An Open Letter to the People of Memphis

The head of your city’s pet killing facility is leaving. Change is upon you. What are your expectations and goals? And more importantly, what is your plan to get there?

I am asking you to tell us because, as we have demonstrated these many months, we are able and willing to mobilize to support your efforts from afar.  We will write letters, make phone calls, raise money, crosspost pets, and do anything else we can from our home states.  Just let us know how we can best help you.

Many readers who have dedicated themselves to assisting in Memphis reform efforts from outside the state of TN have expressed frustration and concern as to the apparent lack of leadership and boots on the ground action in Memphis.  I share in these concerns but I also realize that we outsiders don’t know everything that may be happening in Memphis.  So tell us.  Who are your leaders?  What are your plans?  We stand ready to back you up.

And if no clear leaders have emerged yet in your movement and no solid plans have been put into place – don’t worry, it’s not too late.  That can change today.  I’ll leave a sign up sheet on the bulletin board and anyone who has the desire to make a commitment to reform can just write in their names.  And Ryan Clinton, no kill advocate in Austin, has a plan outline ready for you to customize and set in motion:

It is a story as old as our movement. The shelter in your community is killing large numbers of animals, the quality of care in the shelter is low, and the bureaucracy that oversees the shelter appears indifferent. A group of advocates wants the shelter to stop the needless killing and to start treating the animals as they deserve. But everywhere they turn—to the City Council or County Commissioners, to the media, to the large national organizations like the ASPCA or Humane Society of the United States—leads to nowhere. They get excuses, “It’s pet overpopulation,” “It’s the public’s fault,” “There is nothing we can do.” But someone has to do something, you think. That someone is you.
Austin’s success was not the result of “community collaboration,” as others have suggested. It was the result of a fight. A fight against the powers-that-be. A fight against indecency and uncaring that took place every time an animal was injected with poison from a bottle marked “Fatal-plus.” It was also a fight over community values and priorities, and it was a fight for access to the animals that the shelter wrongly deemed “unadoptable” and “unwanted.”
Nothing happens without leadership. Achieving No Kill success in your community depends on individuals willing to take on the difficult task of fighting for change. But do not go looking for “someone to do something.” That “someone” is you. In Austin, a handful of people with busy, hectic lives including full-time jobs, companion animals, relationships, and more, fought for a No Kill Austin and ultimately prevailed. You can do it, too.

I ask again – What are your expectations Memphis?  Do not be constrained by the learned helplessness that comes from years of being told “It can’t be done here.”  Do not accept the low bar set by the city politicians who proudly send to the media a video of inept MAS workers mishandling dogs and beating them with steel poles on their way to the kill room.  Hey look – they weren’t involved in organized dogfighting – huzzah!  Yay us!

In any other city, the politicians would be ashamed of the negligence and cruelty exhibited by their own trained professional animal handlers on this video.  Heads would roll and taxpayers would be reassured that their tax dollars would not continue to fund this blatant negligence.  But Mayor Wharton and friends display the video without shame and in fact, wag their finger at anyone who expressed concern over the dogs who were mishandled, beaten and killed.

You can do better than this Memphis.  Much better.  Set your own goals.  Meet your own standards.  It’s a new day.  We’ve all got your back.  We believe in you.  Tell us who to look to for direction and how we can help.  We are standing by.

Two anxious dogs being taken to the kill room.
My heart hurts. What human being could carry on from this point and take these dogs to be killed?
Goodbye sweet peas. I'm sorry.

People of Memphis – we need YOU to stop the abuse and killing at your pound.

54 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the People of Memphis

  1. I live about an hour away from Memphis and in a rare moment, I watched the Memphis news last night (usually can’t stand it). And what NEWS it was! They even mentioned YesBiscuit! I was filled with joy to find out that Mr. Pepper was resigning! And Fullilove supports the cameras staying??!! Odd… but anyway, I thought it was all positive news! yay!

    1. all of you involved in this shoul be brought up on charges shame on you human scty and orher people who are involved in this mess you should be ashamed it need to go one the new and be an embarrsement

  2. Of course, part of me expects the city officials to somehow screw up this chance to make positive changes, but I am trying to be hopeful about the whole thing.

  3. I will do whatever is necessary to help make MAS a shelter to be proud of and make it NO KILL. We have a few groups formed in Memphis (SOS and NO KILL Memphis). Let’s consolidate and get this job done. I think we need someone more knowledgeable (than myself) on NO KILL to lead the way….IF no one steps up, I may have to be that person – we need to strike while the iron is hot. Opportunity is knocking- let’s answer!

      1. Ona, I love picking your bain re NO KILL – I think you can recite Redemption, page for page (smile)- you are so very knowledgeable, especially with the NO KILL equation!

    1. As a Memphian advocator for animals I’m very interested in SOS & No Kill Memphis. Where, when, what, huh? I’m ready when you are.

      I write & write & still have received no replys except from out of state animal advocates. I don’t know if they are even reading my or anyone’s letters. What else can I do to draw attention to the killing at MAS?

