MAS: What do you think it will look like in another 100 days?

In a recent speech to the rotary club, Memphis Animal Services interim director James Rogers talked about his work to date at the pound:

“We’re looking at 100 days. Look at what’s happened in 100 days. What do you think it will look like in another 100 days? We’re on a positive trend. And we will continue to march forward in terms of excellence.”

I am not a dogfighter and do not claim to speak with any authority on the subject.  But as I understand it, two of the most important qualities dogfighters look for in a dog are:

  1. Willingness to fight other dogs
  2. Willingness to accept human handling during the dog aggression behavior without redirecting to the human

This clip was from the April FOIA request for video footage from the Memphis pound. For those who don’t know, MAS participates in the Shelby Co Department of Corrections work release program and has inmates coming each day to work at the pound.  Reader Casey has been reviewing some of the discs and sent in this clip of an inmate holding a Pitbull while his cage is being cleaned. I can’t say definitively that I know what’s happening here or why but it looks bad to me.  If anyone can think of a reasonable explanation for what’s going on in this clip, please share. I am running out of ideas.

50 thoughts on “MAS: What do you think it will look like in another 100 days?

  1. oh, you know, he’s helping to increase the dogs reactivity, to improve it’s chances of being adopted. Doesn’t everyone want a highly reactive dog?
    um, yeah. Where do they GET these workers?

    1. I was one of the volunteers who put together a list of concerns about MAS and met with Hall/Hooks, etc. When they suggested solving the understaffing problem with the inmates coming to help clean cages (as they do at our local Humane Society), we expressed concerns about this very thing. We were assured the inmates would be supervised AT ALL TIMES and that they wouldn’t be handling the animals… ha. EVERYTHING about MAS is a joke.

  2. Oh….that was just another lie told to keep the public at bay and the city gov. happy and looking good. So….Hooks and Hall….how do you really look now?

  3. The only good thing I can say about this video is that a leash was used instead of a choke pole. I didn’t know they actually had leashes at the MAS!

  4. I know MAS is a mess and as much as I’d like to demonize this situation I just can’t. This is someone who isn’t educated on dogs and is trying to introduce this dog to other dogs. He seems to care about the dog and maybe they want to kill this dog because of its reactivity? So maybe this man is trying to save the dog by introdicing him/her to other dogs unknowingly in the wrong way. I think we should like him.

    I also think we are way to hard on the inmates. Most of them probably don’t care but some of them do. My boyfriend spent his teenage years in juvie because the judge decided to make an example of him. They took away his childhood and took him away from me bt he is so gentle and loving towards my dog and is helping me with hourly feedings of a litter of kittens and five baby sparrows who were abandoned. He will never admit it but when Butterball (the healthiest sparrow) flew a foot and hlf from my hand to the nest he almost cried. Inmates have made mistakes, they aren’t bad people.

    1. Elizabeth, I’m sure some inmates are lovely people, but none of them have been trained in humane animal handling (notice how he intentionally riles the animals up then scolds them, how he checks the dog’s canines). And while these are likely the only kind touches this poor dog is going to get before he goes into a dumpster, the other dogs in cages are stressed/frightened by the activity, so it comes at their expense.

      Think of the poor dogs in the nearby cages.

      I have no problem with inmates being trained to walk dogs, play with cats, etc. In fact, I think it would be GREAT for both the inmates and the animals if they could engage in play/exercise. There are places where inmates do training of shelter pets to make them more adoptable. That’s totally cool.

      But what we’re seeing here is not acceptable.

    2. No one is making any generalizations like that about the inmates. Hell, if it weren’t for the inmates, the dogs would get ZERO attention, which would be even worse. But if they are supposed to be supervised and the city is failing to do that, the city needs to step up. And *if* – and I don’t know for certain that this is the case – this one inmate is testing a dog for gameness for potential involvement in dogfighting, that is indicative of criminal activity happening on the pound’s watch. These things must be addressed.

