Memphis City Official Explains Why Killing Pets Even Faster is Going to Be So Awesome

Manhandled kitten, as posted by MAS on PetHarbor.com

Manhandled kitten, as posted by MAS on PetHarbor.com

If you are partial to flowery political speeches, you might like to read the city’s full explanation for why it’s retaliating against rescuers shortening hours at the Memphis pound and proposing to kill pets faster than ever.  But if you’d rather blind yourself with rusty pokers than read more bullshit excuses for killing animals, I’ve got you covered.  Here’s the takeaway:

The proposed change in hours will assist with the reduction of holding time of animals from 5 days to 3, saving 104 days annually in the cost of food, work hours (animal care techs and vets), housing, medical supplies, etc.

Shorter:  Dead pets don’t eat food and take up cage space.  The faster we can kill them, the less we have to do our jobs.

So there it is.  In case anyone was wondering where the city of Memphis stands on the issue of animal sheltering.  It’s a no.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me this link.)

Memphis Expands its Retaliation Against Rescuers and Owners of Lost Pets

Screengrab from PetHarbor of a lost dog, posted by the Memphis pound.

Screengrab from PetHarbor of a lost dog, posted by the Memphis pound.

Ever since Mayor Wharton put straight man James Rogers in charge of Memphis Animal Services, MAS has become lolMAS.  While MAS slaughters pets by the thousands, Rogers blathers on about being “on a positive trend” and continuing the “march forward in terms of excellence”.  When rescuers started doing his job for him by volunteering to photograph shelter pets and network them on social media, he retaliated with a ban on photography.  When his ban was recently overturned by the city, he had to dig deep into his bag of shenanigans:

Memphis Animal Services director James Rogers is shortening shelter hours.

Specifically, Rogers is eliminating the evening hours, which totally by coincidence happens to be when most people, including the rescuers who photograph pets, can get to the pound.  He’s also eliminated all morning hours – because hey, who wants to deal with the unwashed masses before noon?

He’s got explanations people, so please buckle in:

He says his goal is to increase adoptions.
[...]

Rogers calls it a budget cut, but he is not cutting the number of staff members or the hours MAS employees will work. The only thing changing is the hours the shelter is open to the public.

By being open 9 less hours a week for adoptions, including the hours most people can get there, he’s going to increase adoptions. And it’s going to save money in the budget, even though every single staffer will be paid exactly the same as they are now so no actual dollars will be saved. Also: increased adoptions!

As soon as Rogers announced the changes at a public meeting of the pound’s advisory board on Wednesday, people knew what was up:

“There were two evenings a week they were open late. You’re eliminating both. On one Memphis Pets Alive took photos to network,” people in the crowd said.

Those against the changes pointed out there are now no hours for those who work 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to come.

The hour shift is also cutting into the shelter’s popular Thursday adoption event called Yappy Hours. It’s held from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Rogers admits the events are a huge help.

“What we’re trying to do is increase number of adoptions,” Rogers said to people in the crowd laughing.

All the credit for keeping a straight face, Rogers.  But there is something sinister going on here, beyond the obvious retaliation against rescuers and the ridiculous excuses.  Included in the announcement about shortened hours was another change:  MAS would open at noon for 2 hours each on Sundays and Mondays strictly for owners of lost pets to be shown some of the animals in the facility by staff members.

Since MAS has previously been closed entirely on Sundays and Mondays, those days were not counted against strays when determining their mandatory 72 hour hold.  With the announcement that the pound would open for 2 midday hours on Sundays and Mondays, comes a change in how Rogers calculates the mandatory hold for strays.  Sundays and Mondays will now count as 2 of the 3 mandatory hold days, even though the shelter is closed for all but 2 midday hours each of those days.

