Memphis – You’re Breaking My Heart

A dog looks with interest at a bucket of pups in the lobby of MAS.
This photo appears to show a litter which died overnight.
Compassion fatigue?
I'm sorry.
A mama dog is on a choke pole while a box containing her litter of pups is dragged down the hall. Goodbye.
This entire row was emptied out this afternoon.

Memphis, please – stop the killing.

52 thoughts on “Memphis – You’re Breaking My Heart

    1. This makes me sick to my stomach. How can anyone take the life of another living thing? I couldn’t live with myself.

  1. Memphis, you need to stop pissing me off. These people have CAMERAS on them and they KNOW IT and THIS is how they behave?


    Where is the local news on this?

    These people act like they have no idea that they’re handling living companion animals.

    1. There was a local news crew there this afternoon interviewing the shelter director around the time the dogs were being killed. The interview was being filmed in the cat room.

      1. That is because this is behind locked doors and they let no one back there.



  3. The MAS website page containing the webcam images states: “We hope these images will provide you with a view into the daily life of the animals under our care.”

    Should this line be changed to “a view into the daily deaths of the animals under our so-called care”, given the mass killings in the past seven days at the MAS facility?

  4. Dear God WILL IT EVER END???? Why? Why? Why?

    THIS is why I can’t ACCEPT the ‘compassion fatigue” argument! An ENTIRE litter of pups dead overnight…another litter drug along with their mommy….another litter in the front reception area….what the f@%# is WRONG with these people? How in the hell can they keep DOING THIS?

    All while the cameras rolled in the cat room? Were they making pleas for HELP? Were they making more friggin excuses for why they HAVE to keep KILLING? How many more animals have to die before this ends?

    I just put my feral boxes out to get ready for the kittens…everytime I see an animal run loose down the street now I say a prayer for the animal…how can these people live with themselves? Watching my dog’s life slowly fade as she ages, and realizing how precious each and every moment is…how can they look themselves in the mirror after all this?

    I just don’t ‘get it’….

  5. It’s a slaughterhouse mentality – they’re going to be dead soon, so why bother to care or act with compassion?

    This is a clear indication of poor leadership. If this place had a strong leader dedicated to saving animals, the mentality of the place would be different.

    With weak leadership comes lack of dedication and lack of accountability.

    1. Yes, when the Administrator sets the example of not even showing up on his day off to oversee the first day of the mass euthanization…..

      Why should they care when the Administrator does not?

      Compassion fatigue……right.

      1. “It’s a slaughterhouse mentality – they’re going to be dead soon, so why bother to care or act with compassion?”
        I think it’s also that “if we acknowledge that they have feelings and worth, if we connect with them emotionally, we will feel bad when we kill them.”

        The brutality makes the ultimate killing easier and the killing makes the brutality ‘necessary’.

        It’s a horrible cycle that has to be broken somehow.

  6. I’m sure the people of Memphis, Tennessee including St. Jude are thrilled that we are reminded what pitiful place that city is no matter what spin they put on it.

    I get fatigue just reading these stories.

  7. How do we, who don’t live in the Memphis area, do something to help stop this? It’s really getting hard to impossible to look at these pictures and see what’s happening and not do something!

    1. The killing of animals in our shelters is happening across the United States and every state. Please consider working on shelter re-form for your local animal shelter. Just because it hasn’t done a mass killing (that you know of) doesn’t mean it might not one day. Learn what is really happening in your local shelters and then work to change what needs improvement. Every community needs a No Kill group to work for shelter reform. Join or start this group.

      1. Hmmm. I wonder if I could get cameras installed at our Animal Control Facility? I have friends who are technologically smart. I know people with the money and compassion to donate the stuff.
        I’m thinking (hoping, praying) that the web cam captures would be WAY better than this…but how can I know that unless we take a look see? Hmmm. Might have to look into this. My condolences to the people of Memphis. I confess, I’ve hardened myself to this tragic horror because I have plenty on my plate from right here in my own back yard.
        I really appreciate your tenacity Shirley. Thank you.

      2. You are exactly right when you say “Memphis” problem. The entire city has become less careing about everything except putting money in their own pockets. The citizens don’t care enough about their own neighborhoods. The animals take back seat toTHEIR personal comfort.

        Instead of helping a lost dog they’d rather call to have him/her ‘removed’ by MHS. Instead of offering help to an injured animal they call MHS to have him/her ‘removed.’ Instead of giving their own dog or cat medical treatment when necessary they call MHS to ‘remove’ him/her because the cost of care would rather be spent on themselves. Then MHS obviously doesn’t care about the wellfare of their wards either, only their payday.

