One Visitor’s Impressions After Touring the New MAS Building

As some of you know, peeps on the Memphis payroll held a grand opening ceremony for the new building housing Memphis Animal Services on Saturday.  According to an e-mail from the department’s deputy director, LaSonya Hall:

Visitors to the new animal facility can walk through the adoption areas as well as the Stray Healthy Hold areas of the new facility. Together, these areas comprise of roughly 2/3 of the animal population at the facility.

I interpret this to indicate that MAS is allowing the public to see more pets than previously but still keeping approximately 1/3 of the population hidden.  At the time of the rotary club report, the population of the pound was given as 660 animals.  Unless that figure is unrepresentative of the typical number of animals on hand at MAS, this tells that that the city is still keeping hundreds of pets locked away from the public.  Also per the rotary club report, the new building has “a total of approximately 296 cages (210 canine, 86 feline). This is only 36 more cages than the existing MAS on Tchulahoma Road”.  So presumably with 36 more cages, the average number of pets on hand would be slightly increased at the new building.

Memphis area resident James Cochran attended the MAS grand opening ceremony on Saturday and took the tour of the new building.  He drives an hour long commute to volunteer at the Tunica Humane Society in MS.  I am sharing his observations from the MAS tour with his permission:

Our guide did not know much about anything. I asked her many questions that she either did not know the answer or perhaps made up. One of my questions was time limits of a dog staying in the MAS. She said they can stay indefinitely without being put down, even years. All she knew about the area behind the closed doors was there was a clinic with a separate entrance. The area behind the closed doors appeared to be at least one third of the building, a lot of square footage for a clinic. She said there is one vet on staff, but didn’t have an answer about that vet being overloaded or a contingency plan. She didn’t know about a kill room on the property.

Architecturally, the building was a maze, the pens were tiny (I am comparing to the Tunica Shelter with large comfortable pens and beds), the systems seemed to be state of the art (art of stainless steel and cold surfaces). the perforated metal beds are not a plus in my mind. Some of the coatings were already coming off some of them and the guide could not comment on the coating being toxic or not. I assume not, but you never know.

There was dry food in each bowl including the empty pens. Our guide did not know how many pens were in the building or the capacity. She knew there was an isolation area, but not for sure of any information about it. She also did not know about any night lighting in the pen area. The light fixtures were appropriate for the daytime use. Ventilation appeared to be okay. The directional signage was very poor and the signage for the spaces were only fair. I give them a D for interior signage, and an F for street directionals.

The concrete outdoor run needed to have a surfacing such as used in playgrounds, bonded rubber that drains. However, the concrete will keep toenails worn down, so that is a plus. The guide had no information relative to dog exercising in the runs or any schedules. She also did not know of any diet planning for any of the animals or any nutritional studies. Some of the water bowls were dirty with food, the guide doesn’t think the bowls can be cleaned out, but they do stay full of water (and stuff). No chew toys for the dogs were noted. Water bowls for a few of the pups was out of their reach and the guide said it would be corrected and she went over and talked to someone. She said the puppy room maintains a higher temperature.

I was not aware of any cams, but may have missed those while looking at other things. Dogs appeared to be healthy, but not active (depressed or tired). Basic colors seem to be ok; however, there are new color studies available (the science of colors) that is available to the architects for selection in the use of animal facilities. I do not know if the color studies were used in the new MAS. The reception desk was a very expensive piece…I personally would not have that mural showing an open meadow with vistas in a place where animals were confined behind bars. Instead I would prefer a mural illustrating the history of domesticated animals and their service to humans in a heart warming setting. No drinking water in the outdoor runs, and steel bollards next to the storm drains!? The retention basin just south of the building is where the MAS provides mosquitoes! Poor engineering in site drainage. Bad news for a shelter indeed.

The ticket booth windows in the lobby were very impersonal, this is a shelter not a prison…or maybe it is. You have this show desk out front, then have to line up at a window to speak thru glass. The guide had no answers relative to the heating and air conditioning systems or if the pen floors were warmed in the winter by radiate heat or how the air was filtered or sterilized, humidity control, mold control, etc. I asked if the stool was monitored visually for parasites or diarrhea or blood during the cleaning, she said, probably. I also asked if the dogs were fed according to size and was the lack of eating noted, she assumed it was.