    3. No comment on inmates being good or bad people. I don’t think that is what anyone is saying. I DO think the people of Memphis deserve a SHELTER they can be proud of and the animals deserve a SHELTER they can live in without the threat of neglect and abuse. This footage is disturbing and “this” inmate should NOT be allowed near the shelter again. Your boyfriend should volunteer at this so called Shelter maybe the kindness he shows the sparrows will rub off on some of the people there.

      1. What I was trying to get at is I think this guy may be one of the good ones. He’s not perfect but he obviously cares about this dog. If this is the kill room he might be trying to make a last ditch effort to prove this dog is adoptable. Hes isn’t using a choke pole so I actually think he is more competent then the actual staff.

        As for the love of my life and I, we are In NJ, but if MAS was put in our hands we’d rock the place. They however ignored my resume so we do what we can for pets till the day I am a director of a shelter.

      2. Elizabeth, well said. He obviously is NOT trying to get the dog to fight. Looking over his shoulder is only a reaction to see who is coming or going, in my opinion. No, this is not the kill room, but at the end of the video, you can only surmise that he is taking the dog to the kill room. It appears he has taken much precaution with the dog and the dog is not aggressive or scared in any way. I don’t see him being mean spirited with the dog either. Don’t bother sending in a resume, they’ll pick who they want to hire there….nothing more, nothing less.

  5. That does not look good to me. I know when I work at my shelter I don’t let the dogs get right up on any of the cages. No need to stress them all out and make them aggressive. You can’t say he was just walking by bc he stopped at the two cages and stood by the ones that were barking. Looked like he tried to quiet the dogs down a little when the workers were headed back. How is it that you are the only person who watches these clips and sees the problems and the director thinks everything is going great?

  6. His concern for the torn off cage card the dog pulled off on the floor is an example of his behavior towards everything else in life… probably. Shouldn’t he have a responsibility to replace the card he caused to come off?

    Nit-picking? Yes, but in a short amount of time his actions are telling. Most responsible folks would of put the card back on.

    I think it’s great to have prisoners work with MAS dogs & cats, but the first day should be closely observed to weed out those who are not responsible & respectful.

    1. Interesting you noticed that, fun. He later picks up the cage card, pulls it out of the plastic protector, reads it, and then puts the empty plastic protector up on top of the cages. He takes the dog’s info, folds it up and slides it into the bars the way so many do at MAS if there’s no plastic protector (just like the dog’s cage on the lower left). The dog in that cage later grabs the paper and pulls it into his cage with his teeth.

      Fortunately, someone coming to get the dog for whatever reason sees it in the bottom of the cage and the card continues to be linked with the dog…this time.

      You’ll notice that the dog in the lower rightmost cage has no card. There is a search around for the card when they come in for that dog, but it is never found. There are stray cage cards on the little wheelie cart on the left, but they do not match any dog in the room, apparently. A tech looks through them, then puts them back on the cart.

      How many dogs that MAS “loses” happen like this, I wonder?

  7. I like the part where he’s petting the dog and talking to him after he sits back down. The rest makes me think he doesn’t care how stressed the caged dogs get when he lets “his” dog come up to their cages. Uncool. But the other day I saw two ordinary guys out walking their dogs in a neighborhood. When they encountered one another in a grassy area, they struck up a conversation and let the dogs approach each other, too. The dogs behaved exactly like the pit in the video–whole lotta barking but with tails still wagging, some lunging due to excitement–but no real aggression.
    Neither dog was a pitbull, not that it really matters. Pretty soon the guys and the dogs went off in different directions to finish their walks. So what I “see” in the video is a bored guy doing some pretty aimless stuff while waiting for the MAS workers to finish whatever they’re doing so he can do whatever he’s supposed to do next. The inmates are just people like anyone else–some are caring and good with dogs and some aren’t. I don’t think a person needs specialized training to be good with animals–most pet owners just learn by doing and getting to know their dogs well.
    But I do agree that MAS needs to teach all the workers, inmates included, how to handle dogs who are already stressed to the max by the shelter environment.

