’t helping.

    Reply
    • Oy vay.

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    • Please. Just stop right now. the things that you are saying are not making me feel any better, as a matter of fact, they are making me feel worse. Matthew Pepper is doing an amazing job, but yet, all the animals are gone!
      Just stop. please.

      Reply
    • He’s done an amazing job turning the shelter around?

      Let’s see, he’s helped get MSN passed which is a policy that has failed to reduce the killing everywhere it’s been tried and in some cases has INCREASED killing.

      According to the 2010 MAS shelter stats report, 5 pets “escaped” and 155 pets went “missing” on his watch. 357 pets died in their cages. MAS killed more than 77% of the pets they took in.

      The shelter typically has several hundred pets at any given time but only puts maybe a dozen or two on Petfinder. They have Chameleon software and could utilize it to share information on the pets at the shelter with the public but they don’t.

      Oh, wait – did you mean “turning around” IN THE DITCH?

      Reply
    • Lisa in OH

       /  March 27, 2011

      Humanely euthanized?? Keep believing those “make-me-feel-better-and-not-have-to-face-the-guilt” words. Those dogs were killed.

      Reply
    • Heather, it’s great you adopted a dog from this shelter (they have a high kill rate, so any adoption is wonderful).

      But please remember that the overall health of a shelter’s kennel population is the responsibility of the employees. Moving to a new building will not prevent distemper outbreaks if only a few dogs are vaccinated. It is a deadly policy to not vaccinate all incoming dogs (or isolate them until they are healthy to vaccinate).

      It was a tragically preventable situation that would have only cost the shelter $2-3/dog (for the vaccine). Since it was preventable, it cannot be called a “humane euthanasia” – it was a killing founded on irresponsible shelter behavior.

      I certainly hope they change their policy, and perhaps you can help by contacting them, thanking them for the dog you adopted, and encouraging them to implement a mandatory distemper-rabies vaccination schedule for ALL incoming animals.

      Reply
    • Anne

       /  March 28, 2011

      Heather- as someone who has been through a distempter outbreak (feline in my case) and had to go through a mass euthanasia, i just wanted to let you know that i empathize with you- i know how much it hurts and sucks and i hope Mr. Pepper has asked for assistance from Grief Counselors for the staff and volunteers there- that helped my organization a lot.
      That being said, it’s unfortunate that these dogs weren’t given the opportunity to be adopted prior to euthanasia.
      That solution worked very well for my organization- we were open about the disease challenges we had been facing and advised the community that we needed their help. Every single cat on the adoption floor (i think it was 70+) were adopted that day, leaving only the unhealthy and behaviorally questionable to be euthanized. some of the adopted cats later died in their new homes, but the adopters were happy to have given them a few days of a good life

      Reply
    • Erica

       /  March 28, 2011

      Heather is really is great that you adopted a dog from them. But you also need to realize that them killing approximately 25-30 dogs COULD have been prevented IF MAS did distemper vaccines upon intake. MAS fails to do so, in addition to their cleaning protocols….using a high pressure hose to spray everything down – many times while there are other animals in cages around the area they are cleaning…meaning that MAS is spreading disease around by a failure to move animals PRIOR to cleaning. High pressure hoses means that many things become airborn and can affect other animals. The argument that them getting a new building is going to fix the problems is ridiculous. They need to work on PROPER cleaning protocols…among other things.

      Additionally – the Matthew Pepper that you are so determined to defend also refuses to acknowledge his failure to do the right thing by the animals placed in his shelters care. ANY animal that is taken in by the shelter should be vaccinated against things like distempter…their failure to do so makes me think that they don’t want to “waste” the money when they are just going to kill them anyways. Also did you know that one gentleman had his 2 dogs picked up by the ACO and taken to the shelter – neither dog was neutered and Mr. Pepper refused to release the dogs to the owner (and it is NOT shelter policy that they have to neuter the dogs – Mr. Pepper made that call on his own – charged the owner for the procedures and didn’t seem the least bit concerned that one of the dogs died), even when the owner said he’d rather his vet do the procedure, Mr. Pepper said that they HAD to be neutered prior to leaving the shelter. One of the dogs actually died – could have been because the dog wasn’t watched post-op to make sure there were no complications.