      1. I don’t know about SOS, but No Kill Memphis is linked on the blogroll to the right —-> and they have an email to contact. ( )

        Sounds to me like both grassroots help (showing that more Memphians do care) and bigwig help (e.g. Nathan Winograd suggesting some candidates to replace Pepper) might be needed.

        The examples of Reno and Austin are wonderful (more info on that NKM site…), I wonder if there are any similar success stories with bigger cities.

  4. I agree with Jody. I live in Memphis and I will do whatever I am able to. I do agree we need to join together to get the job done. I also hope we look at some of the neighborhood alliances in the city and work with them. The time is now!!!

  5. I do not live in Memphis, but I will back you in any way I can to help you stop the suffering and killing at MAS. I believe you have been given the opportunity to make some significant changes.
    Please . . . we have your back!

  6. I will help in any way I can to make this shelter better for the animals and would love to see it become a No Kill shelter!! Count me in!! I hate the idea of any animal being euthanized simply because there is no room at a shelter or they weren’t given the chance to be seen by the public.

    There is a shelter on Facebook that I follow that sends out urgent pleas for animals that have about 24-48 hours to be adopted out before being euthanized, and then these are crossposted to help spread the word. Some are saved and some are not, but they were given a chance to be seen.

    There was even a group of people that would take the dogs that were going to be euthanized the next day out of their cages the night before and take them for walks and give them their own special toy or treat and just show them love one last time. I loved the idea of this, but I don’t know if I would be strong enough to do this and then walk into the shelter the next day and that dog be gone. I am somebody who would want to take them all home.

    There has to be someone out there that can turn this shelter around and get rid of the non-caring employees that just drag an animal to the kill room. I don’t know who, but I am willing to help!

  7. We have got a lot of “folks” willing to help. I agree that now is the time…the perfect opportuntity to “Make the Change to NO KILL.” Some of us need to get educated real quick and put into action what we have been beating our heads against a brick wall to achieve. Those leaders out there, please put together an alliance of you, you’ve got plenty of “worker bees” and time is of the essence! I have only been in the dog world in Memphis for a year, but I have been in management for 27 years. I only mention that to let you know that I know how to WORK and will work!

  8. IF NOT NOW, WHEN? I of course will do all I can to assist from afar as well. I will even come down there for a few days if necessary to assist. This is an OPPORTUNITY folks, and we know that Opportunity rarely knocks twice!

  9. Does my heart good to hear such positive comments, maybe all this carnage will be the driving force to really destroy the whole horrible past. All of you that live in Memphis remember you pay all these peoples salary. We forget that and that’s our biggest mistake. Politicians rise and fall on public opinion and they know it. They don’t want to be smeared because it means they are off the public feed bag.
    The first call should be to fire all the workers! If they didn’t do it, they stood by and let it happen and so are guilty as well. You have in your power the chance to make a change in your entire society for the better, a chance to bring compassion to the forgotten and ignored. A chance to make the word “Shelter” no be a sad word choice for a place previously a dungeon of despair and death. Do the right thing Memphis, the people who care about doing what is right rather than what is convenient. Choose well Memphis we are behind you 100%.

    1. Great comment, Adrienne!

      This IS it. This is THE chance to get it right. How? By deciding NOT TO KILL another innocent animal FROM THIS MOMENT ON…

      Do what you have to do. MAKE IT HAPPEN FAST. Don’t allow them the chance to bungle things up again so that they can keep killing. You don’t have much time, but you can do so much to change things forever. Get in there and take over. Change as much as you can while we all work to find a better director. Because you have compassion, intelligence, common sense, and know how to work hard you already will do a 100x better than anyone has ever done there before!

  10. Because they’re union, you may not be able to fire them, per se, but you might be able to get them moved to another department in the city structure.

    I’m thinking garbage detail…

    1. I say put them in the garbage dump right next to the pile of innocent dead bodies, piled high by our leadership of Memphis.

  11. Jody, I’ll be a “worker bee” too. Just tell me when and where. I’ll be praying for you and the other leaders – a clear path, a sure step and God’s mercy to you all.

    1. Again, where & when?

      “You have the power to immediately start saving lives,” said Animal world Memphis

  12. I will offer to build a comprehensive website for MAS that educates/informs the public, presents ALL of the animals available for adoption, presents ALL of the strays, provides a secure area for volunteers to communicate. I’ll work with a volunteer that can keep the site up-to-date from wherever they are. Whatever they need. It’s what I do for a living…and it is something they really need!

    1. Petfinder is ridiculously easy to use so you if get to do this you might want to think about signing up with them too.


  13. Scarleet, that is an absolutely tremendous offer on your part and IMHO a big piece of what’s needed. I hope MAS takes you up on it. Have u sent this offer to AC Wharton and J Hooks?

    Some of this info should be in paper form as well and distributed in lower-income neighbourhoods as well, where people may not have ‘net access.

    Also, some TV stations will run PSAs (public service announcements) without charge. Could someone explore that with Memphis TV stations? A 30 second spot can have a huge impact.