        Is there no job applicants to MHS qualified with the ability care? How about the citizens? Isn’t there more people who care to come forward and at least speak up to the mayor & ALL employees at MHS.

  8. I can’t anymore, I am running out of tears. STOP THE KILLING MEMPHIS< FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

  9. I wish someone would expose the Jackson/Madison County Rabies Control procedures like this!

  10. These people are f*cking terrible. How on earth can they take in surrenders and dogs for rabies observations but kill other dogs in the shelter?

    I am ten seconds away from spazzing on the FMAS facebook page. The “F” is questionable.

  11. I am so heartbroken, not only about this but about the nationwide killing. Has there been any outcry about MAS on behalf of residents who are not part of the rescue community? Is there any chance this man will be fired and real reform will take place or are the pleas falling on deaf ears?

  12. bloody hell, what a shithole and as for the people – low-life trash! shameful, absolutely shameful! close it down and hang your heads in shame!!!!

  13. This has got to be stopped. Just because this is being done behind the mask of a “sheleter” does not make it legal. This is still abuse, cruelty and neglect. Where is the HSUS and the ASPCA? They need to get involved and put an end to this and prosecute those involved!

  14. The only way, besides privatization, that this is going to stop is to keep these issues in the forefront by contacting Mayor A.C. Wharton at

    And contact Janet Hooks, Director, Public Services and Neighborhoods at who is over the Memphis Animal Shelter. You could try emailing Matthew Pepper who is the Director of the Memphis Animal Shelter at

    Also we need to spay and neuter our pets so they don’t end up at this facility. Continue this great blog. Write letters to the editor. Contact the media outlets.

    And pray that things get better. A lot of people in Memphis don’t think of animals as pets, or family members. We still have a long way to go as far as animal cruelty.

    It’s a shame that there are those employed at the Memphis Animal Shelter who show absolutely no concern for these poor animals.

    1. As many people as possible should attend the Memphis Animal Services Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday, April 13, 6-8pm, Hooks Library. Each month the Board members meet and bring example after example of wrongdoing at MAS to the City Administrators and the MAS Administrator and they are ignored. Not many members of the public show up for the meetings.
      The Board needs the support of the public!
      The Board was the only group to publicly come out against the shelter BEFORE the raid in 2009.

      1. The MAS Advisory Board meetings are open to the entire public…anyone city and county. The county houses animals there and no one from the county ever attends.
        The Board is established in an advisory capacity to:
        Advise the director of public service and the animal shelter administrator in matters relating to the efficient and humane operation of the animal shelter;
        Serve as advocates for the humane treatment of animals and fowl, as set out in this title, while maintaining an awareness of the needs to protect and enhance the total environment of the city.

        As I stated earlier, every month they present specific examples and ideas for change and NEVER are they listened to.

        The City Administration counts on no one being present to witness the meetings.

        Signs, body count, anything would be appreciated.

        The meetings were held on Wed. mornings but the Board even moved them to the evenings to allow for more people to attend. Only a loyal core are there almost every time.

        If the city knew there would be a large, concerned public presence EVERY meeting, along with the press, which is there every meeting, they might begin to understand it is not just a few but a crowd that want change.

  15. Heart breaking!! how can the one creature that God made in his own image; commit these cruel acts on the other creatures he made for us. It’s wrong any way you want to word it.

  16. People as creatures of habit are horribly repulsive, and that’s being polite. There is not one thing right with killing animals because they are “surplus” while doing nothing to stop the problem, since to stop the problem would put these killer shelters out of business.

    They have cozy relationships with rendering plants and these dead bodies become a cash crop. While all this disgraceful cruel killing is going on, the puppy mills and other commercial breeders continue to keep animals in filthy cramped cages for their entire lives of abject misery to continue the influx of puppies onto the “market.”

    It’s long past the time to go to the root and stop the breeders. Take out ALL the trash, starting with the foulest and most malignant: puppy mills, and their bankroller the AKC, which makes million$ every year off of puppy mill torture through registration fees.

  17. We all know the ASPCA and HSUS don’t handle this situation nothing really in it for them, the PUBLIC does need to take a stand and go to the meeting and create change. It has to come from the people in Memphis. We need to support those people!

  18. The ASPCA was the only national organization to respond pre-raid. They raided the shelter along with the Sheriff’s Dept.
    The AHA came to care for the animals but were sent away after only a few days.

    And you are sorrect, Tonya, the public must create the change.
    Memphis is a big rescue town and it seems as long as the shelter smells better and looks cleaner and holds adoption events, they all sing his praises.
    He has learned this on focuses on nothing else.

    My guess, that is why he stayed away from the shelter on the day the mass euthanization was ordered. He will dress in a dog suit or sit in a dunk tank for adoption events that are held on Saturdays, but heaven forbid he should oversee the shelter during a mass killing. He only wants the rescues to associate him with the good things.

