Rotary Club Study Points to Big Problems at Animal Shelter



There's an understanding among the employees at Memphis Animal Services (MAS) that some employees are above following the rules and have even engaged in pit bull fighting, according to the Rotary Club's newly released evaluation of MAS.

"The employees at every level, while not willing to say so on record, will readily volunteer that there has been a relationship between certain individuals and the illicit dog fighting rings in the community. This is particularly true where those who are perceived to be in a protected status are concerned," reads the 22-page report, which was based on three months of interviews with shelter administration and staff.

Additionally, the report found MAS employees have had "haphazard or non-existent training." Although the Rotary Club had no real issues with the shelter's labor contract, employees don't seem to be following the rules set out in that contract.

Background checks on potential animal adopters are not being consistently performed, although they are required. The report notes that since the majority of intake dogs at MAS are pit bulls, the background check process for adoptions is important to prevent criminal activity, such as dog fighting. The study suggests MAS keep a record of background checks on every adopted animal and that those records should be available for audit.

"Under no circumstances should an employee, regardless of rank, be allowed to conduct viewing and adoption 'off the books'," reads the report. "Every animal that is put on the truck or dropped off by someone should be accounted for from start to finish. There is simply no excuse for any missing animals at any point in the system."

A lack of GPS tracking on animal control officer's vehicles means "management has no idea where the field officers actually are or what they are actually doing," reads the report. Before former director Matthew Pepper resigned, he did indicate that such tracking was being tested by the city's sanitation department and could eventually be coming to MAS. The study also suggests MAS install an internal video monitoring system inside the new shelter, which the city has already done.

The Rotarians said the new shelter facility on Appling Cove, which opened on Tuesday, is an improvement over the old facility on Tchulahoma. But the report states MAS does not have enough employees to staff the larger center and must rely on increased volunteer efforts, including help from critics of the shelter's current operations.

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