      While you say the dogs were humanely euthanized – I still say they were KILLED because none of this would’ve happened had Mr. Pepper had the dogs vaccinated upon intake. Period. Failure to do so resulted in the KILLING of dogs that otherwise would’ve been able to be adopted.

      While you can say our comments are ‘ignorant’ – do YOU know the entire story? The rest of us have been following this shelter closely…and if you go back through Shirley’s blogs you will see this. You want to say that they are working with limited support…have they done anything to TRY and fix these problems? I can tell you that I personally have sent 10 e-mails in regards to things I saw on their shelter cams and still have yet to receive ONE response.

      I think it’s great that you support the shelter…but if you truly care about the animals then you need to see that Mr. Pepper addresses things like vaccination upon intake, makes changes in cleaning protocols, and reaches out to the community for support so that they have the supplies they need to do their job properly.

      I’m sorry but I feel that Mr. Pepper isn’t doing his job correctly. Failure to remove animals while cleaning with a high pressure hose, resulting in many things becoming airborn – which can and will cause things like this distemper outbreak. Failure to vaccinate animals upon intake, lack of posting animals available for adoption (the cats fair the worse in this case because many of us have YET to see a single cat listed for adoption), Mr. Pepper deciding to change procedures like with the gentleman who’s dogs were picked up….I could go on and on. But I think IF YOU took the time to go back through all the blog posts on MAS you will see that we aren’t just flying off the handle about Mr. Pepper and what is occurring at MAS. After YOU have read everything THEN come back and tell me how wonderful MAS is and how Mr.Pepper is such a wonderful person that REALLY cares about the animals.

      While I am glad that you adopted a dog from them and have had no problems with the dog – this “problem” with MAS goes much deeper than you seem to know.

      Reply
  14. Ann Mitchell

     /  March 27, 2011

    Another atrocity coming out of MAS. Why is anyone surprised? I “don’t get” the surprise or lack of outrage by the citizens of Memphis. My first encounter with MAS in the early 80’s was horrible. So, I know of over 30 years of neglect, cruelty, killing, even starvation, filth and sweeping every atrocity under the ever handy rug!Nothing, to date, no matter how horrible, has had enough effect to demand change. The little bit of publicity concerning the AWFUL things that have happened in the last year should have been enough for indepth investigations, terminations, taking the shelter out of the city’s hands and criminal charges…but we still have MAS. It will take a huge civil and legal “uprising” to demand and get change. It will not be easy, but until change comes, Memphis Animal Shelter is a horrible blight, not only on the city, but what it says about the citizens of what used to be a beautiful, safe, well run city.

    Reply
  15. db

     /  March 27, 2011

    Sorry, but when things like this happen and a 77% kill rate is “normal” then the director, whoever it is, is not doing an amazing job. If there are been decent cleaning protocols and vaccination upon intake, these dogs did not have to be killed. Basic sheltering 101 – this is a sorry excuse for an animal “shelter” and I’m sorry that the people of Memphis don’t see it!

    Reply
  16. I know this has been a tough weekend for those who love animals, and those who work with the shelter. Here’s a story we’ll be airing after CSI Miami tonight on Ch. 3 (approx. 10:17pm). Dr. Rebecca Coleman is included, as well as Ona Cooper.

    http://www.wreg.com/news/wreg-animal-shelter-distemper,0,5010902.story

    Reply
  17. Do you suppose Heather will come back to read any of the replies to her comment? Or has she simply stuck her head back in the sand when she is most comfortable?
    I love how we’re not allowed to have a negative opinion of MAS or Matthew Pepper if we haven’t set foot in their facility.
    Here in my neighborhood, the people with a less than happy opinion about the municipal facility are not WELCOME on site. Apparently only oblivious cheerleaders are allowed to volunteer.
    But, of course, the public is bad for not vaccinating! And the staff is having a really bad week because killing animals is really not much fun. Poor babies. RIP sad victims.

