Top Ten Things I Want to Hear from the New MAS Director

As many of you know, Memphis pound director James Rogers has been shown the door.  The mayor-elect has pledged to find a new director for the facility.  Here are ten things I’d like to hear that person say on day one, minute one:

10.  We do not kill animals here anymore.  We will euthanize animals who are deemed medically hopeless and suffering by a veterinarian.  They will be few and far between.  Most of the animals we will shelter until they are released to an adopter, foster or rescue group.

9.  We are posting photos of ALL THE ANIMALS online immediately upon impound. Lost animals picked up by ACOs will be photographed in the field so that the owners might find them online before the truck returns to the facility.

8.  This place has public webcams?  Turn those things back on!

7.  Dust off all these unused cages.  We’re going to be putting animals in them.

6.  Unlock all the doors.  The public paid for this facility and pays our salaries.  When the public comes in, they get to see ALL THE ANIMALS.

5.  Every dog in this place gets walked outside at least twice a day, preferably more.  Socialized cats get petted regularly.  Unsocialized kittens get tamed.  Get moving.

4.  Put all those chokepoles in storage.  They will be used rarely and correctly – basically the opposite of how they’ve been used.

3.  The shelter will now be open 7 days a week with extended hours on at least 5 of those days.  Because we want the public to come here.

2.  Shelter records are public information.  If a member of the public asks to see an animal’s records, shelter statistics or any other documents, show them.  Don’t tell someone trying to get an animal live released that she has to file a FOIA request to find out the pet’s medical condition.  That’s just douchey.

And the number one thing I want to hear the new MAS director say immediately upon getting one foot in the door:

1. YOU. ARE. ALL. FIRED!

spongebob

Feel free to add your own contributions in the comments.

Remembering Pets Who Died in Their Cages at the Memphis Pound: September 2015

Animals impounded by Memphis Animal Services fall over dead in their cages every month.  Here are the records for the pets who died in anonymity in September at MAS.

I am using this post to memorialize one of those pets who was impounded in “normal” condition then died in his cage the next day.  There are no notes to indicate why an apparently healthy dog suddenly died and no notes indicating anyone at MAS took the slightest interest:

281650 cage card  281650 med records

I’m sorry your last hours on this earth were spent alone in a cage at a pet killing facility. You are loved and you are not forgotten.

How many more, Memphis?

Memphis Pound Fails to List Animals Online for 10 Days

Screenshot of the last 4 dogs listed on the MAS PetHarbor website, taken October 29, 2015.

Screenshot of the last 4 dogs listed on the MAS PetHarbor website, taken October 29, 2015.

Screenshot of the last 4 cats listed on the MAS PetHarbor website, taken October 29, 2015.

Screenshot of the last 4 cats listed on the MAS PetHarbor website, taken October 29, 2015.

Animal advocates are concerned that once again, Memphis Animal Services is not updating the only online listings the city does for animals at the facility:  PetHarbor.  These listings, while far from ideal, are essential since MAS has limited hours, limited services, and lots of locked doors where animals are hidden from view.  In some cases, the online listing is the only way for anyone to know an animal is being kept at the facility.  As usual, MAS director James Rogers blames technical difficulties and wants everyone to please stand by:

From: Lou Ann Selves
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 3:06 PM
To: Rogers, James; Tunstall, DeKeishia Masha; Dunlap, Tracy
Subject: Pet Harbor

PetHarbor shows the last dogs that came into the shelter were on October 19. No dogs have been brought in since that date or has no one updated? Considering review dates are critical, some have a small chance of getting out of there if their info is not available.

Lou Ann Selves

***

On Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 3:41 PM, <James.Rogers@memphistn.gov> wrote:
Good afternoon Lou Ann,

We are aware of the issue and working with our IS department and Chameleon customer service to correct. Your patience is appreciated.

Thank you

James M. Rogers
Administrator, MAS

***

From: Lou Ann Selves
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 3:54 PM
To: Rogers, James
Cc: Tunstall, DeKeishia Masha; Dunlap, Tracy
Subject: Re: Pet Harbor

How will this “issue” affect the animals’ review dates who are coming into the shelter and have no chance to be posted to PetHarbor?

