Controversy over Memphis Animal Shelter photo policy

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Local animal lovers have launched a national petition to change the policies at the Memphis Animal Shelter.

Memphis Pets Alive has recently be banned from taking pictures of animals in the area where animals are held for 72 hours.

Technically those animals are not city property and not listed for adoption.

Memphis Pets Alive used to shoot pictures there every week to help promote adopting the animals via Facebook, and reunite lost pets with owners.

MAS officials told us they have a rule against taking pictures of animals brought in and considered strays, but they do allow photos of animals currently available for adoption.

Memphis Pets Alive volunteers, however, say the policy has only recently been enforced.

Currently, MAS does not post photos of stray animals online, you must go by in person to the shelter to see animals who have been brought in.

Please watch the video to hear what Memphis Pets Alive members think about the policy.

MAS released the following statement:

"It is not true that MAS does not allow photographs of animals that are available for adoption. MAS Policy Manual 15.2 - Holding Periods is not new and has been in effect since 2009. The policy, which is stated in its entirety below, is designed to provide protection to pets and pet owners. Rescue groups and MAS partners, such as Memphis Pets Alive, are welcome to photograph animals that, in accordance with city policy (i.e. held in the MAS facility for 72 hours) are deemed to be the property of the City of Memphis. Animals that have been housed in the facility after the 72 holding period, are also posted on PETHARBOR, which also is available to the public.

Allowing photographs of MAS animals and the subsequent dissemination of said animals that are not city property is allowing a disposition (i.e. advertising city property as available) before the 72 hour hold period has expired. Additionally, sharing photos of animals housed at MAS prematurely may create an unintentional reality of misleading a potential adopter into thinking that an animal is available when the pet may belong to another pet owner. MAS views the emotional trauma of such an unfortunate misunderstanding too great a risk and therefore asks rescuers and MAS partners, such as Memphis Pets Alive, to allow the 72 hour holding period to expire before taking and sharing photos of those animals.

Animals housed in the MAS Adoption Area and animals who have met the 72 hour holding period in the MAS Healthy Hold area can be photographed for networking. Animals that are not the property of MAS located in the Healthy Hold cannot be photographed. Interested adopters are welcome to have a memo placed in the system of their interest in a pet that is not the property of the City of Memphis and MAS. We appreciate the outpouring of support from Memphis Pets Alive and the Memphis Community.

It is indeed what makes Memphis great!"


  • Linda Baxter

    Thanks for keeping the focus on this issue, Channel 3! To be clear, Memphis Pets Alive! has not be banned from photographing “all” animals at Memphis Animal Services. MPA! is no longer allowed to take photos of animals that have not met a 72-hour hold allowance for owners to reclaim (whether housed in “healthy hold” or “stray”) despite having been doing this for over 1 year.

    It is the firm belief of Memphis Pets Alive! that restricting the photography and publication of these images before an animal’s “review date” is drastically reducing the opportunity for owners to be reunited with their pet or for animals to be networked with enough time to prevent being killed; especially given that many animals do not make it past their review date; statistics can be gathered from SOS Memphis or Community Action for Animals.

    The photographs that MPA! take are shared weekly with a Facebook following of over 4,000 followers – who in turn share and network these animals through their own resources of friends, family, co-workers, rescues or community groups. This is a progressive and pro-active effort that is trending across the nation – volunteers or specific individuals focused on reuniting owners with their lost pets, investigating with little to no knowledge to find where a pet might have come from or networking with rescue groups to increase positive outcomes.

    The ASPCA has recently published an article on this very thing concering a shelter in Kentucky – in our back yard – that has increased their “return to owner” rate by 40% as a result of ONE person being focused on this effort. Imagine a collective of volunteers doing the same… without the city having to spend one Memphian tax dollars.

    This is a FREE community service that MPA! has offered to the city because they are committed to the resources, education and programs required to save the lives of animals in local shelters or facilities – and despite the restrictions that have been suddenly placed on their efforts, they are going to continue going every week and doing what they can.

    Please support this effort: volunteer, donate, speak out in support… or just share the “Wag Along” albums with your friends, because you never know who is looking to adopt.

    • Debra Hange

      Thank you Linda Baxter and Friends. Pretty dictionary words do not change what the Mayor of Memphis, TN and Rogers are preventing from happening. That is the humane attempt to save pets that are going to die. I am so proud of the people above who didn’t buy the Thesaurus of pretty words.
      To M.A.S.: What about the dogs you consider unadoptable that are never seen. I don’t think you are concerned with the interest of adopters, your “property”, or anything but your behind right now. You just made pretty words that say the same thing we are fighting. You are not what makes Memphis Great. I am still very concerned and I don’t understand why help in getting your “property” rescued and/or adopted is not the top priority. I adopted through Soar Dog Rescue because I saw a post by Memphis Pets Alive!!! about JAKE. When everyone was working 12 hours to save JAKE. I looked through the intake cards that you now refuse to allow anyone to share and found my “stray #A#####.” Her name is Laney now and she lives with me in my home in Pennsylvania thanks to the help of the afore mentioned, a wonderful foster, an amazing transport team, and the network that helped me help her. I am amazed at the number of strays, dumps, and surrenders. We need to work on the start of the problem but you now have become a barrier at the end of the problem. SHAME on the Mayor and SHAME on M.A.S.

