New Interim Director at MAS Officially Introduced, Changes Promised

You can see news pieces from the press event here and here.

James Rogers, the new interim director “says he plans to have his goals at the animal shelter met within 60 to 90 days.”  I like this.  A lot.  It says action.  And action is needed.  While the specific goals haven’t been shared with the public, I’m sure many of us have certain ideas in mind of what the goals might be.

To my mind, a shelter is a complex weave of pets in need, staff, volunteers and the public.  There are essential programs which must be in place in order to achieve sustainable success and various policies, procedures and protocols which form the foundation for that success.  The structure building is important but there is also a bottom line.  To my mind, the bottom line for any shelter is lifesaving.  Pets can not be put on hold or ignored while infrastructure is repaired.  It is a matter of nothing less important than life itself.  And so within the next 60 to 90 days, I will be looking at the live release rate at MAS as a means to measure success – the same as always.  Because there is no such thing as a successful shelter where healthy/treatable pets are being killed.  Any improvements made absolutely must be reflected in the live release rate because if they don’t save lives, they aren’t improvements.

What will you be looking at within the next 60 to 90 days to help gauge the changes that are supposed to be forthcoming at MAS?


22 thoughts on “New Interim Director at MAS Officially Introduced, Changes Promised

  1. I look forward to seeing how the volunteers and local rescues are treated by the “shelter”. I hope to see a foster program open up and for the citizens of Memphis to get involved.

  2. I’m looking for transparency. An appropriate way to start would be to actually ANNOUNCE the goals, instead of maintaining the sekrit status that is so entrenched there.
    I mean, at the end of 90 days, we get a second announcement that says: “I met 100% of my goals!” Yeah. What was the goal? To get a paycheck? To survive the interim status? Bully.

  3. We are facing the same thing here in Niagara County NY, while the interim director seems to be open minded about implementing life saving programs, I have to admit that I am still pretty guarded. She came from a shelter system that remains stuck in the Maddies model of shelters, which means that they categorize animals into healthy, treatable, manageable and unhealthy/untreatable and have been stuck at a 70% save rate for several years even though they claim they are now saving 100% of all adoptable animals. So you see where I’m getting at is that they just put them in different categories rather than actually saving them. I worry that the public will not be able to see behind the stats to the true picture. While I’m somewhat optimistic, I’m also somewhat skeptical and will be watching to see if the killing actually decreases and if she reaches out to the people I suggested she contact about their programs that have proven to get to that 90% save rate. (American Pets Alive, Aimee Sadler, Bonney Brown & Mitch Schneider to name a few).

    I would suggest that the people of Memphis keep their guard up and not let shelter doublespeak fool you. Look at the raw save rate, it doesn’t matter where the classifications are or where owner requested euthanisia’s are logged – the percentage of animals leaving alive is the only true indication that change is going in the right direction.

  4. I’d also be looking at the staff changing. Out with the old (the losers) in with the new (the lifesavers & pet lovers). It will be interesting to see how much staff turnover there will be…

  5. I think he needs an entirely new staff. The old staff will likely resist and sabotage all efforts at change.

  6. Well, the very first change we should see is every, single animal being posted to the web via Chameleon software. If it truly only takes one more press of a button, then staff should be able to comply with that one pretty darn quick.

    I have hope for this man. Go James, go. Sort that hellhole out.

    1. I really had my hopes up for Mayor Wharton after the raid and his talk about going from “worst to first”. Then he hired Matt Pepper and I still tried to be hopeful, despite knowing he came from a pet slaughterhouse in LA. At this point, I’m not letting myself get too high up the hope ladder. We’ll see. The best I can do is hope to be pleasantly surprised.

      1. I know it hurts to hope, but maybe the fact that Rogers is NOT from an animal background will end up being a good thing. After all, Matt Pepper’s resume (and reference from his previous killing ground, uh, shelter) was glowing. He looked very good on paper as long as you didn’t ask any questions or actually, you know, check into his work history.

        Rogers *sounds* like he’s up for the challenge. If he can make that place run efficiently, the kill rate should drop immediately without anyone making any special effort towards adoptions or rescue. Now add in “special effort towards adoptions and rescue” and it will dip significantly.

        But professional management seems to be his forte and THAT is what MAS has needed (and never had, ever). If he can get staff that takes their job seriously and behaves professionally, he’ll be tops in my book. Because everything else flows from that. Leadership. It’s key.

  7. Need to share the goals with the public, fire those staff implicated in report, make contact with rescues and forge agreements, show strong support for volunteer and foster programs, start up webcams, announce new programs to increase public viewing and contact with adoptable animals – expanded hours and locations. Start showing shelter animals for adoption on websites – PetHarbor, PetFinders, Facebook, visit news stations with adoptable animals.

