MAS: Black Hole Sun

An incoming dog at MAS.

Although Memphis Animal Services does offer a small percentage of its dogs to the public for adoption, most of the dogs are kept behind closed doors. They are either taken directly to the kill room upon intake or held for a few days in a cage in the stray area and then killed. They are not taken for walks. They are not touched by humans. They are not even removed from their cages when the workers come around with the hose.

And so, when I look at the dog in this shot, I have little hope. I know that most likely, he is feeling the sun on his face for the very last time. Most likely, he will be killed by those who are supposed to be protecting him from harm, never having been offered for adoption. To my mind, it’s abuse and betrayal and should be prosecutable under the law.

And this will continue. The abuse and the betrayal and the killing will go on, unabated, until someone in Memphis does something to stop it.  I believe with all my heart that someone will.  The only thing I don’t know is how many more pets must get sucked into the black hole that is MAS before that happens – 100?  1000?  10,000?  It could be zero – if someone in Memphis decided that this moment is the moment they are stepping up to wage a political campaign to force the city to reform MAS.

In Austin, the local pound was needlessly killing the community’s pets and animal advocates were horrified and outraged.  One of those advocates wanted to do something.  He was an appellate attorney with an extremely demanding schedule and most people would understand if he said, “It’s not me”.  Another taught remedial reading to special ed students in the poorest area of Austin.  A third was battling a terminal illness.  All three had their own pets to care for as well as commitments to their foster pets.  On the face of it, they were three individuals who simply didn’t have the time to wage a political campaign against the city to force the shelter to reform.  But while acknowledging the demands of their daily lives, they also realized that if they didn’t step up, no one else would.  Maybe no single one of them had sufficient time to devote to fighting for the community’s pets but if they coordinated their efforts, it would mean someone was doing something.  And that was infinitely better than no one doing anything.  They had nothing to lose and everything to gain for the homeless pets in Austin.  And they did something.

If you are a Memphis resident who wishes someone would do something to stop the killing at MAS, I hate to be the one to break it to you but that someone is you.  There are no doubt, very good reasons why people would understand if you said, “It’s not me”.  You probably have personal commitments and/or a job, etc.  It would be ideal if someone came along who said, “I have no job, no pets, no friends, no family, no health issues, no financial concerns, no personal commitments and all I want to do is reform MAS.”  Please let me know if that person contacts you.

In the meantime I would ask you this – Do you have any time to devote to waging a political campaign for reform?  Because if you do, that would be more than what the pets in Memphis have right now.  And there may be several people who each have some time to give and would be willing to form a coalition with you.  In which case, someone would be doing something.  And I know a blogger who would give you all kinds of support, just for starters.

60 thoughts on “MAS: Black Hole Sun

  1. Thank you, Shirley, for not giving up. This poor dog breaks my heart – I wish I could go there, snatch all the animals up and burn the place down! Surely someone in Memphis will step up. If there are enough someones it can happen!
    I am here to give you whatever support I can, too, though from a distance.
    That photo will haunt me forever . . . the face of Memphis.

  2. Do people have to pay a fee to leave an animal there? The shelters here charge a fee to leave a pet and a fee to adopt one. I think people have to take some responsibility before leaving a pet at a shelter. I think it is around $25.00

    When you adopt one it is up to date on all medicals needs and you have been checked out as a viable pet owner.

    Does MAS have a big sign out front that let’s people know that the animal only has 3 days to get adopted or it dies. Perhaps even less time as we have seen some go directly to the “room”.

    Poor little fella in this picture makes me so sad. Looks like another well behaved adoptable pet, we shall see.

    1. There are many problems with charging a fee to surrender, the biggest being that it encourages people to try to skirt that fee – by dropping off the pet after hours and leaving it tied to something (dangerous for the pet), or by simply lieing (I found this dog, it’s not mine) which leads to wasted time holding the dog as a stray before it can be adopted, to the much much worse of simply abandoning the pet somewhere (much more dangerous for the pet).

      Now, in the case of MAS – I’d say let’s discourage people from bringing their dogs to that shelter in any way possible. However in the case of a good shelter that actually helps pets and does good – you don’t want to discourage people from using that resource when they need to.

      The no-kill shelter here charges a $25 fee to surrender, unless you got the animal from them in the first place, which I think is a nice compromise. They want to continue to look out for the animals they adopted out, and if for whatever reason you couldn’t keep the pet any more, they took it back for free. The $25 fee did however mean that more people were likely to drop their pet off at the night drop of the killing shelter than with the no-kill shelter.

