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.)