Stray dogs and cats in Memphis usually end up either toughing it out on the streets or waiting on death row at the Memphis Animal Shelter. There are a handful of no-kill shelters in town, such as the Memphis Humane Society, but policies designed to prevent overcrowding usually prohibit them from taking in just any stray. Memphian Susan Mah hopes to offer more options soon with Furry Friends No-Kill Home, a future Midtown shelter that she says will offer refuge to 72 dogs and cats.
"A lot of times driving around, you'll see dogs running around in the street about to get hit by a car, and there's really no place you can take that dog or cat and feel comfortable leaving it there," said Mah. Currently, the only other no-kill shelter with an open-acceptance policy for both dogs and cats is Sunny Meadows Safe Haven for Pets in Bartlett. Mah said she wants to provide an additional refuge by purchasing a building at 1448 Madison Avenue. As for other no-kill shelters, the House of Mews only accepts cats, and the Humane Society only takes in injured or abused animals. The Memphis Animal Shelter euthanizes about 10,000 strays each year. Current policy allows animals only three days before putting them to sleep.
"We really need a place in Memphis where you can take an animal no matter what shape it's in and know that it will not be killed," said Mah.
Furry Friends is still in the planning stages, but Mah hopes to have it operating by September. She has begun a fund-raising campaign for about $200,000 to get started and so far she's raised $21,000. She recently organized a fund-raising committee of six to help move the process along. Furry Friends has been registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and the 4,388-square-foot facility on Madison has been identified as properly zoned for a no-kill animal shelter.
Some of the animals at Furry Friends will be eligible for adoption. Eligibility will be determined by the animal's health. When an animal is brought in, it will be taken into a newcomer ward where it will be housed in a cage for seven days while its condition and behavior are observed.
Sick animals will receive care provided by local veterinarians willing to volunteer their time or donate their services at a low cost. All animals that come through the home will be spayed or neutered.
Healthy animals will be transferred to one of six pet apartments complete with furniture, rugs, and other home furnishings. One large apartment will house four dogs. Three small apartments will each house two dogs, and a medium apartment will house three dogs. The other apartment will hold 12 to 15 cats.
"It'll be like a little home with a couch and a chair and little beds on the floor and rugs," said Mah. "A lot of animals that you pick up off the street have always lived outside, and they don't really know how to live in a home. It's kind of like practice for when they get adopted."
Adoptable dogs will be taught basic commands during an in-house obedience program. They'll also be exercised each day at an on-site outdoor playground. Indoors, cats will be provided with toys and towers to climb and sleep on.
Animals that require long-term health-care won't be eligible for adoption, but Mah said Furry Friends will be part of the Best Friends Animal Society, a nationwide organization that allows no-kill shelters to trade out long-term-care animals for healthy, adoptable ones in order to create more space for newcomers. The animals that are traded out receive a permanent home at a long-term-care sanctuary in Utah. •