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  March 29, 2011

      Honestly – regardless of IF any of us have been to the shelter or not…the proof is in the pudding and Mr. Peppers pudding is beginning to sour!

      I seriously doubt “Heather” or any of the other staunch supporters of MAS will be back, especially given the entire situation at MAS. They will defend Pepper until the day they die. Sad really, when you have volunteers supporting a director who doesn’t do his job worth a shit. If this is what we’re getting from those who support the shelter we will NEVER see change…only more excuses!

      Reply
  18. Dana Davis

     /  March 28, 2011

    I, like Heather, am a MAS volunteer and have been for the last four years. I have been there in the worst of times and can tell you that the shelter under the leadership of Matthew Pepper is 100% better than it has been in the past. He has worked tirelessly to promote more adoptions and just in the month of February 200 dogs/cats went to their forever homes. What people tend to forget when quoting that 77% euthanasia rate is that MAS is the city “pound” and has to take every single animal that is dumped on their doorstep. Just last year, MAS took in 17,000 animals…it does not take a genius to figure out that there are not that many homes available for these animals. And I can tell you from the experience of being at the shelter on any given Saturday that there is a constant string of unwanted animals being surrendered by their owners…many heartworm positive dogs, sick animals, and old animals that people just don’t want anymore. The volunteers, with the support of Matthew Pepper, work very hard to find people willing to provide homes to these unwanted animals. For example, take the story of Lady, a heartworm + 16 year old Beagle who was surrendered because “she’s old and don’t hunt no more.” Matthew Pepper waived her adoption fee and took it upon himself to find her a forever home. MAS is a city shelter and, unfortunately, performs euthanasia when necessary. What happened on Saturday was necessary due to a distemper outbreak and I assure you the employees/volunteers are hurting. So, before you make uneducated comments about the situation come and visit the shelter for yourself. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Dana, I don’t forget that MAS is an open admission shelter when I say they kill more than 77% of their pets. I know that MAS is open admission, just like the shelters in Washoe Co, NV and Tompkins Co, NY and Marquette Co, MI – all of which save more than 90% of their pets. It’s great that Mr. Pepper waived the adoption fee for the 16 year old Beagle but seriously – was charging an adoption fee for that dog even a consideration? The mass killing on Saturday was NOT necessary as you say it was. It was preventable for one thing and, even in the face of outbreak, likely manageable. Look at how rescuers have rallied to pull hundreds of dogs at the Miami-Dade shelter this week when they were faced with the exact same situation. Reaching out to the community for help is one thing MAS never seems to do. They’d rather shut out the media, shut out the skeptics, and shut out proven, lifesaving models of shelter management. My comments are not uneducated and I won’t be visiting your anti-shelter. I get sick at the smell of death.

      Reply
    • Anne

       /  March 28, 2011

      Hey Dana
      I don’t think anyone here is doubting that you work very hard and are proud of your accomplishments.
      My organization takes in about 33,000 animals every year. We, too, are open admission and 2 of our locations provide impound services to local communities.
      We have also had to perform a mass euthanasia due to distemper.
      So i feel like my comments can be considered pretty ‘educated’ or relevant to the discussion.
      My organization last year was down to a 30% euthanasia rate. I know we can do better, but i’m certainly proud of the work and effort we’ve put in to get that low. 5 years ago we were near 60-70%.
      I’m glad that you feel that the shelter is moving in the right direction. But 70% is very high- 7 out of every 10 animals will leave the shelter dead. I 100% believe that some animals are not fit to be placed into the community. But i don’t believe that’s 70% of the animals in your community. I feel like MAS can do better. And i hope you feel that way too.

      Reply
      • Nicole

         /  March 28, 2011

        Hello Anne! I am very interested to hear how you brought your euthanization numbers down from 70% to 30%. Can you list specific steps that were taken to achieve this? I wish you and other successful animal control angels could come in and observe/suggest changes that Memphis and MAS should make. I’m wondering if it is knowledge that is lacking or accountability or ??? I would like to pass this information on to FMAS – they are a wonderful group of volunteers who have put their hearts and souls into bettering the shelter and help finding homes for these poor babies daily. I appreciate your insight and thank you!

