An Indecent Proposal

A letter to the editor of a Memphis paper encourages readers to walk in the shoes of MAS workers instead of criticizing them.  Because:

They do not want to be involved in euthanasia, but these employees are often required to. These employees are attacked by animals and people alike. They are exposed to animal excrement, vermin and disease, and they are emotionally scarred by the cruel conditions they see animals in day after day.

Let’s take these point by point.

If it’s true that no workers at MAS “want to be involved in” killing (which the letter writer mistakenly calls “euthanasia”), why haven’t they gone to their union and issued a grievance, like they did when they alleged people were making negative comments about them on the internet because of the webcams?  Why don’t they have their union tell the city that MAS workers are the only city employees forced to needlessly kill pets and they don’t want to do it anymore?  The union can offer examples of other no kill communities such as Reno and Austin and demand that Memphis institute similar programs so that the workers can stop “being involved in” killing pets immediately.

As for being “attacked by animals and people”, I assume the latter indicates a verbal form of attack.  The former of course is a risk in any animal job.  The risk can be considerably lowered through training in the humane handling and care of pets and supervision to ensure protocols are followed.  MAS appears to be lacking in these areas.

Vermin and disease – wow, sounds like the Black Death.  Or do you mean kitty colds?  Don’t worry, you can’t catch those.

Now if you want to talk about being emotionally scarred from seeing how animals are treated day after day, I feel your pain.  For example:

Someone surrenders a pair of waggybutts to MAS on July 26.
A worker carries one pup under each arm from the lobby...
...straight to the kill room.

No sir, I will never walk in those shoes. Because I am for no kill. I could not and would not kill a pet for a paycheck or even for a million dollar jackpot. I don’t begrudge anyone’s right or need to work for a living. But if the workers at MAS are truly united in their stance against needless killing, it seems implausible to me they have not taken a stand on the issue and simply maintain the status quo at a place that kills 3 out of every 4 pets it’s paid by the community to protect.

And just because I refuse to walk in their shoes doesn’t mean I am denied my right to advocate for reform and to give a voice to the defenseless pets at their mercy.  Not only am I guaranteed that right in our free society but more importantly, I feel compelled to do it.  Because silence is not an option for me.  When I see pets being needlessly killed and I “do not want to be involved in” the killing, I take action.

A box of puppies surrendered to MAS on July 26, 2011.
The box of puppies is wheeled directly to the kill room.

46 thoughts on “An Indecent Proposal

  1. I think that anyone who defends MAS has no clue as to what is really going on there. I hope someone points them in your direction.

  2. Attacked my ASS, all you see is the staff being CRUEL to the animals, choke pole, kick, hang in mid air, drag to the kill room. Scarred by Cruel Conditions, YES OF THERE OWN DOING….

  3. I forwarded this one to the Mayor. I asked him if the Webcams lie, and if this was the reason he didn’t want them at the new facility. I also advised him I would be at his “Come on Board” party Friday evening at MPACT Memphis. I queried as to whether he would even acknowledge my presence or speak to me. We will see and I will update you. Thanks for sharing that one.

  4. I agree. If the workers are so traumatized by their work, the should go to their union and file a grievance. If this work is so traumatizing to them, they should be all for going no kill. What whiners.

  5. These people -majority of MAS staff including manager-have no business being in the position they are in…”caring” for the most vulnerable and voiceless in our community. (The definition of vulnerable is: Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally). I doubt anyone who has placed MAS employees or kept them in the position they are in would allow them to care for their animals, older relatives or children. The cameras being taken out are indicative of an administration that wants to coverup what has become evident to everyone who seeks truth. Leadership is not allowing cruelty to continue and giving them a free pass to do it. The MAS employees, those who are perpetuating the crulety, have to be laughing all the way to the bank with the latest decisions of closing meetings and taking out cameras. They are getting paid exceptional money to kill animals…not save or allieviate their suffering. There is nothing that speaks to their experience or will to do the right thing for these animals. What in the world will they do once cameras are turned off? We should all shudder to think of what will happen. And to think there are caring people who would gladly work and help these creatures whiile those who are mistreating them are allowed to stay with no accountability. Let us hope the Memphis Rotary Club will be able to conclude and make a finding that this MAS operation is an ongoing nightmare for all involved. A tragedy beyond words.

  6. I first encountered this argument in the mid-1970s. I didn’t think it held water then. These days, I think it’s so much self-serving, self-pitying horse hockey, intended to shut down discussion rather than foster understanding.

    Here’s the thing: even if one is working under poor and overcrowded conditions, even if one lives in a community where neglect and cruelty are commonplace, even if one believes that killing healthy and treatable animals for space is legitimate – that’s none of it either reason or excuse for mistreatment of the animals in the shelter’s care.

