Since MAS does not list its pets online (except for a lucky few), we have no way of finding out information about a pet in need except to ask MAS.  When we ask, they say “File a FOIA request”.  When we file a FOIA request, they say “We need the ID number in order to pull the record”.  [Return to beginning of paragraph and read repeatedly until dizziness occurs.]

When I saw this cat being hanged by a worker at MAS, I wanted to help the cat.  Even if the cat was feral, I hoped we could at least neuter and earnotch the cat then release him, with permission of a colony caretaker, on the caretaker’s property.  It turns out the cat was killed by MAS.  I couldn’t help but wonder about the records for this cat and what information they might contain.  When Kim, a TN resident, filed a request for the records with the webcam shot of the cat, she was told basically, we need the ID # (which she has no way of getting without MAS providing it) but we know exactly who this cat is and have a statement already prepared about him.  If they know exactly who the cat is, why are they attempting to deny the records request for lack of an ID number?  [Return to beginning of post and read repeatedly until dizziness occurs.]

Here is the response from the city regarding the records request:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <Jill.Madajczyk@memphistn.gov>
Date: Jun 28, 2011 2:37 PM

To: Kim
Cc: <LaSonya.Hall@memphistn.gov>, <Janet.Hooks@memphistn.gov>, <Matthew.Pepper@memphistn.gov>, <Herman.Morris@memphistn.gov>

Without additional identification of the particular animal, for instances its ID number or information on where the cat was when the shelter took possession of it, there is no way for the shelter to provide the requested documentation.

If your concern is relating to the use of the cat tongs, below is Mr. Pepper’s response:

Cats tongs are meant for that very purpose.  He is not suspending the cat; the Animal Care Tech featured in the photo indicated that the cat got loose and into the sink in the dog area (hence; the dogs in the picture).  The cat was very unsocial and not easy to handle. The techs were transporting it for euthanasia – it has been euthanized.  Billy indicated the cat began jumping around (common behavior for cornered feral or unsocialized cats) after he grabbed it.  Dr. Coleman and I have both reviewed this photograph and agree that seems to be an accurate description.  The reality of working in a high volume shelter with animals, such as this, is very different than the appearance as we all know.

Here are the tongs used and as you can see by the description there intended use is around the neck.  Billy indicated he did so and it began jumping (again, not an uncommon response).

Gently restrain feral and fractious cats with ACES Cat Tongs. Anatomical design prevents “too-tight” closure around cat’s neck. Best designed product on the market. Includes replaceable rubber jaw covers permitting wider opening variation and even gentler handling. Two lengths: 28″ and 38″. 

Matthew Pepper

Administrator of Animal Services
City of Memphis
3465 Tchulahoma Rd.
Memphis, TN  38118

Phone:  901-362-5310

Fax:  901-362-6876


Jill M. Madajczyk
Sr. Asst. City Attorney
(901) 576-6540 (direct dial)

When I look at the webcam shot of this cat, I see a cat clearly suspended in mid-air by the tongs around his neck.  Apparently, Matt Pepper and associates do not see this and seem to indicate this use of the tongs is 100% approved by shelter management.  What do you see?  Please weigh in whether you are a layman like me or a pet professional (or volunteer) who has, or has not, used tongs on cats.  Also, how might Memphis taxpayers be able to view MAS records, which they are entitled to do by law, while the city has Operation Bob & Weave in full force?

51 thoughts on “Dilemma

      1. Yes Kim how true, I forgot….No need for anything
        at that shelter, they don’t last long anyway…

    1. No director of any shelter should even have the mindset that a cat is to be referred to as an “it”, an object or thing. That man is a disgrace.

