Snapshots from Memphis

Readers have been sending in screen grabs from the Memphis shelter’s webcams:

This shot appears to show some type of pole being used on a loose cat.

This dog was left unattended for over an hour this morning.

Perhaps he's weighing his chances.

After the dirty kennels were sprayed with the pressure hose, the white dog looks at his bowl of kibble and decides to take a pass.

Loading up the cart - 90 pets were reportedly killed at MAS on Saturday.

Dogs apparently being loaded up for killing on Saturday.

There had been puppies living in these cages last week but all appeared empty on Saturday.

The aftermath.

All gone.

Mass Killing at Memphis Shelter Makes Local News

There were a couple of pieces on the local news in Memphis last night regarding the mass killing of dogs due to distemper at Memphis Animal Services.  Both contain interviews with Ona Cooper, the local rescuer who tipped me to the story:

WREG, Channel 3

WMCTV, Channel 5

From the WMCTV article:

Memphis Animal Services Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Coleman said 90 animals were euthanized Saturday, with 20 to 25 of them killed because of the outbreak.


Many animal advocates said this is why every dog that comes to the shelter should be vaccinated for distemper.  Coleman said only the adoptable dogs are vaccinated.

Coleman added that is because the other dogs are not at the shelter long enough for the vaccine to work.

OK, what?  Does the vaccine suddenly stop working once the dog is adopted or pulled by rescue?  I think what she may have meant to say was that the dogs are not ALIVE at the shelter long enough for the vaccine to work, since MAS kills more than 77% of the pets they take in.

The WREG article has Dr. Coleman waving the Blame The Public banner:

Dr. Coleman believes the best way to prevent such disease rests with a responsibility among pet-owners in the area.


But Dr. Coleman said that the major problem is still vaccination throughout the Memphis community.

“Open admissions shelters wouldn’t face those issues if the general population that these animals were coming from were vaccinated,” Coleman said.

Right.  And shelters wouldn’t be faced with dogs dying on the kennel floor post surgery if somebody on the veterinary staff would monitor them.  Nor would shelter ACOs allow abandoned dogs to starve to death if they would go out on calls and do their jobs.  Nor would shelters kill dogs with adopters begging to take them home if they put just a bit of effort into not killing.  If, if, if…  Is anyone at MAS prepared to take responsibility for creating real solutions to the real problems in the shelter?


Added:  The Commercial Appeal article I linked to last night has been updated.  It now puts the number of dogs killed Saturday at 40 – 50.  Some quotes from shelter director Matthew Pepper have been added as well.

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

Where Will The Big Three Fall on TX CAPA?

I am so excited about the bill introduced in TX to protect shelter pets.  It’s such a great piece of legislation and I really hope it gets passed.  But the 6 o’clock news doesn’t care what my opinion is on TX CAPA.  Typically, mainstream media outlets will contact the well known animal organizations who have national name recognition for their take on any pet related news.  So this has me wondering, where will HSUS, ASPCA and BFAS come down on the TX bill?

Given their history of opposition to laws which limit the discretion of shelter directors as to which pets they can kill, I don’t expect HSUS to embrace CAPA in TX.  Nor would I anticipate support for the bill from ASPCA, given that they oppose Oreo’s Law – which would grant rescuers the legal right to save pets from kill shelters – in their home state and in fact have offered a faux rescue access bill of their own in an attempt to quash Oreo’s Law.  Best Friends – who disappointed so many of us by failing to support Oreo’s Law last year and this year asking for it to be watered down before they would consider supporting it – well I’m not sure what their reaction will be to the TX bill.  Will they ring the hoarder bell and/or demand that the legislation be weakened before they could possibly support it?  Or will they be the Best Friends of old – the group many of us supported and wanted to believe in for so long – and side with rescuers and the rights of shelter pets to be saved from death row?

Come on HSUS, ASPCA and BFAS – one of you step up and give me good news.  The TX bill is too great to let slip away without getting major support from at least one of you.

From Nathan Winograd’s blog:

Versions of CAPA have been passed in California and Delaware.

And now a version has been introduced in TX.  Noticing a trend?  It’s becoming fashionable to oppose killing and support rescuers.  Will HSUS, ASPCA and BFAS keep fighting CAPA forever – even if/when it gets introduced in more states?  Or will they get on board finally and throw their support behind such bills?  I’ll be keeping an eye out for a show of support or opposition from the Big Three on TX CAPA.  Watch this space.

Texans: Would You Like to Mandate Your Shelters to Work Hard to Save Pets’ Lives?