      • Anne

         /  March 28, 2011

        We focused a LOT on enrichment for animals (to reduce stress) and then increasing adoptions to reduce LOS- we were often euthanizing due to URI in our cats. This is the first year where we had an entire month go by and not a single cat was euthanized due to URI. We also have focused on partnering with teh community. Some specific steps:
        Cat enrichment, such as shelves for each cage, bedding with feliway, toys and scratching posts for each cat, classical music. We are also starting to cut holes between cages to make larger cages for each cat. we also reduced the amount of cages in our wards- less animals means less stress which means faster adoptions (which means no animals are actually displaced). For dogs we make sure they each have a soft bed, a kong or other toy, etc (a LOT of our focus was on cats). We also started evaluating cats for behavior- it used to be that the cats that were the healthiest went up, but that didn’t mean that they were the nicest. We started focusing on getting the nice (or highly adoptable) cats up first- they would get adopted faster and leave more empty cages.
        We moved to a surrender by appointment- this allows us to gather more information on each animal and allows us to counsel each customer prior to surrender to see if we can help them keep their pet. We also can know what to expect on any given day. We tell surrenderers before they leave whether we consider their animal adoptable- most people choose to take their pet back if we can’t proceed with them to adoption (we are still open admission). We started staffing our behavior helpline with paid staff 7 days a week, we decreased adult cat fees to just $50…
        there are probably a hundred of other little things i am forgetting, but the changes that had the most impact are the $50 adoption fees, the surrender by appointment, and making highly adoptable cats the first priority. All of those helped to reduce our Length of Stay, which means animals are getting adopted more quickly, which frees up resources to help other animals

        UC Davis shelter medecine program did a review of our shelter before we started a lot of these programs- they helped a lot

      • Erica

         /  March 29, 2011

        Anne – I think it is AWESOME that you guys are doing surrender by appointment. Not only does it give you a chance to show the owner other options but is also can actually help reduce the number of animals coming in because you can talk one on one and give them suggestions to help if they need them. I wish every shelter would do the same…it would probably greatly reduce the amount of owner surrenders.

    • Erica

       /  March 28, 2011

      If there have been SO MANY positive changes then why are the cleaning protocols still not being updated to prevent any illnesses from becoming airborn? Why are animals not vaccinated upon intake? Why are there no cats and not very many dogs showing up on Petfinder for adoption? There are too many other shelters that have been in similar situations and they have managed to “fix” the problems. I’m sorry but there are too many other “pounds” that have been able to do a better job…leaving us ALL to believe that Mr. Pepper is not only NOT doing his job properly – it shows a general lack of caring on his part to not vaccinate upon intake and to allow people to clean with high pressure hoses while there are animals in kennels/cages around where they are cleaning. And don’t even get me started on the poke sticks that we see them use on a daily basis for almost all the cats. Also – I am sure since you are a volunteer that you know there are these things called transports that can pull and move animals to places where they have a chance at life rather than arguing that there aren’t that many homes. There are other options out there that Mr.Pepper FAILS to utilize, and as a result animals are KILLED.

      Again a supporter of MAS saying that we are making uneducated comments…..maybe you should go back through Shirley’s blog posts and see what the rest of us HAVE been following in regards to MAS. Once Mr. Pepper accepts responsibility for his actions/inactions and begins to make changes then we can talk. IF everyone really cares about the animals maybe you should check out the No Kill Advocancy website – read Redemption & Irreconcible Differences by Nathan Winograd….they will show you that decreasing the kill rate CAN be done IF Mr. Pepper is willing to implement the programs to do it. So IF he really cares about the animals then he shouldn’t have the slightest problem in implementing the programs that can help reduce the number of animals killed at MAS.