***

From: <James.Rogers@memphistn.gov>
Date: Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 3:55 PM
Subject: RE: Pet Harbor
To: Louann Selves
Cc: DeKeishia.Tunstall@memphistn.gov, tracy.dunlap@memphistn.gov

MAS will adjust accordingly. Thanks
***

Adjust accordingly. So MAS has been no kill for 10 days or… erm, something else?  The animals must really be piling up.  MAS might finally have to use all those brand new cages that have been collecting dust since the place opened.  Or not – video of the Puppy(less) Room at MAS taken this week by Jody Fisher:

So where are all the animals who have been impounded by MAS over the last 10 days?  Where are all the animals whose review dates have been adjusted in order to compensate for the city’s failure to list them online so they can be reclaimed, rescued or adopted?  Why does MAS have so many technical difficulties using PetHarbor?  Is PetHarbor designed for rocket scientist use only?  I reached out to Chameleon for comment last time MAS was blaming the company for the failure to post photos of animals (not very long ago) but no one responded.  Hopefully they are more responsive to their customers who have com-pew-tor problems.  Ten days is an awfully long time to leave animals’ lives hanging in the balance – if in fact any are actually still alive.

Cats Chemically Burned by Unsupervised Inmates at Memphis Pound

On May 31, 2015, a kitten named Snowflake, ID # 277907, was sprayed with an undiluted cleaning chemical (San-O-128) by an unsupervised inmate at Memphis Animal Services.  She suffered painful chemical burns on her legs, tongue and mouth.  She was treated by an outside veterinarian and survived.  This is security camera footage, obtained via FOIA request, of Snowflake being burned with the chemical by the unsupervised inmate at MAS.  (Note:  I edited this video to show both incidences of the kitten being sprayed with the chemical.)

On June 1, 2015, a one year old cat named Sydney, ID #277271, was also abused by the same unsupervised inmate at MAS.  She suffered painful chemical burns on her eyes, tongue, mouth and ears.  Sydney was treated by an outside veterinarian and survived.  (Warning: The video below depicts animal abuse and readers will find it disturbing.)

A month and a half later, it was noted in Sydney’s medical record by the MAS vet that she has a corneal defect:

Portion of MAS records for cat ID #277271.

Portion of MAS records for cat ID #277271.

On June 5, 2015, an owner was trying to reclaim his spayed, 10 year old cat called Uptimus (ID #278237) from MAS.  Due to the mandatory spay-neuter law in Memphis, MAS refused to release the cat without verifying a spay scar.  Uptimus had spent her whole life as an indoor pet and was very scared at the pound.  She would not allow a stranger to shave and examine her abdomen and so MAS continued to hold her until the veterinary staff could sedate her for an exam.

While Uptimus was waiting to go home, another inmate, also unsupervised, intentionally sprayed her with the same undiluted cleaning chemical used by the inmate in the previous videos to hurt the other 2 cats.  Uptimus was trapped in her cage and could not escape her torturer.  (Warning:  Although Uptimus can not be seen in the video, some readers will find it disturbing.)

Uptimus, her face swollen as a result of chemical burns, at MAS.

Uptimus, her face swollen as a result of chemical burns, at MAS.

Uptimus was found on June 6 wedged between the feral box and the side of her cage with severe facial swelling, severe drooling, and suffering from severe dehydration.  MAS staff determined she had been exposed to the undiluted cleaning chemical and sent her to an emergency vet clinic.  At the emergency clinic, Uptimus had an IV catheter placed as well as a feeding tube as her mouth was so swollen, she was unable to eat normally.  X-rays revealed she was suffering from chemical pneumonia.  She was found dead in her cage at 2am.

In light of the abuse which MAS failed to prevent and the terrible suffering endured by Uptimus as a result of this abuse, it is very difficult to read the notes from MAS staff members regarding their interactions with the pet’s owner, Mr. Kotee:

Portion of MAS records for Uptimus, cat ID #278237.

Portion of MAS records for Uptimus, cat ID #278237.