      I want to hold people responsible too, but first and foremost make sure the pets are cared for and safe. Better the no-kill shelter than dropped off in a field 10 miles outside of town. For Memphis dogs, sadly it’s better the field than MAS.

    1. This is the facility the community pays for and as such, is directly answerable to citizens. Someone local can comment on other, private shelters.

    2. There are some very good rescues,but they generally do not accept owner surrenders or strays; they pull a lot from the shelter. They are also almost always full to capacity or fuller. The Humane Society also does not take strays or owner surrenders. AFAIK they take injured and abused animals and also pull from the shelter.

    3. I believe the suburbs of Memphis (Bartlett, Cordova, Collierville, ect) have their own shelters. But, they only accept animals from their specific town. MAS must accept animals from anywhere (another reason for the massive over crowding there). I don’t think any of the shelters are “no-kill”. I could be wrong about that, though. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

  3. So, if these groups do not take strays, do not take owner surrenders, do they exclusively pull from public facilities? I don’t understand that.

    1. Not exclusively. But they are usually so full that they have to make a choice and saving from death’s door is a higher priority than saving from almost death’s door. There is one that pretty much just rescues the strays downtown (Streetdog??). But if you’re a private rescue, staffed by volunteers and dependent on donations (most are not very big, some are just groups of “crazy ladies” LOL), you go for whoever you think can get adopted soonest so you can save more. I remember one of the ladies at one of the biggest cat rescues crying because as she put it ” we have 36 lap cats we can’t get adopted, how can we really help anyone else?” I can’t blame them for trying what they can.. OTOH, I have known many rescues that have taken on “unadoptables” and worked really hard to find them homes. There is even a senior homefor cats in the next county, but they are having financial problems too.

      1. On Petfinder there are over 3000 dogs and cats listed (100 mile radius, but at least 3 other counties also do adopt days in Memphis). i know mostly about cat rescues, so don’t know how many dogs rescues take owner surrenders/strays. They are not very easy to find though and some of the dog rescues are breed specific – we do have pibbie rescues though.

  4. That photo may be the most heartbreaking I have ever seen. They KNOW when they are being abandoned. IFHP. Can we get an update on him/her? Do we know what happened? Any way to find out? Anyone in Memphis that can find out for me?

    1. Please – can we find out about that little dog. Maybe s/he is one we can actually help – s/he looks so calm and sweet.

      1. Anyone who wants to inquire about the dog, please do so and share. In the past, when we’ve asked for info on a dog using a time of surrender webcam shot, they’ve told us they have no way of knowing who the dog is. Only if we have a shot of the dog going into a cage AND that dog is still in that cage. I did not receive any shots of this dog going into a cage so if he is in one, IDK where. But please do ask, we’d all like to help.

      2. Too much work for them to figure it out, I guess, but I sure would like to give this little dog a chance at lying in the sunshine . . . or sleeping next to someone who loves him.

      3. Okay, just looking again at this pup and see there is both a time and date stamp. Do they keep records of who is brought in and when? Do they have a written description of the animal (at least, young black dog or old tiger cat)? This should not be difficult!

      4. There you go again, talking about saving lives . . . Please, locals/rescues/someone, please let’s try and get this pup outta that place.

    2. I can answer that. I took this shot. There was a another family that was at the counter holding a very small dog. I noted the time. Those people left, I didn’t see that dog again.

      This group of people were in the lobby for over an hour. The entire time, this dog was so well-behaved. He greeted everyone, he sat quietly, he wagged his tail.. he was perfect. I took a lot of photos, but only two counted. The one you see on this thread and the one of the shelter worker putting the lead on him. I got one more shot, but it was just of the workers head rounding the corner on camera 4. Then he was gone… I can’t help crying.. that was most likely the last time he will ever feel the sun on his face. He/she was such a good boy/girl.. For an hour I prayed for this baby to be getting out alive. So many of the dogs that I’ve been watching the last couple of weeks.. they are all dead..

  5. And it’s not just Memphis. It’s EVERY city. It’s EVERY county and EVERY town everywhere in this country. It’s YOUR city too. It’s Seattle, Chicago, San Jose, Miami, New Orleans, Boston, New York and every little town and big city from coast to coast. Yes, it’s my city too, Charlotte, NC. Some are better, some are worse, but they all KILL. It’s our problem. We’re the ones they blame. It’s our fault. We are the ones who have to force change, there’s not many who will do it on their own simply because it’s the right thing to do. Millions of dogs and cats pay the ultimate price every year. I have a full-time job, I have a family, I have pets, I have friends, I have a LIFE. I also fight this battle. If I don’t, there’s no one else here fighting for the animals. Eventually, more will join me, more will step up. Until then, I will fight.

