Response from Memphis Shelter Director

This afternoon I received a reply from MAS shelter director Matthew Pepper regarding the questions posed here.  I am sharing it with his permission:

Hi Shirley,

I will gladly comment, I would also encourage you to call me any time or come down to the shelter yourself.

I want to comment on the “blame the public” first.  I think there is a big difference between blaming the public and pointing out key contributors.  There are many factors in a situation like this that contribute to problems.  One of those factors is a largely unvaccinated population of animals in our community and a public that maintains largely unvaccinated animals.  In fact, the UC Davis School of Shelter Medicine point out distemper as a problem “especially in shelters located in communities with many unvaccinated dogs”.  While a factor, it is not the sole factor.  Absolutely the facility is a factor as well.  We have animals in close proximity in an undeniably poorly constructed shelter.  The cleaning protocol and identifying disease absolutely also plays a factor.  We are constantly looking at how we can change and improve.  For example, right we are working on how to group our animals in such a way that when they are removed from the cage we have large, interconnected areas of kennels that can be truly sanitized.  The problems start to arise when our shelter, inevitably, fills back up and there is no space.  This is a long way of saying that just because something is a contributing factor doesn’t mean it is to blame.  Making a better, more humane, Memphis is a community effort.

We rely heavily on our Veterinary Medical Director to help us identify medical issues in our population and take the appropriate action.  We actually have a posting for a second veterinarian here that will help greatly in monitoring of the population.

We have a few who comment on the shelter, condemn the shelter, who live right here in Memphis and that I have not seen here more than once or twice in all my time.  We have people from all over the nation that comment on a web cam shots but have nothing more than a snapshot in time with a caption of what someone without knowledge of the situation is guessing is happening.  Those are challenges.

Let me give you an example; there is one now where there is an Akita that is shown on the web cam being surrendered with the caption “only 36 minutes to live”.  The dog was brought back and euthanised.  Having only that information leads people to only one conclusion.  However, what they don’t tell you is that the owner surrendered the dog because it had become blind and, by admission to us temperamental, and specifically requested that it be euthanised. Any attempts to now explain becomes “an excuse” regardless of its validity.

We can always do better.  I think the reality of a no-kill Memphis is achievable.  People hear the word “no-kill” and they cringe and debate is sparked on both sides.  I actually think if you look at the true definition which is to consider healthy/friendly animals then it is most definitely achievable.  I think it will require a better sense of collaboration with the advocates and groups that can help but that starts with us.  The fact is, there has been considerable improvements at the facility – I ask that people come see for themselves.  Rather than deny those positives, lets use them as springboards to something better.  I think that there is room for improvement in how we use rescues and that can impact our life saving efforts.  I think that there is always, as it should be, constant reviews of the facility and our procedures.  I think that we can be better.  However, the perception that is out there is not the reality.  Take this statistic with a grain of salt and for what it is, but for year to date 2011 we are 19.8% increased in placements and 5% increase in return to owner from 2010 which was, in turn, 7.3% increased from 2009.  These are only starts but are positive starts.

I attended the No-Kill Conference the year before coming here and found it to be a great experience.  In fact, many of the ideas we use now are directly along those lines.  Community partnerships (like the Pink Palace, Memphis Zoo and Memphis Redbirds), using social media (Facebook), utilizing rescue organizations (we have several who are regulars and take as many as they can) and off site events (we have 3 standing off-site events scheduled every month).  We have also been working on grants to provide spay/neuter opportunities in our community ($10,000 PetCo Grant) as well as aggressively enforcing the spay/neuter ordinance both in the field and in the shelter.  One of the struggles we have is that the animals need to be processed fast.  If they are not processed (one direction or the other) on their out date we become overcrowded quickly and then run the risk of increase disease and inhumane conditions.  It is a struggle and a balancing act.

I’m sorry for the delay in response.

Matthew Pepper
Administrator of Animal Services
City of Memphis
3465 Tchulahoma Rd.
Memphis, TN  38118
Phone:  901-362-5310
Fax:  901-362-6876

And a follow up e-mail:

If you could add one more thing; if there is anyone in rescue who would like to be involved please have them send me their information.  We do encourage rescue and a very good percentage of our placements occur through rescue.  The more we can involve the better we can do.  I mean it when I say that it is a community effort but starts with us; this is perhaps my opportunity to reach out and engage other organizations.  Thank you.

Matthew Pepper


I am going to limit my comments for now in order to give readers an opportunity to post their thoughts. So just one positive and one negative from me:

1. Reaching out and engaging rescues is great. The more rescues a shelter has on its list, the more options there are for pets in need. In theory, provided every pet in the shelter was listed online, rescues could help save significantly more pets at MAS than what’s going on right now.

2. I take Mr. Pepper at his word that the owner requested MAS kill his Akita because it had gone blind and was “temperamental”. The fact that he is concerned the explanation will be seen as “an excuse” is deeply troubling to me. The real concern, to my mind, should rest with the fact that a surrendering owner requested a dog be killed who was neither medically hopeless and suffering nor a danger to society and the shelter granted this request immediately. My understanding is that sometimes surrendering owners lie to shelter staff as a means of avoiding harsh judgment. In order to protect the lives of pets whose owners may lie when surrendering, a shelter needs to have verification protocols in place. It may be something as simple as a veterinarian confirming that yes, this pet does appear to have cancer and to be suffering, just like the owner said. Or it could be an evaluation by a behaviorist to determine what type of rehab may be best suited to a dog an owner described as snappy. But immediately killing an unevaluated dog because the surrendering owner says he’s lost his sight and is “temperamental”? Don’t worry. I do not view that in any way as “an excuse”.

107 thoughts on “Response from Memphis Shelter Director

  1. I agree that the animals need maximum exposure on the INet, and that means more than FB, because ie: I don’t do FB. I go to PF.

    I agree that the protocols as per the Akita in question desperately need to be changed. For instance, there are several org’s like ours who take the special needs animals all over the country. Killing upon request HAS TO STOP. Surrendering an animal is NOT like trading in a car.

    It does sound like Pepper is sincere, but something doesn’t ring right. Can he explain all the poking of cats please? Can he explain the hosing down of the white dog who was the last to die a few days ago? Can he explain WHY he continues to kill every animal vs. have the shelter undergo deep sanitation work a little harder to have staff who, at least on Cam-shots, appear to LIKE the animals, even a little bit? Too harsh? I am sick of seeing animals die, that’s all.

  2. Mr. Pepper is indeed very good at saying “the right things”. Where he fails is follow through.

    He says that he recognizes that there’s an issue with the cleaning protocols, yet he does nothing about it except make plans for some kind of new kennel. Well, I watched the kennel cleaning today. One employee gives dogs kibble. One employee comes through and sprays down kennels with dogs (and kibble) in them. Now the air, the dog, the dog’s water bowl, and the food are all contaminated by overspray.

    All it would take is ONE open kennel to change this. One clean kennel. Move first dog into clean kennel with fresh food and water. Clean that dog’s dirty kennel (now empty). Put in fresh food and water. Move next dog into that clean kennel. Repeat. No wet dogs, no wet kibble, much less stress.

    He also claims that communities where unvaccinated dogs are a big part of his problem with disease control. Fine. What has Mr. Pepper done to get dogs in his community vaccinated? Low cost clinics? Educational information? Vaccinating every dog on intake? Or maybe vaccinating every dog who leaves the shelter alive?

    As for the blind Akita, you need to process quickly? How long does a phone call to Akita Rescue take?

    “Akita Rescue? We’ve got a surrendered blind Akita here that may have some temperament issues due to his blindness, but he’s mellow enough in our lobby here, can you send someone down today to evaluate him for your group, please? The owner requested euthanasia, so anything you can give us in the way of help would be really appreciated.”

    Then hold the dog for the day until the group can send someone who knows the breed and possible health issues and can say yay or nay as to if they think they can give this dog a second chance.

  3. I’ll go out on a limb and say that perhaps the reason why he doesn’t see shelter critics frequenting the shelter is because it is a hostile environment for them, and that those who do frequent the shelter may be keeping their criticisms to themselves due to fear of reprisals.

    Lame. Lame. Lame.

  4. Morgana,

    Yes, many of us avoid FB because of its security issues. PF is a MUCH better choice, much better exposure and it’s what people think of when they’re looking for a pet.

    Mr. Pepper needs to use his software and use it properly to get animals up and seen by those who are looking.

    1. AFAIK, the MAS pets on FB are but a few of the hundreds apparently in the shelter at any given time. There is no online listing to my knowledge where the public can look at photos, ID numbers, and descriptions of every pet at MAS. Which is a terrible shame considering they kill most of their pets.

      1. I think I’ve heard they use Chameleon, right? Well, they can port Chameleon records directly into Pet Harbor and from there, to the rest of the world. Are they lacking cameras? I could get them dozens of functioning digital cameras donated from the Northeast within a week if that is the only thing holding them back.