  8. This video demonstrates two things to me. A grossly untrained inmate that doesn’t know better than to let a dog near stressed-out dogs in cages, and that waving at dogs and hitting their cages is no way to interact with them. And that while completely untrained, there are some inmates that are capable of providing a much-needed caring touch to the dogs. The pitbull-fighting scenario is a stretch.

  9. Replace that young black man with every single old white lady in my neighborhood and that pit bull with every retriever, poodle, terrier, chihuahua, spaniel and you’ll know why I hate walking my dog. Every. single. last. one. thinks it’s so cute when their dog reacts to/at my dog. They just smile and say, “S/He’s friendly! S/He just wants to say hi!” I guess when your lab ripped my dog’s ear she was just giving him a kiss, right?

    My point is that this man is probably like every other ignorant dog lover.

    Kudos to the guy for giving the dog love. That may have been the last time that dog received any compassion.

  10. I’m not seeing anything “bad” here, other than apparently the dog ended up in the kill room. The inmate appears to attempt to calm the other dogs barking in their cages, nothing more. He is then seen petting the pit bull, and the dog is enjoying it obviously. He is not being mean to this dog or the others, as I see it. What is your thinking? Apparently the dog ended up in the kill room, but he wasn’t dragged and I didn’t see any resistance. I’m perplexed at this clip being sent in???? Just sayin

    1. Denise, he unnecessarily stressed the dogs in cages (he could have just sat there petting the dog – the dog would have sat there with him and loved it) and at one point, he smacks the cage behind him to “calm” the barking dog.

      1. The inmate is sitting in the chair with the dog under control when he gets up and allows the dog to get himself and a bunch of other dogs all riled up. Whether he *intends* to rile up his dog and the other dogs, I don’t know. It’s possible he’s just a terribly inexperienced and inept dog handler. *If* that’s the case, he obviously should not be handling dogs, let alone what looks like a very powerful dog, in a shelter environment without some training and supervision. Had the dog redirected toward the inmate or another human, there could have been a serious injury. Had another person come in to take any of the caged dogs out after this event, any of them could have redirected as well.

      2. Mikken, he didn’t appear to have slapped the cages that hard. How can you determine or say that he stressed the dogs in the cages? He wasn’t taunting them or anything with the other dog, so I don’t see it as being as bad as being dragged by a choke pole, hit with a choke pole, beat with a choke pole, or purposely taunting the other dogs with the pit bull …. just sayin

      3. Denise, a dog confined to a cage in an already highly stressful and unfamiliar environment with another dog outside barking in his face = extremely stressful. Imagine if you were locked in a small room and a big man comes pounding on the door and shouting at you – stressful? Scary? Do you feel trapped and vulnerable? Now think about how you would feel if someone who didn’t speak your language took you to that room in the first place and put you there and you had no idea why or for how long…

        This is what the shelter dogs are subjected to when someone lets another dog bark in their faces through the cages.

        And how hard to you have to hit a metal cage door to make a terrifying sound? Now imagine you have a dog’s hearing when it happens…

        As for those who think a wagging tail always means “play” –

      4. Mikken, I totally understand that. But, I’ve seen worse on video than this. I just don’t think the person handling the dog was being cruel, vicious, vindictive, stupid or anything else. He had the dog on a leash, the dog was not fighting him and, evidently he was doing what he was TOLD to do by an employee. Nonetheless, I understand the possible danger and the probable stress of the other animals in that room. To tell you the truth, had it been an employee, it probably would have been worse. I just don’t think this person acted with malicious intent by holding the dog while its cage was being cleaned. Maybe I missed something….I looked at the video twice and, as I’ve said, I have seen worse, much worse.

    2. This just might be part of the problem. You and several other idiots are not seeing anything bad here.

      1. Patti, I certainly am not an idiot. I do not appreciate your assumption that I am. I just do not see this person trying to purposefully taunt the other dogs with this one dog, and even though it could have been a dangerous situation, the dog appeared to be comfortable with the inmate. I’m sure it was taken to the kill room at the end of this video. The dog did not seem stressed out to me. We all see things differently, and this is my take on the situation, as asked by the poster.