  19. I am disgusted, once again with these pictures!!! Where is the compassion for these poor animals!!! I say fire everyone and start fresh!!! I am sorry, that may sound cold but its how I feel. How can the Humane Society do such a great job? There are PLENTY of good people that would work at the MAS and do the job right!!!

    1. I’m so disgusted at the pictures. The shelter workers are pulling and dragging the dogs and puppies like they were no more than a sack of potatoes. How can they not have feelings that they are killing healthy animals. No wonder we have people who murder and feel nothing. No job on earth could make me kill these animals. We have to start growing a conscience.

  20. This makes me so mad and disgusted that I cant stand it. If THIS is what they do in front of the cameras, then God only know what goes on behind them. Ohh man. Every other shelter accused of abuse says “you have to prove it” yet the proof is right there…what is being done about this?! Where is the freakin HUMANE society? Or the ASPCA- PREVENTION OF CRUELTY? Preventing this cruelty would be getting these jerks (I have other words but want to keep this PG lol) out of there!!

  21. Thought you guys might want to see this email exchange between me and Mr.Pepper. I’m sorry, just not believing that you are concerned Mr Pepper. you will have to start at the bottom with my first message and read up.

    Date: 4/5/2011 4:39:21 PM
    Subject: RE: Change is needed


    Agreed. I think there is a difference though between identifying the biggest factor and blaming. For example, the distemper outbreak we recently saw. One of the primary factors impacting that is the amount of unvaccinated animals in our community. We are actually brainstorming right now on how do resolve that one factor through our operation. I cannot be entirely done by us, however, we have been working to obtain grants to provide opportunities to the community for vaccination.

    You are correct about the attitude change needed and the attitude change is needed all throughout this city (including the shelter) on animals in generally. When I seem things like this I am disheartened and sickened that someone would think that appropriate. Especially someone who is well aware that is inappropriate. It will be addressed.

    Thank you for writing and your concern. Our progression here is a work in progress but is continual. I will tell you that through our first three months of this year our placement numbers (including working with rescue) are up 20%. That is nothing but a start but does show that I am committed to getting better every day. There area always setbacks but nothing can stop change.

    Thank you.

    Matthew Pepper

    Administrator of Animal Services

    City of Memphis

    3465 Tchulahoma Rd.
    Memphis, TN 38118

    Phone: 901-362-5310

    Fax: 901-362-6876


    From: Carla Damrath []
    Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 11:49 AM
    To: Pepper, Matthew
    Subject: Re: Change is needed

    Dear Matthew,

    Thank you for your response, I really didn’t expect to get one. You surprised me. I never said that increasing adoption rates was not a community effort. It absolutely is! You have to give the public a chance though. I’m sure there are some that want to keep their pets but maybe need a little education on training the animal or maybe just need help feeding them until they get out of a rough spot. I don’t know all the answers but maybe if you appeal to the public (not blame them) you might be surprised at the number of people who would help. Our local shelter has had great success working with local rescues. These rescues rely on foster homes and off site adoptions to get the animals out of the shelter and into homes. This will take an attitude change for the workers at the shelter, if they don’t want to change….well there are plenty of people out of work who love animals and would love to be a part of the change. I wish you luck, and will be watching to see if things improve.

    Thank you,


    Sent from my iPhone

    On Apr 5, 2011, at 9:18 AM, wrote:

    Hello Ms. Damarth,

    I actually agree with you. I think the reality of a no-kill Memphis is possible. I do believe that we can eliminate the euthanasia of adoptable animals in our community. In my first year I have learned that there are specific challenges that we face. I disagree slightly that it is not a community effort to become a no-kill community, however, I do without question agree with you that we need to constantly strive to get better. Just to point out some of the improvements that we have made in a short period of time – from this time last year we have increased our placement and adoption 21%. While nothing if only a start it is a start.

    You are correct to be upset. I share you passion and your frustration.

    I further am more upset than you can imagine over this information. This is not acceptable and will be addressed to extent of my authority.

    Matthew Pepper

    Administrator of Animal Services

    City of Memphis

    3465 Tchulahoma Rd.
    Memphis, TN 38118

    Phone: 901-362-5310

    Fax: 901-362-6876


    From: Carla Damrath []
    Sent: Saturday, April 02, 2011 10:05 PM
    To: Pepper, Matthew
    Subject: Change is needed

    Mr Pepper,

    I am absolutely disgusted by recent and ongoing conditions at the MAS. You state on your own page….”There’s a place in your community where the hungry are fed, the homeless are sheltered, & the abandoned are comforted. And you can be a part of it! It’s the Memphis Animal Shelter, where care is provided for your area’s homeless animals.” Excuse my language… But what a crock of shit! Take a look at the webcam pics from April 1st and you tell me if what you see are animals being comforted.