    The animals are blameless in all of this, and wholly helpless.

    The management and staff at MAS are the ones responsible for the day to day conditions there. They staff may have little or no control over policy and procedures, but could still choose a kind word, a gentle hand, a moment’s consideration.

    And they do not.

  7. You think they’ve never been attacked? While I agree withmuch of what is said on Yesbiscuit, statements like this make me roll my eyes. Obviously. you’ve never known an ACO.

    As for continuing to work a job that has needless killing, vets do it all the time. Owners who want their animals euthanized due to behavior/medical problems, owners who can’t afford treatment for treatable disease, kittens and puppies dropped off on the doorstep. My vet does everything she can to keep from euthanizing an animal needlessly, but she can’t find adopters or rescue groups to take every single animal. Memphis rescue groups are generally full up. Most of her clients and all of her staff have adopted from her. Do you propose she quit her job?

    1. I don’t propose that anyone quit their job. I propose that, if their job requires them to perform tasks they find morally objectionable, they aggressively work toward change. Of course, if they so choose, they can seek new employment, but that’s their decision.

    2. Not all vets are willing to kill healthy pets just to make a buck. There are several vets in my area who post signs in the client waiting area saying that they do not kill healthy animals. Vets don’t “have” to kill for the convenience of their clients; it’s a choice they make.

  8. Call me cynical but looks like most (not all) of the workers at MAS are there for a relatively easy paycheck. The jobs there don’t seem to require much experience, education or training, although it helps to be related to or at least cozy with Memphis politicos if you want supervisory status. Get trained to kill (“certified euthanasia technician”) and you make even more $. There’s plenty of pain and suffering at the shelter but it’s endured by the animals, not the staff.

    Workers at the cat shelter in my city felt so bad about killing cats (especially ferals) that they refused to sign another contract with the city for animal control and went no-kill. Sadly, others stepped in to kill for the city. But maybe they’ll get tired of it, too, and create another no-kill cat shelter until the city/county finally goes no-kill for good. Dog shelter is now saving over 90% of the adoptable pets they receive–so they’re moving in the right direction.

  9. I’ve walked in their shoes. I ran an open admission animal control shelter. We didn’t kill. I’ve also worked with other open admission animal control shelters across the country, and even abroad. Many of them have since stopped killing, also. I’ve down top-down reviews of many facilities, getting a detailed understanding of their operations.

    Having walked in their shoes, I say this:

    In the case of a small percentage of animals (less than 10%), they kill because the animals are hopelessly sick or injured, or the dogs are so vicious that placing them would put adoptive families at risk. Aside from this relatively small number of cases, they kill because they make the animals sick through sloppy cleaning and poor handling. They kill because they do not want to care for sick animals. They kill because they do not effectively use the Internet and the media to promote their pets. They kill because they don’t want a foster care program. They kill because they discourage visitors with their poor customer service. They kill because they do not help people overcome problems that can lead to increased impounds. They kill because they haven’t embraced TNR for feral cats. They kill because they won’t socialize feral kittens. They kill because their draconian laws empower them to kill.

    Some kill because they are steeped in a culture of defeatism, or because they are under the thumb of regressive health or police department oversight. But they still kill. They never say, “we kill because we have accepted killing in lieu of having to put in place foster care, pet retention, volunteer, TNR, public relations, and other programs.” In short, they kill because they have failed to do what is necessary to stop killing.

    Guilty, as charged.

    1. Nathan,
      I know its easier said than done and I know that youve asked Pepper to go to a NK conference, but if there was ONE person who could turn that place around, its you. We are getting desperate here. If there was anything that we could do to help you, let us know. Thx.

    2. Bless you Nathan. I would add one thing: they KILL because they see nothing wrong with it, and see it as necessary. Just sayin’.

  10. Mayor Wharton has scheduled a news conference for 4:00pm CDT today to discuss the MAS Situation. It will be streamed online at, if you don’t live in Memphis. I do so I will be watching. Hopefully others will tune in also. Just wanted to share. I forwarded him an email this morning on the pics of the pups in the box going directly to the kill room, along with 3 other dogs going to the kill room right after being surrendered. Now, I asked him, do webcams lie? Is this why you do not want webcams at the new facility? Of course, no response yet, but a news conference. Maybe my email helped. Don’t know. Everyone watch, please. Today, 4pm. Thanks.

    1. A news conference generally indicates a major announcement – something of vast public interest.

      This is a forward that just landed in my inbox:

      A.C. Wharton will be on Channel 5 tonight with an update RE: the Shelter & the Rotary Club! Channel 5 is advertising it to be on at 5 & 6 tonight!

      I’m wondering if both the 4pm presser and the 5pm news appearance are accurate. If anyone knows, please share.

