MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WREG followed a caravan as they fanned out across Memphis on an early Saturday morning.
Suzy Hollenbach led the pack. She’s the director of All 4s Rescue League, a group that offers free dog houses, supplies and spay and neutering services and if needed, medical help.
That’s something they say a lot of pets don’t have in low-income areas.
“There are so many owners we come across that welcome the help. They honestly appreciate the help,” Hollenbach said.
She says she’s seen hundreds of pets living in pretty tough conditions, like dogs tied to fences with little slack.
They eat and go to the bathroom in the same area and often become vulnerable to strays.
Sometimes their shelter is plywood rested against a chain fence or a trash can turned on its side. They have no real protection in the rain, heat or frigid weather.
“In two years we have given close to 1,000 dog houses out, and say 95 percent are on the chain,” Hollenbach said.
Her team tries to teach owners about proper pet ownership.
Unlike other cities, Memphis doesn’t stop owners from leaving their dog tied up in the backyard, so a lot of what Hollenbach’s team encounters is legal.
“Animals are property, and under the law, we have to follow a certain level property confiscation laws that makes me less comfortable then I like. It’s the reality of the way pets are considered,” said Alexis Pugh.
She is the Director of Memphis Animal Services. She says in 2018, they got about a thousand calls to investigate neglect or animal cruelty.
About a quarter of those calls, they confiscated the animals.
“In order for us to go in and confiscate an animal from a property, we need to have evidence there is immediate danger or threat,” Pugh said.
Often times those cases then head to enviormental court, where we find Prosecutor James Robinson.
“Every single week we have a very large amount of charges and citations issues by animal services,” he said.
Robinson says prosecutors rely on the info listed on citations, which can be vague.
“The citations aren’t required to list all of the elements that make up the offense as criminal complaints and affidavits are required to do,” he told WREG.
Penalties can include hefty fines, but there’s no database keeping track of how many code violations someone has.
That’s only in criminal court where police report 14 people faced animal cruelty charges out of the 57 reports they got in 2018.
Pugh says she’s advocating for change while working to educate the public on pet ownership.
“I would love with some ordinance changes to give us some more latitude on seizing pets in some situations,” she said. “I really believe we are seeing more and more numbers of our community doing right by our pets. But we are not there yet.”
And until we get there, Hollenbach says her team won’t let up.
“There’s too many that are living this kind of lifestyle. We just wanted to do what we could to start changing that,” she said.
Memphis Animal Services recently teamed up with All 4s to get grant money for more dog homes.
At last check, All 4s has handed out nearly 900 dog homes and helped get 400 dogs spayed or nuetered.
If you’d like to help their efforts: https://www.facebook.com/all4srescueleague/