Memphis Pays Cash Bonuses to MAS Workers for Killing Pets

The agreement between the city of Memphis and the union workers at the pound can be read here.  In summary, it’s a pretty sweet job – great pay and excellent benefits.

Page 13 indicates that any employee who is progressing through the stages of discipline will have his record cleared if he stays out of trouble for 6 months.  Wow, I’ve never come across any such provision in my working life.

Pages 34 – 35 discuss hourly wages:  $18.82 for ACOs and $17.67 for animal care technicians.  Any qualified worker who kills pets for MAS gets an additional 3% killing “premium”, paid at a minimum of 4 hour increments.  Cash bonuses provide an incentive to kill pets at MAS.  Where is the incentive to save pets’ lives?  Where is the premium for increasing the live release rate?  It really makes one wonder about those bins full of dead pets the pound fills up every day.

Page 24 lists the reasons union employees at MAS may be removed from the payroll.  One of those reasons is “Discharge for just cause”.  Although I don’t see any such wording, I am assuming that committing animal abuse would qualify as just cause.  They should really put that wording in there, don’t you think?  I mean, seeing as it IS an animal shelter and all.

Page 37 states that “employees are expected to comply with […] any work rules applicable to specific divisions”.  Presumably the MAS employee handbook that dictates dogs are not to be scruffed without having their weight supported from underneath or dragged by chokepoles counts as work rules specific to the division.  As such, why haven’t the workers depicted hurting animals in the security camera videos been fired?

City of Memphis

Policies and Procedures Manual

Memphis Animal Services

Page 22

Chapter 2: Guiding Principles and Expectations

Section 1: Humane Treatment

No Agent of Memphis Animal Services is to drag or pull any animal by catch pole or lead unless no other practical method of safely handling or moving the animal is available.

Small dogs are to have their weight supported from beneath when being transported within the facility or in the field and are not to be suspended by the back of the neck (scruffed) as a method of control unless no other practical method of safely handling or moving the animal is available.


70 thoughts on “Memphis Pays Cash Bonuses to MAS Workers for Killing Pets

  1. The killing bonus is just heinous.

    A friend of mine used to live in Memphis, and she would gripe non-stop about what an awful place it was. I always thought she was just being dramatic and that any place with the Rev. Al Green in it couldn’t be that bad. I have changed my mind. The Rev. Al Green notwithstanding, Memphis is a barbaric hellhole, a veritable vortex of suck. CITY FAIL!

    1. I’m in Nashville, born and raised here. As long as I can remember, Memphis has always had that reputation to some degree. It has DEFINITELY gotten worse and I suspect that will continue, based on the last 55 years!

    2. I have lived in Memphis for over 25 years. I have owned my own company here for 16 years. There are many of us here who obey the laws, pay taxes, and seek justice where need be. Like many cities we have a our problems. But, to judge and cite an entire city as a “barbaric hellhole” because of a failed animal shelter is wrong. I’ll be the first to condemn the faults of the MAS and to recognize our other major problems as a city. And I have met Al Green. He can live anywhere on the planet, but he chooses here. Maybe it’s because we have one of the largest urban parks in the nation (5 times bigger than Central Park), or the southern hospitality, the beautiful Mississippi River, the music, Graceland, Beale Street, the Memphis Zoo (recognized internationally as one of the best). Judge not lest ye be judged.

      Let’s keep our focus on what this blog was intended for.
      To better the conditions, treatment, and overall care of the animals in the MAS.

      1. You’d have to pay me extra to euthanize an animal too. Has anyone considered that just maybe the employee’s there would rather not put an animal down but still need to make a living and support their families.

      2. If they want to stop killing, they can. There is a proven method to do so available to MAS, as it has been for years. Not only will they not stop killing, they are apparently torturing the animals while doing it, per the undercover investigation. I’ll take a pass on your “walk a mile” bs.

      3. So why hasn’t anyone in Memphis formed any organized opposition to what is going on at MAS? Where are the demonstrations outside of City Hall? Honestly, it looks to me like the entire city is just waiting for someone else to do something about this.

      4. Just for you Lisa B.:

        Last protest was on Feb. 19, 2012. The City would not approve the permit for it to happen at City Hall.