      Reply
  19. All the employees are so “sad” but not one spoke up for the animals…

    Reply
    • Anne

       /  March 28, 2011

      well, do you know that they didn’t?
      how do you know that some staff didn’t talk to their supervisors and were shot down or explained away?

      Reply
  20. And now they are moving into a new building, just like that. What happened to fighting to save a life?? And I read the article, and it was more like 40-50 animals, all gone. (tears)

    Reply
  21. Anonymous

     /  March 28, 2011

    A} There is NO definitive test for distemper. B} With the high pressure hoses they apparently use to clean kennels, it’s no wonder multiple dogs get sick in the kennels. C) Vaccinating on intake is good (but expensive even with a kennel discount – especially with the number of dogs this shelter takes in) and does not totally prevent disease. The vaccines take time to boost the immune system and if a dog comes in already harboring parvo or distemper, vaccinating that pet won’t help. Wondering why exposed dogs couldn’t simply be quarantined for 14 days instead of euthanized?

    Reply
    • My understanding – and I am not a vet – is that the modified live vaccines take effect more quickly than killed vaccines (1 week for modified live and 2 weeks for killed). Vaccination upon intake provides much better chance at preventing a shelter-wide outbreak than not vaccinating (or only vaccinating some). Here is a link with some specific info:
      http://www.sheltermedicine.com/shelter-health-portal/faq/question-996

      Reply
      • Anonymous

         /  March 28, 2011

        You are correct that a modified live vaccines take effect more quickly than killed which is why most shelters use modified live vaccines – however, there is still that week or so before the immune system kicks in that the dog is sitting in the shelter being exposed. And since it’s proven that stress levels effect the immune system, I would wager that in a shelter environment, where stress levels are high, it takes longer for the vaccine to trigger the immune system.

        I totally agree that all shelters should have an intake vaccination protocol in place – just trying to be realistic that vaccinations are not going to totally irradicate disease in a shelter environment. From watching their webcams, I see issues with their cleaning protocols and still wonder why possibly exposed dogs could not have been quarantined rather than euthanized.

      • There is no reason or excuse IMO for not at least TRYING to get as many dogs as possible out to safe quarantine. They are doing it in Miami-Dade, much to the credit of rescuers. Memphis didn’t even tell anyone there was a problem, never mind give the community a chance to step up and help.

    • Marji

       /  March 28, 2011

      Distemper vaccines costs $2-3/vaccine. That might be reduced with a discount from the manufacturer, especially if you get a sales rep who really wants to help reduce the likelihood of these breakouts.

      Reply
  22. Chester Burns

     /  March 28, 2011

    Shall we say, over and over again,…. how many times must we read the news about MAS and there will always be the nays and yea’s about it, its staff and volunteers…the first thing about it is, Coleman should have been gone when Ernie did his number at MAS, she had to have seen the starving dogs/cats, I mean she is the VET and by the way has no advanced training in behavioral sciences, she should have been fired as well as ALL of the upper staff, but crap those are those 2nd chance people who have been retrained, retrained, retrained, I think now there on about there 10th chance, just how many chances does this program give these guys? The volunteers are great out there, the staff, some of the most nonchalant people I’ve ever met, you’ll get a different answer form all of them…if you can get an answer, Pepper has done a fair job at turning things around from the Ernie era but thing anything would have been a change, but his hands are tied because of the city and Mr Buck stops here, Wharton…like everything else within the city, no one knows where that buck went. MAS needs to go PRIVATE, even though the city will still have some control…..and for those who are going to make the statement, have you ever been down here, yes I have, in fact in the last 2 years alone I have pulled, helped pull, adopted over 20 aniamls from there, 15 of those came out with distemper, 2 died. A change is gonna come!