I noted that each pen had an informational card, but did not note anything related to exercise, comments and observations by a tech. Our guide said that if a dog is sick then someone is told…..WHO? What is done?…she didn’t know.

Better than the building before though.

I estimate that I saw perhaps 300 dogs. We made so many turns inside the building it was hard to tell. I could only see about a dozen cats through a glass window. I have a cat allergy so I stayed clear of that room. There was a play tower for the cats and some space for them to play.

The only grouping of dogs was a mom and her litter that I saw. I had estimated my count with the puppy room also. I tried to take note if there were dogs on each side of the guillotine doors, and I don’t think there was, but with the crowd and the maze of a floor plan I could have missed. There was one section that did not have the guillotine doors and there were hooks on a low wall to tie up the dog during the cleaning. The volunteer said the puppies were held while someone cleaned their tiny pens. The pens were very narrow and larger dogs could not turn around very easy. I would estimate the pen to be smaller than a standard toilet stall, maybe 28″ wide by 48″. The Tunica Shelter has indoor pens that are probably 48″ x 96″ and protected outdoor pens that are about 12′ x 12′ with three dogs per. Tunica provides access to natural daylight and aerobic exercise daily for each dog, MAS does not to the best of my knowledge.

Thank you James for sharing your impressions of the tour.  If anyone else took the tour and would like to share their observations, please do so in the comments.

38 thoughts on “One Visitor’s Impressions After Touring the New MAS Building

      1. He found it in the Miracle Pickup Truck That Heals Those Who Touch It. Driven by Sasquatch.

    1. Never heard of the weekly world news and it looked pretty doctored so I google searched the story. At the time the examiner had it up too. Now thats been taken down.

      Guess whoever posted it on Hug-a-bull didn’t know it was fake either.

  1. Thanks for sharing. Excellent observations on James’ part. i did not go to the opening; I plan on making my own surprise visit this week .. I don’t want to be in a mob and I want to make sure I can see the whole place. And, of course, document how I am treated.

    I also am going to forward this post to my MAS contact list. We’ll see what they have to say…hah.

  2. I found it repulsive that Mayor Wharton turned to the employees during his speech in front of the media and said, “The staff here, we know what you go through. We’re going to keep working with you.” HELLO!!!???? What about what some of those employees have and continue to be PUTTING THE ANIMALS THROUGH????? That’s it, Mayor, pat the employees and volunteers on their little heads and make it all better.

  3. During my tour, I was not surprised that the volunteer did not know about the functioning of the heating and AC system, but I think it is information that they need to know. I found the inside temperature to be fine, but it was a very nice day outside. Our volunteer guide was very young and was getting nervous after I kept asking her questions. My followup visit in two weeks may show a different picture of the MAS than what we saw at the Grand Opening. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember dogs barking in the MAS. At the Tunica Shelter everyone barks ‘Pick Me, here I am, I love it here, but want a home! Hug me again, pet me!’ The MAS did not have such happy barks that I can remember.

  4. There were no blankets or soft beds in the too small dog kennels, only the perforated metal bed with some kind of plastic coating. Some of the beds were missing part of the plastic coating like it had been chewed on by a bored dog.

    The guillotine doors are nice because the dogs do not have to get wet while they are cleaning the kennels but there is less chance of any human contact now.

  5. I have one question. I saw this in the letter:

    “The concrete outdoor run needed to have a surfacing such as used in playgrounds, bonded rubber that drains.”

    What is he talking about? I volunteer at a rescue shelter and our shelter runs are concrete. Every shelter I’ve ever seen here in VA (and I’ve been to quite a few kill shelters in my area) has concrete runs. Now, at the rescue shelter on the inside of the runs for the few dogs that can’t have any beds/bedding (because they will chew them to bits, eat the bits, get a blockage and die) we have rubber stall mats. Is that what he is thinking of?

    Guillotine doors don’t always mean less human contact though. Some dogs don’t go in/out willingly (some are scared, others want to play or just like to mess with you, lol) and you have go inside the run and shoo them in/out.

