At least six times in the past year, Memphis Animal Services (MAS) has euthanized an animal that had already been claimed for adoption.
This past weekend, animal advocates gathered at Union and Cooper to protest the latest such incident, which occurred in mid-December.
"We want to stop the clerical errors, which is what [MAS administrator] James Rogers calls them. These are not clerical errors. A dog dying that could have been adopted is not a clerical error," said Jan Courtney of Save Our Shelter (S.O.S.) Memphis, the group that organized Sunday's protest.
The most recent situation began on December 16th, when Vickie Carter noticed a pit bull mix being attacked by two other dogs in a neighborhood near the animal shelter. She pulled her car over to break up the dog fight.
"My car door was open, and the dog [that was being attacked] jumped into my car and hopped into the backseat. So now I have this pit bull in my car, and I didn't know what to do with him," Carter said.
She wound up taking him to MAS, assuming that since the dog was in the neighborhood, his owner may check the shelter to find him. She told the intake clerk that she would leave the dog there for the three days that a surrendered animal has to stay, and if no one claimed him, she would adopt him. The dog's review date (the day they're either euthanized or placed up for adoption) was December 20th.
On that day, Carter returned to the shelter, only to be informed that the dog had already been euthanized.
Rogers admitted that the shelter was at fault. He said the technician on duty that day failed to input Carter's request to adopt. He said a fact-finding hearing will be held and necessary disciplinary action will be taken.
"Steps are in place to ensure this does not happen. The technician failed to follow those steps," Rogers said in an emailed statement.
Such clerical errors are nothing new, according to records kept by members of S.O.S. Memphis. Back in February, a dog named Josie had a card on her cage that showed she had an adopter, yet her name was not taken off the euthanasia list, and she was mistakenly put to sleep.
"I had a personal experience with this," Courtney said. "I emailed MAS about a dog on May 23rd, two days after the dog had been picked up [as a stray]. I specified that someone was interested in this dog. But on the dog's review date, I emailed MAS to see if I could pick up the dog. I received an email back that the dog had already been euthanized, and they claimed they did not receive my original email."
In August, a rescuer expressed intent to adopt a 2-month-old puppy, but like in Carter's case, no record of that was made and the puppy was killed. The same thing happened with a 4-month-old puppy in October. In September, a rescuer's intent to adopt a German shepherd was recorded, but the dog was euthanized anyway.
Carter said she would have never taken the dog she picked up in December to MAS had she known that the shelter had a history of clerical errors.
"This was my first experience with MAS. I had no idea about the horror stories that go on there. Now I'm learning that the same thing has happened over and over and over," Carter said. "Now I'm going to start doing everything I can to get things changed there. Not every animal can be saved, but they can at least try."