  11. Didn’t watch the video, so don’t have an opinion about what’s happening, but extremely bothered by the statement that Rogers thinks they’ve done such wonderful things in 100 days. Does he really believe that or is he so under the control of the current administration that he’s drinking the kool-aid?

  12. Gorgeous dog! (Too bad it will probably never make it out the door alive.) This clip shows a few things that need to be addressed – (1) inmates need trained on proper dog handling techniques like not letting the dogs harass the caged dogs when they are out, which they obviously aren’t being, (2) supervision, as we were promised, isn’t happening – unless of course the person cleaning the cage is the one who is supposed to be supervising him,in which case I never saw the other person look up once to address the inmate letting him get the dogs wound up and increasing stress levels which will in turn help spread disease…..yep the irresponsible public is the ONLY reason disease spreads here you know – not vaccinating their dogs and all that, (3) this fab state-of-the-art facility needs a “room” where the dogs can go to play and get attention while their cages are being cleaned instead of them being allowed to stress out the other dogs, and help increase their chances of getting sick and having to be killed.

    I’ll admit that it could appear that he is testing gameness, BUT I would want to see more of the clip (audio would be great, wouldn’t it?) AND see how this particular inmate is with other dogs BEFORE even saying that. If you look at the pit – tail wagging the whole time – it looks like it wants to play. BUT I do NOT like that he let the pit get the caged dogs wound up only to admonish them for barking – what did he expect them to do? I mean seriously – it’s HIS FAULT the dogs are wound up and instead of yelling at them he should be doing what he can to keep EVERY ONE OF THEM calm & happy. (From my experience with fight rings this wouldn’t come close to checking a dog for gameness and fight ability….now if another dog was out of it’s cage, then we’d be having a different discussion.)

    SO….I have to say that the city is failing in their promise to supervise inmates…..on top of their failure to save more animals lives….and do their “jobs” the RIGHT way. But at the same time…if not for the inmates then I HIGHLY doubt half these dogs would get ANY attention! You know, I bet Memphis would be a great place to start a prison dog program….get the dogs training & socialization, while helping inmates learn about caring for another living creature – think of the dogs that would be great adoption candidates AND save them from those damn dumpsters at the same time. I don’t have a problem with inmates at the shelter…I DO however have a problem with what appears to be a lack of training for the inmates – they should have to go through a training class just like a volunteer would – in fact more extensive because I’m betting half of them have NEVER had to care for a dog (and some of them, if they did, it was probably the same-old-same-old, criminal with a big bad pit that they have NO CLUE how to properly train/socialize/etc.)

    While I am happy that Mr. Rogers has slowly lowered the kill rate at MAS….it is light years from the kick ass shelter it COULD be! I wish I could get my hands on that shelter SOOOOO bad! I can’t even begin to tell you what I could/would do to MAS if only given a chance……UGH! The ONLY things that have changed are – they are in a new building, they have a new director, they have had some training (a lot of good that did), they are posting more animals online, and the kill rate has gone down a tad – other than that it appears to be business as usual. Poor babies…I feel for every single animal that gets stuck in that place!

  13. Scarlett – I agree with you – the dog fighting scenario is a stretch… and Dex – I also agree with switch this dog and this inmate with every other ignorant animal owner. What I see is an inmate trying to do what he can for one dog. The dog he’s holding on the leash. What he doesn’t know and hasn’t been told is 1) No animals should come nose to nose in a shelter environment 2) A free walking animal is an immediate threat to any animal who is confined. Simple things to train. He could’ve accomplished this by moving the stool away from the kennels – that area has plenty of space. I don’t understand why this brand new room was built so the kennels FACE each other. It appears that they may have room to back to back the kennels banks – and certainly should if they do have the room.

