MAS working to reduce euthanasia rates with Target Zero

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It was a packed house Monday night as rescue groups and concerned citizens came out to hear about a bold new proposal that aims at getting the Memphis Animal Shelter to a 90 percent or greater live-release rate.

Right now, the shelter is at 65 percent.

"I`m really excited. I think I`m very optimistic," said Glenn Andrews.

"I`ve been working with and against the shelter for a long time, trying to change the policies, and this is the most hope I`ve had in a decade," said Dea Ibarra.

Spearheading the changes is a Florida-based group called Target Zero.

They are in town this week and will be doing a full-scale assessment of the shelter and coming up with some recommendations for what needs to change.

One suggestion they have already made is to bring fewer animals into the shelter in the first place.

"Everybody wins when less animals go to the shelter and less animals get euthanized; everybody wins," said Dr. Sarah Pizano with Target Zero.

They said they also hope to convince more people to spay and neuter their pets and possibly scrap a city ordinance requiring the shelter to hold cats for at least 72 hours.

"A cat is gonna have a better chance of getting back to their home if they`re in their own community rather than sitting in a shelter for those 72 hours," said Alexis Pugh with Memphis Animal Services.

The shelter said in one year, it has already increased the live-release rate 11 percent.

They said a 90 percent live-release rate is doable but will take time.

"Some communities, we help them get to 90 in less time than three years," said Dr. Pizano.

Representatives from both groups will be meeting with Mayor Jim Strickland on Tuesday.

They said they'll be discussing this goal and talking about some of the city ordinances that might need to change to do this.

Launched in 2013, the organization provides hands-on mentorships to the organization it helps as well as fundraising strategies at no cost.

Target Zero has had some success with helping other shelters reach this goal in the past.

A shelter in Waco, Texas went from a 36 percent save rate to a 90 percent save rate in just three years.