  • Pads For Paws (@padsforpaws)

    Thank you Channel 3 and Mr. Brown for reporting on this very important issue. I don’t understand why there is such resistance from Mayor Wharton and Director Rogers. Memphis Pets Alive has clearly increased the adoption numbers at Memphis Animal Services by photographing the animals every Tuesday at the shelter. A progressive city, the type of city that the mayor wants Memphis to be, has an animal control that works with its citizens for the betterment of the community as well as the animals. Looks like Memphis is a long way off.

  • Sylvia Cox

    The verbiage of the article should have been MORE than just quoting the city’s statement with no response/rebuttal.
    ” sharing photos of animals housed at MAS prematurely may create an unintentional reality of misleading a potential adopter into thinking that an animal is available when the pet may belong to another pet owner. MAS views the emotional trauma of such an unfortunate misunderstanding too great a risk …”

    Totally erroneous. First, VERY few dogs are reclaimed by their owners. In one month, 1,016 animals were taken in at MAS – only 59 were reclaimed.

    Anyone who cares enough about pets to go to the shelter to adopt would be pleased that an owner has reclaimed the pet they may have been interested in adopting.

    Progressive, experienced shelter directors do not have this issue because they know how to interact and work with the public.

    Administrator Rogers regularly talks about his MAS ‘numbers’ – increased positive outcomes, decreases in euthanasia – at the MAS Advisory Board meetings. But this new ‘policy’ will result in an increase in the animal death rate.

    Administrator Rogers regularly talks about his MAS ‘numbers’ – increased positive outcomes, decreases in euthanasia – at the MAS Advisory Board meetings. But this new ‘policy’ will result in an increase in the animal death rate.

    Mayor Wharton likes to talk about Memphis becoming a ‘progressive’ city. If Memphis is to ever become a ‘progressive’ city, it needs a shelter Administrator who looks to the future, not one who rehashes outdated policies abandoned years ago by progressive shelters.

    • George Brown

      Hello. To hear what Memphis Pets alive thinks, you must watch the video. The MAS student was included since they did not appear on the show. I’ve added some text to clarify that point.

  • Doggy Mom

    Thank you for covering this! I have only recently become aware of the MAS situation and I am appalled by it . More Memphians need to know what is going on.

  • Catherine Walker

    Thank you for this story. The mission of MAS should be to return pets to owners and find homes for pets who aren’t claimed. Taking pictures of ALL MAS animals will only help achieve both these aims. If MAS is concerned about people misunderstanding the pictures and thinking the pets are available, that could be remedied by a simple photo caption. It is very sad that MAS is trying to thwart the efforts of a volunteer organization that is giving freely of its time to save the lives of the animals that may not live beyond their review date.

  • Bonnie sweat

    Thanks for posting this story. It is absolutely the responsibility of MAS to try and rehome as many of these pets as possible. Not allowing pictures to be taken is reprehensible. In fact, the shelter should have been the ones taking and posting the pics in the first place if they cared anything at all about these animals

  • Toni Mabry

    Thank you for spelling out, so eloquently, the flawed logic that is MAS. Please continue to report their behavior so that this insanity can stop. This is Memphis 2014-not Memphis 1940. We should be a first class city with a first class animal shelter.

  • Sheila

    Distressing to me as a citizen is a shelter wanting to operate in secrecy, and euthanizing animals on the “review” date before they have had a chance to be publicized as in the shelter. Many people who would adopt from the shelter do not have time to personally travel to the shelter on a daily basis. These people would, however, possibly review photos posted online and make a special effort to go to the shelter if they saw a pet they would like to meet and consider for adoption.
    When we look at cities that have dramatically reduced their shelter’s rate of killing impounded animals, we see administration led by experienced animal advocates who collaborate actively with a broad spectrum of community support groups to advertise the animals and promote the adoption/fostering experience. This is sadly absent in Memphis. It is time for Memphis to invest the time and effort to seek progressive, collaborative leadership for the shelter.

