Mayor Jim Strickland and MAS Director Alexis Pugh
Both Community Action for Animals and S.O.S. Memphis (Save Our Shelter) expressed their approval for Mayor Jim Strickland's appointment of Alexis Pugh to run Memphis Animal Services (MAS). Strickland introduced Pugh in a press conference at MAS Friday afternoon.
Pugh served as the executive director of Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services, a low-cost spray/neuter clinic, for the past year. She'll be replacing former MAS director James Rogers, who was fired in December as Strickland reorganized his personnel after taking office.
"Save Our Shelter Memphis is very supportive of Mayor Strickland's decision to appoint Ms. Pugh to the director of MAS," said Sylvia Cox with S.O.S. "She has great experience. She's local. She knows the history of MAS, and she understands those issues and what's been going on, which gives her a better perspective on how to make changes more quickly than someone who may have come in from out of town."
Community Action for Animals released a statement praising Pugh as "a trained, progressive, compassionate, and intelligent director, a director who loves animals and is aware of the pros and cons of our animal services, and who will hold the staff accountable, support, and encourage spay/neuter, properly assess the animals, and make certain euthanasia, when needed, is performed humanely."
Pugh identifies herself as "an animal advocate and an animal lover." She has three rescue dogs, and she's fostered many others.
Pugh is taking on a shelter that's been widely criticized over the years for its high euthanasia rate. Although Rogers managed to get pet adoption numbers up and euthanasia numbers down during his tenure, his critics argued that animal intake rates dropped, and they contended that was the real reason for lower euthanasia rates. Pugh said she will focus on ensuring that the field officers — those charged with picking up stray animals, responding to calls, and investigating cruelty — are doing their jobs.
"I think there will be an emphasis on every aspect of operation and certainly field officers are no exception to that," Pugh said at the Friday press conference. "We're going to expect them to perform their jobs to the performance level that they can just like everyone else here. And if that means that we need to increase the number of calls they're responding to, if we need to monitor the number of calls they're responding to, if we need to look more closely at how they're handling those cases and if they're taking cases to court, all of those are parts of their job that we're going to be reviewing just like every other staff member here. If your job description identifies something as part of your role, you're going to be held to that."
Also, under Roger's administration, a number of "clerical errors" led to several animals being mistakenly put down. Pugh said she has a goal of finding ways to improve processes at MAS to prevent accidental deaths.
"I know there's an excellent software program in place here, but until I start and get in, I'm not going to know where those challenges lie from a logistics and administration standpoint, but if we're finding there are processes that are causing errors to be made, then my goal will be to find ways to improve those processes so my staff has clear direction on how to do their job and how to successfully do it without clerical errors causing the loss of lives," Pugh said.
Cox urged animal advocates to be patient with Pugh and give her time to turn the shelter around.
"SOS encourages all animal advocates to give her the time and the opportunity to get started, to do the research she was discussing, to learn what goes on, and to analyze that and come up the positive changes that are needed to be made," Cox said. "That will take time. It doesn't happen over night."