  1. I am a layman, but this looks wrong to me. At least I would think the box needed to be much closer to the cat and on the ground to minimize the cat flinging in the air.
    Also, I thought evil Pepper was on vacation. How does he reply to this letter and not help a family find their “lost” pet?
    Wondering if a broader FOI search would be ij order. Can a resident ask to see records for all animals killed on a certain day or week? No particular ID #

    1. I just sent The EVIL Mr. Pepper an e-mail but never any response, I ask how was he able to sleep at night knowing how cruel the staff treat ALL the

    2. Every year my new year’s *gift* to myself is to buy the previous years euthanasia log. It is a records request that ends up costing me between $60 and $200 depending on how many pages they have to photocopy. (Varies depending on how many animals they kill and how wasteful in logging they are. Sometimes there is only one or two animals listed on a page. Sometimes they photocopy a page, or set of pages more than once.
      I go through the log page by page and animal by animal. I offer others the opportunity to browse. Few choose to do so. It is my way of paying tribute to those lives lost.
      Honestly, most of the animals killed by our local animal control are owner-requested euthanasia. They do it for free. Many of the animals are aged. Some are sick, or mean, or have behavioral issues that someone chooses not to pass on to someone else. It’s heartbreaking, but in an honest and clean way. Not like this, where they torture via webcams and murder behind closed doors.

  2. If they know which cat she is talking about then why can’t they give her the record? Mr. Pepper gotcha on that one!!!

  3. A bit off topic but perhaps a shout out to this lovely woman (in Kane County IL who is suing the county’s animal control) in the hopes she might be able to provide some guidance so that the spinning can stop:

    GENEVA – An animal rescuer whose complaints led to Kane County Animal Control changing its pet adoption paperwork has filed a petition in Kane County Circuit Court asking a judge to order the county office to follow state law and its own rules.

    According to court papers filed June 23, Yorkville resident Michelle Alexander, founder of Sita’s Dog Sanctuary and Safe Haven Animal Shelter, alleges that the county’s animal control releases animals that are not vaccinated, spayed, neutered, sterilized or microchipped. The petition also alleges that the county requires rescue organizations, rather than the county, to take on the cost of vaccinations and medications, as required by state law.

    The court papers name the county, health department, animal control and Health Department Director Paul Kuehnert, who also oversees the animal control division, as defendants.

    Alexander’s organization rescues Chihuahuas.

    After her complaint earlier this year, the adoption paperwork was changed and its director abruptly resigned after being put on paid leave. In April, Alexander complained to the Kane County Public Health Committee that even revised – its forms as well as its policies – were still deficient.

    Kuehnert said then that the state’s attorney had reviewed the animal control policy and approved it as legal. Kuehnert had said the county is allowed to release unvaccinated animals if the owner promises to have it done, and follow up to make sure they did.

    Kuehnert did not return a voicemail seeking comment on Alexander’s suit.

    Alexander’s filing claims that, “It is unsafe for any rescue organization to take a dog offered from Kane County Animal Control to their shelter if the dog has not been properly vaccinated or seen by a veterinarian” and that unvaccinated animals pose a public health threat.

    Alexander, 39, said no money is involved in her legal action, just a request that the county follow the law.

    “The county is inexplicably ignoring its obligations under the statute and its own ordinance,” Alexander said. “We are simply trying to get Paul Kuehnert and animal control to act in accordance with the law. I have been trying for months to get the county to do what they are supposed to do, and I really don’t know why they refuse. It doesn’t make sense. I hope the courts will protect both the public and the defenseless animals.”

    Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon said his office is prepared to respond to Alexander’s filing.

    “We will have a response to the complaint when the time is appropriate, not right now,” McMahon said. “We responded in writing [earlier], and that letter speaks for itself. We will respond and look forward to the judge’s ruling.”

    The link to the article:

  4. Yes, I would want an FOI on the intake for an entire day. And then one on the killing for an entire day.

    MAS’s paperwork needs a *thorough* review in detail. Now.

    1. Well see, silly me, I was thinking what a waste it would be of taxpayer resources to have to request an entire day’s worth of records for just one pet. But if that’s the way they want it done…

      1. I was thinking just start making up ID# look online then ask for info on all the missing ID#s. I would imagine they go in numerical order. Start in batches of 50 and see if you can get info that appears to be the animal in the webcam.