    1. You are right, Fix Charlotte, it is everywhere…and it is great that you are doing what you are doing. Keep fighting!

      While the people in this broken down horror of a system will blame us, the public, for the killing, we WILL be to blame if we don’t stop it. Unless and until we stop acting helpless, stop begging, stop hoping, and start doing more than talking, we are just as culpable…

  6. And when the AC broke down over the weekend at the Austin shelter they went into action and had a massive adoption event right then and there, cut the adoption fee and got a lot of those animals adopted out. MAS and the NY ACC would have just killed all of them.

    1. AMEN! You’re right – MAS and NY ACC would have done a mass killing, or just left them to die in their cages (fatal plus costs money, ya know).

  7. There are many of us who have been working on this and are continuing to work to change the tragedy of MAS. It is something that some of us have been working on from many different angles and on several fronts for a long time. We will not give up. Please do not think that Memphis advocates are just turning a blind eye or deaf ear to this ongoing, beyond heartbreaking problem. Fix Charlotte was so right in above comment when they said it is going on in every city just about. From the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in between. Every city/state has its “barriers” and we are working to overcome ours- we are. We will not ever give up until change is implemented. To anyone who is as saddened or fustrated as we are for the precious animals, please don’t point fingers. We are fighting some tremendous obstacles as many of you have seen. Change is going to come. Thank you and God Bless You all who are encouraging and seeking to help us with positive energy. Michelle Buckalew, Animal World USA

    1. It’s nice to see you here. You do good work for Memphis. For those who don’t know, this is definitely a lady who has done much for the animals of Memphis. (you don’t know me, but I spoke to you once on the phone about some ferals and you gave me some good people to talk to).

    2. I’m glad to hear that you are working hard to make some changes and will not give up. What can we, who live in other places, do to support you and help you achieve what we all want – kind, compassionate treatment of the animals and adoption/rescue/return to owner rather than the widescale killing that happens daily?

      I know that this goes on in other places, but right now, we are talking about Memphis and what we can do to help. Many of us are actively involved in animal welfare in our own areas, too. But it’s impossible for me to walk away when I know, I see, what happens on a daily basis.

      BTW, is there anyone who can find out if the little pup in the photo at the top is alive and available? Or even any information about him?

  8. Please someone in memphis stop this, I can’t believe how many people are already fighting it and the killing continues. My heart goes out to all the pets that will lose their life at MAS.


  9. We have overthrown the director and yet killing is still going on. We have signed petitions and yet killing is going on. Im not from memphis but i have written letters to representatives and mayor. Is there anything i could do to help stop this.

  10. I emailed Jane Velez-Mitchell on CNN Monday night, and sent links to this website and the AG letter along with my letter. No response yet. Maybe if we ALL send her an email asking her to look into this it will spur some interest. Her bio on says she is very involved in Animal Advocacy….please go to her page and send an email:

      1. I also sent a message to CNN – hopefully this will be exposed for all of the world to see – maybe change WILL happen – NO KILL!!!

  11. Kind of makes you think about the people who leave their pets behind when they move, if this is the alternative! Maybe they think there’s a better chance for them.

    Not that I condone leaving, sorry abandoning animals.

  12. Shirley, I sent you a couple of pictures. I stated it was odd. What and why were they interacting with the dogs after hours with the lights off?

  13. There are many people working very hard for change at MAS. I agree that a political campaign for reform SHOULD work. It seems that most of our politicians are not afraid of “animal advocates” and feel very secure in their positions. Probably, in a city like Memphis, they have every right to feel that way. One of the saddest realizations is while we are trying to accomplish this change, animals at MAS are continuing to die, being neglected and abused at they wait for death. If answers were easy…MAS would already be no kill. I don’t know how to get through the “politics,” the “good ole’ boys club” or how to reach and teach people not to set their dogs on fire! If there is an outline or map please share it….I will follow it to a T….and so would many others! We all can say MAS HAS TO BE CHANGED…..HOW DO WE GET THERE? There are examples of “good shelters” in close proximity to Memphis….why have none of our city leaders or directors visited any…..close or far? Why do our city leaders refuse to insist that the animal shelter should be a shining example, a place that others would come to see “how it is done”?

    1. I would venture to say, based on the actions and decisions of Memphis city “leaders” (and I use that term loosely!) in the past, that the reason they don’t go visit any of the “good shelters” is because they have no regard for animal welfare or life. I’m just basing that on their actions, which speak MUCH louder than the words of the mayor or Mr. Pepper. So far their words have been no more than “blah, blah”, blah” and that’s absolutely unconscionable.