The Companion Animal Protection Act of 2011 has been introduced in Texas.  Provisions include:

  • Shelters can no longer kill pets when an adopter or rescue group is willing to take them.
  • Shelters can no longer kill savable pets at the owner’s request.
  • Shelters can no longer kill owner surrendered pets immediately upon intake.
  • Shelters can no longer kill pets when the facility has empty cages/kennels or when the pet can share a cage/kennel with another pet.
  • Shelters can no longer kill pets when a foster home is available.
  • Shelters can no longer kill nursing litters of puppies and kittens impounded without their mama unless they have exhausted all avenues of rescue and foster care, documented these efforts, certified in writing why the shelter itself can not provide care for the litter at present and what’s being done to change that situation.  Said certification must be available for public inspection upon request for at least 3 years.
  • Shelters can no longer refuse to adopt out pets based on arbitrary criteria such as breed, age or color.
  • Before a shelter can kill a dog with confirmed parvo or a cat with confirmed panleukopenia, a licensed vet must certify in writing that the pet’s prognosis is poor, even with treatment.  Said certification must be available for public inspection upon request for at least 3 years.
  • Any agency – public or private – which kills pets must seek out and maintain a list of rescue groups willing to take pets and adopt them out.  The agency must contact each group on the list who is willing to take the type of pet the agency wishes to kill before killing the pet.
  • When shelters do kill pets, it must be done by IV injection after sedation (with limited exceptions made for IP injections and heartstick on unconscious pets under the direction of a licensed vet).  Shelters can no longer kill pets in view of other pets.
  • All municipal shelters must provide low cost spay-neuter programs to the public, volunteer opportunities, and pet retention programs.
  • Shelters – both public and private – must report their stats monthly and those reports shall be available for public inspection upon request for at least 3 years.

All I can say is – Yes, please!

No Kill Houston has action items for Texans all laid out.  If you live in Texas, do it!

I Can’t Save Every Pet at Your Local Shelter, But I Know Who Can

You.  All of you in your local community, partnered with your rescue contacts in other communities.

You can advocate for the pets in your local kill shelter.  You can connect with others in your area and form a group.  You can talk to your local media about the needless killing going on in your public shelters and how other cities are doing a much better job saving lives.  You can make a presentation to your community leaders about the proven programs of the No Kill Equation.  You can contact your state politicians about introducing the type of law they passed in Delaware to save more lives.

This post is my answer to everyone who attempts to justify the needless killing of healthy/treatable pets in their local shelter by asking, “Are YOU going to save them all?”  No, I’m not.  I will not be renting a truck to drive to your community shelter from my home here in SC every week to load up every friendly pet on your community shelter’s kill list.  I will not be whisking them away to a magical land of fairies and sparkles.  Because those ideas are totally ridiculous.

In reality, it takes a group of dedicated animal advocates willing to stir things up in their own community by challenging the status quo and refusing to accept killing as a means of population control.  There are consequences to such actions:  old friendships may be broken, egos may be bruised, glass houses may be shattered.  This ain’t no fairy tale.  It’s hard work which will be met with resistance by some.  You will no longer be able to ride the I Love Everybody and Everybody Loves Me bus.  You will not be nominated for homecoming queen.  No soup for you.

Like all things in life, working to end the killing in your community is a choice you must make for yourself.  You can choose to carry on with the “save a few and kill the rest” status quo.  You’ll get to keep all your Facebook friends and play Farmville with them in between posting pets from kill lists.  Or you can choose to reject the idea of needless killing as justifiable in any way.  You’ll make some people feel uncomfortable and they will resent you for it.  But you’ll have the opportunity to educate and learn from others who are on the same path.  No longer will you feel an awkward compulsion to defend those who kill friendly pets in shelters while simultaneously advocating to save shelter pets.  You will have the clarity of mind that comes from knowing where you stand.

I am for no kill.  What are you for?  And why are you asking ME to save all the pets in YOUR community’s shelter?

What I will do – and this goes for anyone working toward no kill in their community – is support you via the blog in any way I can.  I will publicize your efforts, bring attention to your cause, promote your events – whatever I can do to help.  Just let me know.  This is how I choose to advocate.  This blog is what I’m doing to work toward no kill.  And I will be more than happy to share with readers how you are working to save the pets in your local shelter.  You.

I believe in you.

Shelter Pets of the Day

It’s a Beagle Bonanza!  (This is what happens when I run out of Shelter Pet of the Day nominations from readers.)  Click on the photo to visit each dog’s page on Petfinder.

#1101359, listed on Petfinder as a Basset Hound mix, this dog looks more Chubby Beagle to me.

#1101048 - This one is listed as a Beagle/Jack Russell mix but he looks pretty Beagley in this photo.

