So far in 2015, two dogs have gone missing from the Memphis Animal Services (MAS) property, according to MAS Director James Rogers. One escaped through a hole in the fence on the front lawn of the shelter property on Appling City Cove, and the other missing dog remains a mystery.
"I can't answer what happened to that dog," Rogers told the MAS Advisory Board at their quarterly meeting at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library on Wednesday night.
The dog was checked into the shelter, but it's no longer there. Yet it wasn't recorded as being adopted. Rogers said he has spent hours combing through surveillance video to find out what happened, but he said there is still more video to watch. As for the dog that slipped through the fence, Rogers reported that animal control officers are on the lookout for the dog. The hole has been repaired, but he said there's currently a ban on shelter animals on the front lawn until the city's General Services division can do a thorough investigation of any areas of fence that may be compromised.
Rogers also reported that the shelter is a couple days behind on completing spay/neuter surgeries for adoptable animals. He said the shelter clinic is short-staffed and that the shelter is adopting out pets faster than they can keep up with surgeries. The board discussed the possibility of allowing rescue groups to take unspayed/unneutered shelter pets so long as they promised to have the procedure done elsewhere. Shelter policy currently doesn't allow unaltered animals to leave the facility since the city has a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.
Some shelter reform advocates in attendance expressed support for the policy change, but they emphasized the importance of shelter staff following up with rescue groups to ensure the surgeries were performed. Board member Jill Madajczyk, the city's deputy human resources director, suggested the city attorney's office should draft a proposal on the policy change before the next MAS Advisory Board meeting. It would have to be approved by the Memphis City Council before the change could be instituted.
The board also discussed a proposal to allow rescue groups to foster animals that are being held at the shelter for court cases. Animals involved in abuse and neglect cases are currently held at the shelter while the person charged awaits a court date and throughout the trial. But if the proposal goes through, rescue groups could house those pets in their homes or facilities. If the person charged in the case is found guilty, the rescue group could keep the animal.
In his quarterly report, Rogers announced that, in the past 90 days, the shelter has had more live releases (adoptions, return-to-owner) than euthanasias. The shelter has a live release rate of 62 percent so far this year. Critics of the shelter often point out that live releases are up and euthanasias are down because the shelter is taking in significantly less animals than it did several years ago when the euthanasia rate was much higher. But at Wednesday night's meeting, Rogers said he believed intake rates were down because the city was "making in-roads into reducing the animal population."
"I wanted to know why the intake rate was down, so I called Bartlett and Collierville [animal shelters], and they are also having lower intake," Rogers said.