The concept of "animal control" has little to do with animal welfare and a lot to do with protecting citizens from nuisance and danger caused by roaming, freely reproducing, hungry critters. The most expedient way to deal with the problem is killing animals no matter whether they are vermin or companion animals. Most civilized communities abandoned this idea long ago where it concerns companion animals. Not Memphis politicians, not MAS. Extermination is still their approach, and it still has the virtue of expediency. It's cheap. Bring them in the back door, euthanize, send the carcass out to the dump or incinerator. No cages, cage management, veterinarians, food, record keeping, etc. MAS has always regarded interference in this mission as just that--getting in the way of their job. Animal advocates are just pains in the butt, demanding good treatment for animals and honest attempts to get them out alive to homes or rescue. The idea that MAS's JOB is actually to reduce animal homelessness by spay/neuter, education, active adoption, rescue collaboration and support services is resented, and Rodger's no-photo policy is simply gross petulance about recent noise concerning an investigation.
There are dozens of examples of cities, not very different in population size and economic circumstances from Memphis, that have gone from high-kill to no-kill (defined as 90% live release) in a matter of months. Mayor Wharton is up to his ears in denial about this: "blame it on a culture of poverty." No. Don't. Blame MAS on a poverty of humanity, ethics and imagination on the part of Wharton. Sorry, guy, I was with you up till now. Any politicians out there with a vision and the humanity to change MAS as has been done in cities like KC or Jacksonville, among many others? Step up! Many of us are waiting to sign onto your campaign.
The way to improve the situation at MAS is to do what the Pets Alive group is doing--volunteer to help get animals adopted or taken into credible rescue groups. Pets Alive is doing an amazing job. Individuals with connections to rescue groups can do this work on their own. Within the last few months, I have pulled 10 dogs for rescue. They are all in loving homes far away from Memphis. MAS dogs are very appealing for rescue, because they are healthy, completely vaccinated, and micro-chipped at a very small cost. Every single time, I dealt with extremely helpful and compassionate MAS staff, including Dr. Coleman and Glenn Andrews. One Tuesday evening, I saw him sitting with a big black and white pit bull mix and a little girl. They were all quietly playing, and it was clear that the dog and the child loved each other. I asked someone what was going on, and was told that the mother had come in to reclaim the dog, but the cost with fines was $180 and she didn't have it, so Glenn was minding the dog and girl while several people tried to help work it out. I left some money, but I don't know how it ended. Other times I saw him come to adopters aid with newly adopted frightened or rambunctious dogs. His concern for the dogs was always conspicuous. I've seen him calmly manage people fighting to adopt a particularly desirable dog by insisting on the rules. My guess is that the dogs that the investigator of the old MAS saw going out the door with Glenn or with Glenn's permission were ones he was trying to save. I believe he was one of the staff who helped me save a just-dropped-off injured puppy who was on her way to the needle. I don't know how it was accomplished, but I suspect it broke rules. That dog now lives in New Jersey and is a beloved member of that family.
Please spend your energy helping the animals. Exposing the evils of the old Herrington MAS was good and effective. Now it is time to devote energy to making MAS as good as it can be. Every creature saved is a step forward.
By Richard Alley
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