    I had inmate labor during my last Directorship. In reality if I had not had them – the animals would NEVER have been cared for. It took alot of management and continual training because you may get an inmate for 2 weeks and then he’s gone. Or he screws up again inside and they yank him. Or worse – he screws up inside your facility and YOU yank him.

    Sadly – Animal Care in the Government run Animal Control Facilities in Tennessee is not only not required but it is not considered an issue or important. Dogs do not get walked each day unless there are volunteers. None of us have the budget for man power.

    There is so little importance on the Animal Control Departments in Tennessee that the facility I direct right now is being State Audited for the first time in TEN years. Why? Because as the Auditor stated “These departments are financially Immaterial.”

    We have a long way to go.

    1. Not just in TN–open access public shelters in a lot of places depend on volunteers to walk the dogs, get an idea of their temperament, socialize them and help get them ready for adoption. Which is why the Friends are part of the problem at MAS. They should never be allowed to control volunteer or rescue access to the dogs and cats. MAS needs to open up to community participation and welcome volunteers–and not just in the adoption area. Friends has a role to play at MAS but it should not be an exclusive one.

      1. I agree, Jeanne! If they allowed volunteers outside of FoMAS, they would do really well – photographers, dog walkers, maintaining PetHarbor/Petfinder, etc.

  14. Absolutely agree. A county Animal Control should be open to any volunteers who have completed their orientation and training!

  15. Denise – One of the big chasms in Animal Welfare (and there are many) is the same issues about religion and politics. The name calling and the thought that ones’ personal opinion and certain group hold the ONLY acceptable answers. Disrespectful and not very enlightened. We’re all frustrated and we’re all here because we care about the animals and want the laws changed. I haven’t seen an IDIOT post here that I’ve noticed.

    1. Karen, for sure, I agree with you. I have sent numerous emails to my MAS contacts and expressed much concern…..of course, they don’t reply, unless Rogers thinks it’s “inaccurate and inflammatory”, his two favorite words. Nothing Yesbiscuit posts is true, as far as he is concerned.

  16. the guy doesn’t know anything about handling dogs, for sure. But give him credit for showing some affection for the dog as he’s sitting with it. As for the “face-off” with the kenneled dogs…. well, I’ve seen a lot worse in deliberate temperament evaluations by allegedly trained staff (used to “fail” the dog for “aggression”, while all it is showing is leash and barrier reactivity”.) Maybe MAS is training the inmates in these evaluations? (ok, not really) or maybe he read about it somewhere else.

    1. Yes, it’s possible that he read (or saw online) the wrong way to eval temperament in a shelter environment and was mimicking what he had read (or seen). And while I understand your comment about MAS training him specifically for behavior evals was not intended to be serious, I would like to clarify for everyone interested that of all the FOIA requests I’ve ever seen from MAS (and there have been many), I’ve never seen a behavior evaluation form on a single dog. And yes, that form has specifically been requested on numerous animals but none ever received. So based upon that information, I would say I have no evidence that MAS conducts evals on dogs.

  17. On one hand, I would scold him for getting the dog up in the other dogs’ faces without pulling the dog back quickly [enough] and smacking the cage but on the other hand, he’s like the one employee I’ve seen there who has shown ANY affection towards the animals and uses a leash instead of a chokepole, since I’ve started coming to this website, so…I dont know.

  18. I don’t think this in-mate has any experience handling dogs..that could have turned really bad, really fast. It was already mentioned.. what if another dog had been brought in that area.. that inmate does not appear to know how to read a dogs body language. He did not have a good short hold on that dog.. That scares me.

    Today I took a foster dog that I have had only two weeks to the vet. I had a friend of mine holding the dog with instructions to keep the dog very close to her. While inside the waiting room, two other dogs came in.. Ruby was reactive.. I had to rush over and get between Ruby and the other dogs. Ruby is not aggressive , but is fear reactive. It’s all in knowing what your doing/ watching/reading body language and preventing things from getting out of control. This inmate does not know what he’s doing, but I think he has potential . if given the training.