    And if that is not enough, does this poor mother look like there is any comfort or compassion being shown to her and her pups as they are dragged away to be killed?

    Don’t give me all the crap about not enough homes and the irresponsible public, if Las Vegas, Nevada can be no kill do you think maybe you could at least try to save…. I don’t know… Maybe 70 % of the animals that find themselves at you shelter? This is not a prison, these dogs are not there because they have done something wrong. They are here because they are lost or have been abandoned. If you or your employees have no more compassion than what I am seeing here, maybe Memphis needs to clean house, you included.

    Carla Damrath

    Evansville, In

    1. Matthew Pepper believes that Memphis can become a no kill community? Well I’ll be. KindaCompletely surprisingshocking since he supports the MSN enacted by the city (MSN has never been a component of any successful no kill community and in fact, it sometimes INCREASES killing). And since he runs a shelter that kills 77% of the pets in their care. IMO Memphis is not going to become a no kill community while the director of the shelter supports MSN and keeps killing pets.

      1. As one who is following the results of the s/n law, in Memphis it is working. MAS has not seen an increase of owner surrenders as a result.
        The law was written as a secondary violation and only to be enforced by the animal officers when writing for a primary.
        The people it is impacting are those that do not vaccinate, allow their animals to run at large, bite cases, etc. All the violations go through the court system.
        So far it is reported that 98% of those cited elect to s/n. None have surrended the animals. The ones that elect to not s/n pay a one time fee of $200 and keep their animals intact.
        The court offers information about low cost/free s/n.

      2. We’ll need to wait for the first year numbers to come out to decide if MSN is working to decrease the killing in Memphis. If they become the first city to break the mold, it will no doubt be reported far and wide. I dare say it did not work too well for the poor gentleman whose dog was picked up and Mr. Pepper forced him to neuter the dog at the shelter where, unmonitored post surgery, he died alone.

      3. I agree. Matt Pepper’s forceful manipulation of the law resulting in Trey Acosta’s dog dying is not the law.
        There is nothing in the law that places anything or any action on MAS except to write the tickets.
        They over-stepped their responsibility and made a rule that was against the letter of the law. It was immediately reversed and three city council members commented on air that MAS was wrong in it’s stand on this.

      4. I missed this story somehow….a stray came in, MAS neutered the dog without the owner’s consent, and now the dog died before the owner could get him? Is this correct? If so, they are clearly in the wrong!

    2. How in the hell did YOU get a response? I have sent well over 10 – probably closer to 20 e-mails and have yet to hear one single word back from ANYONE. Yet – I noticed that Pepper shifted the blame back to the public in the e-mails…. They are ‘trying’ to find a solution….hmmm What not try vaccinating the damn animals themselves?!?! May not fix all the problems – but damn it would be a friggin start.

      I am unimpressed….Pepper thinks they ‘could be’ no kill….yet he seems to think that the community doesn’t need to be involved? Did I read that correctly?

  22. I completely agree with what was said above by the YesBiscuit owner and Erica. If Memphis could become a no-kill shelter, that would be great, but it’s not going to happen soon with the way things are going. And if MAS does become a NKS, that means they need to stop the abuse, neglect and killing at the drop of a hat like they are doing now.

  23. I don’t know how I got a reply, I was surprised! Notice he says that the emoyees would be disciplined to the extent of his authority? He acts like he doesn’t have much say. WTF? Hello? You are the director right? Fire them! He did say that he would need the community’s involvement for this to work. What he doesn’t seem to care about is you can’t become no-kill while still killing adoptable animals with empty kennels!

  24. Comment from Memphis Shelter Director – Memphis Magazine Blog

    If everyone will notice…Pepper has excused the actions of the man carrying the dog by his back.

    “We see what’s in the photo and yes, it concerns us a lot,” he says. “But we don’t know what happened a second before or after that picture was taken. I’m not making excuses, because we do take this report very seriously. We have made improvements in some areas, but we have a long way to go before we make this organization what I want us to be.”

    I assume this means nothing will be done.

    I can look at a snapshot of a Nazi executing someone and though I don’t know what happened a second before or after, I understand what was happening in the photo.

  25. I’m on the verge of vomiting. Sadly, this is going on in many “shelters” including the Animal Care and Control here in NYC. It’s an exhausting fight to get any changes made but we have no choice but to fight. Letters to politicians, rallies, showing up at Public Board Meetings, etc… are some of the things that we all must do if we expect to save the lives of innocent, beautiful, adoptable pets.

Leave a Reply