MAS staff wasn’t any nicer to Mr. Kotee after his pet died either:

Portion of MAS records for Uptimus, cat ID #278237.

Portion of MAS records for Uptimus, cat ID #278237.

I am so sorry for the needless heartbreak Mr. Kotee must be suffering. MAS management should have followed protocol and supervised inmates at all times. Instead inmates were left alone with cats to hurt them. And then MAS staff treated the owner like he was second class. I can absolutely understand Mr. Kotee not wanting to give these people his ID. MAS staff are apparently sticklers for following the rules when it comes to EVERYONE EXCEPT THEMSELVES.

Records for Snowflake and Uptimus, obtained via FOIA request, can be read here.  Additional records on Snowflake and Uptimus, as well as records for Sydney, can be read here.

A local paper reported that both inmates were charged with animal cruelty.  On July 11, a shelter supervisor who allowed the inmates to work unsupervised – a failure which resulted in the torture and death of a beloved pet and painful injuries to two other cats – received a written reprimand from MAS.  A second supervisor also received a written reprimand but it was rescinded 2 weeks later by MAS director James Rogers.

Number of cats chemically burned by inmates whom MAS staff failed to supervise:  three.  Number of cats who died as a result of their injuries:  one.  Number of MAS staffers who lost their job as a result:  zero.

How many more, Memphis?

Google Reviews of Memphis Pound

Some of the dozens of reviews which have earned MAS a 1.5 star rating on Google:

mas google reviews
mas google reviews1
mas google reviews2
mas google reviews3
mas google reviews4 mas google reviews5
mas google reviews6

(Thanks to the reader who sent in this link.)

Shelter Pet of the Day – Memphis, TN

Dog ID #281205 at the Memphis pound.

Dog ID #281205 at the Memphis pound.

Based on the number of animals the Memphis pound currently has listed on PetHarbor, there appear to be more than 350 empty cages at the facility today.

Screengrab from PetHarbor showing 192 animals listed by the Memphis pound on September 15, 2015.

Screengrab from PetHarbor showing 192 animals listed by the Memphis pound on September 15, 2015.

But dog ID #281205 can’t be allowed to live in one of those empty cages because he is “past his review date”.  And no one has applied to adopt him because he is being kept in a cage behind locked doors at the Memphis pound.  The public is barred from seeing him because, as one supervisor told rescuer Jody Fisher, “This is not a dog that should be in the adoption area – we would catch flack for having him out on the floor in his condition.”  He is not listed on PetHarbor either.  As usual, MAS is concerned about appearances, not lifesaving.

This fellow is old, he is HW+, he’s thin and it looks like he’s got a hematoma on his ear, possibly from an infection.  Maybe he’s not the most dashing dog in the place but I think he’s handsome and would look very nice with a lipstick kiss on top of his head.

If anyone wants to meet him, they’ll have to find a pound staffer willing to help.  And because MAS chooses to arbitrarily discriminate against certain dogs based on body shape, any potential adopter will have to jump through special hoops in order to save this dog.  But who doesn’t love a challenge?  The pound is open from 1pm to 7pm today.  Anyone interested in saving this dog must do so before 6:45pm.

Memphis city pound
2350 Appling City Cove
Memphis, TN 38133
(901) 636-PAWS (7297)
MAS@memphistn.gov

Let us know if you need help.

A Tale of Two Drain Dogs in Memphis

On April 5, 2015, Memphis firefighters rescued a dog who had been trapped in a drainage ditch for several days. The media was on hand to cover the story and the dog was taken to Memphis Animal Services. The publicity generated significant interest in the dog and pound director James Rogers indicated that the dog would be given preferential treatment and not be killed – the fate of most animals at MAS. When the dog was adopted, that made the news too:

The dog could have technically been euthanized last week but MAS promised not to kill the dog due to the high interest from the public.

MAS administrator James Rogers said, “The interest shows and the successful rescue and adoption of this pet reflects our community’s and MAS’ care and concern for the wellbeing of our pets.”