      1. Channel 5 news has confirmed for a reader that there is a 4pm presser and it’s supposed to be regarding MAS and the rotary club. They will report on their evening news.

    2. I fully expect it to be more of the same – the irresponsible public, we’re doing the best we can, new facility will solve every problem, no mention of Kapone, etc.

      Pandering to the lowest common denominator without ever considering that there might be a better way to do things and that a well-run shelter can be a positive boon for a city…

    3. I am going to post this gist of it here just for anyone who cannot access the live stream or what have you. It is my understanding that some folks who read this nice blog are from out of the country and so they literally might not be able to even see the stream and all.

      Rotary Club to Assess Memphis Animal Shelter

      Updated: Wednesday, 27 Jul 2011, 4:31 PM CDT
      Published : Wednesday, 27 Jul 2011, 4:31 PM CDT

      MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis Mayor A C Wharton announced Wednesday that the Memphis Rotary Club will perform a thorough assessment of the Memphis Animal Shelter at no cost to taxpayers.

      The Rotary Club will evaluate the shelter’s procedures and systems as they pertain to the handling of animals, such as euthanasia, adoptions, and spay/neuter policies. A review of the current facility will serve as a “baseline” for enacting improvements when the shelter is moved in September.

      Wharton received the offer from the Rotary Club on July 19th, and stated at Wednesday’s news conference that “the timing could not be better.”

      Rotary President John Coats added that “nothing old is sacred, and nothing new is off the table” as they conduct their assessment.

      1. Thank you missmary. I don’t suppose anybody asked where Kapone is or why there are so many empty cages at MAS right now…

  11. The comment I left at Commercial Appeal for Houton Pate, author of that assinine comment and defense of MAS:
    ShelterRevolution writes:

    Operating Engineers are handling dogs and cats? No wonder MAS is swirling the toilet bowl on its way down. That’s the cause of the problem right there. Where are your compassionate care givers who will give everything they own to care for Memphis’ FAMILY COMPANIONS?

    MAS is a nightmarish trip back into yesteryear, in the days of dog wardens, dog catchers, and brutal tools of the trade like catch poles. MAS’ head control person (director) needs to be replaced with someone like me who knows how to handle these beautiful animals gently – without those ugly tools of the trade.

    Humans do not need protecting from dogs. It is the other way around: dogs need protecting from humans. These are not pets – they are now becoming “family companions” in our society. Your ways reflect the old way, MAS. Operating engineers, omg!

    Put me in charge, give me 50 caring Memphis volunteers and we could turn that operation around in 30 days. But first, we get rid of operating engineers! The government and its union adversaries must go. Would any human being want a government employee or “operating engineer” caring for them if they were in a hospital? Sadly, MAS is nothing more than a prison – it is run by a warden and the innocent “inmates” are handled by prison guards in uniform. That has to change. Any improvements will fail until that important step is taken.

    Want to see what you could have, Memphis? Go to for the future of animal rescue…

    1. Yes indeed, it is nothing more than a prison-a badly run prison. The animals need immediate protection from those being paid to protect them. Look at the employees and their attitudes. What more proof does anyone need for evidence that it is BROKEN! Lives are in the balance. HELP is needed. Great post, Shelter Revolution.

      1. Yes, that is a great post, Shelter Revolution! Kudos to you for speaking it plain.

        A new shelter should equal new employees, new director, and new way of doing things! This cesspool should go from a prison with gate guards and a prison warden to become a cheerful adoption agency that makes it’s visitors (both human and animal) comfortable and happy while there.

        I sure hope the Rotary Club has gotten involved for the good of the animals and not just to stop the bad publicity at MAS while continuing status quo…

  12. Sure, it will probably be more of the same, but I’m hoping for more. I’ll tune in and see if he has anything worthwhile to inform us gullible public about the MAS. As if we have any reason to believe it will ever get better unless there is a major overhaul and compassionate, caring individuals are hired to care for these animals. Until then, it’s kill, kill, kill. Just sayin ….p.s. I’m sure he will discuss the threats as well, which I have requested copies of police reports. Uh huh. Shame.

  13. I was watching Channel 5 news at noon when they announced the press conference. It is supposed to be live, but, if not, I am sure they will stream it on their website. At any rate, I’ve got it on Channel 5 now to see if they do carry it live. I hope they do.

  14. Webcam watchers have noticed so much cleaning going on at MAS today. I guess the presser will be held there. How embarrassing for Mayor Wharton to be standing in a high kill facility with so many empty cages… No excuse.

  15. I hope the “irresponsible, gangbanging public” notice the empty cages. It’s a darn shame we can’t run a slide-show from the webcams while he’s talking.