I am not an attorney but I think there is a legitimate case to be brought against the city of Memphis here.  The city appears to be subverting the intent of the 72 hour holding period for strays by playing games with the pound’s business hours.  It is entirely possible that a pet owner in Memphis who works a day job could not get to the facility to search for his lost pet during the newly announced, limited hours.  Since MAS does an extremely shabby job of posting impounds online and since the pound kills lost pets immediately after the 72 hour holding period expires, the new hours are in effect an automatic death sentence for many lost pets.  And Rogers won’t allow these animals to live, even for one day past their holding periods:

MAS holds stray dogs for 72 hours as required by law. The shelter has been euthanizing the dogs immediately once their time is up, often before opening and allowing them a chance to be adopted. Board members are questioning that logic, especially when the shelter has empty kennels.

The director’s explanation for why strays need to be put down immediately isn’t adding up.

“It behooves us to follow the law which is 72 hours,” said director James Rogers. “Anything beyond that opens us up to the susceptibility of allowing parvo to increase.”

“It’s a disease of puppies,” said Stephen Tower, who is a veterinarian and on the MAS advisory board. He argued an extra few hours won’t cause any greater risk. “I don’t buy that exposure argument.”

“According to the director of veterinary medicine at Memphis Animal Services, the parvo virus has mutated and it does affect adult dogs now,” Rogers said.

But just a few weeks ago, the head veterinarian Rogers is talking about said the exact opposite at an open press conference about parvo.

“There is some acquired immunity with older pets, so I don’t think the public should be concerned about adopting an older pet,” said Dr. Rebecca Coleman.

So to recap:

MAS is eliminating the evening hours that many adopters and rescuers can get there to save lives. To increase adoptions.

The shortened hours are going to save money. Not actual money but possibly Rogers has cut out some rectangles from construction paper and drawn pictures of himself and dollar signs on them and likes to pretend he can buy unicorns and fairy dust with them – those dollars might be saved.

Sundays and Mondays will now be counted against strays under mandatory 72 hour hold. Because parvo is magic and now infects all adult, vaccinated dogs at MAS and immediately zaps them with death rays on the 73rd hour.  And Rogers’ kill techs aren’t going to get beaten to the punch by no magic parvo death ray.

Memphis, this is your animal “shelter”.  File an emergency injunction to stop the killing.  Address your city council.  Demand meaningful reform.  Do something.

(Thank you to everyone who sent me these links.)

Memphis: One Step Up and Two Steps Back

Dog ID #267072 at the Memphis pet killing facility, as shown on Facebook.  Her "review date" is tomorrow.

Puppy ID #267072 at the Memphis pet killing facility, as shown on Facebook. Her “review date” is tomorrow.

After much public outcry, Memphis Animal Services has announced it will again allow Memphis Pets Alive and other rescuers to photograph pets in the healthy hold area before their review dates expire.  Photographs of the cage cards will again be allowed as well.  The statement from the city, which can be read in full here, is hardly anything to celebrate.  Although MAS staff is again allowing members of the public to do their jobs for them, as they were before, there are new restrictions in place which appear to be at least cruel and at worst, illegal.

MAS now stipulates that rescuers will be allowed just the first two business days of the mandatory three day holding period to save animals from the kill room.  Obviously MAS wants to protect its staff from the annoyance of dealing with e-mails and phone calls from rescuers wanting to save animals on their kill day.  Once the first two days of the holding period have passed, MAS staff has the green light to kill the animal – no need to even check if there is an owner standing in the lobby holding a leash and collar I guess.

The city’s statement also attempts to restrict the First Amendment rights of anyone using the photos:

Photos taken of animals housed at the facility are not to be used in any negative campaign or propaganda against Memphis Animal Services.

MAS is primarily a pet killing facility.  If city officials are worried about American citizens truthfully saying so in public, they need to find jobs outside the U.S.  Speech is protected in this country and anyone who wants to express that MAS is wrong to kill animals, that the staff doesn’t do their jobs, or any other “negative” opinion about MAS is free to do so.

Finally, I think it’s important to restate something that has long been true at MAS, even before the current administration began its shenanigans:  No member of the public has had access to every animal in the facility, including those in the so-called stray areas, in years.  MAS continues to impound pets, hide them in areas deemed off-limits to the public, then take them to the kill room after 3 days with no one ever knowing they were there.  The reversal of the photo ban does not change that.