Gee, that sounds swell.  But in fact this is what MAS should be doing for every dog who comes into the facility and not just the rare pet whose impound gets shown on TV.  And if you’re thinking that sounds harsh, consider what happened to another dog who was trapped in a drain and impounded just 2 days after the first dog – only this time there was no media on hand to publicize the story:

Obtained via FOIA request, this is a portion of the Memphis pound records for dog ID #276411.

Obtained via FOIA request, this is a portion of the Memphis pound records for dog ID #276411.

Obtained via FOIA request, this is a portion of the Memphis pound records for dog ID #276411.

Obtained via FOIA request, this is a portion of the Memphis pound records for dog ID #276411.

Obtained via FOIA request, this is a portion of the Memphis pound records for dog ID #276411.

Obtained via FOIA request, this is a portion of the Memphis pound records for dog ID #276411.

This dog, like the first, was saved from a drain but arrived at the pound in rough shape. The MAS vet examined the dog and determined that he was unconscious and extremely pale and it would be preferable to kill him rather than try even one thing to see if the pet responded. No warm IV fluids, no medication, just nothing.

If this had been my dog and I saw that he had been rescued from a drain only to be killed upon arrival at the Memphis “shelter”, I would be devastated. Just because a dog is non-responsive upon impound does not automatically mean no treatment will help and there is no hope. That can only be determined after standard lifesaving protocols have been attempted and there is no positive response. There is no way to know that this dog was medically hopeless because not a single medical treatment was offered.

If the MAS vet wasn’t going to help, at least cover the dog with a blanket and give him a quiet place to rest while issuing a plea to the public for emergency assistance. But apparently doing anything at all for this dog was too much to ask. He didn’t have any camera crews filming his rescue or reporters following up on his story. All he got after being “rescued” and brought to MAS was a shot of Fatal Plus.

MAS chose to allow the first dog to live because the publicity garnered by the dog’s rescue prevented them from the usual outcome for their pets – killing.  MAS chose to give that dog special treatment.  MAS chose to kill the second dog whose story had received no publicity.  But both of these dogs had equal rights to live.  And as the publicly funded “shelter” in Memphis, it’s MAS’s job to protect both of these dogs from harm, along with every other animal in their care.  It should not be considered a matter of choice.

It’s not enough to choose to do your job when the TV cameras are on.  It’s what goes on behind closed doors that reflects MAS’s care and concern for the well being of their pets – to paraphrase some trifling bit of nonsense I read.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me info for this post.)

I Don’t Know But I’m Guessing It’s Not Based on Merit

Solitary pup tries to snuggle with metal in a cage at the Memphis pound.  (Photo via Facebook)

Solitary pup tries to snuggle with metal in a cage at the Memphis pound. (Photo via Facebook)

Last week a Memphis city council committee voted to accept a proposed 10.6% pay raise for employees at the city pound. The proposal includes an incentive for killing animals by paying workers who kill a higher wage than those who don’t. MAS already had this financial incentive in place but the union representing the employees made sure it was preserved in the new salary increase proposal.  Committee members Harold Collins and Joe Brown voted for the pay raise while Jim Strickland voted against it.

Are there any animal advocates who are politically active and involved with the city council in Memphis?  The pets at MAS really need a voice in government.  Right now, all they have is the employee union speaking to the city council.

The Memphis pound had a 50% kill rate in 2014.

(Thank you Clarice for the link and to the reader who sent me the photo from Facebook.)

Unraveling a Cover Up at the Memphis Pound

On April 2, 2015, animal advocate Beth Spencer contacted James Rogers, director of Memphis Animal Services, indicating she would like to photograph a dozen adoptable pets to be featured in a local magazine.  Her email reads, in part:

The tricky part here will be to make sure the animals we feature are not euthanized when the article is published on May 1. Can I send you the ID numbers after the photoshoot, then we can make some kind of notes on their cards and in the system, so they won’t be euthanized when the article is published? I can photograph extras, in the event the ones we’d photographed are adopted.

Rogers replied to Beth that same day:

Hello Beth,

Yes. Please provide the numbers so we can ensure we have them fully vetted and prepared for adoption.
Thanks for your help.

