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Animal rights activists outraged over euthanasia at Memphis Animal Services

“They will still put a dog down when there are empty kennels available," one person said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Memphis Animal Services is in the hot seat after more and more people speak out on issues with the location’s policies. Some animal rights advocates said they’re planning to take legal action.

There has been outrage as the number of dogs MAS euthanizes sparked community concern. MAS takes in thousands fewer animals than a Knoxville shelter, but more than 300 animals died in MAS custody in 2022. This is an issue rescuers said is common at the Memphis shelter.

In August alone, MAS euthanized 167 animals, even as some kennels remain open. Michelle Craig, a volunteer at another dog shelter, said the time of day the shelter is open impacts the ability for potential new pet owners to foster and adopt.

“The hours are only 12-4 and for people like us that work all day, it is hard to get over there,” Craig said. “They will still put a dog down when there are empty kennels available.”

MAS responded to dogs being put down while there are still empty kennels, with this statement: “Even when there are open kennels (which are necessary for us to operate, so that our animal services officers have somewhere to put incoming animals), there will be some animals that are euthanized regardless.”

This left animal rights advocates and volunteers upset.

“I cried all passionate about it but they are – they are just turning into an awful place,” one person said.

But, ABC24 spoke with volunteers off camera who said they’re scared to go public with their concerns because other volunteers weren’t allowed back after speaking out, rescuer Jessica Gotera said.

“There are good volunteers but they don’t stay for long or they’re very distraught,” Gotera said. “They’re falling apart because they’re emotionally distraught by what they’re going through.”

She voiced her concerns about half of a bonded pair, like moms and puppies, being separated and euthanized. 

MAS provided this response: “This can happen when one of the two pets is doing well behaviorally or medically, and one of them is suffering or struggling behaviorally or medically.”

But Gotera doesn’t think the shelter's reasoning for putting down one half of a pair is enough.

“What they consider as behavioral is if they’re being rowdy or if they’re being complacent in their kennels,” Gotera said. “Even if they’re being complacent and not moving or nothing, they’re still gonna kill the dog.”

As animal rights activists and other volunteers across the state work to decrease the number of animals euthanized at MAS and other shelters, they did tell ABC24 they’re working to get a lawsuit together against the city-run shelter.

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