Pardon me if I find little worth celebrating in the draconian measures being employed by MAS to continue its needless dog and cat killing spree.  And I’ll be saying so.  Still.  More.

MAS Moves to Increase “Time and Space” Killings with Photo Ban

Memphis Animal Services (MAS) is a pet killing facility which has long cited “time and space” as its primary reason for killing dogs and cats.  In order to counter the alleged time and space issues at MAS, a group called Memphis Pets Alive has been photographing pets at the pound weekly, sharing them on Facebook.  In this way, owners looking for lost pets have an opportunity to see clear photos on an easily navigable and popular website – a service the pound does not provide.  In addition, rescuers and potential adopters can see the pets currently at the pound and begin making arrangements to get the pets out alive once the holding period expires, a date which Memphis Pets Alive notes on its posts.

The marketing of pets immediately upon impound is an important tool used by shelters wishing to increase their return-to-owner and overall live release rates as well as reducing their average length of stay.  MAS does not market pets upon impound, selectively choosing to photograph only some pets, using seemingly arbitrary criteria, and list them on a user-unfriendly website not designed for the public to navigate.  But Memphis Pets Alive has helped bridge the gap by photographing pets every week and sharing them on Facebook.

This week however, Memphis Pets Alive was informed by pound director James Rogers that they would no longer be allowed to photograph pets who are still within their mandatory holding period.  The “review date”, as MAS terms it on its cage cards, must be met before anyone is allowed to photograph the pets.

The Tiny Problem with That:  MAS typically kills pets the day of, or the morning after, their so-called review date.  Review is MAS-speak for Kill.  Some examples of pets who have been killed by MAS on, or within hours of, their review date:

  • Beauty and Rocko – two young, healthy dogs whose owner wanted them back.
  • Two owned dogs who were supposed to be quarantined at MAS for 10 days but who were killed after 72 hours because “review date”.
  • 3 year old mixed breed dog who was impounded after the owner fell behind on utility bills and killed by MAS on her review date.

In addition, the following pets listed on the Memphis Pets Alive Facebook page are just some who were recently listed as having been killed on their review date:

Dog #265867 at the Memphis pound, listed as killed on his review date.

Dog #265867 at the Memphis pound, listed as killed on his review date.  [Photo by Memphis Pets Alive]

Tragically, these dead pets are the “lucky” ones, in terms of MAS killing, since they were allowed to live until their review date.  MAS also kills pets before their review date.  Nola, a lost dog whose owner went to MAS trying to find her, was killed before her review date.  And pets who are owner surrendered do not get the “benefit” of a review date at all.  MAS often kills them upon impound.

Needless to say, shelter pet advocates raised hell about the photo ban.  After all, MAS is still killing pets for “time and space” but now actively blocking efforts by advocates to reduce the supposed time and space burdens placed upon the $7 million pet killing facility.  The city posted a response on its website which explains that the reason for the dick move ban is because MAS doesn’t want a potential adopter to see a pet’s photograph on Facebook and mistakenly believe the animal is immediately available for adoption.  Because MAS cares, really, so much:

MAS views the emotional trauma of such an unfortunate misunderstanding too great a risk[...]

I wonder how much of an emotional trauma it is to have your pet killed by MAS because of “time and space”, such as has happened to so many Memphis pet owners.  But I guess Memphis is all full up on caring.  The city can’t possibly care one iota more.  It’s too great a risk to consider more caring.  So please everyone, stop bothering MAS about its enormous level of caring.  Just leave it alone and quit bringing up how hugely much MAS cares.  Because the caring, it’s bulging and gigantic.  And space is an issue.

(Thanks Arlene for sending me info on this story.)

Fitchburg Animal Control Kills Owned Pet During Holding Period

Capone, as pictured on the WHDH website.

Capone, as pictured on the WHDH website.

On April 20, 2014, MA pet owner Maghan Moynihan says her family’s 2 year old dog Capone escaped through an open door while not wearing his collar.  She immediately got in her car, searching for him on every street in the area.  She also called Fitchburg ACO Sue Kowaleski, with whom she had established a relationship due to Capone’s previous escapes, to advise that he was lost.

