Memphis Animal Services volunteer Angie White considers herself a "dog and cat person," but since she began helping out at the shelter in June, her time has been spent caring for pigs and horses.
When White began her service this summer, the shelter had four horses and four pigs. Farm animals have to be auctioned by the city, but since there's currently a hold on auctioning animals, White spent her time trying to find out how to place the horses and pigs into new homes.
"I don't know much about horses or pigs, but I went to the feed store and got food and apples. I started coming down there every Tuesday and Thursday," White said.
Now the city attorney's office is drafting an ordinance to be considered by the Memphis City Council that would change the law to allow rescue organizations to adopt farm animals.
"As the ordinance reads now, the shelter can only dispose of dogs and cats through adoption. That makes all other types of animals the shelter receives the personal property of the city," said city attorney Jill Madajczyk. "Under the provisions of the charter, any personal property of the city has to be disposed of through public auction."
City property is auctioned at GovDeals.com, which handles auctions for cities across the country. But GovDeals has recently stopped listing animals on their website.
"That organization started getting some flak for listing animals on their website, so we've looked for an alternative site to list them in the meantime," Madajczyk said.
If the city council passes an ordinance to change the rules for farm animal adoption, a new auction website won't be necessary. But the horses and pigs White cared for remained in limbo this summer while the city tried to find a solution.
After White attended her volunteer orientation in June, she was allowed into the shelter's barn to view the horses and pigs, and she was informed that there was a freeze on auctioning them.
"The horses were skinny ... and the pigs were all kept in one stall full of feces and with no water," White said. "Three of the four horses were in stalls with poop up to their ankles, and they couldn't lie down."
White said she was told the horses were being kept in the stalls, rather than allowed to roam the pasture, because shelter employees were afraid one stud would impregnate the female horses, and the baby horse was "a jumper" who might escape. White was told employees were afraid to let the pigs out, because they might not be able to round them back up.
Since auctioning the animals was off the table, the shelter administration allowed White to locate rescue groups to adopt the animals.
"It took me about two weeks of watching the horses and going through the red tape, but they finally told me I could rescue them out. But it had to be through a 501(C)(3), not just a public adoption," White said.
Eventually, Dark Horse Rescue in Hernando, Mississippi, took the horses and a pig sanctuary in Cookeville was allowed to adopt the pigs. But White said she's looking forward to the ordinance change to make it easier on the shelter to find homes for farm animals.
Madajczyk said she hopes to have the proposed language for the new ordinance over to the council before their next regular meeting on October 4th.