    Next.. since that dog was so good with the inmate, why is that dog even in the kill room.. that is such a waste. What a beautiful dog. That breaks my heart.

    P.S. it took about two hours to get my new foster settled in with FOUR large dogs.. they all love each other. it’s all about proper introductions.

      1. I don’t think it is. I think there was a comment about this dog probably ending up dead and someone extrapolated from that. This is just another holding area as far as I know.

  19. Aside from all that you all have mentioned… He keeps looking over his shoulder- just a guilty move, if you asked me

  20. I read the comments and then watched the video, and the video was a lot more benign than I was expecting.

    This looks like a guy who actually likes dogs but needs some better handling skills. Not that he’s likely to learn much at MAS.

    We all know MAS is not a good place. And there have been a lot of hard to watch videos, but this is not one of them.

  21. Why Check the teeth? it is easy for this inmate to contact person from outside to adopt this dog for their own purpose to use this dog. It is easy to lose the dogs info for the dog to go out the back door. Because the inmates are incarcerated means they broke the law in the first place and don’t follow the rules. They should not have unsupervised access to the animals. Why would MAS fight so hard to Not do the right thing. I believe they have something going on and any change will stop whatever is going on that they don’t want anybody to know about. They fight to hard not to change. Law enforcement needs to do a better undercover operation to find out more what is going on at MAS. Oh maybe one of the organizations that investigate dog fighting rings.

  22. I don’t consider doing something that you know is wrong or against the law a Mistake. That term is used to often. A mistake is when you didn’t know. Inmates know what they were doing at the time was against the law and wrong so I don’t see where they made a mistake . They did what they did and got caught.

  23. I have alot of experience with the use of Inmate Labor at a Tennessee Animal Control Facility. First and foremost – the fact that an inmate is an inmate does not necessarily mean this person is a felon or not law abiding. Just the opposite most times in my experience. For example – in Cheatham County, TN – where I live and was previous Director of AC – I did not have felons or violent Inamtes. Meaning – nearly 90% of my Trustee Laborers were in jail in Cheatham County for 11/29 – (Eleven Months and 29 days) for lack of child support payment. I will say that many were nere do wells – that could’t keep a job. BUT – I had many instances that this was the man’s FIRST incarceration for anything including non-payment and they had lost their jobs due to the economy and could not make enough money fast enough to pay their living needs and support. In Cheatham County, TN – you get 11/29 for this offense because the county runs it’s functions on Trustee Labor and they need the labor for 11/29. THEN according to TN State Law – when the person gets out of jail – after serving 11/29 for non-support payment – they have 30 days to secure employment and make a payment on their now even more seriously delinquent child support. If they do not – a Capias is issued and they get arrested again and must servce 11/29 for lack of child support payment. This can be done THREE times in a row. Once you’re in the system for this – you will be tracked and reincarcerated immediately. The State of Tennessee has a new program that they pay $$$ to jails who have incarcerated delinquent parents. WHEW. Alot to spit out. Having said that – I had several Inmates who loved the animals and were good to them and wanted to be at Animal Control – only to have them “taken away” out of my program because this was something they “wanted” and therefore should not have. They were then placed on Litter Patrol.

  24. He’s letting the dog fence fight, which doesn’t 100% mean he necessarily wants to be or is a dogfighter, but he almost certainly finds it funny. It’s a douchebag move and shouldn’t EVER be allowed to occur. But of course, its MAS, and we know they’ve done worse. :(

  25. yeah, not to put to fine a point on it but there’s NO WAY he is trying to “introduce” the dog to other dogs. The dog he’s holding is barking and reactive from the onset. He just decides to amuse himself by letting the dog go right up to the cages. And at the end when he is “petting him”…notice how incredibly tightly he is holding the dog to him. It’s creepy. Yes, I’d fall more on the douchebag than the idiot side of the equation. I’m sure they were trained not to use dogs to aggravate other dogs. The last thing a loud noisy kennel would need is someone riling the dogs up even more.

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