Come August, Memphis Animal Services may be open nine fewer hours per week.
Memphis Animal Services director James Rogers made the announcement last week that the city shelter may be cutting its business hours due to budgetary concerns.
The news came during the quarterly public Memphis Animal Services Advisory Board meeting. Rogers said the shelter is looking at changing its hours to noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.
Currently, the shelter is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday. It is currently closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Although Rogers cited the city’s budget woes as the reason behind shortened hours, there has been no reduction of staff or staff hours at the shelter. Rogers said that by shortening the shelter’s public hours, he hopes to make time for more spay and neuter surgeries on adoptable animals.
“We are dedicated to making sure we give the best service with the budget we are given,” Rogers said. “What we are trying to do is increase the number of adoptions out. How we do that is have more time for our surgeons to complete adoptions within a certain window.”
Shelter reform advocates at the meeting argued that under the new MAS hours, those with 9-to-5 jobs will not be able to retrieve a lost pet. They said the new hours also give a lost animal less of a window of time to be retrieved before being euthanized.
“MAS … [has] to follow a protocol that keeps an animal alive for at least three business days while the owner tries to locate them,” said Cindy Sanders, co-founder of Community Action for Animals. “Under these new hours, with Sunday and Monday being open for only two hours, if a dog comes in on Friday and the owner can’t make it to the shelter in that small timeframe, the pet could be euthanized on Tuesday.”
The reduced hours at the shelter will also make things harder for Memphis Pets Alive, a local group that posts photos online of shelter animals up for adoption. Volunteers from Pets Alive take the photos every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m., but under the new hours, the shelter won’t be open then.
Memphis Pets Alive Executive Director Linda Baxter said her organization had no idea a change in hours was being made. She’s also concerned that MAS’ adoption discount days, Wag Along Wednesday and Yappy Hour, which are held in the evenings, will be affected by the new hours.
“We have more than 5,000 followers on Facebook, and we work rigorously to network our photos of adoptable animals around the country,” Baxter said. “Not only are the highly successful Wag Along Wednesday and the Yappy Hour programs being eliminated under these hours, but the small window that we had to get photos of all available animals at the shelter is now closed.”
The MAS Advisory Board passed a motion recommending the shelter to stay open on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 7 p.m., but the final decision on the hours rests with city Parks and Neighborhoods Director Janet Hooks. She expects to make a decision by mid-August. Sanders and Baxter feel that this is the latest in a series of mistakes made by MAS.
“The lack of knowledge, lack of training, and lack of sympathy has led to a lot of really bad decisions by Mr. Rogers, but this is by far the worst decision he has made,” Sanders said. “The fact that he states it’s a budgetary decision is insulting. He blames this on the budget when he admitted at the meeting that he was not cutting personnel or people’s hours.”