      2. arkc: O/T but we could use a new digital camera! One with video/sound as well as snaps. :-) Yes, I am an opportunist. For the animals…

      3. PetFinder is VERY time consuming to update, the process is very labor-intensive unless you pay quite a bit to link it with your software tracking system. We finally got a retired volunteer to update our listings, but are still having issues because our regular database is not completely updated with animals who were adopted from foster, possibly died in foster (mostly bottle babies there, some hospice cases), or who otherwise got lost in the system during a horribly busy summer season when we were getting in over 100 animals a DAY. It is a learning process for staff not used to dealing with admin stuff to emphasize the importance of correct record keeping in getting the animals the best chance at getting out.

        Our best resource (although only as good as the people updating our tracking system!) is our petpoint software that *for free* directly links with to show everything in our system marked as available. Petfinder gets the most publicity, but it is SO difficult to work with if you don’t have someone who has the time to dedicate to it. In shelters with not enough staff and volunteers, you just can’t justify pulling someone from animal care or someone working with onsite adopters to basically do an advertising job.

        Yes, the solution is to foster a good relationship with volunteers so someone who HAS the time to spare will be willing to help out long-term :-) And don’t totally knock facebook; we have had some hard cases adopted because someone saw them on fb!

      4. Is Petpoint the one that plugs into PetTango? MAS has Chameleon which is what Char-Meck has. Char-Meck plugs in to Pet Harbor with theirs.

      5. Sounds to me like maybe the shelter could actually PAY for someone to attend a conference on using the software – or pay a rep from the company to come out and set it up for them AND teach them how to use it. I believe from my research that MAS has like a $7M/yr budget…I’m sure they could squeeze a few bucks out to do that, especially IF it’s going to result in more exposure for the animals.

  5. He actually responded to your e-mail! He gets bonus points for that–even if I don’t agree with everything he writes. But do let’s collectively take an electronic moment and appreciate that many shelter directors in his position would respond by not responding. Meaningful change will only come about through dialogue, not diatribe, and his willingness to engage is a sign that he may be made of better stuff than I previously thought.

      1. (Sorry, I posted another comment above while I was logged into my business account–arkconsulting is me also!)
        I’m not naive. Of course 99% is spin and the timing is, as Erica points out, at the very least, convenient in advance of the meeting. But perhaps there could be a limited number of published goals for Mr. Pepper and we can keep pushing him to achieve them. I’ll start:
        1) Reduce kill rate from 70%+ to no greater than 40% by April 2012;
        2) Reduce incidence of shelter-acquired infections by 50% by September 1, 2011.
        3) Post all stray animals to website within 3 hours after intake and post all adoptable pets to Petfinder within 48 hours after intake by July 1, 2011.
        4) Hire a specialist/consultant in cat behavior to improve staff feline handling and care by September 30, 2011.

      2. Susan! We get to make a wish list? With a timeline even?!

        I’ll add: End the practice of killing pets when there are empty cages or, in the case of a shelter at capacity, it is not feasible for pets to share space. Implementation date: TODAY!

        I could get carried away here but I’ll just list that one for now.

      3. If they are having so much trouble with getting these pets listed then maybe they should hire someone that ONLY has the job of posting pets for adoption. Memphis wastes a TON of money for really useless jobs and this one has so much benefit. We save lives AND bring revenue in for the city. It seems like a win-win to me.

      4. I think we need to add working with rescues…ALL rescues…not just the few that they hand picked – like their animals for adoption. Pepper, or SOMEONE, needs to start building relationships with other rescuers or putting out calls for help in SOME form or other when they have animals that could benefit from it, or to help keep numbers down at the shelter, while reducing the killings. Hell, I’d even be willing to complie a damn list of every rescue I can find for Pepper to have…not for him – but for the animals, if I need to!

      5. To add to what Kim said – if they don’t want to hire someone to specifically handle making sure the animals get listed on PetFinder or even PetTango – they could afford to pay someone to set up the software to do what it is intended to do and they can train multiple people on how to use the software correctly – then it could be left to volunteers to run. That would be a one time cost, as opposed to a regular pay check going out. But it is definitely something that needs to be addressed.

  6. As long as killing is viewed as a solution at MAS, there won’t be any real progress. Period.

  7. I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with your conclusion regarding the Akita. If the owner brought this dog to a veterinarian and said his dog was old, blind and becoming snappish (especially if the owner had children), almost every veterinarian I know would euthanise his dog for him. Taking him to the shelter for requested euthanasia is hardly different, even if it shows a bit of emotional distance. Some people would not be able to afford the vet, which is why they go to the shelter. (For instance, at the veterinarian I work for, to euthanise and dispose of a 75lb dog would cost over $200.)

    Akita’s are large, powerful and often aggressive dogs. While they can be good family dogs, an older, blind, snappy one would make for a poor adoption prospect. If shelters start refusing euthanasia requests, and people cannot afford a vet, then what do you think will happen to pets that owners sincerely think that it is better for the animal and them that it be euthanised? I strongly believe in No Kill, but you are going to get disagreement about where the line where it is appropriate to euthanise is. I think it was appropriate it this situation, without the shelter or the vet questioning this persons decision. Personally, I would be supremely pissed if I made what would have been a difficult decision and, not having the money to take my pet to a vet, was basically questioned and disbelieved by shelter staff.

    I think most everything else he says is BS–it’s telling people what he thinks they want to hear without doing necessary followup. I want to bitch slap someone every time I see staff use a catch pole on a cat. There is no excuse for not vaccinating upon admission (unless the animal is literally untouchable), and there are far too many empty cages to take him at his word about improvements. But I remember seeing that post about the Akita and wondering if it was an owner requested euthanasia, but knew I would get shouted down here if I suggested it was and therefore was appropriate.

    1. i have to 100% agree with you here- in fact, you just beat me to the comment i was going to leave.
      I know i’ve made my thoughts on these sitauations clear in the past (and that not everyone agrees with me). But once again- forming policy based on the fact that SOME people might be lying about their dog just so they can have it euthanized is a crap way to do business. You don’t run your customer based business by assuming all your customers are a-holes and lying to you in order to use your service. that’s just setting yourself up to be judgmental and offer poor service.
      I would argue that if MAS accepted this dog for a euthanasia service, and then turned around and contacted an Akita resuce behind the customer’s back, well that’s not only morally and ethically unsound, depending on the surrender contracts they use, it could be legally damaging as well.

      a euthanasia decision is personal, emotional, and challenging. it is not my place, as a shelter worker, to assume that those owners that are coming to us for that service (because they don’t have a vet, can’t afford a vet, the vet isn’t open, or they adopted the pet from us years ago) are making that decision lightly or falsely.

      1. Again, let me clarify – I’m not saying shelters should assume everyone surrendering a pet is lying. I’m saying there should be basic provisions in place to protect the lives of those pets whose owners are lying (or are mentally ill, misinformed, etc.). Further, I never advocated for accepting the dog under false pretenses so your criticism there is off base.

      2. I must also disagree based on the fact of one simple thing: “Yes Ma’am, we’ll take your dog. Would you mind if we sought out a breed rescue to see if he can have a future with someone else?” We did that at the vet that I worked for for 10 years. I am sorry, but euth on request is like going to Meineke to get a lube job. I understand that many cannot afford to euth at their vet, but the shelter SHOULD have a responsibility to assess incoming animals. We have had blind, deaf, and blind/deaf animals in Sanctuary here, are they grumpy sometimes? YES. Snappy even? Sometimes. But that doesn’t make their lives worth less. And yes, some have been as large as an Akita.

    2. Do we know the Akita was old? It was hard to tell from the photos. Do we know he was blind? Again, I could not tell that. Or snappy? I read the word “temperamental”, which could mean many things.

      To be clear, I’m not saying the shelter staff should disbelieve everyone who comes in requesting euthanasia. I’m saying there should be protocols in place to protect pets whose owners lie when surrendering. It’s possible an owner may opt not to take a pet to a vet for euth because he figures the vet could tell he was lying via an examination of the pet. It’s possible an owner may opt for the shelter euth because he figures the staff won’t question him and find out he’s lying. (Not speculating about the Akita’s owner, just making a general statement to add to your comments.)

      I once took in an old dog who was terminally ill with cancer to an emergency clinic for euth. Not only did the vet question me but she also had me point out where the tumor was so she could feel it for herself. I was so grief stricken at the time I didn’t appreciate the value of that but looking back, I really do. She did not know me or my dog and obviously she wasn’t going to put any dog to sleep without at least a brief examination to verify what I was saying was accurate. That’s all I’m saying – shelter pets should be given the same protection and possibly more so because we do know that some people lie when surrendering a pet. I am sad to say I have personally known people who have done this. And I wish their pets would have had the benefits of those protections.

    3. So we’re not allowing the animal time to adjust to this impairment? Just like people have to adjust when they lose their eyesight – they can no longer be as independent and rely on others to drive them around and many times they get angry that their lives have been forever changed. Animals go through the same thing – I’ve dealt with it 3 times with the same cat (blind in one eye, completely deaf, a stroke – all at different times)…and thank God I didn’t just put her down – she’s still going strong and fine since she’s adjusted to her limitations – she just had to get to the point where she was comfortable with what she could and couldn’t do – and that is to be expected…her life changed with each and every thing she went through. It would have been completely unfair of me to decide to kill her without giving her a chance!

