Public Option 

City closes animal shelter privatization bid for lack of interest.

The possibility of finding a private organization to take over Memphis Animal Services has moved further out of reach.

On December 19th, the city of Memphis issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking a qualified vendor to operate Memphis Animal Services. A month later, citing a lack of interest, the RFP was removed from the city website.

According to Janet Hooks, director of Public Services and Neighborhoods, a mandatory pre-proposal meeting was held on January 12th at the new Memphis Animal Services facility on Appling City Cove.

"There were no attendees," Hooks said. "The meeting was held to answer any questions they may have about submitting a proposal, which would have been due on February 10th."

But that February 10th deadline became a moot point when no potential vendors showed for the meeting. Hooks said they took down the RFP because no one could submit a proposal without having attended the mandatory information session.

Beverly King, animal rights advocate and proponent of a privatized shelter, expressed doubts about the city's RFP process.

"I think that they don't want anyone to turn in a proposal. They put out the RFP on December 19th, six days before Christmas. And between then and this mandatory meeting on January 12th, we're talking three weeks during the holiday season," King said. "How can a group even think about putting something together in three weeks? We're talking about a facility that has a budget of a couple of million dollars."

Memphis Animal Services has an annual budget of nearly $3 million, and they handle over 14,000 animals each year. Beyond the scope of its budget and operations, taking on Memphis Animal Services means inheriting the institution's tarnished reputation and checkered past.

In recent years, the shelter has been plagued with allegations of animal abuse, corruption, and rumors of employees tied to dogfighting rings. The search for a new executive director continues after former director Matthew Pepper's hasty resignation last August.

"I've been through so many administrations, so many problems throughout the years that I feel like privatizing the shelter would be the answer," King said. "I'm really disappointed, but it doesn't surprise me at all that no one showed up on January 12th. We're back to square one."

For now, Hooks said the city will continue to manage the shelter. As for whether or not privatization is still an option, Hooks was less forthcoming.

"I can't speculate on what will happen in the future," she said. "You have no idea how much I wish I could foresee what will happen."

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