One Rescuer’s Story from Memphis

This cat was needlessly killed by MAS despite a rescue hold on him.

Memphis rescuer Villy Ellinger contacted Memphis Animal Shelter last week about the red point Siamese pictured above, ID 224095.  The cat had been picked up as a stray on 3/22/2011 and was made available for adoption on Saturday, 3/26/2011. The shelter was closed on Sunday (3/27) and Monday (3/28).  From Ms. Ellinger:

On Saturday I spoke with a shelter employee who put notes in the computer that our rescue will take the cat. On Tuesday (3/29), the first shelter work day after the cat was made available for adoption, the animal was euthanized.

I was not told why they euthanized the cat. The cat was not sick on Saturday. I was never called to be told that he was sick. Also, he was already neutered, so he didn’t need surgery to be released from the shelter.

On Saturday I was told over the phone that the shelter staff was too busy to vaccinate and test the cat because of the distemper outbreak and the mass euthanasias they were performing, I suppose. I was told that even if I paid for the cat on Saturday he still won’t be ready (tested and vaccinated) until Tuesday when the shelter reopens.

On Tuesday late afternoon when I got there the cat had been euthanized. The notes to “not kill” the cat were still in the system. I was told that it might have been an oversight, but no one offered to investigate.

Usually I am called if an animal we have on “do not kill” gets sick. I think that this was a careless mistake on the part of the shelter, which is very indicative of the operations there.

The shelter is so busy killing that no one can be bothered to prep a cat for release to rescue.  And then the cat ends up being killed and no one at the shelter knows or cares what happened.  As sad as that story makes me, it gets worse.  More from Ms. Ellinger:

I was also trying to find two dogs [IDs  224322 and 224323].  The employees looked up the IDs and told me that the computer system was showing that the animals are at the shelter. However they could not find the animals or what happened to them. The next day, I was told that “most likely” the animals were transferred to another rescue and that the transfer was not properly documented.

Most likely.  Let’s look at the MAS stats for 2010 and see what might qualify as a “most likely” outcome for a pet there.

  • Killed:  77%
  • Returned to Owner:  6%
  • Died in cage:  2.3%
  • Transferred:  1.6%

Thank you Ms. Ellinger for speaking out and for saving lives at MAS.  Thank you to all the rescuers who are helping pets escape this “shelter”.

Memphis, please – stop the killing.

16 thoughts on “One Rescuer’s Story from Memphis

  1. Such a tragedy! Ummmm- I heard the employees took a course, recently, in “compassion fatigue” – by the sound (and look) of things- I’d have to say no one passed that course. When will we have staff at MAS that actually REALLY cares what happens to those animals? I know of ONE employee that really cares- that’s it…..

    1. In order to become fatigued by compassion, you have to have shown so much compassion that you’ve temporarily exhausted yourself. Color me skeptical on the need for THAT course.

      1. Maybe that’s the name of the course, but it actually did more along the lines of….”poor you – you have to kill all these animals let’s teach you how to ease your guilt” – of all the traits and qualities I have seen come from this shelter for the past 4+ years not one of them has the word compassion attached to it.

      2. I hear you, and I want to agree. But…
        From reading the many horrid, sad, and shocking posts on this blog, and actually a lot of angry, shocked, frustrated and sad comments, I would say that Shirley and her readers are suffering from Compassion Fatigue as well, and that perhaps a moderate dose of “walking in their shoes” is in order.
        Compassion is where we stop judging and look with love.
        I get it that animals are dying needlessly. But I also understand the pain and suffering of the humans involved. Even if they can’t or won’t look and see the true reason this is happening (it’s THEIR choice, and not the fault of the *irresponsible public!*)
        Yeah, we can go round and round about how they are lazy killing apologists, and no, the little people probably don’t have a lot of choice because the buck starts and stops with management.
        But EVERYONE is capable of compassion fatigue! (Because everybody cares about SOMETHING!) Those people–haven’t I read that most of them have been there since previous management were fired and charged with cruelty?!–ARE suffering from compassion fatigue. Now, do I think the *class* has or will help? Nope, been there, seen that. They have to admit there’s a problem, and with Mr. Pepper in his dog suit cheering up the staff and public after unacceptable lapses in judgment/protocols and policies, it just ain’t happening. He’s the visible tip of this iceburg, and there’s not much melting going on there.
        We need some FIRE added to this situation…like, FIRE the lot of them! (It’s really the most compassionate solution, it’s for their own good…they’re suffering in their jobs.)

      3. LynnO makes some good points.
        People suffering from compassion fatigue actually tend to show a LACK of compassion- meaning they just can no longer make the effort to care because it’s too hard and they’re burned out.
        So sometimes the people that seem the least compassionate are actually the most sensitive and this is a coping mechanism.

        I would argue that there are at least SOME staff who don’t actually want to euthanize animals, but are just doing as instructed because who wants to be out a job in this economy?

