MEMPHIS, TN - The problems at the Memphis Animal Shelter are far from over. It's been 15 months since the raid that resulted in an overhaul of shelter administration. The people in charge now say there has been progress, but animal advocates who say there is still a long way to go.
When you go to adopt a dog at the Memphis Animal Shelter, you better bring cash. They don't take credit cards. Board members have been trying for years to get a credit card machine, with no luck. Some say it's a sign of the much bigger problem.
“The credit card idea came up with Ernie Alexander when I first came on the board, and that's at least two years ago,” said Memphis Animal Services Advisory Board member Allan Iskiwitz. “And my understanding from Director Hooks last night at our meeting is that it could be anywhere from 30 to 60 days still.”
Public Services Director Janet Hooks says it's a bunch of bureaucracy and red tape that has prevented the shelter from being able to take plastic.
“The amazing thing was that it came across that nobody was aware that the golf courses have been doing it all along, so why not just join that same thing, why start all over,” asked Iskiwitz.
"We find this is kind of typical.”
Iskiwitz says it's had deadly consequences.
“They didn't have cash, and, by the time they came back with the cash, through poor bookkeeping of the animals, twice animals were put down that way,” said Iskiwitz.
But he says the bigger problem is the number of dogs killed in the shelter every year. Shelter Director Matthew Pepper says 11,906 animals were put down in 2010, out of the 15,401 animals brought in. That’s compared to 13,255 euthanized in 2009, out of 16,256 total animals brought in.
“The fact that that percentage equals 1,349 less animals euthanized this year from last year is a good start,” said Pepper. “It’s just a start, but it’s a start.”
“The euthanasia rate is still 78-percent, which is still very, very high,” said Iskiwitz. “Nationally, it's somewhere between 40 and 50-percent, so 78-percent is just way above the average.”
It's a number that hits animal lovers hard.
“The perception of the Memphis Animal Shelter is that it is a killing field,” said animal lover Ann Mitchell. “Until that is changed, the adoptions cannot increase. Adoption is the key.”
There are a lot of people who say the shelter is now cleaner and volunteers make a big difference with the service. Board members hope the new shelter being built in a better location, at Appling Rd. near I-40, should make a big difference as well. It's expected to open later this year.
There are a couple of open positions on the Memphis Animal Services Advisory Board. Director Hooks says the Mayor is currently reviewing applications.