        Facebook pages:!/pages/Voice-for-Memphis-Animal-Shelter-MAS-Animals/222856771075294!/pages/Community-Action-for-Animals/123168717736426
        SOS Memphis (Save Our Shelter)

        My own:!/pages/We-Support-Carol-Lynch-of-the-Memphis-Animal-Shelter/161881410596241

        Lisa B., the problem, ultimately, lies with the corrupt and heartless city officials. Not with the overwhelming caring public. Perhaps you should go back and read every blog Shirley has posted. She has never condemned the city as a whole or the citizens within.

      5. Lisa B- I completely agree. Id be the first one there if I lived in TN.

        But Ill do what I can from here, just tell me what that is.

      6. To Walk a Mile – I find myself appalled with this whole issue and what seems to be the justification on your part for those who participate in the destruction of these animals. Regardless of how difficult my financial situation has been and continues to be I would never consider killing an animal (it’s not “putting an animal down” – it’s killing an animal). So I AM walking that mile. When the citizens of the usa grow up & adopt a new mindset that does NOT include taking advantage of, abusing, bullying, torturing or killing those who are more vulnerable, ONLY then will there be any real progress. I’m tired of humans (who continually decimate this planet on a daily basis) making excuses to legitimize their deplorable behavior. Get a little education, common sense and integrity Memphis & America.

  2. Great, worker will be written up for animal cruelty and after 6 month is in the clear again. Of course, during the 6 month the worker still can continue killing as many animals as possible to get a higher premium. Don’t you love those Unions?

  3. I believe every viewer that has watched any of the Feb 7 security videos should file a report of animal cruelty with the Memphis police.

  4. Cash bonuses for killing?? You got to br kidding me!! Who is in charge of this mess? Should be in jail right now!!

    1. Premiums of one kind or another – to employees or to the shelter itself – are not unusual at kill shelters. That probably accounts in large part for the number of shelters with kill rates over 60 and 70%. Sadly, they are not rare.

      Many shelters are using kill manuals written (and sold) by HSUS. Those manuals do NOT work in the favor of the animals.

      HSUS is now training ACOs in many places. Organizations whose end goal is the extinction of domestic animals should have NO influence on animal issues whatever.

  5. That’s some damned good pay! I realise the job may not be desirable every minute of the day (what job is?!), but for heaven’s sake! I am pretty sure you can get some caring, compassionate people to work there for that hourly wage! I know I would leave my job and work at a shelter for that pay. If I was in Memphis, I would do it tomorrow!

  6. They aren’t paying the bonus “per animal” so it’s not like it’s an incentive to kill more. Honestly, if I were a worker there I couldn’t work in the ER, but if I HAD too, I would expect to be paid more for the emotional toll it would take on me. After volunteering there I can’t say I know which employees are the ones who actually perform the euthanasia but I was surprised to know it wasn’t a vet that did it.

    1. Shelby, The bonus is an incentive to kill more. Because if they saved more, there would be fewer to kill and consequently, less bonuses available. Nobody HAS TO kill healthy/treatable pets. True euthanasia to end the suffering of medically hopeless pets is a kindness and a rarity – at least it should be. There are 2 employees on the security camera footage who wear slaughterhouse aprons. I assume both work in the kill room.

      1. Big Glenn always wore his yellow apron when he was cleaning kennels. He rarely worked in the ER. The other employee in the yellow apron is Margaret, a temporary worker transferred to the shelter from parks to help with the transition to the new building. The temp workers are there for extra hands in the back–mostly cleaning and feeding. Well. That’s what they’re supposed to do anyway.

  7. To report animal cruelty and request a Priority Two response (calls ask officers to respond to the crime scene as soon as possible without the use of any warning lights or sirens) because multiple victims lives are in imminent danger, call the Shelby County Sheriff…..901-379-7625

  8. What I want to know is doesn’t the ‘killing’…oh, I mean euthanasia…have to be done by a licensed veterinarian? Or can just any person have the honor? This place is worse than a hell-hole and needs to be shut down!