Ms. Moynihan says she didn’t receive a return phone call from the ACO until Tuesday morning.  Oddly, the ACO was calling to ask her if Capone had ever been aggressive.  Ms. Moynihan said that Capone had absolutely never displayed any aggression and that she trusted the gentle pet with her children, ages 4 and 8.  Odder still, the ACO showed up at the Moynihan family’s home a few hours later.  This time, the ACO requested Ms. Moynihan and her partner drive down to the pound to identify a stray dog whom the pound had killed for aggression recently. That dog was Capone:

“It was horrible. He was freezing cold. He was on a table. They had a blanket over him. They pulled it down to show us the face. We all lost it in there.”

Ms. Moynihan was heartbroken and wants to know what happened but the pound has provided very little information to date. It is known that Capone got into a building on the day he escaped where a Good Samaritan held onto him until AC arrived. The Good Sam, who was with Capone most of the day, described the dog as being friendly to him and his girlfriend, growling only at their dog and at the ACO who impounded him with a chokepole.

Regarding the circumstances that resulted in Capone’s quick killing:

Amy Egeland, the part-time manager of the Fitchburg Animal Shelter, also said she is unable to comment because of the investigation. The shelter is mostly staffed by volunteers, including Carol Stacy who said Capone was a vicious, aggressive dog that indirectly caused Egeland to be injured and was a known problem animal in another city.
[...]

Stacy said Capone was aggressive and tried to escape his cage in front of Egeland and visiting certified animal experts who train and evaluate the visitors. Stacy said Capone got halfway out of his cage and attacked another dog, which became agitated and attacked Egeland.

So it was the other dog, not Capone, who injured the shelter manager.  But Capone, having bitten no person, is the one who had to be killed?

He was a problem in another city? Does the city of Fitchburg play the Telephone Game in order to determine which pets they want to kill?

Fitchburg staff and/or vols failed to keep Capone properly confined at the pound and allowed him to get into a fight with another dog they had irresponsibly placed directly in front of his cage. Then they killed him, effectively destroying the evidence of any wrongdoing.

“It wasn’t that sweet little dog people are making it out to be,” said Stacy.

This is how the Fitchburg vols talk about family pets who were killed during the holding period? Just eww.

The city now claims that ACO Kowaleski was sick on the day Capone escaped and did not receive Ms. Moynihan’s message. Though ACO Kowaleski was apparently available to talk on the phone to Ms. Stacy regarding Capone:

She said Kowaleski was notified of what happened but did not see Capone. Kowaleski authorized [Assistant ACO Michael] East to euthanize the animal, Stacy said.

The city of Fitchburg’s website gives ACO Kowaleski’s phone number as the solitary contact for owners to report lost pets.  There are no other contact names or numbers.  The opening sentence on the pound’s Petfinder page reads:

Fitchburg Animal Shelter holds all stray dogs for 7 days.

I keep going back to that initial phone call to the owner by the ACO on Tuesday morning, asking if Capone was aggressive. Does this whole thing not reek of cover-up?

The city of Fitchburg still has not provided Ms. Moynihan with answers regarding why Capone was killed during the holding period. The city police department is investigating the city AC department in the matter. Ms. Moynihan wants the person who authorized Capone’s killing to be fired. And she wants people to know that her pet was family to her:

“He loved playing with other dogs, he loved playing with the kids. He was just like my son. Just another kid.”

Fitchburg taxpayers, this is your animal “shelter”. Demand that the city staff start doing their jobs to shelter animals and hold lost pets so their owners can reclaim them. Maybe if the city starts doing its job instead of killing owned pets, the pound might attract more compassionate volunteers, which would also be a plus.

(Thanks Clarice and Bonnie for sending me this story.)

Tiny Dog Dies at Coffee Co Pound, Mayor Produces a Thermometer

Nicky Bandy wanted to adopt a Chihuahua at the Coffee Co pound in TN.  The pound has indoor/outdoor concrete runs and Ms. Bandy was concerned about the temperature of the concrete floor – the only surface on which the dog could stand or lay.  She says she offered a blanket for the dog’s run but the director refused to accept it.  She was so concerned the dog would freeze to death on the concrete, she returned to the pound daily to check on the pet.  Last Friday, Ms. Bandy was told the dog had died.