  • Matilda Diane

    Thank you so much for covering this story!
    It’s beyond me why this shelter is so reluctant to change and be an uplifting part of the community instead of a horrible black mark on our city. Maybe we can’t save them all, but I’m sure we can save more than 30% that walk through the doors of MAS! If they don’t have the staff to do this themselves, then you would think they would welcome this free, yet priceless, service by a dedicated group of volunteers. It makes you question their motives, and what they have to hide. Come on Memphis- we can do better!

  • Roni

    I don’t understand why we are holding on to a policy created 5 years ago. Maybe it’s time to review and update a lot of policies at the shelter. Why be so resistant to help and change? I know for a fact Memphis pets alive pics have reunited pets with owners and gotten many pets adopted, including several I’ve fostered and one that I’ve adopted. I, for one, was never comfortable going into the shelter before I started looking at Memphis Pets Alive pics. I thought it would be too depressing and sad. But MPA has made it so easy to find a pet at the shelter. They should be thanking them, but instead are trying to thwart their efforts.

  • M Cullen

    So photos can’t be taken until 3 days have passed, but the truly fortunate animals deemed adoptable only have 4 days til euthanization. They have 24 hours to have their pictures taken, circulated, seen, met, and adopted, or they die.

    And of that 24 hours, how many of them are business hours for the MAS?

    I’ve got my numbers right, correct? 3 days, 4 days, and 1 day: 3 days til pictures, 4 days from intake to euthanization, and 1 day to find a home. That’s the breakdown, right?

  • Mary Jane Pike

    I knew I could count on Channel 3 to cover this atrocity. It is time to change the policy at MAS as well as the people running it. Obviously, they have the power to stop rescue groups from trying to reunite people with their pets and to give those who are stray at chance at a forever home, but they don’t have the guts or the power to fire those employees abusing the animals and stealing the food intended for them. Please don’t put this story on the back burner. Keep your best reporters hounding the powers that be until there is a change. Thank you.

  • MAS is Horrible!

    I find it absolutely ridiculous that Memphis Animal Services will enforce policies prohibiting rescues from photographing animals to network them for adoption, YET another policy they have is to hold an animal when an adopter or rescue calls to express interest in adopting a certain pet. Well, just this week a local rescue put a hold on a 7 month old Golden Retriever and when the rescuer was in route to MAS to rescue this dog, MAS euthanized him! Even though the rescue told MAS they were adopting him! ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING! MAS euthanizes animals to retaliate against the community speaking out about the proven abuse. I am so tired of seeing devastating stories of thousands of animals being killed at MAS before they were even given a chance to be adopted. Some are even said to be “accidentally euthanized”. This is the worst shelter I have ever seen. I have seen many people across the country comment negatively about this shelter. The mayor and James Rogers have heard the disappointment and anger from the community and they choose to do nothing. As always, they choose to do nothing! I strongly believe that they do not care about animals. They think it is easier to kill these animals than put forth any effort to raise their adoption rates. Memphis Pets Alive has done so much to raise adoption rates and network potential pets for what is usually their only chance at life. To summarize, I am so disgusted and sickened by Memphis Animal Services and their poor practices. The past year alone has proven much evidence that a change needs to be made. Let’s take a step in the right direction and hire compassionate employees.

  • Michael

    Thank you for covering this story. Ignorant MAS officials are coming up with stupid rules and equally stupid rationale for their rules. MEM govt needs a complete overhaul.

  • Bonnie Byars

    MAS should allow the animals to be photographed ‘prior’ to the 72 hour holding period. This may be the ‘only’ opportunity for some of these dogs to be adopted, because ‘some’ of these dogs NEVER make it out to the public !!

  • Stella

    Wow! When is it going to end with this place! We’re already known nationally for having one of the most inhumane, uncaring and generally horrible shelters with a KILL KILL KILL mentality! Thank you Channel 3 for keeping this in the public eye, but how much are we going to take before we rise up and say NO MORE?!!!! We are better than this and our animals deserve more from us! ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

  • L Baker

    I think Rogers should explain publicly “WHY” he is obviously fighting AGAINST helping the animals find homes. Not quote a policy he didn’t enforce UNTIL the truths about what is really going on at MAS. Taking pictures of these strays not only helps them get adopted, with the networking so many of us do it is so much more possible for the actual owner to see the pet. Changes need to be made FOR the animals and someone with animal experience and COMPASSION needs to take over MAS.

  • HEY

    Shame on you, Mayor Wharton, for allowing James Rogers to continue draconian and inhumane policies and practices while hiding behind the shiny new facade of a building at Memphis Animal Services. How much longer will the citizens of our community protest before you get the message? Reform MAS now! You can begin by allowing Memphis Pets Alive to continue photographing and networking all the animals they possibly can, including those in healthy hold and even stray. These innocent animals should have the chance to be seen and to live! As it stands now, MAS is known far and wide across the country as a killing factory and a typical example of how our city is run. No wonder nobody wants to move to Memphis.

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