#1101073 - This Beagle was brought in as a stray.

#1101633 - Another Beagle brought in as a stray.

#1101692 - I love this picture! This dog is also listed as a stray.

#1101693 - Listed as 4 year old female, brought in as a stray.

All these Beags are at:

Anderson Co Animal Shelter

615 Highway 28 Bypass
Anderson, SC 29624
Phone: 864-260-4151


This shelter’s kill rate in 2010 was approximately 76%.

Alternatively, anyone wishing to make a whopping monetary donation toward my dream of creating a Beagle sanctuary can send me a huge cardboard check with lots of zeros (but not ALL zeros, you jokesters) and I’ll drive down and pull all these dogs myself!

Open Thread

The place to post your pet related links and chit-chat.  But please, don’t poke the kitteh.

Charlie Sauce

Every pet is special in his/her own ways.  Charlie is special to me because he’s old (I love the seniors), he walks with me on our path (while the other dogs run around like pinballs), and he’s the best Flatcoat I’ve ever had.  An extremely gentle and tolerant dog, Charlie has helped me raise a lot of puppies.  He sired 3 litters for me with 2 different bitches.  He is my last show champion.  You see his picture on the right hand side of the blog and every time I leave a comment (that’s him getting a biscuit in my avatar).

Sadly, Flatcoated Retrievers have a very small gene pool which is rife with cancer.  All my Flatcoats have died of malignant histiocytosis – sub-listed in some veterinary books as “The Flatcoat Cancer”.  It’s tragic in that it rapidly cuts short a life which, if not for the cancer, would continue to thrive for years to come.  My Flatcoats have all been in otherwise good health at the time I’ve had to put them to sleep and I can’t help feeling robbed in a sense.  I feel like, if it wasn’t for this Flatcoat Cancer, there is no reason all my dogs shouldn’t live comfortably into their teens.  But they never do.  And neither will Charlie.

Charlie is 10 years old and this week, was diagnosed with probable malignant histiocytosis.  The lab can’t make a definitive diagnosis without getting the large mass which has infiltrated his lymph node but we won’t be putting Charlie through surgery.  We’ve got him on high doses of steroids to relieve his pain and, although it’s only been a few days, it’s been working well.  I can’t stand to see a dog suffer and on Tuesday, I came home from work to find Charlie in terrible pain.  My vet saw us right away and we got a game plan going.  When the lab results came back yesterday, I was sort of prepared and sort of not.  My vet and I discussed options and she supports me in my choice to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible without pursuing any invasive treatments which would be unlikely to buy him much more time, if any.

For me and my pets, it’s about quality of life.  Charlie can’t walk with me on the path anymore (my favorite thing) nor can he chase the ball (his favorite thing).  But he can still carry the tennis ball around in his mouth, play with puppy toys that are too small for him and come up for a scritch (and a biscuit!) when he feels like it.  I make the same promise to him as I do to all my pets:  you will not suffer.  When we can no longer ease his pain with medicine and love, we will take him to the vet for that most difficult, final act of love.  Then we will bury his body in the yard, near those who have gone before, and he will be added to the list of dogs I hope I will meet again sometime.

I don’t know how long we have with Charlie – hopefully weeks or, if I let myself get out-of-control-hopeful – maybe months.  But the length of time isn’t as important as how we spend it.  I plan to spend it doing all the little special things I can for him.  Like avocado with his dinner last night.  And ice cube treats.  And trying to keep Mulder’s annoying puppy antics to a dull roar.  Not that Charlie would complain, mind you.  He never does.

Prosecutors Connect the Dots in WI Cruelty Case

Wisconsin:  In February 2009, a 3 year old Labradoodle called Zorro pottied in the house.  The owner, Michael Tessmer, kicked the dog in anger.  And kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked the dog.  While his two children watched.  Zorro died the next day from “massive bleeding caused by blunt-force trauma”.

One of the children, an 11 year old boy, wrote “My Dad is a killer.” on a piece of paper at school.  The authorities were alerted and Mr. Tessmer was charged with “causing mental harm to a child and mistreatment of animals, causing death” – both felonies.  At trial, the DA told the jury the boy suffered from anxiety and depression after witnessing Zorro’s brutal beating and had nightmares and flashbacks about the incident.  The child was unable to sleep alone for months afterward.

The defense attorney argued that Zorro probably ate rat poison, which caused his death and that the kid seemed to be doing well in school so what’s the big whoop?

The jury found Mr. Tessmer guilty on both counts this week and he is scheduled for sentencing May 9:

The mental harm charge carries a 7 1/2 -year prison term; the mistreatment of animals, a 1 1/2 -year term.