Local animal lovers complained to the mayor and he reportedly visited the shelter personally on Monday to determine the temperature of the inside portion of the run in which the dog died.

“At 7:30 this morning I rolled in here, we shot another temperature – the same pen that the little animal was in. It was 62.6 degrees. It was 28 degrees outside,” said county Mayor David Pennington.

I am guessing the mayor checked the temperature of the air while standing in the kennel.  This would not be the same temperature as the concrete on which the short-coated toy breed dog was sleeping.  This should be obvious to someone smart enough to run a county.

Chihuahuas are not farm dogs, sled dogs nor any of the other types of dog who are equipped to survive winter temperatures without protection.  They require human intervention if they are to survive such conditions and any shelter director should know that.  But the director at the Coffee Co pound offered this keen insight:

“I don’t know who made the statement the dog was froze to death, but it was not,” said Coffee County Animal Control Director Kevin Brown. “I really don’t know why it died other than old age.”

Well it’s not impossible, although it seems highly unlikely to me.  The answer could be determined via necropsy, if anyone on the county payroll wanted the truth:

The county says it has no plans to get a necropsy to determine why the dog died.

I guess that answers the question of whether anyone pocketing their paychecks courtesy of county taxpayers wants the truth.

When a pet owner in Coffee Co is accused of allowing a dog to freeze to death, does the mayor whip out his thermometer and decide that no investigation or charges are appropriate based upon the reading?  If not, there appears to be a double standard between what the county requires of citizens and what it requires of itself.

It will be up to local advocates to push the county for reform and demand the pound be held to a higher standard than the mayor’s dog and pony show with the thermometer.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me this story.)

OMG! These two should totally be friends!

Deborah Broughton, head of Petersburg Animal Care and Control in Virginia:

“The biggest problem is that some people are holding the pound to a shelter standard.”

Commissioner Gene Buckner, head of the Mercer Co pound in West Virginia:

“We’re not here to euthanize animals. These no-kill shelters are forcing us to do that.”

(Thanks Clarice and Vicki for the links.)

NM Shelter Still Functioning Primarily as Pet Killing Facility

From an article in the Las Cruces Sun-News titled “Report: Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley kill rate drops in 2012“:

The center took in more than 13,000 animals last year and just over half were euthanized.

The number is a 17 percent decrease from 2011.

Although the title of the piece specifically references a drop in the shelter’s kill rate, the “17 percent decrease” cited is reflective of actual numbers, irrespective of intake, which is misleading.  In fact, the actual kill rate at this facility decreased a mere 5% from 2011 to 2012.  (See page 13 of the shelter’s annual report for 2012.)  The stunningly minor decrease in killing makes the director’s enthusiasm all the more confusing:

“Finally the programs that were implemented in 2008 are starting to bear fruit,” said center director Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock, who took the helm in 2008. “You can see the euthanasia numbers are really, really dropping. It’s finally coming together.”

I was unable to locate any 2008 stats for this facility but on page 10 of the 2010 annual report, it says the 2009 kill rate was 60% and the 2010 kill rate was 56%.  In 2011, the kill rate was 57% and in 2012 it was 52%.  So taking into account the publicly available information for the kill rates in the years 2009 through 2012, there is an 8% decrease.  The suggested 17% decrease in kill rates does not exist anywhere.  The main thing happening at this facility is dog and cat killing – same as it ever was.  It’s been 5 years.  How many more years are needed before the staff start doing their jobs and stop killing pets?

In 2012, Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley killed more than 3100 animals for being feral or timid.  Over 1200 animals were killed for space with the vast majority of them being Pitbulls.  A greater number were killed for treatable medical conditions such as coughs, colds, ringworm, and tragically – pregnancy.  (See page 11 of the 2012 annual report.)