      1. And we know that doesn’t require anything different than someone who works in a slaughterhouse. :( I just always thought a vet or vet tech had to do it to ensure humane treatment. But, again, we know that there’s not much humaneness from anybody at MAS, so it’s a pointless argument. I guess the new guy isn’t going to make any changes…that was too much to hope for.

  9. I see no reason the pound could not use a typical retail business model and encourage a team approach by offering a bonus if the live release is increased by X%. They could set a goal each month. Everyone would have an incentive to do their job and do it well to increase that live release rate. They would get rewarded for it with extra pay and pets’ lives would be saved.

    1. Shirley, you’re making way too much sense here. Stop it, you will destabilize the killing system!

      1. They could even have a Special Bonus awarded each month to the Employee who does the most to save a particular, hard to place/injured, etc., animal! And put their photo up on a plaque in the public view, so they could be proud of themselves!

      2. Working hard to save a special needs pet? Recognition for saving a life? I like it. And it sets a tone. It says, “MAS is about *saving* pets” and it says “All pets have value and deserve to live”. Re-write that union contract!

    2. Nathan Winograd’s no-kill model works well where it has been implemented. It would be easy for shelters to adopt this model, but most of them seems to have bought 100% into the idea that there are far too many pets, and that the more they kill the sooner the ‘problem’ will go away.

      In reality there is no ‘pet overpopulation’ problem, beyond distribution issues and shelter management issues. Though some shelters are overcrowded, there are also shelters in some places which can’t keep enough ‘adoptable’ pets in their shelters. People want pets, if only they could find them. As long as public shelters are keeping their kill rates high, it is easy to convince people of the myth that there is a ‘pet overpopulation’ problem. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      1. I Agree my dog BabyGirl is from a shelter in Virginia, she was transported to Lollypop Farm(A Shelter) in Rochester NY where I adopted her when she was 3 mts old. BabyGirl was not the only one transferred there.

  10. Some “shelters” sell the bodies of animals to labs. More dead animals, better bottom line.

  11. The ‘bonus’ is NOT a payment to encourage them TO kill animals. That is NOT the intent and you are very wrong to say or infer it as such.

    The INTENT of the additional pay is for the stress and/or emotional issues that employees may have to deal with as a result of euthanizing animals.

    Whether or not some employees understand that, whether or not some employees have no compassion and do it JUST for the money is probably a valid issue.

    BUT, the reason for the extra pay is NOT what you portray it to be. Period.

    1. You are of course entitled to your opinion and your caps lock key “jcs”. I stand by my opinion. I see it as an incentive to kill pets and no incentive to save them.

      1. While I’m not totally positive, I think you might want to check another IP address…. :-)

    2. You are, indeed, entitled to your opinion. But actions speak louder than words or intent and the actions are abusive, uncaring, and inhumane.

      There are no stress or emotional issues at MAS for killing animals. If there were, animals would not be treated the way are when they are alive. That’s a simple fact. Actions say it all, as does the lack of intervention from anybody there. If that extra money was given for actions involved in saving lives, it would be interesting to see how things there changed for the betterment of the animals. However, based on history, I sincerely doubt we’ll get a chance to test that that thought.

      1. Debbie, perhaps jcs hasn’t had an opportunity to view the video we’re all referring to. If not, I would invite her/him to check them out on this website, and then let us know whether s/he thinks the employees of MAS suffer emotionally from the way they treat the animals….

    3. Really? So, if the extra pay isn’t an incentive to kill, what’s the incentive to not kill? What’s the incentive to work with the public and with rescues to get the animals adopted? What’s the incentive to treat sick animals?

  12. It is illegal in most states – and it is illegal in Tennessee – for shelters to sell animals (dead or alive) to research facilities.

      1. It’s also illegal to sell dogs out the back door, to perform heart-sticks, to hang puppies in the air with chokepoles, to starve animals to death, to……(fill in the blank)……

    1. It may be illegal to sell animals to research labs, as you state, but that doesn’t mean it’s not done. My local shelter was known to sell the bodies of feral cats. And those “free to good home” ads – those animals can end up collected by “bunchers” who sell them to laboratories.

    2. per Tennessee code – nor shall any research facility purchase dogs or cats except from a licensed dealer, public pound, humane society, or from a person who breeds dogs or cats for sale to a research facility.