    1. As an architect we specify a safety surface that is made of old tires that have been chipped and the steel belting and bits removed. The rubber is then rebonded into a resilient outdoor surface that drains. It a super tough surface that keeps down the leg joint damage that can occur running and jumping on hard surfaces such as concrete. It provides a similar ‘bounce’ as thick bermuda grass. This type of surface is exterior only. It is very expensive and would not appear in most shelter runs, typical thickness is 2″ and can come with an optional grass green top surface that is also bonded. It looks like black rice bonded together under the top surface, drains perfectly and dogs love it. Playground are required to have this surface where young children play because you can fall on it without getting hurt. Dogs can’t dig into it or chew it, the rubber is like a Kong….rough and tough.

      1. Thank you for clarifying. The rescue shelter I volunteer for actually has that fake grass + rubber that is bonded to concrete in what we call the “Village”, which is two rows of 7 pens with climate controlled sheds where all the dogs that have been there the longest live. It does drain well, the dogs are happy with it, and its easy to clean. The rescue raised money and put that stuff in because we couldn’t keep real grass in the pens, it consistently turned to mud.

  6. I was there on Saturday. I saw the “adoptable” strays — but wonder where the “unadoptable” strays are kept. No way I saw 500 animals. They gave us a tour of what they wanted us to see. Also told we could not go into the euthanasia room because “there were, uh, things going on in there.” Plenty of city “officials” asking “so, what do you think about this great place?” My response (twice) was — it’s a nice building.

    Also asked why the hours changed from 10am to 11am — was told that it’s a much larger facility, so the employees need extra time to clean. Then I learned later — there is a cleaning service! It’s almost hard to keep up with the webs the city weaves.

    1. If the employees were responsible for the cleaning (rather than a seperate service), why couldn’t they come in an hour earlier? Would make sense to pay them an extra hour vs. decreasing the amount of time the public can access the shelter that they pay for…

      1. I’m not aware of any shelters claiming to have increased their live release rate by offering fewer hours to the public. Maybe Memphis knows something I don’t.

  7. I can not work out how 296 cages are housing approximately 600 animals (if indeed that is the typical number of animals at MAS) unless many cages are housing multiple animals. James reports seeing only one cage housing more than one dog (a dam and litter) so how and where are the other animals being housed?

    1. That is an interesting question indeed. Of course, I had to forward the post to all my MAS contacts, asking “how and where the other animals being housed” ….. then I’ll get an email asking me to clarify …. duh.

  8. A reader forwarded me this recent FB posting, asking about the cage number (23B):

    Friends of Memphis Animal Services
    Please meet Miss Flower! Flower was surrendered when her owner could no longer care for her. Flower is about 6 years old and very sweet. Flower seems a very content girl. Flower’s id number is 234981, and she is in cage 23B in the adoption area. Please come meet this sweet girl. She really needs a new home where she can spend the holidays. Miss Flower would love to have a comfy bed for Christmas :-).

    Seems like 23B is probably one half of cage 23. Anyone know for sure?

  9. The guillotined cages are number 1A and 1B, etc. so 23B is indeed the other half of the cage. Hope this helps!

  10. There are no dogs double caged at the shelter, at lease there were not on the weekend. There is one dog that has use of both sides of the cage. The dog in 23b goes into 23a when the cage is being cleaned. At the grand opening there were no animals doubled up with both sides of the cages being used. They said they hope to be able to keep it that way for cleaning purposes.

    1. We’ve heard reports of how things were at the grand opening. I’m interested in hearing how things are at other times too. If a dog is listed as being in cage 23B, it’s only logical to assume that’s where the dog is. Therefore my questions stands as to who is in cage 23A.

  11. If anyone wants to help a Memphis area rescue and it’s dogs. This rescue is threatening to dump their larger dogs in a shelter:

    Tails of Hope Dog Rescue
    We are in need of foster homes for some of our larger ( 50+ pounds) rescue dogs. You will need a fenced yard, and all current pets up to date on vaccinations as well as spay/neutered. Please consider fostering because t the only option left is bringing them to a shelter, something we do not want to do but will have no choice. We simply do not have the room and are 100% maxxed out. Thank you…..

    This was posted on Facebook.

    Here is a rescue dumping in shelters! What is next?

    1. Well I don’t qualify since my pets are not “up to date on vaccinations” (assuming they are talking about annual revax which I don’t do) nor are they all neutered. If I don’t qualify, I assume at least some others won’t either. But yeah, by all means, if you can’t find someone who meets your standards, put the dogs in the dumpster. It’s the only kind alternative. Fuck.