James M. Rogers
Administrator, MAS

After the 12 animals were selected and photographed on April 11, Beth sent this email to alert several people, including Rogers and MAS supervisors, that these pets should be kept alive:

From: Beth Spencer
Sent: Saturday, April 11, 2015 8:25 PM
To: Rogers, James
Cc: Tunstall, DeKeishia Masha; Edgeston, James; graycat13@yahoo.com; mingostar@aol.com; DebbieLFraser@bellsouth.net
Subject: Re: MAS in Click Magazine

Good evening,

Below are the ID’s for the animals that will be featured in Click Magazine. Please do not euthanize these animals. Per Mr. Rogers, the 6 dogs and cats below will be ready for adoption by the publishing date of 05/01/2015.

Dogs

A276251

A276091

A275930

A276371

A276559

A276264

Cats

A261116

A276152

A275657

A276289

A273887

A273889

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best,
Beth

MAS supervisor DeKeisha Tunstall confirmed that she had added the appropriate notes to each of the 12 animals’ records.

Since MAS kills the majority of its pets, it would indeed be “tricky” to keep these 12 animals alive from April 11 until after the magazine article was published on May 1. And as it turned out, too tricky.

On April 21, Beth says she learned from an MAS clerk that one of the dogs on her list had been killed because “no names were on the dog”. Dog ID #276371, a rottweiler she called David, had been killed by MAS on April 20. She emailed Rogers to request verification and to ask what had happened. Rogers replied, in part:

I am investigating to find out what went so terribly wrong with this one pet.

Beth asked the names of the 2 supervisors who signed off on the kill list for April 20. Rogers did not answer that question in his response but did include this:

Five people reviewed the list and did not catch this pet.

Beth again asked for the names of the 2 supervisors. Rogers replied, in part:

[T]he pet was signed off for euthanasia by the operations manager and me. There were extenuating circumstances identified by our staff concerning this pet that we should have communicated to you, but did not.

Local media covered the story of David’s killing and Rogers issued a press release on April 22 which reads, in part:

One of the pets selected by Ms. Spencer was not a good candidate for adoption. The pet was reviewed by the kennel staff and the clinical staff on Sunday, April 19, 2015.

Beth asked what the “extenuating circumstances” were which resulted in David being killed. Rogers wrote back:

On Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 7:46 AM, <James.Rogers@memphistn.gov> wrote:
Ms. Spencer,

Your request to house 12 pets for 21 days was a unique request to say the least. We have accommodated 11 of the pets on your list. I have apologized for the humane euthanasia of one of them because we did not inform you prior to euthanasia. MAS pets are reviewed daily, by kennel staff and clinical staff. A pet kept in this environment for extended periods of time is not good for the pet. Extenuating Circumstances; the pet was found to be heart worm positive, growling, having to have a muzzle to perform clinical interaction and was here past the review date. Your note to have the pet networked for CLICK Magazine was missed by the staff and the pet was humanely euthanized without notifying you.

James M. Rogers
Administrator, MAS

My, how quickly we went from “investigating to find out what went so terribly wrong with this one pet” to FFS lady, we kept 11 out of your 12 animals alive – isn’t that good enough for you?

Obtained via FOIA request, MAS records show that a note was placed in David’s record indicating he should not be killed as he was being featured in a magazine article. Records further show that David was killed, not for health or behavior as Rogers contended, but for “time”.
david MAS kill record

david MAS kill record2

There are no notes indicating that 5 people reviewed and approved David’s killing. There are no notes indicating the dog had any problem with aggression. He is described in the records as QAR and BAR (quiet/alert/responsive and bright/alert/responsive). The tech muzzled David before drawing his blood for the heartworm test on April 4 and there is a note that he growled during his vet exam that day. There are no notes indicating the dog was ever evaluated for his behavior by anyone. There are no notes indicating the dog was “reviewed by the kennel staff and the clinical staff on Sunday, April 19” for suitability as an adoption candidate. The sole note entered on April 19 says that the animal’s time has expired and there are no holds on the dog.