      Most of the shelters I know have it written in their paperwork that the owner is giving “ownership” of said animal to the shelter. Period. No fuzzy lines – no hidden agenda – it gives the shelter the right to decide what is best for the animal. That prevents any legal liability and makes it easier for the shelter to do what is best for the animal.

      I’m sorry but I just can’t agree that “because the owner said so” as a good basis for any argument when deciding the fate of the animal. Especially when you basically are dumping it at a foreign place to die around people that your animal hasn’t ever been with before. I can’t wrap my head around letting your pet die without you being there to love & comfort it as it goes.

      Don’t get me wrong – I understand the financial aspect of it all – but I would sell everything I owned if it was the difference of being with my pet as they go and being with strangers in a strange place. I know not everyone agrees with that, but this animal gave you the best years of it’s life and to just dump it somewhere to die without you being there is harsh, regardless of the circumstances surrounding everything.

      1. We have a Chihuahua mix who was already more than temperamental when she lost her hearing. Now she’s downright obnoxious. And she bites. (But she did that before too.) Her eyesight isn’t so good either. Come to think of it, I could be describing myself here…

      2. Our local shelter will do euthanasias for pets with the pet owner present, with as close to the same level of comfort as at your regular vet as they can provide. It’s less expensive than the major vet clinics, though not as inexpensive as surrender.

        What they don’t do is take surrenders with a requirement of euthanasia. If you are surrendering your pet, you are surrendering ownership and the shelter decides what happens next.

        My mother and my sister have both taken pets there for euthanasia at the end of their lives, because quite a few years ago, when they had a dog who needed to be euthanized and they simply couldn’t afford the only vet clinic that was open on the weekend, the staff at the shelter was so nice, so kind, took so much care to make it as easy as possible on my mother, my sister, and their dog.

        So, no, I don’t believe that what MAS did is the only possible way to do it if you don’t want pets dumped on the roadside.

    4. If an animal is truly suffering then euthanasia is necessary and if the owner can’t (or won’t) go to their vet then having the local shelter do it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

      I would have no issues if a shelter put into the contract that they will evaluate the animal and if they determine it can be helped adopt it out and if not they will preform the euthanasia.There are cases were the animal truly is ill and suffering but the owner either can’t afford the treatment or doesn’t want to do it. If the shelter decided they can fix the animal and send it to a new home I wouldn’t want to take the option away from them.

      Personally I feel that if you really love the animal then you wouldn’t balk at the shelter being able to find a way for your animal to live if you aren’t able to do so. I would rather have my animals alive somewhere else then dead if those were my options.


      1. I think when we start blurring the line between owner-requested euthanasia and killing a relatively healthy animal just because the staff couldn’t be bothered to have another empty cage filled (and all the other excuses for killing without good reason) we do ourselves and the animals a disservice. We have to presume that an owned animal has an advocate. In the Akita’s case, his (her?) advocate decided that the dog could no longer have a sufficient quality of life and was better off dead. So maybe some of us would come to a different decision. But it is not our decision to make. My biggest concern for Memphis is with the *unowned* animals (either truly homeless or temporarily displaced/lost, etc.) To borrow an orange tagline, “We are their voice.” How do we keep those animals from going directly to the kill room?

      2. But at the same time, Susan, we need to remember that there are misinformed people, and there are those that get an animal because it is a cute little puppy, not realizing that it is going to grow up or go through the puppy stage where they will happily chew everything in sight. Plus we do have (unfortunately) people with the ‘throw-away’ mentality and sometimes they DO lie so that they don’t look bad. So while I do understand what you are saying…I think we still need some sort of safeguard in place to prevent those animals from being killed due to a bad owner.

        Sadly one of our local shelters keeps a list that they recently started of people that have brought in mulitple animals on different occassions, and it includes their name and each requested euth…they started to see a trend with certain people that would bring in a dog and say it bit someone, or a cat and said it was feral – it was the person’s easy out to get rid of an animal they no longer wanted and they figured the shelter would either find a new home for it or just get rid of it for them. They now watch for the people on the list, and while they still accept the animal(s) from those people they are handled completely differently than most owner surrenders/euth requests – they now take the time to do an individual evaluation and have a vet check out the animal as well. Consequently at the same time they began the list they changed their forms to state that the owner was signing over all rights of the animal and giving ‘ownership’ to the shelter. This has enabled them to save more animals that would have otherwise been sent straight to the euth room and gave them a second chance on life – that they did deserve.

        While I understand that we can’t treat each person like they are going to lie – we also need to do what we can for ALL animals because you can’t always trust what the owner says when they drop off the animal.

  8. Ok – I going to “try” to be as nice as I can while I say all of this. That said – let’s get down to work.

    As for the Akita (I find it interesting that he brought that up in his letter when there are so many OTHER issues that can and should have been addressed) – ok owner surrender and request for euth. My biggest problem with this is that it did not allow for an evaluation of the dog by an independent source. I have a cat that is half blind and when it occurred, yes, we had to deal with her being ‘tempermental’ while she adjusted to her impairment. It ocurred AGAIN when she became deaf. People do the same thing when adjusting to changes in life – IT IS NORMAL! I am sure the Akita could have gone to a rescue and found a home that understands and could deal with her. I can’t stand when owners surrender their pet and request it be euthanized…by itself in a room surrounded by killers, I mean staff, and not with their loved one who they devoted their life to. But that’s another story for another time. The shelter should have a proper intake procedures that looks at each individual animal and then decides that if the animal is suffering or poses a risk to society – then by all means do what you have to do. BUT, if the animal can be rehabilitated or given time to adjust to it’s impairment, or needs additional medical treatment…that’s where the entire rescue part comes into play. Instead of instantly killing the animal – you put out an urgent request and give the rescues a CHANCE to get the dog. It’s a win-win-win situation. The animal gets to live, the shelter doesn’t have to carry the ‘burden’ of caring for the animal, and someone will get a new addition to their home.

    If Pepper TRULY is concerned with doing the right thing and working with rescues,etc. then he needs to being change at the SHELTER before he can even begin to go that route. First of all they do intakes and I see what, 7 dogs listed on PetFinder available for adoption? Not a single cats (as pointed out before) and by failing to list ALL animals then Pepper is guilty of not giving ALL the animals a chance at life. Many rescuers I know actually look through available animals to locate animals to pull, besides relying on urgent lists. So if MAS isn’t listing ALL animals then Pepper is playing God with the animal’s lives – and that’s NOT FAIR to the animals. Besides not giving every person a chance to see what could be available…not every person is going to want ONLY those animals hand picked by Pepper, who whomever else does the picking. (Although on a positive note they DO have a pit dog available for adoption on PetFinder right now – which certainly is an improvement considering that we heard that he wasn’t doing that – maybe it helped change his mind about it?)

    I notice in his ‘blame the public’ part that at one point he brings up the shelter and how they are working to separate the animals…I’m sorry but this isnt’ rocket science. They have separated areas that they can utilize to be able to separate the animals already – they just aren’t doing it. I also noted that he fails to mention that the shelter vet – who’s advice they aren’t following anyways – has given them advice on how to separate the animals to prevent (or help prevent) the spread of disease. Yet, the are now looking into hiring another vet. Will they be more willing to listen to this new vet over MS. Coleman? I highly doubt it. It will just increase their payroll and give them another vet on staff who they can ignore.

    “We are constantly looking at how we can change and improve.” If he is serious about this then why are we continuing to see improper cleaning/vaccinating protocols STILL in place? And, again, failure to follow the shelter vet’s advice…so how is it that they are going to “improve” when they aren’t CHANGING anything??? It all seems to go back to the fact that they are getting a new bulding and once they do things iwll be jsut peachy – while I know he didn’t say that I can read between the lines.

    I like how he brought up the fact that he DID in fact attend the No Kill Conference -“I attended the No-Kill Conference the year before coming here and found it to be a great experience. In fact, many of the ideas we use now are directly along those lines.” IF he attended AND paid attention then he should know that ALL parts of the equation need to be implemented – not just one or two of them! You can’t become No Kill by just using an idea or two that you liked while ignoring the rest of the equation…duh, that’s why it’s called an EQUATION! You aren’t going to get the ‘right answer’ if you don’t follow all the steps.

    While I find it positive that Pepper FINALLY responded to you…until I actually see changes in behaviors on the webcams, a reduction in the killing, better utilization of listings of ALL animals, and following the shelter vet’s advice – I just don’t “buy” it. We need to keep pushing…it’s interesting that he FINALLY e-mailed back right before the meeting this week. Maybe he’s hoping that they are filled with pissed off citizens since he took the time to ‘open up’ to us. Regardless – there is no going back now. We HAVE to keep pushing. And I still think we need to look at the idea of a protest of sorts. Until MAS goes completely No Kill and changes their policies and procedures we have no choice but to keep pushing ahead. If we let up now – Pepper wins and can keep doing things the same way he always has – with a 70+% kill rate!

