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17 August 2011


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Amen. I cannot imagine how horrible it is on both sides. I knew one tech at our shelter who dealt with it all by drinking. It is not an easy life to be a shelter worker and when they suffer the animals suffer.


I would love nothing more than to post webcam images that would make Memphis proud. I would love to hold them up as an example to other large cities in the country and say "Look how Memphis works hard to save its pets, your city can do it too!" I promise you, Memphis would have no greater champion than me if they would just stop the killing. I hope it happens. Immediately, if not sooner.

I can't watch that NHS clip right now b/c I'm about to go to bed and it always makes me cry sappy tears. I don't want to go to bed teary and sappy. I love those guys though.

David S. Greene

Leslie commented:

I DO NOT feel sorry for any of these workers on camera!
If these workers are truly there because they love animals, they would show some kind of compassion in these animals final moments.

Lynne commented:

I do not think the employees who kill animals for a living lose their perspective and compassion. I firmly believe, they don’t have any in the first place! I for one can not find compassion and sympathy for one who chooses this line of work, all for a paycheck.

It's easy to sit in the comfort of my living room, 1,300 miles away, and characterize the people doing the killings, but I can't go so far as to presume MAS employees have no compassion. I've never met, much less spoken to any of them. In a bad economy, walking away from a job, even one as corrosive to the soul as killing innocent animals must be, isn't necessarily so cut and dried. Additionally, they may not be there because they love animals. It's just as likely they're there because they're getting a paycheck. I feel profoundly sad for anyone who wakes up in the morning knowing that by the end of the day, they are likely to be responsible for the deaths of innocents. "Go find something else to do" is a great suggestion, but there's no context informing it. Perhaps they can't.

Christie's right: this is an ongoing tragedy not just for the dogs and cats, but for all the people involved. Demonizing the employees serves no useful purpose. Making a difference in Memphis (and elsewhere) requires efforts toward new solutions, first and foremost.


Can the humans be saved, do you think? Or are some of them just too far gone?

Nancy Freedman-Smith

agree! agree! agree!


I can understand becoming hardened by having to euthanize healthy animals everyday simply because of over crowding or because people decide they don't want their animals anymore, but the way these animals are treated on their way to be euthanized is completely unacceptable and I DO NOT feel sorry for any of these workers on camera!

If these workers are truly there because they love animals, they would show some kind of compassion in these animals final moments. They do not! If they have lost all compassion or empathy for a living, breathing being, then they need to choose another career path. Being on camera should want to make them do even better, but they don't care who is watching and that makes it even worse!

Kimber Brantley

This shelter is a disgrace to animal kind, human kind and Tennessee! (Which I happen to live in). Along w/Davidson Co.NC Animal Shelter(gas chamber), Fayetteville NC Animal Shelter(shooting dogs), Eau Claire WI Animal Shelter(just like Memphis). That's just a few. Unfortunately the list is long. I pray and pray for all this "no good shelters"to change, but we need the help of the people. Citizens of these Cities need to speak up and be heard! FIGHT! And keep fighting! These poor animals need us!


I do not think the employees who kill animals for a living lose their perspective and compassion. I firmly believe, they don't have any in the first place! I for one can not find compassion and sympathy for one who chooses this line of work, all for a paycheck. If it truly bothered them, they would be on our side of the fence and working some where else!

Adrienne Clegg

Thank You!!!!

elizabeth tracey

You are so right...the animals pay with their lives and the humans must surely be affected.


I am a regular follower of YesBiscuit! and also have a terrible time watching what's happening to those precious animals. (In fact, I sent an email with this very photo to Matthew Pepper trying to get information about this very dog - in an attempt to get him out of there alive)

Many of the workers at MAS are part of the Second Chance program which is designed to give convicted criminals a second chance at turning their lives around. I'll leave it to you all to decide whether it's working or not!

Thank you to all of you who are keeping these horrors in the public's eye. The more secret they can stay, the less scrutiny, the more the animals suffer.

Lisa Johnson

I went to Animal Allies Humane Society yesterday to give a brief presentation to them about the No Kill Conference. (I had attended Shirley Thistlethwaite's presentation but stared assiduously at my notes while she showed the slides from Memphis.) I was talking about what YesBiscuit! had been able to accomplish, but when I saw that the group hadn't heard about what was going on down there, I tried to describe what had been captured by the cameras.

I burst into tears.

It didn't do much for my reputation as a broadcaster and a public speaker ... but I suspect it was evidence I still have a soul.

Today, I can forward these articles (still looking assiduously away from the photos). As Christie pointed out in HER presentation, tears, as a rule of thumb, don't do much for our credibility. But in the privacy of our own hearts, we need to celebrate that we can still shed them.


"Compassion Fatigue" is a well-known phenomenon:


That being said, I suspect you see a number of things happening at a place like MAS: Some of the animal workers at MAS do love animals, but others are having the empathy beat right out of them by the daily grind of being required to care for so many animals that they know are probably going to end up being killed anyway. And it can be worse for the ones charged with doing the killing.