      1. I don’t qualify either. No fenced yard. My Senior GS never goes far from the back or front door except to go potty and our other dog goes out on a runner when she needs to. They both spend 98% of their time in the house with us! Can I ask though, why are your pets not all spayed/neutered?

      2. Because I am an evil dog breeder!

        Longer answer: I am a breeder – not evil, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. I got my first Flatcoat 20 years ago with the intention of showing and breeding. I did some of both (much more showing than breeding) and have had 4 Flatcoat litters in the past 20 years. I no longer show and at this time, I don’t have any plans to breed Flatcoats anymore due to the very small gene pool and rampant cancer within the breed. However, I reserve the right to change my mind or to breed a different breed. So I still consider myself a breeder even though I am not active at this time.

        I have endeavored to keep abreast of canine health benefits and concerns regarding neutering over the years. A lot has changed and we are now learning that keeping dogs intact has health benefits we didn’t know about previously and that neutering brings with it health concerns we didn’t know about previously. This is a consideration for me since I have a breed prone to early death.

        Finances are another concern and when you have a group of dogs but not a group of bank accounts to go with them, you have to prioritize. Neutering doesn’t come before some of my other large expenses that are higher up on the list (homemade food, cancer surgeries, etc.)

        I also have a situation at present where the only intact male I have is too big to breed the only intact bitch I have. So there is no risk of accidental breeding right now for me. We have a fenced yard so another dog is not going to wander in for an accidental breeding. And my dogs do not run off. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) We are in a rural area so there’s not a lot of activity going on anyway.

        Having said all this, I have spayed some of my bitches and do plan to spay the one we have (and the one I’m getting) – hopefully at tax refund time. I am not opposed to neutering dogs in general and definitely appreciate the need for and value of low/no cost neuter services. I am glad to know that many shelters neuter pets before adoption. I encourage and support this practice.

      3. wow! that’s a detailed response! I have nothing against breeders (if not for them, we wouldn’t have the wonderful purebreeds that we all love and adore so much!). I am only against back-yard breeders and I personally alter ALL my pets (because I have no intention of ever breeding and because I prefer the behavior of altered pets). Can you please fill me in on the health benefits of not neutering? Thanks!

  12. Sarah S. is correct…there are currently no guillotined cages with dogs on both sides. Identical cage cards for each dog are posted on both the A and B side of the kennels. That way when the dogs are moved for cleaning their information is always present. When the FMAS volunteer posted the information on Miss Flower she was currently residing on the B side of her kennel.

      1. Who said there were 600 in the building? That seems an awful lot of animals! Nevada Humane might have that many cats as they are stacked everywhere, but have never seen where Memphis keeps that many animals.

      2. You might like to take a look at the rotary club’s report on MAS. In it, they state there were 660 animals at MAS at the time they looked at the records.

        “The inventory Glenn Andrews printed out for 8/26/11 was 40 pages long and indicated there were 660 animals in the shelter.”

        Please tell us when you visited Nevada Humane Society and what sort of cat set up you observed.

  13. Why is this rescue so fixated on a fenced yard? That is a stupid requirement at any time, but especially if they are in such need of help with foster homes that they are threatening to dump dogs.

  14. Tonight after the Memphis Animal Shelter board meeting one of the volunteers at the MAS came up to me and told me she did not appreciate my impression of the shelter. She was very upset and defensive. She was one of many people that I talked with during the grand opening, very many, and I did remember her during the first part of my tour. Tonight she asked me if she had given me the tour. I had to pause, because I had talked to so many people inside and outside the animal area. I never toured the clinic area, so I could not offer an impression of that. She said people had called her a murderer. She is a volunteer, and kudos to her. It does take a special person to volunteer at a shelter that is known as a high kill. She is not the murderer, she is a helper. I am sorry my impression had upset her and she had taken it personally, it was not personal at all and not directed to her. Volunteering is extremely important to shelters and I thank that young lady for doing a difficult job. I wanted to talk with her further tonight, but she walked away from me during our conversation. That’s okay, she was very upset. As I said before, the building is better than the old one, my impression was directed toward the architectural aspect and certainly not an attack against volunteers. I am in the process of learning the thoughts of volunteers in various types of shelters for upcoming talk radio programs. MAS will have a volunteer training program this Saturday, a good place to learn the process in volunteering at the MAS.

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