    1. “I can’t stand when owners surrender their pet and request it be euthanized…by itself in a room surrounded by killers, I mean staff, and not with their loved one who they devoted their life to”

      Just because you can’t understand WHY a pet owner may choose to have their pet euthanized at a shelter instead of at their vet, doesn’t mean that it’s not a valuable service (and that shelters who offer that service should be condemmed for doing so).
      If a pet owner had their pet euthanized at a vet clinic, but chose not to stay during the procedure, would you call the vet staff killers and assume they were uncaring? If the Akita owners had brought the same dog to a vet where it was euthanized while the owner held it, would you condemn the vet for not finding it a new home?

      I’m not saying that the MAS staff are angels…i’m just saying to please understand that not every pet owner has the luxury (or even ability) to be able to have an owner-assisted euthanasia at their vet, and some shelters have chosen to offer that service at a lower cost to help ensure that those pets still have that opportunity to experience a humane death. judging them harshly for offering that service just feels…wrong

    2. Mr. Pepper says, ”I attended the No-Kill Conference the year before coming here and found it to be a great experience. In fact, many of the ideas we use now are directly along those lines.”

      Really? Name one.

    3. Anne –
      Don’t get me wrong I have had to refer friends to shelters before to have their pet euthanized…but they were allowed to be with their pet the whole time the procedure was being done. I think it cost them a whole extra $20 to do it, but I’d wager that it was money well spent. (And actually in some cases the shelter actually waived the extra fee because of the situation surrounding the reason why the dog had to be put down – like a hit and run in one case, a dog that got shot in one case, and an older dog that an elderly couple had for 15 years and they were very emotional about the whole thing.)

      No I would not call a vet and their staff killers – but then again I wouldn’t call most shelters or ‘dog pounds’ killers either BECAUSE the majority are doing what they do out of LOVE for the animals. My reasoning behind calling them ‘killers’ is because of the attitude that the staff at MAS, as well as the director, seems to NOT hold an animal’s life as precious. MAS just seems hellbent on killing and killing and killing. They find some of the most ridiculous reasons to kill an animal – “Oh it sneezed…might be distemper, or an upper respiratory infection…let’s kill it” – no tests, no verifying if it is treatable or not…it’s straight to the euth room to be killed.

      Regardless of who does the euth – I will ALWAYS have problems with pet owners/guardians/etc that have to make the choice that now is the time to let your pet go and NOT be with it during that time. That’s just me and I can’t apologize for it because I feel so very strongly that when you have an animal that has given you some of the best years of their life that they deserve to go surrounded by at least ONE loved one. Since I was a child everytime one of our animals time was up I went with my mom and/or dad and was there the entire time, while some may or may not agree with me..I still think we OWE it to our pets to be there as they cross over the Rainbow Bridge. Don’t get me wrong – I know there are some wonderful people that just can’t stand the thought of being there when ‘it’ happened, and they made the choice not to be present…but I do know that the animals were treated with respect and love by the vet techs present – and even the vet. Yet, for ME…I just feel like we signed up for the good and the bad, we knew that there would come a day when we would lose that pet and I feel like we owe it to them to be with them.

      Please understand that I am not making some blanket statement about ALL shelters when I write this…this is entirely directed at MAS and how they handle things. I am very thankful to have shelters around that DO care and DO offer services like euthansia. But in the case of MAS, I feel differently because I don’t FEEL that they give a rats butt about any of the animals and that DOES color my opinion of everything they do at this point. While that may be unfair, because they ‘may’ do something right – I have just been wading through so much BS and CYA when it comes to MAS that I really don’t hold much faith in ANY of them actually caring enough. Those webcams are not very good at hiding the disgusted expressions on workers faces when they have to clean, and their pleasure at hosing down a dog when they don’t have to, or thier laughing & joking around while dragging dogs to the kill room.

      Hypothetically – if someone walked in with a puppy and said “Oh it bit my child and I want it put down.” Drop the pup and off they roll…could be that the pup never got trained correctly, was removed from its mom too young and never learned proper socialization, the child was tormenting the pup…a million things could have caused the problem. While I know that many other shelters would do an independent evaluation of the pup and decide that it doesn’t need to be killed, but to be trained and then it would be a great pet. At MAS it wouldn’t be discussed or even debated – it would just be killed. THAT is my problem. MAS seems to just be looking for excuses to kill animals. Right now the ONLY place I am judging to any degree is MAS.

  9. If he wants to improve things, he can make the atmosphere FRIENDLY towards rescuers – who on this very blog have admitted to being afraid of him and his ‘superpowers’ over life and death. If he let rescuers and more friendly volunteers in, then he would have people to help the obviously impaired staff learn the right way to do things. Is there anyone who can livestream the Wed. meeting for us in other states? Just the MAS portion.

    1. That is a great idea – the livestream portion of the meeting about MAS. If someone does do it please let us know so we can tune in!

    2. I am a rescuer and pull dogs from MAS all the time. I have never had a reason to be afraid of Mr. Pepper. He has been nothing but friendly and accomodating to me when I have requested to speak with him regarding any issues I have had with a dog I was pulling. They have a rescue program there called Pet Placement Partners that rescue groups can join to be contacted when they have a dog/cat that needs placing. They have called me numerous times regarding a dog that was there.

      As for the akita being euthanized, the shelter at this time is required to euthanize a dog/cat when an owner brings the animal in and requests it. It doesn’t matter why they are wanting it done, they have to honor the request.

      1. Were these calls about the 30-40 dogs already in the adoption area? Did you ever get any calls about the other dogs–the hundreds of so-called “strays” who get killed routinely at MAS?

      2. All it takes is a simple change in forms and then that doesn’t have to be ‘required’ to do things this way.

      3. Yes, I have gotten calls about strays as have other rescuers I know. In the past, under the previous directors, it was almost impossible for a rescue group to get a dog unless it was one that was old, ill, or otherwise not wanted by the general public. Since Matthew has been there, rescues are actually allowed to pull the younger, healthier dogs as well. Why I know there are some rescues that only want the young, healthy ones, that is not the case with my rescue group. We take the hw positive, injured, etc. as well.

      4. Linda, Thank you for rescuing. The main issue here is – of the hundreds of pets in the shelter at any given time, only a couple dozen are chosen for adoption. The rest remain behind closed doors, unseen by the public (including rescuers) as there is no online database of MAS shelter pets. It’s great that you’ve gotten calls about strays. But clearly, with more than 3 out of 4 pets being killed by the shelter, it’s not nearly enough.

  10. Oh, and btw, Mr. Pepper, its looking like you’ll have to try a wee bit harder to get us longtime, hardened rescuers to believe your sincerity. Some of the things you say DO stretch the limits of credulity.

  11. Regarding owner surrender for euthanasia…let’s just say that I work third shift. My neighbor works first shift and leaves his senior Beagle in the yard all day. The dog has food, water and shelter. But it barks. And barks. And barks. I need sleep! I’ve talked to the neighbor, no dice – seems that “Jonah” is incontinent and will pee in the house if he’s left indoors.

    I’ve called animal control – they can’t seem to “get to it” because it’s a nuisance call and they have so many real emergencies.

    So one day, my neighbor goes to work. I go into his yard and take his dog. I bring it to the shelter and tell them that the dog is old (true) and incontinent (true) and ask them to euthanize him for me. 40 minutes later, the dog is dead and my problem is solved.

    No photo was taken of the dog. No scan for a microchip. No way for my neighbor to get hard evidence that I took his dog.

    This is one of the problems with immediate euthanasias. Yes, they’re very convenient for the shelter, but they skirt due diligence.

    How many of those trapped “feral” cats that come in are scanned for a microchip? How many are checked to see if they’re neutered (and therefore may have an owner)? Or eartipped (and in the care of a feral caretaker)? How many get their photos taken and are put up on PetFinder so when Mr. Whiskers doesn’t show up at his house for dinner tonight, his owner can look to see if he’s at the shelter?

    1. are you just assuming that the animals aren’t scanned? or do you have evidence that this actually happens? Are you sure they don’t ask for proof of ownership?

      My shelter (that offers euthanasia services) scans every animal for a chip- regardless if it’s a stray, owner surrender, euth request, or even DOA. That’s at incoming. Then we scan again before euthanasia (if it’s going to adoption it’s scanned prior to chipping, and scanned before it leaves the shelter)

      We would also get your driver’s license info (required to surrender). And we wouldn’t consider age or incontinence to be a reason for euthanasia

      i’d say 90% of our euthansia requests come in and you can physically SEE that the owner is making the correct choice- the animal is suffering in some way, or is already on it’s way out. I’m not going to ask them if it’s ok if i try to find a new home for their dying pet.

      Everyone remembers the horror stories- because they’re horrible. but they’re few and far between.

      1. Anne, No one here has advocated for finding new homes for medically hopeless/suffering pets.

        I am glad to hear your shelter scans for chips and gets a driver’s license. And very glad to hear that age and incontinence would not be reasons your shelter would consider for euth. From all your comments, it sounds like your shelter does a lot of things right. I wish I could say the same about all shelters. I hope that one day soon, I will be able to say that.