    1. It’s not that they don’t have web access, it’s part of the internet they would never go to, too busy with they musics. Paper in some neighborhoods is a better attention grabber.

  14. I’ve already made the offer to Wharton and all of the city councillors, never any response. Pretty sure all of my emails got turfed. Good idea, I’ll send something to the Rotary Club.

    1. god but they are all so LAME! Not one of them could be bothered to hit reply and type out “Yeah we’ll take your FREE”? Christmas Morning! Maybe I should dedicate a blog post to this offer. Anyone else have any offers to make?

      1. I’ve noticed that some of the Kuranda beds could use new covers – I’ll gladly donate 5 of those. If I had them mailed to the shelter, would they get implemented, I wonder?

      2. Super awesome mikken. I love that you noticed that and thought of it. I sure hope they would use them. Maybe we can make a personal contact w/someone at MAS to follow through on things. I’m sure lots of people there would like to be my pen pal…

      3. The Kurunda bed covers were cut by the MAS employees to allow the urine that pools to drain. If you send new ones, the same will happen. We (the citizens) donated those beds.

    1. Prayers have their place Dot and I mean that with all sincerity so thank you for that. Many things have a place in creating change for Memphis – rescues, donations, dog walkers, groomers, marketing, education, watchdogs, etc. All of these things are important because no one person can do it alone. But what seems to be missing is an essential element: leadership. Without at least one person (preferably a group of individuals) willing to step up and wage a political campaign for reform, we just aren’t going to be able to put the pieces together. We need leaders who are committed to effecting change – whether they have to fight the city for a month or a year or several years. There may well be some leaders in Memphis who don’t read this blog or who don’t like to comment on it. But without knowing who they may be, I can’t provide them with the kind of support I’d like to so I’m hoping to hear (publicly or privately) from anyone who is committed to leading this wonderful group of dedicated supporters in Memphis.

      1. I wish I could be of some help. I’m not very well educated, so that leaves me out for being a leader. What I do do well is love animals… I take the scared and abused and show them love is out there. I can only do one at a time, but that’s one life saved. I support what your aiming for. When the time comes and you need someone spreading the word that dogs are now up for adoption… I’ll be on my computer sharing those beautiful faces. Count on that… I’m waiting and ready!

      2. Mike Kernell, a State Legislator & animal friendly may make a good choice. I will contact him & see how his calender looks. He has been positive on animal issues but probally hasn’t kept up with this.

  15. Is there a way to carry this message to the Rotary members who are auditing MAS? They seem to be viewed as community and business leaders–and sometimes all it takes is one person committed to the no-kill platform as outlined by Ryan Austin. I would expect his no-nonsense cost-conscious approach to resonate with business leaders in any community. Any chance of bringing him to Memphis to make a presentation to the Rotary Club?

  16. Cut ‘n pasted from the Memphis Rotary Club website

    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

    1. I agree that it is a really good idea to contact the Rotary Club with No-Kill philosophy materials, offers to create a website for adoptions, and promises to help, support, and donate. They need to be shown how it has been successfully done before, that this is the wave of the future, and how a No-Kill shelter can impact the community and the city economically.

      I don’t believe anyone should bother with the Mayor or city councilors. They are not worthy of the dingleberry on my cat’s butt. Usurp them by gaining contacts with and help from state officials and reps instead. Don’t allow them to use jurisdictional excuses. This killing must end and it is worthy of a little rule busting.

      I would also contact Nathan and Ryan and anyone else at the No-Kill conference who might know of someone who can run MAS. This has to be done quickly before they fill the slot with some bozo again.

  17. In my area we replaced one set of killers at the pound with another – …this was prior to Redemption.

    Get the No Kill Equation in a contract….signed by all the city leaders and the new director.

  18. you know Im willing to call them up and tell them all we’re all ready. Maybe someone could write a small thing up that is to the point and I could fax it to mr andrews or all the supervisors, the mayor and council members. I’d be willing to do so to get their attention.

  19. This movement needs someone to be loud and proud on behalf of the animals.

    It will be interesting to see (from a detached distance) how much stuff ‘n nonsense will come out of Mayor Wharton’s office and how little things will actually change.

    Memphis has a city administration that doesn’t pay to keep schools open, there was a big flap about schools possibly opening late (or not at all?) this fall. You have to wonder about the administrators’ business acumen, whether they even realize how their city looks on the world stage and how unattractive it probably is to investors (new businesses) and tourists.

    The city administration is jabbing Memphis with blue juice while they dither.

  20. Thank you to Jody, Ona and all of you Memphians who commented that you are willing to help in the effort to reform MAS. How can we support you in your actions? Do you have a job for us out of state-ers today?

  21. I live outside of Memphis but I have been crying over the phtos of the dogs being dragged to their death. I truly don’t believe MAS can be a no kill shleter but with all my heart believe the animals deserve a chance. Too many in the Memphis community see animals as objects. They simply don’t care. So many things could be done. test the animals to see how adoptable etc. Who is the group that helps transport to northern cities for adoption? I ant to help God’s innocent precious creatures.

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