At a meeting of the Memphis Animal Services (MAS) Advisory Board this week, MAS director James Rogers called 2013 a "historic year" for the shelter because euthanasia was at an all-time low while the live release rate was hit an all-time high.
But critics of the animal shelter say that's because intake of animals is at an all-time low as well.
In 2013, 12,181 animals were taken into Memphis Animal Services, either because they were picked up by animal control officers or were surrendered by their owners. Of that number, 4,047 were released from the shelter alive (meaning they were adopted, transferred to rescue groups, or returned to their owners), and 7,692 animals were euthanized.
In 2009, the year MAS was raided by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office because some animals were malnourished and dying under former shelter director Ernest Alexander's care, there were 16,256 animals taken in at the shelter. Of that number, only 2,614 were released alive and 13,255 were euthanized. The intake rates have gone down every year since 2009.
Rogers points out that, although intake rates are lower for 2013, the percentage of animals released alive compared with how many were taken in is higher than in year's past. In 2013, 33 percent of the animals taken in were released alive, while in 2009, only 16 percent of the animals taken in were released.
"Adoptions have trended up for the last two years, and we have had a record breaking year for live release rates and adoptions," Rogers said. "And we will continue that course."
Regardless, several in the shelter reform camp believe the animal control officers aren't bringing in as many animals as they can. When MAS advisory board member James Adams asked Rogers why intake was so low in December (679 animals) compared with other months, Rogers blamed the Christmas holidays.
"In December, we usually have a lot of people out for the holidays. We have two holidays in December, and we had a cold snap where government was closed for a day," Rogers said in an interview after the meeting.
Cindy Sanders, a long-time advocate for shelter reform, has another theory: "I believe Mr. Rogers has fallen into the attitude that if they bring in less animals, they kill less animals. And it makes his numbers look better."
Several other issues were brought up at the quarterly MAS Advisory Board meeting, including two resolutions passed to try and tighten controls in the euthanasia room. The board recommended live feed cameras in the room to monitor euthanasia technicians, and they also recommended that every animal that is euthanized be sedated first. Currently, only 10 to 15 percent of animals receive tranquilizers before they are euthanized. A full story on these two resolutions will appear in the next print edition of the Memphis Flyer.