      2. Well would anyone like to guess just which shelter Anne is referring to in her post???? Yes, …MAS. The same shelter that all of you are trying to condemn.

      3. If someone brings a pet to MAS they are NOT required to provide proof of ownership.
        They do have to provide a driver’s license.
        They are allowed to request the animal to be euthanized and do not have to give a reason.
        Yes, they do euthanize for age.

      4. Seems like we’re hearing two VERY different stories for the SAME shelter.

        Linda – IF Anne does indeed work at MAS – then from the posts I have read about the shelter she is at and the things we are discovering at MAS…the 2 just don’t mesh. (At least not from all the postings that I have read about the shelter she is at and what we see happening at MAS.)

  12. Too many of the animal shelter directors are seemingly good at one think — saying the words that they think will help the general public see the shelter in a better light — they are spin doctors.

    But to me action (or inaction) speaks louder than words and these NOT adding up to a shelter that cares or is working to save as many pets as possible.

    There were tons of questions to Mr. Pepper and he only sort of answered a few.

    Is he sending out weekly press release asking his community for help and letting them know how they can work with the shelter to save lives? If so would someone please post the URLs to these news articles. If not, why not, if he wants to save shelter pets?

  13. Sorry – don’t buy it! He is doing a major CYA before the meeting on Wednesday. We see what we see – hosing down dogs (and their kibble), dragging animals to the kill room, chokepoles on cats, dogs . . . empty cages, empty cages, empty cages. Regardless of the situation with the Akita, I just don’t think Mr Pepper is doing anything but responding to the pressure he’s beginning to feel. Let’s keep it up!

  14. I have also read where a man took his ex-wife’s two dogs out of the yard and to a shelter because he was mad at her. The shelter killed the dogs right away and the wife had no chance to get them back even though he told her that evening where he took the dogs.

    Death is final and animals need to be given more chances at life.

  15. I remember blogging about a case where a man took his neighbor’s cat to the shelter and the shelter killed it immediately without question.

    And yes, there are some people crazy enough to take in someone’s pet for shelter euth just to “get back at them” for some perceived offense – spousal abuse, stalking, and other crimes come to mind re that kind of behavior.

    My point was, unless your “business” is quick and easy killing, it’s ALWAYS good business for a shelter to protect the lives of pets. I expect it of any vet who doesn’t know me and my pet and I certainly expect it of any shelter who is in the business of preventing cruelty to animals and such. There is no need to jack the owner up against the wall and scream LIAR in his face. Just a brief conversation with a qualified behaviorist and/or shelter vet can give them the info they need to verify the owner’s report. It can be done subtly, while stroking/comforting the pet and the owner need never feel as if he’s being harassed.

    Another post I remember writing was the case of the woman who turned in her dog for euth at the shelter and the director rehomed the dog. It wasn’t done under false pretenses but the owner was surprised when she found out about it. She seemed like a low information owner who had simply thought the dog was old and should be killed because that’s the kind thing to do. As it turns out, another owner was only too happy to adopt a senior dog and make her sunset years happy ones. In that case, the director assessed the dog after surrender and determined the dog was neither medically hopeless nor suffering and could be rehomed so that’s the decision he made.

  16. Erica–having a deaf, blind CAT is worlds different than having a blind “temperamental” Akita. I have worked as a vet tech for 25 years, and I have seen how dangerous Akita’s can be–both to people, and to other animals around them. I just LOVE all the stories people are coming up with here–about the annoyed neighbor and vengeful ex. Facts are, at least in California, if someone leaves their pet for euthanasia at a vet clinic, signs the euthanasia papers, pays for the procedure–the vet is criminally liable for not doing the euthanasia. They can lose their license. Now, every vet I know will insist on an exam and talking to the owner, and in cases where they think the pet can be helped but the owner is not able to be the person to do that, for whatever reason, many times will try to have the owner surrender the pet to them so they can turn it over to someone who can help. Sometimes the owner will, sometimes they won’t. If they do, a different form is signed. But it’s the OWNER’S DECISION, and simply saying “sure, we’ll euthanise your pet” wink, wink, and then turning it over to a rescue is not legal. And I would guess that would also be the case for a shelter. I don’t know a tech or vet who doesn’t have a rescue SOMETHING that the owner could not afford to fix. It is very rare that someone brings in a perfectly healthy pet, and is not willing to turn it over to rescue. In that case, SOME vets will refuse to euthanise. But they had better have a very strong case, in case it goes to court.

    I’m sorry, but I have worked in very poor areas (as well as very wealthy ones), and have had people call that literally didn’t have $60 to put their old, sick, suffering dog to sleep. I have had people chew me out on the phone and threaten to shoot the animal themselves. It was disturbing, but I understood they were also suffering along with the pet and upset and embarrassed. Fortunately, the local shelter does it for free, and I was able to direct them there. All you (who are making these irrelevent arguments) are doing is coming across as judgemental and intolerent. Either we trust the public to do the right thing by giving them the chance to do it–ie, rescue groups, foster care, adoption–or we don’t. Going around assuming that someone dropping off a dog for euthanasia is automatically lying is simply buying into the AR bullshit that the public is irresponsible and wrong, and doesn’t deserve to have animal companions. I refuse to buy into that, and so I am not going to assume that man was lying and had a good reason for what he did. Otherwise, all I’m doing is spiraling back down into the argument that nobody deserves a pet–and we put all of them to sleep.

    1. Jennifer, we’re straying from topic here but what I’m asking for is two things – better diligence (scanning for microchips, asking questions) and better record-keeping (photograph EVERY animal that comes in and keep that photo with the surrender paperwork plus a record on the computer in a searchable form).

      These two things may not save a stolen pet, but they’ll save a grieving owner from the weeks/months of heartbreak searching for an animal who is already dead.

      1. Oh – and for all we know “temperamental” for the Akita meant that he was being difficult walking on a leash. Some people see an animal’s reluctance to perform an activity as stubbornness, never connecting it to a medical issue.

        But the dog was never evaluated, so we’ll never know.

      2. How do we know they didn’t ask questions? You can’t tell that from the webcam.

      3. Jennifer = exactly right.
        I’m not saying MAS is doing a good job. but i think you are 100% proving Mr. Pepper’s point- it’s a snapshot in time- you don’t know what kind of screening this animal went through, what kind of proof of ownership they asked for, what kind of conversation they had- we can’t tell that from a photo.

        I think we need to argue the items that can’t be explained away (spraying dogs, empty cages)

      4. The things that can’t be explained away are ignored. By Mr. Pepper, by his supporters, by seemingly most everyone in Memphis.

    2. No private vet has to render any service to anyone. That is incorrect to say they HAVE to kill someone’s pet. They can refuse to serve any customer they wish, just like any other business.

      Here is the bottom line: Who has discretion to kill healthy/treatable pets when other options haven’t even been explored? Who should have that discretion?

      In your vet office euth examples, you are continually mentioning other options (such as staff keeping the pet) and veterinary consultation. Why is it so outrageous to want these same things for shelter pets?

      1. I never claimed that a vet HAD to kill any animal. What I said, if you read it, was that once they accepted the paperwork and payment, NOT killing the animal set them up for criminal liability. So, yes, a vet can refuse a euthanasia any time they choose. In practice, however, that happens very, very rarely. And NOBODY just drops an animal off for euthanasia unexamined.

        So, if it happens very rarely in a veterinary environment, why are we assuming it happens all the time in a shelter environment? That’s all I’m asking.

      2. I do not assume it happens all the time in a shelter environment. Maybe it only happens one out of a thousand times. Would you be willing to agree to a veterinary consultation and offering options for that one in a thousand pet? I would.

    3. At the hospital where I work we will not euthanize a pet unless we have a relationship with the owner and are familiar with the pet’s condition, and/or the owner has had a conversation with one of the vets. At both my former and current practice we’ve saved the lives of more than one pet this way, by talking to the owner and not immediately euthanizing the pet just based on the owners request. Either they’ve gone home with their owner to live longer, or we have had the owner sign them over and we’ve re-homed them. BTW, our vets can also refuse to do “convenience euthanasia” and have refused to. In response to Jennifer’s comment further on, yes, people have dropped off animals to be PTS “unexamined.” This is why we implemented the policy that we don’t let them sign the paperwork and don’t take their money without a conversation with the vet first, because you’re correct that once we do so we are liable.
      Whether or not shelters are similarly liable I don’t know, but having a discussion with the owner about their options before committing to euthanize their pet would absolutely not hurt.

    4. Would it have been better if I had talked about a pit bull that I went through a similar experience with? Because working in pit rescue that has happened on many occassions. My POINT is that ANY animal, just like a person, goes through an adjustment period. I have taken pit bulls that have gone blind and/or deaf and been ‘tempermental’ and worked with them, given them time to adjust to their new impairment. I used my cat as an example because I have gone through 3 different impairments that have affected her…she was strictly an EXAMPLE. But if you feel better I can discuss what happened with the pits I’ve dealt with in similar situations. They are big dogs, they have one hell of a bite when they want to…but the thing is the SAME things apply – they need time to ADJUST…same as ANY person would!