But I'm sure there are also those workers who don't really care much about animals in the first place. And I'm sorry - but I have to think that filling the place with employees who are convicted criminals is bound to skew the population in the direction of empathy-deficient workers.

While programs such as "Puppies Behind Bars" (giving incarcerated criminals responsibility for the care and training of possible future service dogs) is designed to BUILD empathy among people who haven't had much experience of it in their lives, what goes on with the Second Chance convicts employed by MAS does just the opposite - at least in the context of the way things are run at MAS these days.

A program like Second Chance may have admirable goals, but MAS is almost certainly the wrong place to be routinely employing these people. Or if the program is continued, there needs to be far more ongoing monitoring of how each individual is suited to the work, and those who are not capable of being caring, empathetic animal caregivers need to be put in a different work environment (note: I'm not advocating eliminating the Second Chance program for convicts - I'm simply stating that not all potential jobs are equally appropriate for the people being employed under this program.)

A caring environment tends to build on itself. If you remove the workers who really don't care about animals or who are suffering adverse effects as a result of their compassion fatigue, it will be far easier for those who remain to keep pushing the "norm" at this shelter towards empathy and away from apathy, because that will become what is expected.

Of course, first you need to install a shelter director who knows what empathy and caring means . . . . . .

Amber Seuss

I asked and there is one Second Chance employee. This is not the norm at that shelter. It might be good to get your facts straight before making these sweeping comments. There is no doubt that there are lots of things that need improving, but making most of the employees felons is not fair or the problem there.


This is true.

I've also seen on the MAS webcams practices that are a potential danger to the staff in other ways - such as the frequent spray-down of the kennels which doubtless aerosolizes waste, the constantly wet floors, and hoses left out in the corridors. All in all, the sort of slipshod practice that's no good for anyone, and it's so consistent it's got to be the way they were taught.

Considered in this light, the practices at MAS seem to me to be above all expressive of contempt - for the animals, for the staff and volunteers, and for the visiting public.

Christie Keith

Just because someone has a felony conviction does NOT mean they lack empathy or are soul-dead. While I have no doubt that some of the workers at MAS have some empathy issues, I am equally sure that some at Wal-Mart do as well.

I really detest the class, race and privilege bias that has been bubbling up into these discussions lately. Workers deserve to have a healthy, safe working environment as free of avoidable stress and harmful influences as possible. (I mean, I grasp that it's not possible to avoid risk and stress in all jobs.) The workers at MAS would be much better off if they weren't dependent on killing animals to feed themselves and their families.

Someone else, here or on FB, brought up the fact that Mitch Schneider, who heads up animal control for Washoe County in Nevada, a no-kill community, said that one of the main reasons he got on board the no-kill train was because of the impact running a kill facility had on his employees. This is a real issue.

I also don't think that blaming these workers for conditions at MAS is fair. They do not have the power to change policy, although since they're unionized, I would encourage them to ORGANIZE and PETITION THEIR EMPLOYER, THE CITY OF MEMPHIS, FOR BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS by ending the demoralizing and stressful practice of killing animals when there are lifesaving alternatives.

Christie Keith

Beautiful comment, Lisa. I was crying while I wrote this post, and I don't care if that DOES lessen my credibility. I cried at the No-Kill Conference, too. I often cry when I read Shirley's blog. I was really just saying we shouldn't cry at public meetings, meetings with public officials, or when talking to the media.

Melissa Roberts

Wonderful points Christie. I don't have the exact quote in front of me but I think Mitch Schneider from Washoe Animal Control in NV said it best when he stated, "...what kind of crap boss am I if I am forcing my staff to kill animals and be stressed and traumatized, when there's an alternative?" Everyone reading this will likely already know that the alternative is leadership comprehensively implementing the No Kill Equation (if you didn't know, please visit our growing info. resource page at: http://www.nokillnm.org/informational-resources.php and the most comprehensive source: http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org) The animals, employees and taxpayers who are footing the bill deserve nothing less.

We here in New Mexico have found ourselves in a very unfortunate predicament and we need everyone's help. Through the revolving door of the nationwide animal services network, our brilliant county of Bernalillo, NM (county of Albuquerque+) has decided to bring Pepper here to NM! We have a nationwide action alert posted at: http://www.nokillnm.org/action-alerts.php and would appreciate your help in participating from wherever you are located.

Failed leadership will continue to move from one community to another through this revolving door if we don't put an end to it.

Thank you in advance for your support,

Melissa Roberts, Member

No Kill New Mexico


I have seen it stated any number of places that MAS makes extensive use of Second Chance program participants among their employees.

Forgive me for reading.


They choose to work at the shelter, knowing full well that countless animals will die in the facility. The animals are the only one's without a choice.


And by the way, "compassion fatigue" exists. It's a valid part of this discussion, whether you like it or not.