      It is quite legal in Tennessee, it is also legal in my state. I think you would find it is legal in most states

    3. Found some more info, thought I might as well share –

      Sales of dogs and cats for research from pounds and shelters are currently prohibited in the following 13 States: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and West Virginia.

      For this analysis, it was assumed that approximately 2,200 to 3,800 pounds and shelters in the United States may sell dogs and cats to dealers. It is estimated that as many as 67,000 dogs and 31,000 cats may be sold or provided to dealers from these pounds and shelters each year.

  13. “No Agent of Memphis Animal Services is to drag or pull any animal by catch pole or lead unless no other practical method of safely handling or moving the animal is available.”

    This is how they’re getting away with it. Much like the language in Paulin’s Quick kill Bill in New York, the use of the word “practical” gives them an out. They can just claim that the tiny little puppy swinging from the choke pole was too aggressive to handle any other way, and they not only don’t go to jail they get to keep their jobs, and keep swinging puppies from the end of choke poles.

    1. Not sure, Marilyn – anyone could show them a practical alternative, the wording in the Paulin bill is “practicable”, apparently a huge legal loophole.

    2. In keeping with the theme of dysfunction, when a Memphis citizen visited the police department to complain about the treatment of animals the officer asked, “What are they supposed to do?”

      Sent the mayor an email asking him to consider rewarding for life-saving and going no kill. He could turn a profit and be the hero. There are plenty of people in Memphis that would love to help him do that.

  14. A ‘bonus’ for killing animals, regardless of the original intent, is like the broken welfare system – it fails to reward what we WANT to happen, so people do the wrong thing(s) because that is what is more beneficial. Not to mention that the MAS agreement self-selects for people who either have no heart or are willing to sell out their values…

  15. As a vet tech I make far less than that (in FL). I have to go thru a lot of the same emotional distress as the shelter workers although I/we don’t euthanize pets because of space (or other BS).

  16. MAS is a kill shelter like thousands of others. They kill nearly every living being that comes in the door because that’s what they’re engineered to do–their purpose, mandate, and wretched goal is clearing the place out week after week by any means necessary. They don’t need a bonus for killing and probably intended the pay increase as compensation for the inevitable toll that killing takes–even on the one who kills. If you staffed MAS with angels from heaven, it wouldn’t make much difference. They would still crank out a death rate of 70% because the entire system is geared up for that. Adoptions are nothing more than an incidental sideline run by a few volunteers who can stomach the general stench. They won’t change until the system changes.
    No one can achieve a 90% save rate or even an 80% save rate with an old-school kill shelter system in place. Lifesaving requires a lifesaving system–for me, that means implementing the no-kill equation. I’ve never heard of any other way to achieve a successful shelter turnaround.

    1. No kill could happen. It takes someone like Peter to say “there will be no more killing in the shelter.” It is up to us to remind the people and the government of Memphis that they can and should reform MAS.

      1. Agreed. No-kill can happen anywhere. I used to think Memphis was the problem but don’t anymore. There’s a shelter in the Atlanta-area with very similar problems and a very high kill rate–and it’s located in a high-income area with good schools and concerned citizens. The local gov. finally created a task force to lead the way to shelter reform, and they just released a comprehensive report. If you’re interested in shelter reform–down to the details–it’s worth a look. There’s a link to the report (PDF) in this news story about conditions at the shelter (not for the squeamish–some of it is worse than MAS)–
        Change can happen anywhere–that’s the beauty of the no-kill equation. BTW I’m not the “Jeanne” from MAS.

  17. The Mas workers don’t have a choice when it comes to be certified for euthanasia. It’s a condition of employment. Of course they could choose not to work there but that’s a different story. They don’t have a choice to not be certified unless they quit. They don’t pick the animals either.

      1. It’s supposed to be one person making the euthanasia list and another “checking off” on it. I’ve been told Chelton Beamon and Glenn Andrews usually select the animals.

  18. that just explains everything…so for every body they deliver they move up the ladder…they get an increase in salary…they get greater prestige…HOLY SH*T! It all makes sense now!