  17. OK, playing Devil’s Advocate for a minute here: suppose MAS did decide to hold the blind, tempermental Akita to get him into rescue. How many rescue, purebreed or not, are really at capacity themselves? I know a lot of people who work with rescue groups, and to save the largest number of animals possible they have to decide between pulling the young, good-tempered, quickly adoptable animals versus the ones that could be nearly impossible to place – and the young ones will win out every time if they are already on a euth list for space reasons. It’s basic triage. And on the shelter’s part – whom should they pull first when they run out of cages, the young, social, very adoptable dog who has been there three days, or the old, blind one who is a bite risk (even if it is just because the dog is scared!)? Yes, it is important to make space first through adoptions, foster and rescue, but you can’t snap your fingers and make adopters and fosters magically appear! If more people in the community are interested in dropping of instead of taking pets out, you run out of space to safely house all the animals. Not to mention, it requires PEOPLE to promote the adoptable animals, to contact rescues, to get the animals ready to move out. With the limited budgets that most shelters face, they cant afford to hire a couple of extra people for those jobs, and in this economy, how many people have the extra time to volunteer for that kind of commitment ? I’m a broken record here, but SAYING go no-kill is useless without providing the resources for that to happen, be it money, people, supplies, facility space, whatever.

    And now, let me pose the question from the dog’s point of view. Here is a senior dog, who cannot see and is likely terrified, possibly disoriented from the change in surroundings, separated from his family, and could very likely have other issues not readily visible on the web-cam. Does the shelter have the means to keep the dog comfortable even while waiting for the hoped-for rescue to come take him? I don’t just mean a clean kennel and food. If the dog can’t tell where he is and is surrounded by the traumatizing smells and sounds of a typical shelter quarantine area for a municipal shelter, what does that do to his mental state? I was well known at my shelter for LOVING the touchy little senior dogs with health problems, but I had to make the call on some of those dogs based on our ability to keep them comfortable. One was actually an owner-request (for euthanasia) that for some reason was put in the new arrival kennels instead. She had horrible arthritis that the owner couldn’t afford to treat, and it became apparent she also likely had some dementia. I saw her in the kennel late in the day on Saturday; we are closed on Sundays but for a minimal cleaning/feeding staff, and the area where she was located was filled with loud puppies and small dogs, with constantly barking larger dogs just outside. I took her home for the weekend and brought her back Monday afternoon for euthanasia – I truly believe ANY vet would have supported the decision to euthanize her, given her condition, which would NOT have been evident on a webcam. A couple of weeks later, I pulled a similarly conditioned chihuahua mix from the same area (although I did post her info to a person I know who takes old female chis), I kept her on a soft bed in the area behind the cat kennels in our adoption area, and I tagged her for euth later that day. She was as comfortable as I could make her, but keeping her longer would have caused undue suffering. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of minutes in the presence of the animal to know that the kindest thing that you, as a shelter worker, can offer is a peaceful death. Prolonging the suffering, just so someone can have the opportunity to maybe take them, is selfish. Is this true for all owner requests? No, but judging the actions IN THIS CASE just based on what we see on the webcam, is IMHO not appropriate.

    Ding MAS for other problems, but this one is a judgement call we are not qualified to make.

    1. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to find a rescue to take him, and the outcome would be the same. But maybe they would, and it could save his life.

      If they also care for the pets in their care in ways that minimize stress, although nothing could eliminate the dog’s confusion and distress at being in a strange place with strangers, it should not be so bad as as to make it unkind to take that day or two to see if there might be a place for him in rescue.

  18. Just wanted to clarify that there is no information stating that the Akita was old or had bitten, snapped or even growled at anyone, ever. We got the word “temperamental”. Further, there is no information that the dog was in any way suffering.

  19. I have tried hard to stay out of this hateful diatribe, but now I will write. I am one of these damned volunteers, and I spend, at least, 5-6 hours a day ath MAS on Tuesaday through Friday. My main job is contacting rescues for all adoptable dogs. Mr. Pepper could not be more supportive toward rescue; he will do anything to help get a dog or cat out the front door. There are not enough rescues in our area, and those there are often are beyond capacity. In addition, many breed rescues only want pure bred dogs that are in good health, no mixes, they don’t have the funds or adoptors who want the kinds of animals we see. But I try, try, try. Everyone who is throwing stones, needs to spend only one day at MAS, and then they might become part of the solution, instead of sitting in front of their computers making hateful destructive comments. Animals come in laundry baskets, in paper boxes, in trunks of cars with the lid closed. Do you really think rescue is the answer? Please!!! In addition, I would bet that over 60% of dogs surrendered to the Shelter are pits. There is no one to take them, and unfortunately, many of the people who want to adopt them are wanting them for fighters or as bait. Do ya’ll want that? The few good potential adoptors who come in for pits, are willing to agree to a background and fence check. What about the tens of others that come in every day? If you want to help them, come and adopt one or two or three.
    Euthanisa requests, I can not tell you how many people I have asked to take their ill animals to a vet for euthanasia. I can only remember one who actually took his dog vack from the shelter. Do you think they care? Either they don’t or they really don’t have the funds.
    Petfinder, We have one volunteer who devotes five days a week to putting dogs online. We know that we tried petfinder, and have gotten many more adoptions through Facebook. However, once again, instead of screaming,someone come and help take the pictures, and put them on Petfinder too. She would welcome your help.
    Cleaning, the staff cleans constantly. When Mr. Pepper came, he dealt with many chemical companies to find the best solution for MAS. It is not that staff are not cleaning it is the ancient building. Hopefully this will get better when the shelter moves this summer.
    We are not scared of Matthew Pepper, we love him. He does everything in his power to help, in spite of the constant harrassment from some people. This takes up hours of his time daily.
    Ya’ll please stop bitching and come to see for yourselves and to help. You would be most welcome.

    1. You contact rescues for all adoptable dogs. Who deems a dog “adoptable”?

      “We know that we tried petfinder, and have gotten many more adoptions through Facebook. ”

      No surprise, since you seem to have practically given up on PetFinder – MAS has seven animals on there right now, all dogs, all young. To be honest, if my shelter had such low adoption rates, I’d be using any and every resource possible to get those numbers up.

      And yes, the staff cleans constantly. Using techniques that can actually spread disease. This needs to change. If you guys keep these cleaning techniques, your new building isn’t going to make any difference at all.

    2. @ Anne,
      If MAS works with the rescues so much, why were the rescues NOT contacted to take the “adoptable” dogs BEFORE the mass euthanization?
      Why kill 90 dogs, some that had distemper, some that had just upper respiratory and some that were just exposed to distemper. Some of those dogs might have already received a distemper vaccination in their background and NEVER would have developed the disease. Why kill them?

      Also, if Pepper cares so much for the animals, why did he NOT go to MAS the day he ordered the mass euthanization of the dogs?

      The biggest crisis the shelter has faced and it is his day off, so he stays at home. That is NOT the action of someone who cares so deeply.

      Cleaning? Cleaning? You say the staff cleans constantly, yet many emails from the shelter vet to Pepper address the fact that they need to clean properly and that their improper cleaning/housing was increasing the spread of disease.

      As for the pits trying to be adopted by fighters, lol. Most anyone knows that fighters are not going to the local shelter to get a “game” dog. They want one that is not neutered. They want one from a bloodline. And as for them buying bait dogs, lol, again. Fighters are not paying $75 bucks a pop for a bait dog. They will use a dog they steal or a stray for bait. They do not waste money on bait dogs.

      The reason Petfinder did not work is because it was tried and then not used. The public was directed to Pet Horbor for months and that was a fiasco (no updated photos) and then overnight switched to PetFinder and then facebook. Rarely were the photos on PetFinder updated and they never showed any cats. You have PLENTY of workers at MAS who do nothing and many are on injury time. This was brought up at a meeting. Director Hooks admitted there were many workers on injuries. How about they take the photos? There are plenty of cameras at the shelter. They play on the computers anyway, put them to work.

      It is nice that you, a volunteer, are asking owner surrenders to take their animals to a vet for euthanasia BUT how about an actual worker asking this?

      I am certain you and the rest of the volunteers are not scared of Pepper. It is MANY of the rescues who are scared and it is not of Pepper, it is of the volunteers. Some of the volunteers have turned into bullies. Many rescues are scared that if they cross the volunteers with a negative statement made about the shelter, they will not be allowed to adopt animals. Some volunteers are scared that if they speak up about what they see, they will not be allowed to volunteer. This is no way to operate a shelter.

      And anyone who visits the facebook page, knows how “welcome” people would be. “Welcome” if they do nothing but praise Pepper and the shelter.
      If they say anything negative, well heaven help them. A “friend” might drive to their job and try to get them fired.