      2. Perhaps an entire week of intakes, killings, adoptions, and vet treatments. That would make for a more accurate picture of what goes on at MAS. I mean, as long as we’re asking anyway, may as well be thorough.

  5. And looking more closely at the photo (difficult as that is), even if the cat did “jump”, the worker holding the cat is not *looking* at the cat, he is looking at the carrier the other worker is holding open, out and ready. The only logical assumption is that the worker swung the cat around (in the air, unsupported) and directly into the carrier.

    THAT is improper use of kitty tongs.

    The correct course of action would be to put the cat on the floor (still restrained with the tongs) and then to scoop the cat up, supporting his hind end and to gently put him into the carrier.

    Obfuscation does not help your case, Mr. Pepper. It makes you look like a shifty git.

    1. My thinking (and I say this with complete opposition to use of cat tongs at all): If cat is on the counter, cat gets a free pass WRT tongs. Use tongs only under circumstances where careful control can be maintained – such as cat on floor. Then use tongs over BODY of cat to immobilize while other person with cat gloves tosses towel over cat and picks up to put in cage.

  6. I live in Austin Texas and recently our city council members had all their council related email requested via an FOI request. Caused quite the brouhaha and at least one council member did not get reelected and there were apologies and backpedaling all over the place. I’m not a lawyer or a reporter so I don’t know exactly how these things work but I suspect that if Mr. Pepper is a city employee than his email both from the office and any personal mobile computing device which he uses for work is subject to such requests as well.

  7. So Mr. Pepper is once again throwing his support behind an employee who has been seen several times on camera scruffing cats. Please Mr. Pepper, I know you’d like to portray all of us animal advocates as crazy people without a lick of sense, but I’m pretty sure that once that photo goes viral it’s going to be you the public thinks is crazy.

    That cat is not supported, the picture was not taken mid-leap (how could a cat leap into the air with tongs around its neck anyway?), and it’s definitely not being treated in a safe OR humane manner.

    Spend less time lying, and more time fixing the problems at your animal ‘shelter,’ and all of us crazy animal lovers will go away. It’s really that simple.

    1. One other thing, Mr. Pepper (because I know you read this blog, even if you don’t respond to any of us),

      If the kitty got loose in the dog area, explaining why there are dogs in cages in there, why are the kitty tongs and litter pans kept in the dog area?

      Either you’re also lying about this being a dog area, or you’re storing tools used for cats in a room with dogs allowing them to pick up the scent of the dogs. My money’s on you adding to your lies though.

      1. The screen grab picture is clearly labeled as Cat Area- Feline. Are my eyes deceiving me again?

      2. No, they’re not. I saw that a few minutes ago when I pulled the picture up to full size to post it on facebook.

        Mr. Pepper should stop lying, he’s really bad at it.

      3. Nope, you are right as the rain – the screen grab is clearly labeled cat area – feline. So aside from having no BALLS, Pepper is a blathering liar.

      4. Hey, who are you going to believe, MP or your lying eyes?
        (Only for those of us old enough to remember Richard Pryor)
        And yes, MP is as usual lying.

  8. Let’s add “liar” to Mr Pepper’s resume. They are trying every way they can to keep us from finding out about what’s happening there – which we watch on the webcams daily.
    That cat was suspended in mid-air with no support at all. IF the folks who reviewed this feel it’s appropriate, then they are surely not qualified to make decisions about animal care.

  9. NO animal should ever ever be subjected to having its entire body weight supported by its neck – whether hanging in mid-air, such as this super kitten, or being pulled along on a catch pole. That type of handling (using the term loosly) can cause serious and lasting damage to the animal’s cervical vertebrae.

    Matthew Pepper: your time is coming. And it will be hung by the neck with kitteh tongs, because first we are going to neuter you, according to law.

    O/T: was the missing Elder pibble ever found????

  10. these freedom of information act requests are clearly hitting the bureauracy where it hurts so i hope more can be filed for as many kinds of records as possible; i know this would be time consuming for the requestors but it will keep the dirty laundry in the news and public outrage will finally change mas for the better

  11. “Animal Care Tech featured in the photo indicated that the cat got loose and into the sink in the dog area (hence; the dogs in the picture).”