    Reply
  23. carlapage54

     /  March 28, 2011

    THERE WAS NO REASON TO SLAUGHTER THE ANIMALS!!!!! THEY COULD HAVE BEEN ISOLATED THEN VACCINATED THEN ADOPTED OUT!!!!! MEMPHIS I WILL NOT EVER RETURN TO YOUR CITY I DON,T CARE IF ELVIS WAS BORN HERE OR NOT!!!! I DON,T CAERE IF ELVIS,S MANSION IS THERE OR NOT,AS LONG AS YOU CONTINUE TO KILL AND MURDER AND SLAUGHTER ANIMALS I WILL NOT RETURN TO YOUR CITY.I,M ASKING ALL ELVIS FANS TO BOYCOT MEMPHIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MEMPHIS YOU ARE A DISGRACE TO ELVIS PRESLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  24. kym wambold

     /  March 28, 2011

    Mr. Pepper is clearly in the wrong line of work. Perhaps he is not an educated man and was unable to find other work to do but I call for an immediately termination from his position (and if it was possible I would call for his immediate removal from this country as well!) Let him go seek refuge in another country where he would be beaten, starved, neglected and abused for being American and THEN let’s see if he has a shread of compassion for suffering living creatures. Of course, we should still not let him have his old job back…

    Reply
  25. In reading all of the post for this mass murder I have only one question if the shelter is charging adopption fees? Where is the money going if not for the care of the dogs/cats? meaning vaccinations food /water ETC.NOT FOR NON CAREING STAFF I would hope. I personal volenteer at 4 shelters run my own non- porfit rescue asstance program here in Atlanta and the shelters have very few if any paid staff the money brought in by fundraisers,donations,and adoptions fees are used for the care of the animals and the few expences of running a business.If a shelter Director is in there postion for any other reason than saving lives they should stay out of the shelter/rescue business and find a job where lives do not hang in the balance.In all this sickens me that a tourist city like Memphis would let this problem go uncorrected.But then again I can sum it all up in one word POLITICS.

    Reply
  26. Erica

     /  March 28, 2011

    I find it VERY interesting that those ‘supporters’ of MAS will go to the grave defending Mr. Pepper. I am so sick of hearing about those of us commenting on the needless killing of animals, lack of proper cleaning protocols, etc…as being uneducated. Talk about having blinders on. I am sick of the argument that it’s this where in other places therefore it’s ok here. While they ‘may’ have improved with Mr. Pepper as director…it isn’t ENOUGH! What in the hell is it going to take before people open their eyes and see that the shelter is NOT being run properly? What is it going to take for these people to see that there are other options out there rather than just killing all the animals? WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE??????

    Reply
    • Since MAS is a goverment run shelter It will take the citizens of Memphis to quit turning a blind eye and deaf ears and put presure on there elected officals to make the changes and a new building is not solving problems it is just giving them a prettier place to kill.

      Reply
      • Erica

         /  March 29, 2011

        While I tend to agree with you…I have seen where Pepper has ‘changed’ procedures when he decides to. One of which resulted in a dog dying because he refused to release the dogs until they had been neutered – even though the owner wanted his own vet to do the procedure. Yet, they seem to keep going back to the – “we’re getting a new shelter” and act like that’s going to change everything. I say take the money that was intended for the new shelter and work on proper cleaning protocols and vaccinations upon intake. You are right – it will just be a prettier place to kill more animals. Too often I hear that we’re getting a new shelter and everything will change because of it. Problem is that a new shelter isn’t going to change ANYTHING except give them a new prettier place…it’s the policies and procedures that need to change – not the location.

  27. Heather

     /  March 29, 2011

    I find it very interesting that those of you criticizing me didn’t answer my question. When did you visit the shelter last? I’m still here. No head in the sand. But I do have a life and don’t spend my day taking snap shots of live cams. You people are ridiculous. Get off the computer and VISIT THE SHELTER to see what goes on there. I’m not going to waste any more time on this blog… I’ve already wasted enough. It just amazes me how distant you all are to the shelter, and yet you’re so, so knowledgeable about it! I have no blinders. I’m there very, very often. And I see the good with my own eyes–not through a live cam on a computer screen.