      I hope several “someones” WILL join together to make a change! If you can’t get a map or outline, I’m sure there are people (including a certain blogger!) who will give you the information you need to draw your own map. =)

  14. the webcam never showed the dog again, just the worker’s head in the one area. shortly after I saw two other dogs being moved, the shelter was closed and the lights were out. I didn’t see where the dog was taken. Maybe someone else did. Sorry.

  15. I’ve been watching the webcams since the shelter closed. The lights were out, then they came on. A worker moved 3 dogs from canine 3, 2 went into canine 1 area, the 3rd went the opposite direction. A few minutes later 3 dogs were moved into the 3 empty kennels, without being cleaned. Are they supposed to be doing that? Doesn’t that spread disease?

  16. Shirley — as usual, a great blog. The pic speaks a thousand words . . . but mostly hopelessness for the poor puppy dog.

  17. That dog looks just like my cute girl. I hate how little so many people from far away can do. Someone – several someones, in Memphis – needs to stand up and demand that things change. I swear to you, if I had the money, I’d hire the lawyers needed to get a takeover legally done, but I only made $3800 last year (yes, three thousand eight hundred), so I can’t, but come on, are there no lawyers with hearts and guts in Memphis?

  18. It is my considered opinion NO shelter of any kind should be in the hands of government agencies, especially local government agencies. Shelters should be run by animal loving non profit organizations. City, county and state governments should be legally bound to sign contracts with these non-profit run shelters to provide animal control services for their areas. There is entirely too much widespread corruption in local governments for animals EVER to be a priority to them. Local governments hire convicted felons, relatives, people who should have been fired from previous government agencies. Animal control is where they move people who have been booted from other jobs.

    Until ALL shelters and animal control services are in the hands of TRAINED ANIMAL-LOVING people and out of the hands of government the abuses such as those that run rampant in Memphis will continue.

    God bless this little pup and the other little dog surrendered that day. In all likelihood they are gone. I hope it was quick and as painless as any death can be. No, they are NOT better off dead. If you have never been dead you have no right to recommend it for another creature.

    For all the human beings in Memphis keep the faith and keep working to create a facility you can be proud of. You’ll be in my prayers and I will do what I can to support your efforts.

    For the rest of the citizens of Memphis – wastes of human flesh who dump their animals without a thought as to what fate they will meet – it is my sincere hope you meet a fate worthy of your worthlessness. The next time you idiots decide to acquire a pet go smoke some dope or get your nails done or anything except submit an animal to your idea of being a pet.

    1. thank you for sharing that link. Questions… who is the lady that did most of the talking in the video and is there a way to contact here. I need to tell her what I experienced seeing drug-ed dogs before killing them. It’s not what she thinks or even imagines.
      @ Shirley… I have put into a “Note” form on FaceBook what I saw at my local shelter, may I send it to you. This is what I would like that lady that was speaking to read..

    2. We have been told numerous times by MAS that unless we can provide an ID #, they have no way of knowing who or where any particular pet on a webcam shot is. At the very least, we need to have a shot showing what cage the pet is in and then, if we get lucky, someone will go look at that cage and tell us who is there now. This is the first time I can recall MAS ever saying they could identify a dog off a webcam shot like this – and a shot that is impossible to even make out what the dog really looks like at that.

      So on the one hand I question how they could ID the dog and on the other, if they do have the ability to ID pets off webcam grabs like this, why have they refused us so many times in past when we’ve offered to help?

  19. This is what Pepper wrote. The animal i.d. is listed so YES they can i.d. from snap shots like this.

    “While today is my last day – I wish the best for the animals and the community.This message is obviously insinuating that this dog was “killed” and that we are heartless to have done so. While it says “in all likelihood” it is obviously inferred. For a movement based on collaboration, compassion and w…orking together I have found that to be the case too few and far between.

    Please help. You could adopt this very dog. This dog has not been “killed”. This dog was not “discarded”. This dog was immediately put up for adoption. It is animal id 231739, it is a 7-9 month old black lab mix, it came in on Tuesday at about 6:30 PM and is up for adoption now. Please help us continue to build upon the success we have had and adopt him.

    Matthew Pepper
    Administrator of Animal Services
    City of Memphis
    3456 Tchulahoma Rd.
    Memphis, TN 38118

    Phone: 901-362-5310
    Fax: 901-362-6876

    1. If they can indeed ID pets off the webcam shots, my heart breaks for all the pets who were lost to the black hole when we tried to help and were told there is no possible way to ID them.

      The other reasonable conclusion one might draw here is that in fact, they weren’t lying all those times previously and they really can’t ID pets off of webcam shots. In which case, who is the dog with the below ID number?

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