      1. Chameleon software uploads pictues and information to Pet Harbor with ease. Memphis has the ability to upload pictures and descriptions of ALL animals in the shelter right now today. See


        Fast and efficient image capture system which allows the shelter staff to choose the best photo from a group of ten. The chosen image is stored in the database with ID’s linking it to it’s animal record. Print your kennel cards with the animal photos.<<

      2. Ethel – I need to take this post to the meetintg tomorrow! You have hit the nail on the head- dead on!!!! Nothing more to say because you said it all!!!!!

      3. Is there a way for all of us on here that are from Memphis to designate a meeting space so we can all be together? I think that would be great. I would love to meet you guys! Let me know by replying to this.

  20. To me, no kill means advocating for saving pets – not just the ones most likely to be adopted or taken by rescues, not just the ones that are young and in perfect health – all of them. No kill includes euthanasia for those pets who are medically hopeless and suffering as well as dogs deemed a danger to society by someone qualified to render that judgment. A pet who falls outside these parameters does not qualify for euthanasia IMO. I call that killing.

    So unless we learn that the Akita was either medically hopeless and suffering or had a history of aggression and a judge had deemed him too dangerous to be with people, I will continue to advocate for him and for all others like him.

    I don’t feel that as a no kill advocate I can pick and choose which pets I am willing to go to the mat for. It has to be all of them (save for the previously stated exceptions).

  21. None of us have the facts of the particular Akita, we are all sharing our experiences and perceptions of the situation. HOWEVER, that does not explain or excuse the myriad of other issues that we have all seen on the webcam. Those cannot be explained away.
    Let’s stay focused on trying to help animals by letting the public know about what’s happening now and what is possible.
    I’m sorry for the Akita, but I’m as sorry for the hundreds of cats and dogs who will never have the chance for life, only because they are unfortunate enough to end up at MAS.
    Many of us have worked with rescues, at shelters, with vets, so we do have some knowledge of what we speak.

    1. Agreed, db. We’re getting diverted here.

      We’ve all seen the issues at MAS – workers mishandling animals, cleaning techniques that endanger health and well-being of dogs, empty cages with claims of “no space”, etc.

  22. I’m so thankful for the improvements that have been made at the shelter over the past year, and I look forward to how much better things will be in the new facility.

    A vet once told me that an owner’s order to euthanize an animal cannot be “covertly” ignored. Either abide by the request or refuse outright and send the dog away with them.

    Conditions at MAS will never be perfect or error free, and the same can be said for hospitals, where lives are also on the line.

    Like most “crazy animal folks” I have adopted more dogs and cats than I can really afford and there is no more room at the inn. I wish there were enough homes for every creature in need but there never will be.

    Euthanasia is a tragic but humane reality. Let us support one another with constructive criticism and channel our righteous anger toward rescue and enforcement of existing cruelty laws.

    Removing an animal from an abusive/neglectful environment is the first priority.

    1. @Lisa Higdon
      I, too, hope for better conditions and outcomes for all animals. I think if you will do your research, there are enough homes for all of them. But it takes some effort to keep them alive and to find those homes.
      “Removing an animal from an abusive/neglectful environment is the first priority.” . . .
      but too often at MAS they go directly from one bad environment into another.
      And there are ways to deal with the owner requested euthanasias that don’t result in a dead animal.
      There is a different way of doing things and it seems as if MAS is just not willing to do them differently. As long as the friends and administration of MAS continue to make excuses for why they do what they do, things will not change – the brick and mortar part of it will not make any difference.
      Prove me wrong . . .

      1. WOW – you covered it. All I keep hearing is about how this new building is the cure for all the evils at MAS. If protocols in cleaning & vaccinating aren’t implemented. If animals aren’t listed on PetFinder or PetTango then the shelter ISN’T doing ENOUGH. I know of many, MANY rescuers that use PetFinder as a resource to locate animals to pull. And while I keep hearing about how there aren’t enough homes…have you guys EVER considered transports? You know those groups that pick up dogs from shelters and move them to other shelter where they will have a better chance at getting adopted. You can sit there and blame the community around you – say there aren’t enough homes, too many owner surrenders, etc. – but the fact of the matter is that MAS does NOT utilize PetFinder, which could actually help build relationships with rescuers while helping improve the chances of animals getting adopted.

        You can change the building – but unless you change attitudes, posting of animals, use of rescues, use of transports, etc. then NOTHING will ever change.

  23. I’d love to see people who are complaining about the cleaning techniques volunteer to go help clean the kennels the right way several days a week… Yes, it does sound like their cleaning practices, when the dogs AND food are being hosed down, are just plain bad. But workers will respond better to suggestions for change if they come from someone willing to step in and help with the dirty work themselves. And remember, if they are like many other shelters, the primary hiring criteria for kennel techs is going to be the physical ability to handle distressed animals – no educational background in good sanitation techniques, and their training is probably limited to how to use the equipment for cleaning and which cleaner to use. Let’s face it, most people even used to cleaning after their pets at home do not clean in a way that would prevent the spread of parvo or distemper! Add old facilities into the mix, with harder to clean nicks and crevases in the concrete – it’s a challenge. Yes, it surely needs changing, but ACTIONS speak louder than words. Lead by example, and SHOW shelter workers what a difference these changes can make!

    Want to see a good example of how to effect change in a bad shelter? Check out the story of how the Gentle Barn, an organization in California, has helped turn things around at the Harrison County pound in Ohio – they didn’t just preach on the internet, they provdided tools for change – a big part of which was mobilizing the local community.

    And for the flip side, you want to see a place that makes MAS look stellar? Check out the pound in Lyons, Georgia, where apparently once a month, workers take ALL the dogs – even just arrived ones, and ones already tagged for adoption and rescue – out and SHOOT them, because they don’t know what else to do with them. My understanding is that the next kill date is this Thursday – anyone want to jump in there?

    1. Emily, We don’t play that “Why don’t YOU go do it?” game here. It’s not up to volunteers to go in and clean. There are people being paid to do that. And there are people being paid to train them how to do it in order to minimize the potential for the spread of disease. In general terms, I think the shelter would find more people willing to volunteer if they stopped needlessly killing pets and treating them inhumanely. As things stand, I can’t imagine too many animal lovers wanting to spend time in a place that kills 1000 pets a month.

      1. Thank you, Yes Biscuit! I don’t know about you, Emily, but I am getting paid at my work to do a GOOD job- if I don’t do good, I get fired – same standards should be applied at MAS.

    2. Emily,

      I’ve watched the shelter staff clean at MAS. They seem to go steadily and conscientiously in their procedures. The problem is that their procedures are wrong. Who is responsible for this? Not the workers, this is how they were trained. Clearly, the problem lies at the top of the food chain – Mr. Pepper.

      Mr. Pepper blames “old facilities” and “parts of the community”, but he does nothing to CHANGE the procedures. And if these old procedures and attitudes are brought to the new facility, nothing will change. Animals will keep getting sick, animals will still be killed in record numbers, and it will go on and on…just with better lighting.

    3. In response to Emily: It is their JOB to clean properly in order to keep the animal’s living area sanitary and clean. This helps stop the spread of disease. If those worker’s don’t want to do it PROPERLY like they are PAID to then let MAS get rid of them. Shelby County has a pretty high unemployment rate and I’m sure those slots can be filled. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out how to clean something the RIGHT WAY.

  24. I will admit that part of my opinion is based on my experience at the shelter where I worked. Most days, we had 7 total paid staff members who had to clean kennels for 400 animals, with ACO bringing in more every few minutes while we were already at capacity with no open kennels. The people cleaning also were supposed to vaccinate all new arrivals, as we found time, assist customers looking for lost pets, see to the health needs of the animals there, assist people looking to adopt, process all new intakes (can take 30 minutes for a litter of puppies), help all the non-volunteers who “just want to take an animal out and play” – oh, and most days at least 3 of those 7 would be scheduled a half day, and two of the remaining people would be doing euthanasia in the afternoons. Plus one of us would have to leave, often for several hours in the morning, for a vet run for spay/neuters or injured/sick animals not being euth’d; the only vet we could get to contract with us for what we could pay was a 20 minute drive away.

    We are a non-profit that contracts with local cities for AC services, most of those contracts pay us just enough to cover the cost of euthanasia. All of our food is donated, and several of us would forgo paying our own bills to buy basic cat and dog chow so the animals could eat. There was often finagling to pay the utility bills, so we still had light and water. Forget hiring extra staff! And we still had so many peopld get pissed off at our adoption fees, which don’t even completely cover the spay/neuter, shots and microchipping costs, much less anything else. So yeah, you DO need volunteers to help clean.

    And when you’re up to your eyeballs in stuff like this, and Joe Schmoe comes in with the fifth litter of 10 or more puppies his dog has had in the last 2 years because “it just isn’t natural” to get her fixed, well, it is hard not to blame the public. Or at the beginning of the school year, the number of “family” pets that are dumped because they belonged to the kid going off to college, mom is redecorating the house, and the pet doesn’t match anymore – and we get to deal with finding a place for yet another 9 or 10 year old. And then I see people who are so comfortable watching from afar, thinking they are doing something just by saying, oh, you shouldn’t kill animals, rescue groups will take them. Have you been on the other end, when you are begging ANYONE to come get an adult (or worse, senior!) animal who is not purebred and is not the perfect fit for a home with toddlers and no time to do any training with the new pet? And all the replies you get back are, sorry, we’re full, and even if we weren’t, all we can take are healthy puppies and kittens.