    Reply
    • carlapage54

       /  March 29, 2011

      WHAT,S WRONG? FEELING GUILTY OR SOMETHING? YOU ALL MURDERED PERFECTLY ADOPTABLE DOGS,THAT IS IRREPREHENSIBLE AND UNCONCIOUNABLE! SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU ALL ARE A DISGRACE TO ELVIS AARON PRESLEY AND A DISGRACE TO MEMPHIS TENNESSEE!!!!!! I AM ASKING ALL ELVIS FANS TO BOYCOT MEMPHIS!!!!!!!!!!!! ELVIS WOULD NOT HAVE LIKED IT EITHER!!!!!!!!!!!!
      TAKE THAT MEMPHIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Reply
      • Dana

         /  March 29, 2011

        Well said, Heather! And, one again, these dogs were NOT murdered. They were humanely euthanized in order to prevent the spread of a highly contagious disease to the entire shelter poplulation. That being said, what does Elvis have to do with any of this??

      • Dana,
        Around here, we reserve the word euthanasia for a pet who is medically hopeless and suffering and is relieved of that suffering via the most gentle means veterinary medicine has to offer. What MAS does is correctly called killing.

      • carlapage54

         /  March 29, 2011

        well said dana,i too consider what they did as murder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it is “KILLING”THOSE ANIMALS DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE AT THE HANDS OF HUMANS.

    • Erica

       /  March 29, 2011

      Heather – we SEE improper cleaning protocols – we SEE what is going on…keep defending Pepper if you want. But YOU are part of the problem. Robesone had a similar situation and after they shut down (quarantine) the shelter to get everything under control and then reopened and had a huge influx of animals..guess what they did? They reached out to the community and saved EVERY single one of the dogs that was scheduled to be KILLED.

      To be prefectly honest with you I have NO desire to visit the shelter..partly because I can’t control my mouth and would tell Pepper and all his blind followers what jackasses they all are. Keep defending him – it just goes to show us that you are, by complacency, no better than he is. You do not vaccinate upon intake, you do not follow proper cleaning protocols….and you kill animals that deserve better. And, no your head isn’t in the sand…it’s too far up Peppers ass to be anywhere close to the sand, unless he’s sitting at the beach while the dogs are being KILLED.

      Reply
      • beth

         /  March 31, 2011

        Heather needs to quit the “MAS cult” – I volunteered at MAS, last year, and have seen how the animals are treated – I wish I had those FAKE rose colored glasses to wear because truly what goes on there- and behind the scenes, is enough to make you want to cry. A picture tells a thousand words – those webcam shots don’t lie! Heather didn’t know about the mass killings b/c FMAS and MAS chose to do the dirty deed and then, after the fact, let the public in on their dirty secret….I guess they feel it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission…

    • Ethel

       /  March 31, 2011

      I have the ability and intelligence to look at photos from the Holocaust and decide it was wrong.

      What, you have to witness a wrong-doing to know it is wrong?

      I do go to the shelter.

      I know some things at the shelter have improved but many have not.

      What shelter allows a cat to be brought into the euthanasia room while a group of dogs are tied, waiting to be euthanized? They were already fearful, they could smell death.
      But yet a cat was brought in and a dog broke free and attacked, tearing the cat to bits.

      I did not witness this but I know it is wrong. It happened right before I arrived to play with the puppies. I heard the shelter workers talking about it.

      My general rule…nothing is ever 100% good or 100% bad.

      Heather…a 100% support of the shelter just makes me think you have had too many glasses of kool-aid.

      Reply
      • Dana

         /  March 31, 2011

        Beth,

        I assure you that the volunteers and FMAS have nothing to do with shelter policy and procedures….and more importantly have absolutely no authority in deciding what animals are euthanized. We are there to try to get as many animals adopted as possible!