    If it was the dog area why all the cat litter boxes on top of the crates in the web cam shots?

    Is there any Memphis rescue group or groups working on something to stop this “shelter” wrong doings?

    1. Here’s a rescue group operating out of Nashville BUT they are very anti-No Kill: http://www.bigfluffydogs.com/. I tried to discuss it with them but they were all like “it’s different here, No Kill wouldn’t work here.” Perhaps they had a lot of dealings with More Animals Suffering (MAS) and became frustrated.

      1. Well, are they willing to help at all? Did you ask them or just want to debate “no kill”? I sure hope animals aren’t losing a chance to be saved because some people would rather discuss sheltering philosophy.

        Even kill shelters save animals, you know…

  12. Letter sent to wharton/pepper . . .
    He’s just making me angrier and angrier. Not a good way to make us go away!

    1. I want to donate, but don’t do online chip-ins. Tell me where to send a check and I will do that. There may be others who handle donations in that way.

  13. Perhaps an entire week of intakes, killings, adoptions, and vet treatments. That would make for a more accurate picture of what goes on at MAS. I mean, as long as we’re asking anyway, may as well be thorough.


    1. I agree, Arlene. Let’s get everything we can get. Sooner or later, they’re going to hang themselves.

  14. Pepper and Coleman–you should not be getting this info from me, a member of the irresponsible public. You should already know what shelter medicine experts say about cat tongs and adjust shelter practice accordingly. But apparently you don’t and haven’t.

    “Control poles and cat tongs have enormous potential for injury and abuse, and their use is not consistent with a humane death for cats.” –Lila Miller and Stephen Zawistowksi, Shelter Medicine
    for Veterinarians and Staff, p. 404.

  15. I swiped the following from KC Dog Blog. If the City of Memphis and Mr. Pepper are willing to admit they’re ignorant instead of stupid, animals can be saved. Ignorance is curable, stupidity is not.

    From KC Dog Blog:
    “In fact, I would love for a shelter like Memphis Animal Services (or any other high-kill shelter) to try to prove me wrong. I would love for them to run a promotion — 1 weekend only required at first – and waive adoption fees. Invite everyone to come to your shelter and adopt pets because you’re “overcrowded” and “want to save them”. And see if it works. If it doesn’t work, I’ll never mention it again. I’ll admit that I’m wrong and that people don’t want to help homeless pets. But if it does work, and a lot of animals get adopted — then you have the obligation to do it repeatedly.

    Because this type of promotion works. It’s proven time and time again to do so. All it takes is the desire to reach out and ask for the help.”

    1. Yea, but to be honestm they would have to offer the s/n and vax in the bargain to prevent unwanted litters etc….

  16. The worker’s use of the tongs is clearly wrong. The animal is clearly dangling in mid-air, probably suffocating or suffering a neck injury because of the improper use of the tongs.

    Mr. Pepper’s statements defy belief.

    When an organization lacks transparency and impedes public access to information with bureaucractic nonsense…something major is being covered up.

  17. I’ve never used cat tongs- i prefer netting a cat to using any sort of control pole or tongs. Srsly- nets all the way!

    When i saw the pic when it was first posted i thought it looked like the cat had been grabbed off the shelf- his front paws look like they’re still on it (not enough to support his weight though- he’s clearly hanging from the tongs around his neck).

    Of course, you don’t have to worry about injuring a pet or handling it humanely if it’s on it’s way to the kill room, right?

  18. Shirley – I just left your snail mail address at the Pet Connection – hope that was ok to do and also hope I was accurate –

    Shirley Thistlethwaite
    10120 Two Notch Rd., Ste 2
    Columbia, SC

  19. Thanks Shirley…

    Once Harry Truman said, “My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference!”

    Wonder what he would have said about Memphis officials…nah, that would be a slam to piano players in whore houses.