    I want to believe him when he states that he is the man who will run TOward the fire that needs to be fought and contained – hope he proves it.

  8. Everything said above, with the added thing of fixing all the broken shit that cost Memphians so much damned money and is not helping the animals one iota.

  9. He seems no-nonsense in his manner and that’s a plus in my book. The fact that he didn’t openly identify the 10 goals possibly flows from his background as a behind-the-scenes manager, not someone who interacted directly with the public and the press. Regardless, it will become obvious fairly quickly whether he’s succeeding or not. IMO it’s not just whether he’s able to manage down . . . he must also be able to manage up (Hooks, Hall, Wharton). Likely Wharton will support him initially, so the first 1-2 months will tell the story. I’m hoping he will understand about listing all the pets and about opening the stray area — those are key issues and changing those policies would bring him directly into conflict with the staff, so it will be interesting (and critical) to see if he tackles them. I agree with everybody that the raw save rate is the real bottom line.

    Those were awfully cute dogs (with cute names) at the press conference. I tried not to get too caught up in that but I must say, the imagery was right . . . these are pit bulls, they’re cuddly, they’re up for adoption, we like them. Do those in Memphis remember, has this imagery been used before at mayoral photo ops relating to the shelter? Just wondering how meaningful it is.

    Also I’m wondering whether animal advocates in Memphis have requested a meeting with Rogers, or if not, how they are approaching this new and very important relationship.

  10. My hopes?
    1. Clean house – get rid of the abusers and lazy asses. Some of the staff are really good. Keep them. Let them blow the whistle. Reward them for caring.
    2. Clean cages, feed and water dogs. It’s kind of basic.
    3. Stop killing pets for space. They say they’re not, but they are. It’s bullshit.
    4. Interview the volunteers individually and keep their confidence. Praise them for caring. Get rid of the b.s. volunteers, too. They drive off new ones, and intimidate the public. Really. Ask what they do, what they want to do, and make sure they are doing it.
    5. Get the damned photos on Pet Harbor. THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.
    6. If you don’t want the “haters” in there taking pictures of filth and posting them, then keep the place clean so there’s nothing to photograph. WE WOULD LOVE NOTHING MORE THAN TO PROVE THE “HATERS” WRONG.

    Worst to first…we’d love it.

  11. I have heard the “changes on the way” promise before so I don’t listen so much to the talk anymore. Show me the total intake numbers and the percentage saved each month and how it is going up. Action in a positive direction I what I want to see.

  12. Please do not overlook the fact that animals in a “shelter” are under the utmost stress, subjected to powerful germs and it is urgent that while there are treated kindly by all staff, recognized as an individual, if stray be given every opportunity to be found and claimed by their owner. No adoptor should receive a pet that is not spayed or neutered. While evaluating, remember that the only thing a dog in a shelter recognizes is food , more dogs have been killed in shelters because they guard their food than any other reason. Of course they guard their food–it is all they have in that situation. Have a trained person to receive phone calls of people wishing to turn in their pet and have them give advice to anyone who merely needs to know how to address a problem and thus keep the pet in the home. The shelter should be clean and fresh water should be available at all times. These things are basic and should start immediately, the more complicated issues should be addressed by staff and a committee of knowledgable, interested and hopefully compassionate but realistic volunteers.

    1. Interesting. It sounds like he’s reviewing the camera footage himself. And may be planning to use the cameras to *gasp* actually monitor shelter operations.

      The article says that he’s going to have cages cleaned four times a day – even on days they’re closed. Does anyone know how often the cages are cleaned now?

      1. Thank you, shelter volunteer, I figured they were aiming for twice a day (and not always hitting it). I shudder to think how long they went in between cleanings on the days off…

        It will be interesting to see if Rogers can actually whip that place into shape. He’s already got everyone reviewing their job descriptions and the shelter’s mission statement. And the fact that he hasn’t just fired a bunch of people out of hand for incompetence (of which there is ample evidence), proves him to be more than fair…generous, even. But I have to suspect that if you don’t toe the line, there will be consequences (finally!). At least I hope so.

        But increased cleanings will lead to decreased disease and a more pleasant shelter environment – which will increase adoptions. Clean, healthy animals are immediately more adoptable!

  13. Considering that he has said ’60 to 90 days’ and how Wharton wants him to be a part of city government eventually, it makes me wonder if he will finally whip that place into shape and then get laid off, meaning yet another new director (who could be a Pepper type) :-/

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