  16. Breaking news!!! The mayor is cutting all city employees salaries by 4.6%. That’s all folks! That man isn’t making an announcement about MAS. Wishful thinking huh??? No cameras.

  17. What a total cover-up they are trying to keep up!!!!! There is always a better way for things… NO KILL!!!! How about even trying Less Kill! That would be a good start!! From surrendered straight to the kill room??? And they wonder why people are upset!!!!

    1. They were owner surrender and if the request is to euthanize, then they will do it. I’m not sure about the laws in TN, but I know most states only require a certain hold time for strays so they can be found by their owners (if they’re looking). Owner surrenders can be killed at anytime.

      1. I doubt that the family turning in the two wigglybutt puppies would request killing and make it a family affair! They had two little boys with them. No, they were killed because they were pitties. The puppies they probably didn’t want to mess with considering the mayor and crew were going to be there and they’d have to prepare cages for them. Could be that they were puppies and as such it isn’t the first time that puppies have come in the front door and been taken out back through the kill room.

  18. Hmm, I’ve worked in a kennel before, dealing with urine and feces, disease control, sick animals, animals who came in with ear infections so bad they had cauliflower ears, dogs with mange, dogs from hoarding situations, and yes I was bitten, scratched, etc. But I wouldn’t consider myself “emotionally scarred”. Yeah some of it pissed me off, but it didn’t “scar” me. Hey MAS, excuses, excuses!

  19. Here is the contact information for the Memphis Rotary Club.

    The Memphis Rotary Club will be performing as management study for the Memphis Animal Services shelter. This study will be free of charge and our recommendations will be posted here when complete. We are seeking input from all interested parties and those familiar with shelter operations. Please send any information to

  20. I so don’t understand…there are open cell’s(yes, I call them cell’s)and yet, they immediately murder the animals. Not even a chance to find a home. If they really want to be seen as humans and not murderers, they need to act accordingly!

    1. And there’s the rub…ironies all around…and nothing or no one to stop them from continuing to kill anything moving. Killing high numbers of animals when there are empty cages, killing perfectly healthy animals stating they are diseased, killing animals in an adoption facility when there is little adoption allowed, saying there is no hope when there are rescues waiting to help, using convicts instead of caregivers, claiming victimization when they are the perpetrators, saying they are open to change and shutting the door on meetings, saying they are transparent and taking the cameras down, using other states as scapegoats when it’s their own numbers that make up the kills, keeping a director who is failing to do his job…the ironies go on and on and make no sense at all. MAS and the Mayor want to displace blame and minimize the horrible truth so they can hold onto power. It’s all absolutely arrogant deceitfulness and a deep ignorance that is not reversible for some of these folks. The sad part is we keep dancing with these evil people thinking we can change them, make them understand reason, make them change their ways when it is so obvious they never will.

      With the new facility, there MUST be a new director and a new staff of caring and compassionate people who are there for the animals.

  21. Wow, playing the victim card is getting really old, MAS. They are acting like babys who had their bottle taken away or something. Act like grown men (and women) and change things around there, rather than sit back and point fingers. I agree with the person above who said that if I cleared house and got new workers and some volunteers to help, you wouldnt even recognize the place. I just wish I had the cash to privatize it.

  22. Fox 13 story on Mayors News Conference.​p/news/local/rotary-club-to-as​sess-memphis-animal-shelter-mf​o-20110727


    Some quotes from Editorial: Running animal shelter is a complicated job

    “There needs to be an objective and thorough evaluation of Pepper’s performance since he was hired 17 months ago to clean up a shelter operation that had spiraled out of control under his predecessor. If Pepper is making strides in improving the operation of the shelter, does it make sense to privatize without giving him a chance to finish what he started?

    In that light, the city and the Rotary members need to get an unemotional handle on whether problems reported at the shelter — including the highly publicized case of the missing pit bull, Kapone — are systemic or anecdotal. In pursuing solutions, they also need to ensure the transparency and level of public involvement that citizens have been seeking from the shelter’s administrators and its advisory board.

    The effectiveness of any organization depends heavily on the effectiveness and commitment of its employees. The shelter may be relying too heavily on employees hired through the city’s Second Chance program. Rounding up and caring for animals that are sick, anxious or vicious is a difficult, dangerous job. Maybe it’s not a job for someone who has to work there because a criminal record gives him or her no other job options.

    1. Okay -anyone in Memphis know where the Rotary Club falls in the “good old boys” network? Are they capable of doing an objective evaluation or are they just window dressing and we’ll get a back-slapping, wink-wink kind of evaluation?

  23. As far as I know, the Rotary Club has never been involved with MAS, and i, like you, think this is just window dressing and they’re going to do what the MAYOR wants, not the public. Yeah, everyone will be on their best behavior, I am sure. Rotary Club is a good ole boy network. Need I say more?

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