Melinda King

I am also a regular reader of Yes Biscuit. Most of us reading the blog would give anything for some way to encourage employees when they treat the animals with something less than indifference, some way to tell them "yes, that's the way...see how much easier it is on you and the animal?" How sad is it that a bunch of *blog readers* feel the need to offer that encouragement. One MAS employee in particular is extremely good with the dogs and there is much to be learned from him and his handling of the scared animals in this horrible environment. Although MAS and city management seem to have their heels dug in resisting no-kill, it sure would behoove the city and MAS management to build on those positive animal/employee interactions ...rather than leading a cheer for the results of their creative math.


David S. Greene commented:

It’s easy to sit in the comfort of my living room, 1,300 miles away, and characterize the people doing the killings, but I can’t go so far as to presume MAS employees have no compassion.

I can! Take another look at the picture. Forgive me if I don't see how dragging a dog to be euthanized shows compassion. It's not just this one picture. There are countless others, even showing puppies being pulled or carried by the back of their neck in their final moments of life. I can completely understand if the dog is dangerous, but I have never known a grown man to be mauled to death by a puppy, especially to have to require a choke pole or being carried by the neck!

David S. Greene commented:

Additionally, they may not be there because they love animals. It’s just as likely they’re there because they’re getting a paycheck.

Exactly! This is why I DO NOT feel sorry for them! Like I said, I can understand becoming hardened by having to euthanize healthy animals on a daily basis because of over crowding or because people think that animals are disposable, but to show NO compassion before it's done is heartless!!

Mary E

If those people's "safety is in danger," it is entirely because they are making an affirmative decision to behave in the way they behave on camera in front of God and everybody, i.e. they themselves are putting themselves in danger by their own behavior and their own choice. Which is more than can be said for the animals. Yes, it would be preferable to have the second picture as the reality now, but holding the pathological people in the first picture to account has to happen first. You have to excise the bad behavior to create the climate for the good behavior to happen.

Mary E

So I'm pleased some progress, however minimal, is finally being made, but really, these people bleating about their safety while engaging in felony animal cruelty under color of authority is really over the top.


@Rachel - "They choose to work at the shelter, knowing full well that countless animals will die in the facility. The animals are the only one’s without a choice."

Some people work at shelters with the notion that they can change things and help animals. People even volunteer at kill shelters because they want to help the animals that are there. It doesn't mean that they like the killing or that they don't want to stop it. Los Banos, CA, has a high kill shelter where the only paid employee is the ACO who comes to kill the animals; everyone else is a volunteer. Do you think the people who help out the animals there want them to die?! My guess is no, because they do their best to try to get them out of the shelter before it is too late. One of the most dedicated rescuers I know is an employee at Kings County (CA) shelter; she networks the cats extensively and spends her day off driving rescued animals up from the CA central valley to the Bay area and up into Napa.

Stereotypes, like the uncaring shelter worker or the shelter boss with the secret aim to obliterate all animals from the face of the earth, may save time and mental effort, but they aren't always accurate.


I got my beloved dog Rosie (who died last fall from osteosarcoma) at the Reno Shelter 11 years ago. They had a wonderful, proactive program even then. I found Rosie at one of their adoption day open-houses and it was love at first sight and she came home with me that day and I never regretted it for a minute.


Agree! They have to have support from the local political machine, which, as I understand it, they don't...so how does that happen?

Christie Keith

The same way it happened in Austin.


Chris Bkake

I am sick...ask the animal if it wants go get killed...

mary francis

No Kill is my dream and reading blogs like this one and Yesbiscuit, KCDogBlog and Nathan Winograd give me hope that it can happen...

Who would have predicted an Arab Spring? Maybe it's our time for a No Kill Fall?

Marilyn Decker

I agree that it is not so easy in today's economy to walk away from a job and find another one. I also agree that demonizing the employees is not the answer. What we need to do is change laws all across the United States to transform these death camps into no-kill shelters. And neutering/spaying each animal before he/she goes up for adoption. Stop the population where it is right now, not let it go unchecked so millions of animals a day will continue to suffer the fear and torment. The only time it should be considered euthanasia is when the animal is too sick or injured to be rehabilitated. How can people justify the killing of healthy and adoptable animals and call that euthanasia?

Chris Harris

This makes me ill. The abuse has to stop and the place needs to be reformed! Where is the board and the leadership when this is going on?

These security cameras are supposedly being monitored. To pick up or drag an animal by a choke pole (aka control pole or catch pole) is abusive and NOT how this equipment is to be used! Misusing this equipment can cause injuries.

New security videos from Memphis Animal Services:

"MAS Worker Shuts Cage Door on Puppy’s Leg Four Times", http://yesbiscuit.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/mas-worker-shuts-cage-door-on-puppys-leg-four-times/

"MAS Workers Using Chokepoles Inappropriately"

"Injured Dog at MAS – Did Worker Cause the Injury?"

Info on protests and news coverage under "Petition Updates" at

More action needs to be taken about this.

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