    We did a lot of work with rescues, still do, but it takes time to get an animal vetted and ready for transport…and while that animal is waiting, there are five more needing that cage. So you have to figure out what to do with those five as well. Yes, there is someone on staff heading the foster and rescue program, she is also in charge of adoption events and runs the front desk most days; AND she does a training class for dogs currently at the shelter. So yeah, with the paid staff working more than 10 hour days except for that once-a-week half day, and getting reprimanded for any overtime because we didnt have the money, there is OBVIOUSLY no need for volunteers to do things other than play with the animals. Oh, did I mention pay starts out just over minimum wage, but you can get a $1 raise for certifying as a euth tech. The only real perk was generous vacation time, to try to prevent burnout – oh, and you get to take tons of animals home, unless you try to take adult pits.

    I haven’t worked at MAS, but from what I’m reading, it sounds like they are trying. They have a long way to go, yes, but maybe just flaming them for stuff they need to fix doesn’t actually do any good. Maybe a better way to approach this would be to address Mr. Pepper about why they did the mass euth for distemper exposure and offer concrete suggestions – taking into account the specific situation at MAS – about what could be done in the future for an outbreak. Where, specifically to put exposed animals. Which rescues are willing to pull exposed animals? How can they be monitored *at that shelter* to prevent others from being exposed. Yes, that may be part of his job to plan for stuff like that, but it seems like people here are trying to design the rest of the shelter’s policies…

    1. Emily – the only thing I have to say is that according to my research on MAS – first they have a budget of $7 MILLION a year – of that over $1 MILLION goes to salaries. So they have a very decent budget – one that I know many other shelters would die for. Plus, if you go through the postings you will see that they have quite a few paid staffers that are on ‘injury pay’ and these people could be redirected to other ‘jobs’ that would benefit the shelter while not bothering their injuries.

      Additionally, I have researched Pepper, who came from the Caddo Parrish shelter. For the one full year that he was there he had a kill rate around 70% +/- and the same trend seems to be following him here. There is failure to post available animals – if they aren’t posting the animals, of course they are going to get full and then have to kill for space. While I do see that they work with a couple rescues – Pepper isn’t doing much to build relationships with rescuers – he wants them to come to him…but when he’s not making sure animals are posted, except through Facebook, which not all rescuers use – so there is another ding in the possibility of saving lives.

      Also- while talking about policies. Memphis has a mandatory spay/neuter law..recently one gentleman’s dogs were picked up and when he went to retrieve them – he should have had to pay to get them out and pay the extra fee for both his dogs not being neutered. Instead Pepper decided on his own – this is not shelter policy – that the dogs were not allowed to leave the shelter until they had been neutered. Make a long story short – one of the dogs died. The owner wanted his own vet to do the surgery – ‘maybe’ things would’ve ended up differently if Pepper hadn’t decided to change policy.

      As for addressing the areas they need to work on – we’ve tried – believe me. E-mail after e-mail, phone call after phone call. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. Pepper is that horse – and he ain’t drinking.

      1. The injury pay issue is one that could be used to help even non-animal lovers in Memphis and Shelby County pay more attention to the management of the shelter. Although in this line of work even well-trained people can get injured, injury is even more likely among staff who are untrained or who are trained but refuse to follow protocols. I quote from a Memphis “watchdog” site at

        “…Mr. John Cox was awarded a line of duty disability retirement after only a little over 5 years of service. (This means he will get 60% of his final highest salary as a pension). He, I assume, is a dog catcher but I am not sure of his exact duties and job title. He was injured and reinjured catching a large dog in a net that dragged him around. I am not disputing his injury. However I do have questions about his hiring for a job that I would think requires a strong, physically fit person able to handle large heavy animals. After only 5 years of contribution to the pension fund he will receive 60% of his final salary for the rest of his life.”
        My point is that better treatment of animals might actually cost *less* rather than more–and that is something all taxpayers can support!

      2. Plus, last I heard they still had 1 or 2 of the employees who were charged with cruelty in 2009 on the payroll while they await trial.

      3. John Cox has just recently been appointed to the MAS Advisory Board. And yes, he was an employee @ MAS when it was raided.

        The employees that were indicted are no longer paid. They have been fired. But one has appealed and that position is being held open (though there is an acting person) until the outcome of the appeal.

  25. It seems that a few key points here are being missed.

    I will gladly be the devils advocate here and speak on behalf of Animal Care and Control ( Since taking my post I have not had to euthanize for space in almost 3 years, but since being at my post nearly 8 years I understand this effort takes time)

    There is a difference between a Humane Society and Animal Care and Control. Animal Care and Control is charged with public safety, bite reports, (also it is typically the agency that does the investigation and determination of dangerous dogs), rabies vaccination enforcement, stray impounds and other services that circle back to public health and safety.

    It seems that the limitations of this shelter need to be defined to really create a starting point for change. The rescue community in collaboration with the municipal shelter need to review the gaps that will help save more animals. It is important to review which rescues can provide which service so the shelter knows who to call with which types of animals. Who is helping each breed, who has the resources for extensive veterinary care. It also seems this shelter requires a speedy response from rescues to prevent overcrowding and illness. (remember I mentioned finding the starting point)

    Shelters like this one are a temporary holding facility. When they do adoptions that is great, but they are not a humane society that is soley dedicated to adoption services. I work with and admire the No Kill, Limited Access, Rescue and Sanctuary initiatives, but all serve a combined role in the animal rescue community. Each are a piece of the puzzle.

    I do have to ask the rescue community about the dangerous dog issue. What about stray dogs that display aggressive behavior in a shelter? They cannot be deemed aggressive in a court of law.. I know the answer in my community, but what is he base line expectation from the No Kill movement.

    I have to say in my community the rescues trust my compassionate staff to decide. We have too often seen managable aggression do debilitating damage to a child of an adopted dog that only had minor food bowl aggression, this information needs to not only be disclosed, but taken very seriously when known by the public safety enforcement agency that is Animal Control.

    Also many posters here believe you will see aggression in the dogs on these snapshots and that is very decieving due to the many types of aggression that need to be considered.

    I have found in 20 years of service that patrons will lie to better their chance for their animal in a shelter rather than telling lies to have their animal euthanized. (this resembles the blaming that so many on this board accuse the shelter of doing??) You have been asking the shelter to trust its community, so they are trusting the public when it comes to that very difficult decision.

  26. Krikies, this has turned into a shooting gallery. Can someone please do a livefeed at the meeting tomorrow night so that those of us out of state can keep up? I don;t think we should be hoisting blame at one another, or the “WHy don’t YOU go do it?” game as Shirley has stated. I offered to pull a dog fromm the flooded shelter at Morrow Cty. OH, and so far NOBODY has responded to me about transport. You see? too much time arguing and not enough time getting the job done. I give up.

  27. Oh and BTW, if Pepper IS not such a good guy, I bet he’s laughing his ass off reading us give each other sucker punches on this blog right now…divide and conquer.

  28. I wanted to delve a little more into MAS’ budget to see how they could manage to do such a piss-poor job with a budget of $7 million. Quite possibly I am not seeing the whole budget and there is additional money from Shelby County. The city only accounts for a 2011 budget of $1.9 million. But beyond the financial, I find the actual goals to be ludicrous and devoid of any aspirations for improvement. Total hours of staff training in 2011 is 8? (I’m assuming they mean 8 in total not 8 per employee.) No wonder they don’t know how to clean! And they don’t expect to increase adoptions at all over 2010? Perhaps someone else can take a look at (go to page 18 of the pdf)and find some hope in there, because I can’t.

    1. The Hempstead shelter in NY (the “Kill the Kitty” freaks) is the only one I know of that has a $7 million budget. Thanks for the link.

      1. He definitely makes an annual salary (not including benefits) of $92K, though. The vet only makes $86K. In Boston, Mr. Pepper’s salary is the equivalent (with adjustments for cost of living) of $154.5K. So he is not underpaid!

  29. Mr. Pepper attended a No-Kill Conference (read a comment that Nathan Winograd offered to pay for him to attend?) Not sure if that happened.

    Mr. Pepper did attend…then my question would be, Did he attend a No Kill Conference at taxpayers expense?

    Would there not be some sort of duty owed then to the public (not to mention the animals) to incorporate the No Kill Equation in its entirety?

    Would Mr. Pepper not be negligent in some form for not having used what he learned at taxpayers expense?

  30. sorry in re-reading…Mr. Pepper attended the No Kill Conference prior to Memphis.

    Still, wonder if tax money somewhere paid for it.

  31. Do any of you that plan on attending the advisory board want to pick a meeting place outside of the library so we can meet each other and sit together?

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