  28. carlapage54

     /  March 29, 2011

    DISTEMPER IS PREVENTABLE WITH VACCINATIONS ON INTAKE,HAD THEY BEEN IN A NOKILL FACILITY THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN ISOLATED BEFORE EVER GOING INTO THE GENERAL PET POPULATION,THEN OBSERVED THEN VACCINATED.THAT IS WHAT IS DONE HERE IN COLUMBIA AT OUR SHELTERS AND RESCUES.NO DOG LEAVES OUR SHELTERS UNVACCINATED,THEY ARE VACCINATED ON INTAKE.OUR SHELTER HERE IS BRAND NEW,STATE OF THE ART.WE,VE NEVER EVER HAD ANY INCIDENCE OF ILLNESS IN DOGS OR CATS HERE.OUR SHELTERS AND RESCUES ARE BRAND NEW AND STATE OF THE ART AND KEPT CLEAN.ALSO NOKILL SHELTERS TAKE MUCH BETTER CARE OF ANIMALS THAN KILL SHELTERS IN MY OPINION.

    Reply
  29. carlapage54

     /  March 29, 2011

    I AM ASKING ALL ELVIS PRESLEY FANS TO BOYCOT GRACELAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND BOYCOT MEMPHIS,TENNESSEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    YOU ALL ARE A DISGRACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MURDERERS!!!!!!!!!!!! THERE IS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL FOR ANIMAL MURDERERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  30. Jen

     /  April 1, 2011

    How sad that preventable deaths weren’t. However much we all argue what to call their deaths, the outcome is still the same for these dogs. Personally, I want to know what is being done to prevent this from happening again? I also would like to know what method was used to kill the dogs. If pentobarbitol was used, what was the cost of that vs the cost of vaccinations? @ Heather & Dana, please stop being so defensive and recognize where the errors were made so they can be prevented in the future. If as a group the shelter staff and volunteers can do a REAL root cause analysis (google it), then this kind of senseless, preventable killing of companion animals doesn’t have to happen again. But as long as the people responsible (and yes Heather you own part of that) refuse to accept that responsibility, look honestly and objectively how this situation developed and take steps to correct it, it’s only a matter of time until the next “necessary” slaughter happens.

    Reply
  31. beth

     /  April 1, 2011

    Jen- Great post! Very well said! Thank you!!!

    Reply
  32. Chester Burns

     /  April 2, 2011

    The Memphis Animal Shelter is once again adopting dogs. Dog adoptions had been halted after a distemper outbreak late last month.

    Shelter administrator, Matthew Pepper, said new procedures have been put in place to try and prevent an outbreak from happening again.

    Pepper said employees will try and limit the number of times animals are moved from cage to cage. Also, dogs identified as good candidates for adoption will be vaccinated and placed in the adoption area when they first come into the facility. A third prevention measure involves how the animals are arranged at the shelter.

    Mr Pepper, all these things you are now trying to put in place should have been done when you first took over from Ernie A.,you have ran a shelter before in LA, this is not trial by error at the expense of these animals lives, the emails from YOUR choice as vet director, R Coleman, sent emails warning about the possibility of an outbreak, your staff, that you are always taking up for AGAIN failed to do anything, the 2nd chnace people who have now had 20 or so chances and still have that don’t care nonchalant attitude.

    Reply
  33. Ethel

     /  April 2, 2011

    They were already vaccinating the dogs deemed adoptable upon intake.
    More smoke and mirrors.

    If you visit the eyewitness news website and view the top VIDEO stories, there are two from last night on MAS.
    http://www.abc24.com/default.aspx

    There is now documented evidence from the Shelter Vet to Mr. Pepper, the Administrator proving that Pepper knew for over a month about the outbreak and did nothing to try to stop the spread. Email after email from the Vet demanding for him to make the staff clean and house the animals according to her directives to stop the spread. Emails stating that the staff’s actions were directly leading to the spread of this disease.

    And the City Administration, local paper and MAS Administrator Pepper blamed it entirely on the public. Yes, right.

    As usual, Pepper defends the staff.

    Reply
  34. Paula J. Lutts

     /  April 13, 2011

    It is a wonder that Matt Pepper did not get Distemper when he did the Adoption Day thing. He dressed up in the dog suit & stayed in the kennel until all the adopted pets were adopted. I am sure if he knew about the distemper then, he made sure that his Kennel was purified or He would have not done it to begin with!!

    Reply

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