      4. While I really want to agree with you both. I see so many staff members that are still on the pay roll that are felons and were part of the ‘old guard’..while yes, they may be suffering from compassion fatigue – I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the entire situation. Maybe it would be better to relieve them of their positions – for their mental health AND the well being of the animals. A new staff is needed…along with a better policy & procedure manual.

  2. another victim of these . . . people (wish I could say the word I’d really like to say)
    RIP sweet boy – you deserved so much better
    These folks are hell bent on killing as many animals as they can. Do they get paid/dead animal? Work on a quota system?
    Dear God, stop the killing!!!!

    1. I know that one of the Advisory Council members – Allen Iskiwitz – was quoted in one of the articles as saying that the shelter would make MORE money by adopting rather than killing animals. He said something along the lines of…if they adopted out all the animals in their care and gave a number of 10,000 that the shelter would make $750,000. He knows that they stand to make more money AND save more lives by the adoption route. Honestly, I think he may be one of the few people that is thinking bottom dollar on this, may or may not care about the animals, but in this case his argument would save more animals regardless of if it was for the dollar signs or not. He’s one that I have already e-mailed in regards to everything taking place. Still awaiting reply….

      1. I know Allen quite well, we are good friends. He and I agree and disagree on that statement. Yes, the shelter would financially benefit from adopting animals. Emotionally it would benefit also. But Allen and I also have two good friends who attend the animal cruelty cases in the city. Time and time again they tell us that many of the very owners they see in court for starving their dogs, beating their dogs, etc. have adopted those dogs from MAS.
        Adoption is fantastic and what the goal should be.
        BUT, and this is where Allen and I differ. He thinks that adoption is ALWAYS better than euthanization. I don’t if it means that the animals go to a worse place. If the shelter did background checks or vet checks or home inspections, or adoption follow-ups or anything. But as it stands, you walk in plop down your $75 and take your dog. Or during an event, $25.
        My two friends told me their first case in court was a man that had adopted 32 dogs over the years from MAS to use as guard dogs. He was a three time convicted animal abuser.
        The shelter does not check.

        So yes adoption is better than euthanization but only when it is to a good home.

        If it were me and my choice was to starve at the end of a chain with only creamer packets in my stomach (another case they talked about)or to be euthanized at the shelter…I would take the shelter.

        It is NOT enough to demand no-kill…you have to also demand a process for making sure the animals go to a good home.

      2. Kind sensitive people don’t want to go to a slaughter house to look for a dog or cat to adopt. It’s just too horrifying and depressing. It’s very difficult to walk into a shelter and save one animal, knowing the rest will probably die. A lot of people just stay away and get their pets from other sources. Once a shelter decides to make saving lives their real goal, then the kind, caring, decent people start coming in. Abusers don’t care where they get their “pets” and probably feel just fine about how they treat them. After all, if they hadn’t “adopted” the animal, he would just be dead anyway, right? I’ve heard that same argument from people who support pound seizure (sending shelter pets to research labs).

      3. Ethel – if they aren’t doing background checks, vet reference checks, and/or home visits…then I suggest that is something that they should have in their policy/procedure manuals. Most shelters I work with do have “criminal database” where they check for ANY animal convictions – down to letting dogs roam loose and allowing your dog to bark at all hours. It helps a lot to keep the animals out of the wrong hands AND reassures everyone that the animals ARE important.

        That’s the problem I keep going back to with MAS – they treat the animals as disposable, don’t vaccinate, etc. – they are setting the standards whether they know it or not, on how the general public perceives animals. If the damn shelter doesn’t care enough about them to do the right thing by them, then how can we expect the community to do the same? I just think if MAS made the animals their priority then maybe the rest would fall in place.

        A few simple safeguards will have amazing results for ALL the animals. One private rescue I help out with on occassion, keeps a list of people to not release or adopt to…many of the people are on it due to animal cruelty/neglect convictions, but there is also a good chunk that made the list due to vet reference checks that didn’t pan out in favor of the animal(s) and others that are on it because of problems encountered by home visits. While I understand that public shelters don’t normally do home visits to check on previous adoptions…that is something that can be easily set up for volunteers to do. I’ve seen it implemented with good success with the private shelter I help out. They use volunteers and put them through a training course, have them go on a few home visits with them where they let the volunteer take the lead and only step in when they need to. It’s actually been very beneficial AND has helped to address any problems that arose since the adoption to try and keep the animal with the family. They take resource guides, along with a new ‘toy’ or some treats for the animal. They sit down and talk to the new owner and make sure they aren’t having problems, and if they are they work WITH the owner to find a soluntion.

  3. That idiot boy at the front desk almost cost me Rudy due to HIS incompetence!!! I had to run down to the corner petrol station and get some money because of some stupid rule about my license address had to exactly match the address on my checks and I had not too long moved to the address on my checks. While I was gone someone called asking about Rudy and he told her that MY dog was still available!!!

  4. OMG…this is SO EVIL!!!! i’m so very sorry, kitty. somebody WAS gonna come for u… free

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