  20. don’t screw around with requesting records on individual animals. Request them all! Every last one of them. That way, you can tally, record, and REPORT their numbers for them. And request them electronically if they enter them into excel or similar it might save a lot of tallying time. Our organization gets daily reports that lists all the animal, who was brought in, adopted, euthanized. That’s how I discovered that they reported animals that dies in their care or were lost/escaped from the shelter — they reported them to the public as Released to Owner.

    We know accurately report their data FOR them, cuz they lie out of their you-know-what to the newspaper (who published their data monthly).

  21. I’ve been out of the dog blog loop for a while. What page should I start on to catch up – or rather, start – with all of this Memphis BS?

    I am now going to exercise my constitutional right to free speech. If you have a problem with that…….bite me.

    What I am going to write about here is MY IMPRESSION of the Memphis Animal Services….often referred to as the “shelter”….probably more appropriately should be referred to as “the pound.”

    I sense corruption at the “shelter.” There are some things and a whole lot of “double talk” that I don’t understand……always the goal of “double talk” of course…….confusion, misunderstanding. It’s that old “you really didn’t see what you think you saw” routine……that Razzle Dazzle nonsense.

    Corruption? There’s always just one reason for that. What do you think it could be? This is a fill in the blank Herman. Insert the correct answer here ________.

    My impression of the “shelter” is that it IS a “killing machine.” The last time someone said that in public, Mayor Wharton was on the air the next day pretty much saying we were all “crazy”….not in those exact words, of course, but I think if we reviewed the video…..and please do, that was the exact impression that he seemed to be trying to give. I’d bet money on it….so don’t argue….and don’t try to mess with my right to free speech……….and shame on you and the mayor for trying to silence Shirley Thistlethwaite!

    Did the big, bad blogger scare you, Herman? Does the city think there is trouble up ahead because there are a growing group of people, all over this country who are pointing their fingers at the “Memphis Dog Pound!”

    How in the hell does a “shelter” loose so many animals?? Tell us, please! At one time, I was told, by MORE than one person, that they were being sold out the “back door!” I wonder if that is still going on? Are they still “loosing” animals? What is the count to date. By the way….Where IS Kapone!? I think they said they “lost” him too.

    Those shelter folk sure do seem to love killing animals. What’s up with that? Why are so many dogs kept from the public without ever having the slightest chance of being adopted? Those of course, are the same ones that we see the shelter morons dragging up and down the aisles on the choke pole, lifting them in the air by their necks to stuff them into the top cages.

    Then the wimp patrol that we just saw in the feline room moving in on the ferocious frightened kitty cat….with tongs! Do you know how completely easy it is to move a cat from point A to point B?

    We obviously have way too many shelter workers (with one or two exceptions) who are totally unsuitable for working with anything that breathes. The cruelty turns my stomach and if you don’t think that there are others who share that view….you are wrong….and they are all over this country.

    If we see the cruelty then Matthew Pepper sees it. Matthew, why are you letting this continue!? The few things that I have mentioned here are contrary to the “shelter’s” humane policy! Why don’t you stop it….and why did you tell Jody to “take a break” from the shelter. We either agree with you or we are shown the door?

    We can’t even have an animal shelter that isn’t a cloak and dagger operation. It’s disgusting and discouraging but all of ya’ll’s foolishness is just like adding fuel to the fire for those of us trying to bring a decent life to animals caught in a hostage situation who have no voice.

    You know damn well that we aren’t going anywhere! So just keep on playing your little games. Keep taking the side of the felon infested “shelter”….just keep on. I think I can say….just my opinion but I believe that this kind of attention is not going to do anything to make Memphis look like a decent place to live or do business.

    We aren’t giving up. As long as this city continues to screw over the animals in that god forsaken “shelter” we will be there…until it’s done right. So have at it.

    It’s the city’s call.

    1. THANK YOU!

      I know that a lot of people agree with you 100%. And now that Punkin has her own facebook page, this is going world-wide. Memphis, Tennessee isn’t looking too good to the world at the moment. I hope that those who have the power to change things at the facility (I can’t call it a “shelter” either) will do so.

      Are you listening, Memphis?

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