  19. Off the topic of MAS… NC Shelter Rescue is posting photos of killed puppies on their Facebook wall:

    “Due to lack of Spay & Neuter all these puppies in this litter were killed in the Shelter. They never knew love and by looking just skin and bones here, didnt get enough to eat while they were alive. This is what happens in our County Shelters every day, this is no longer acceptable. Get Involved, Stop the Cycle of Killing litters of puppies and kittens. SPAY AND NEUTER !!”

    Feb. 13, 2012,

    What kind of rescue group is this?

  20. This is criminal-what is being done? Have any changes been made, are there petitions to sign, who would be the people to personally write with our outrage that might be able to make changes?

    1. There are a couple of petitions out there for folks to sign: Stop the abuse at the Memphis Animal “Shelter” and Memphis Animal Services – Stop the Killing

    2. No matter where you live, you can make your concerns about Memphis Animal Services known to the following individuals:

      Mayor Wharton, mailing address: Office of the Mayor, 125 N. Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103

      Fax: (901) 576-6200
      Phone: (901) 576-6000

      Janet Hooks, Director, Public Services and Neighborhoods, mailing address: 125 North Main, Ste. 200, Memphis, Tn 38103

      Phone: (901) 636-6564
      James Rogers, Interim Director, Memphis Animal Services, mailing address: 2350 Appling City Cove Memphis, TN 38133

      Phone: (901) 636-1416

      City Council
      Mailing address: 125 North Main Street, Room 514, Memphis, TN 38103

      Fax: (901) 576-6796
      Phone: (901) 576-6786

      Individual e-mail addresses:

      Berlin Boyd

      Bill Boyd

      Bill Morrison

      Myron Lowery

      Janis Fullilove

      Harold Collins

      Wanda Halbert

      Joe Brown

      Shea Flinn

      Kemp Conrad

      Edmund Ford Jr.

      Reid Hedgepeth

      Jim Strickland


      MAS Advisory Board Members:

      Stephen Towers, mailing address: Memphis Animal Clinic, 733 East Parkway South, Memphis, Tennessee 38104

      Fax : (901) 272-1815
      Phone : (901) 272-7411

      Jennifer Clay, mailing address: Utopia Animal Hospital, 1157 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

      Fax: (901) 746-8757
      Phone: (901) 746-8758

      A copy/paste collection of all the e-mail addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      Keep your letters succinct and respectful. Request the courtesy of a reply. Let the city leaders know that people from all over are condemning what is going on at MAS and refuse to spend their vacation dollars in a city which tries to sweep cruelty under the rug. Remind them there is a viable alternative: make Memphis a no kill community. Include a link to this primer on no kill.

      Please use your voice to speak for all the pets at MAS – living and dead. If you’ve already written – thank you. If you have more to say to city leaders – write again. Let them know we are still watching and still horrified. Share this info with the many caring pet owners you know so that they can write letters too. If you need bullet points for possible items to include in a letter, here you go:

      Summary of Concerns at Memphis Animal Services

      The killing of pets who are not medically hopeless and suffering nor have they been declared a danger to society by a qualified party.
      The killing of pets when there are empty cages at the shelter.
      The killing of pets who have never been made available to the public for adoption, rescue or foster.
      The killing of pets due to disease outbreak without ever making a public plea for help with quarantine to save lives.
      Failure of the shelter to vaccinate all incoming pets as per standard disease prevention protocol.
      Failure of the shelter to remove dogs and food from cages during cleaning as per standard disease prevention protocol.
      Failure of the shelter to utilize their Chameleon software to interface with PetHarbor so that every pet is viewable online by the public.
      Failure of the shelter to properly train and/or enforce humane handling of pets by the staff.
      Failure of the shelter to implement a TNR program so that the number of feral cats in the community can be reduced over time.
      Failure of the shelter to keep cats separated from the sight, sound and smell of dogs in order to reduce stress and make the population less susceptible to disease.
      Failure of the shelter to provide daily aerobic exercise for dogs for social stimulation and in order to reduce stress and make the population less susceptible to disease.
      The removal of the webcams from MAS which were installed – and are still needed – for the protection of the pets being abused and killed at the facility.

      Change begins with one person. Be that person for the pets suffering at MAS.

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