Last week, Memphis Animal Services (MAS) began opening its doors seven days a week, a move shelter director James Rogers believes will lead to more adoptions. But shelter reform advocates say the hours will lead to more animals being put down.
Previously, MAS was open Tuesday through Saturday, and now the shelter is open every day of the week. Although the shelter will now be open for a few hours on Sunday and Monday, adoption services will be limited. Visitors may select an animal to adopt on those days, but the animal cannot leave the shelter until Tuesday.
"If they'd like to rescue a pet, and they see a pet they would like, they can acknowledge that on Sunday or Monday. They can come back and pick up the pet on Tuesday. We won't have any veterinary services [on Sunday or Monday]," Rogers said.
Rogers said the hours were changed to make the shelter more accessible to people — either potential adopters or people looking for lost pets — who cannot get there on weekdays.
But even though the shelter is open more days per week than it previously was, the shelter actually reduced hours on other days and, on Saturday mornings, a couple of hours are reserved for owner-surrenders only. In the end, public access for all services is actually reduced from 34 hours per week to 32 hours per week.
"That change is probably considered minimal by a lot of people," said Sylvia Cox of Save Our Shelter (SOS), a shelter reform advocacy group. But Cox points out that the new seven-days-a-week hours have caused a new problem for strays that may lead to more animals being euthanized.
Stray animals are held for three business days, the state minimum, before they are euthanized. Cox said, previously, when the shelter was closed on Sundays and Mondays, those days didn't count toward the three business days.
So if a loose animal was picked up by animal control on a Friday, and it's owner wasn't able to get to the shelter until Wednesday, the animal would still be alive at the shelter. With the new hours, that animal picked up on a Friday would be put to sleep before the shelter opens on Tuesday.
"They are only open for three hours on Sunday and Monday, but now those days will count as business days for the stray's holding period," Cox said.
Rogers contends that, despite the short hours on Sunday and Monday, people still have ample time to locate their lost pets.
"People will have had the opportunity to look at [pictures of strays] posted on Facebook, to look at [national animal shelter photo website] Pet Harbor, to come to the facility, or to call us," Rogers said, touting the fact that euthanasia numbers have dropped to their lowest point in years (from around 13,200 animals in 2009 to 7,600 animals in 2013) and adoption numbers have increased.
SOS monitored the shelter's first weekend with the new hours.
"People were told that they could not adopt any animals. That means that they could not complete the adoption paperwork and pay the adoption fee," Cox wrote in an email. "There were no clerks working that would process adoptions or reclaims, so even if an owner of a lost pet had found their pet there on Sunday or [Monday], they could not 'reclaim' that pet because they could not pay the fees. They would have to wait until Tuesday to actually get their pet, if it's not killed by then."
Rogers admitted there were some kinks: "As with all changes in organizations, there were glitches this weekend. We are just like any other company, and we had our share this weekend. It was the first weekend, and all wrinkles will be ironed out."
Cox said SOS will continue to monitor the shelter's euthanasia and adoption statistics to see what effect the new hours may have.
New hours for Memphis Animal Services
Sunday 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm all access
( no owner surrender )
Monday 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm all access
( no owner surrender )
Tuesday 1:00 pm - 7:00 pm all access
Wednesday 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm all access
Thursday 1:00 pm - 7:00 pm all access
Friday 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm all access
Saturday 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
( owner surrender only )
Saturday 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm all access