Beth said she specifically chose David, along with the other 11 animals, because of his solid temperament, describing him as a calm dog who would make an excellent pet. Photos taken by Beth on April 11 show him being handled by a volunteer:

David at MAS.  (Photo by Beth Spencer)

David at MAS. (Photo by Beth Spencer)

David at MAS.  (Photo by Beth Spencer)

David at MAS. (Photo by Beth Spencer)

Since this was not the first time a pet whom Beth had been trying to get adopted was killed by MAS, she asked Rogers what steps are being taken to prevent these types of killings from continuing to happen. Rogers finally answered her question on April 30, adding that he doesn’t want any response from her and that he considers the matter closed. These are the steps Rogers states he has taken in the aftermath of David’s killing:

The request by Beth Spencer to hold 12 pets she identified for 21 days for a magazine article was a unique occurrence.

This is something we haven’t done before and will definitely think about before approving again.

I have discussed thoroughly with the management/clinic staff and resolved to

1.) ensure memo is input and not a comment,

2.) check pets with a request like this daily and inform customer of changes in status

3.) ensure management/employees check comment box before disposition,

4.) MAS make recommendation of pets to be advertised as opposed to outsiders.

I guess it hadn’t occurred to me before how the word “outsiders” could be made to sound so… dirty. Ew. But yeah, looks like Rogers has learned some important lessons here. Agreeing to not kill pets is stupid and we won’t be doing that again. And don’t give up on that lame ass aggression story, even when there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it.

Beth would like to see James Rogers removed as MAS director. Respectful letters condemning David’s killing (in strong but polite terms) as well as the needless killing of thousands of other pets under Rogers’ leadership and calling for Rogers to be removed may be sent to Rogers’ bosses:

Mayor A C Wharton, Jr.
City Hall
125 N. Main St. Room 700
Memphis, Tn 38103
(901) 636-6000
mayor@memphistn.gov

Janet P. Hooks
Director, Parks and Neighborhoods
125 North Main, Ste. 200
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 636-6564
Janet.Hooks@memphistn.gov

LaSonya Hall
Deputy Director, Parks and Neighborhoods
125 North Main, Ste. 200
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 636-6564
LaSonya.Hall@memphistn.gov

(Thank you to everyone who sent me info on this story.)

More Tragic Cases of Veterinary “Care” at the Memphis Pound

Puppy ID #275425 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Puppy ID #275425 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Puppy ID #275425 was impounded as a stray by MAS on February 27, 2015. Her age was estimated as 8 weeks and she weighed just 7 pounds. Her intake condition was listed as “poor”. Records indicate she was unable to bear full weight on her right rear leg due to a dislocated hip. There was no x-ray taken at the “state of the art clinic” as notes indicate “system currently unavailable”. On March 5, it was noted that she had soft stool and that “overfeeding” must be ruled out as the cause. Records indicate she was being fed just 1/2 cup of food per day. A puppy this age and size would need to be fed this amount 3 – 4 times a day.  Feeding just 1/2 cup per day would presumably be prosecutable under local cruelty statutes.

A rescue group offered to take the puppy but MAS refused to release her intact.  Because policy, MSN, whatever.  On March 7, despite her young age, poor condition, dislocated hip and starvation diet, MAS spayed the puppy. She died shortly after the procedure.

***

Dog ID #275494 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Dog ID #275494 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

An 8 year old dog, ID #275494, was impounded as a stray by MAS on March 2, 2015. The medical records indicate he was “emaciated” with a body condition score of 1/9 and had “deep degloving type wounds” to both front legs and “pyotraumatic dermatitis over rump”. The vet notes state that the dog needed “daily cleansing of wounds”. There are no notes to indicate the dog ever received this daily wound cleansing. There are no notes indicating the dog ever received any medication for pain. In fact, the note “monitor for pain” was entered in the vet notes on March 2, as if there was some doubt as to whether a dog whose front legs are flayed would experience pain.

Thankfully after 10 days at the pound, the dog was pulled by a rescue group.  I assume he finally got the care he needed immediately thereafter, thanks to the irresponsible public.

Taxpayers pay the head veterinarian at MAS $87,400 a year.  In case any vets out there are looking for a job where you don’t have to work too hard.

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