“It’s finally coming together” would probably be the last words that spring to mind in describing this pet killing facility.  More like, it’s continuing to come apart.  I guess I see why the director attempted to spin the numbers to fool taxpayers and donors.  It’s not like telling the truth would be a good option if all you had to show for your years of work was a landfill bursting with tens of thousands of dead dogs, cats, puppies and kittens.  Assuming you wanted to keep your job killing animals, that is.

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

Shelter Reform Group Goes All Advocacy on City Council

California – Five volunteers who say they were fired from the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Care and Adoption Center in retaliation for speaking out against the shelter are part of a local advocacy group working to bring about reform.  Several members of the group spoke out at a recent city council meeting.  They would like to be reinstated and to put an end to the killing:

“The city needs to have a director who is supposed to be doing what the city said they would do in 2005,” said Susan Keithly, a shelter volunteer who was dismissed in November. “We are saying they need a confident, committed director who can achieve “no kill” now.”

The city manager, John Gillison, supports the current shelter director, both of whom are sailing aboard the S.S. We’re Doing the Best We Can with weekend excursions to the port of We All Want the Same Thing.

The city is apparently bragging about an 80% adoption rate but attorney Marla Tauscher, also a group member, set the record straight at the meeting:

She projected the animal shelter document she was given by the city on the view screen at the council meeting.
“The adoptions for dogs were actually 47 percent and for cats it was 31 percent for a combined average of 39 percent, which is about half of 80 percent,” Tauscher said.

Oops.  Nothing like having your lies exposed by your own records.

Shelter employee Jesse Kreider spoke to the council about a sign for a local political candidate, endorsed by shelter reformers, being used for target practice by management at the shelter.  Mr. Gillison didn’t want to talk much about that.  And despite saying at one point during the meeting, “There may be a disagreement about the current administration of the center and how the programs are being run, and that’s a fair topic for public conversation,” Mr. Gillson later “said he would not engage in a point, counter-point debate with the issues raised by the speakers, nor could he not speak to personnel matters related to the dismissals, or the issues raised by Kreider.”

So much for fair topics of conversation.  And so much for fair in general, as Mr. Gillison complained about the reform advocates:

“They have made these allegations to anyone who will listen.”

Yeah, what kind of decent advocacy group goes around spreading their message whenever they can?  That’s just annoying.  They should have quietly written down their complaints and stored them “in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”  I mean, be reasonable.

We all want the same thing – but some need dessert too.

At a public meeting last month, Kim Alboum, the NC director for HSUS, told a group of Person Co citizens concerned about the fact that the local pound was gassing roughly 7 out of 10 of the pets in its care:

“I can’t tell you just how far it goes to just stop at the shelter with some cupcakes or cookies if you have an issue and say ‘let’s just chat’.”

Totally.  Because people who stuff puppies, kittens, dogs and cats into a gas chamber hand over fist instead of doing their jobs should be rewarded with baked goods and social activity.  Then, when they hear your ideas on how they could stop killing pets and start saving them whilst downing your culinary delights, they reform themselves.

Maddie’s Fund seems to have jumped on the idea of advocacy through confections and has this tip for those wanting their local shelter to stop killing community cats:

Email or call the animal control director and ask if you can come by for a short talk. He won’t answer your call or email? Stop by with a couple dozen donuts and see if you can catch him in his office. If you get to talk to him, great; if not, leave your business card with your cell phone number asking him to call you. Leave the donuts and spend some time talking to whoever you can, taking care not to get in the way of their work.

Yeah, don’t get in the way of their work and make sure you are not blocking the aisle in front of the gas chamber because that is a heavy traffic area.

If you are wanting to save the community cats currently being killed by your local shelter director and he refuses to even reply to your e-mails or take your calls, you should definitely run right out and get a couple boxes of Krispy Kremes to personally deliver to the pound.  But why stop there?  Wouldn’t a bouquet of daisies be really sweet?  How about a heart shaped box of assorted chocolates?  Because remember, you are really asking a lot from your paid public servants here.  You are asking your shelter director to start doing his job when he’s already clearly indicated to you that he is not interested in what you have to say.  But of course a box of savory deep-fried pastries will have him reforming the pound in no time.

(Thank you Ryan for the link.)

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