Memphis Animal Shelter Director Gets Caged


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You've gotta a love a guy who's willing to don a fuzzy brown dog costume and spend most of the day in a kennel to drum up community interest in adopting pets.

"At 9:30, we had a line at the front door and a line almost down the street," said Matthew Pepper, director of Memphis Animal Services.

His idea to wear the dog getup came from a volunteer group and was helped by local media coverage.
By about 3 p.m. today, more than 40 dogs and cats had found homes. All 31 of the dogs specially prepped for adoption today were gone, replaced by a whole new batch of hopefuls not even halfway through the day. Pepper said he was optimistic that more than 50 animals would find forever homes by 5.

He also said he's tired of the shelter's former reputation; it's now a "fun" place. The shelter was raided in the early morning hours of October 2009 — the first day of A C Wharton's term as Memphis mayor — because of suspected abuse and neglect that led to three dogs being starved to death. A short time later, Wharton fired the previous director.

At least 15,000 animals cycle through the shelter a year, Pepper said. He has no illusions that there will ever be a shortage of animals in need of homes, but if spending a day in a cage helps put a dent in the endless parade, he's more than willing to step up.

"It's made a huge difference since Mr. Pepper took over," said shelter volunteer Ariel Dagastino.

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