Saving Animals Comes First with New Leadership at Memphis Animal Services

Once known as the most horrible shelter for hundreds of miles, new leadership has helped the Memphis Animal Services (MAS) better serve its residents — both animal and human.

Last June, Alexis Pugh became the director of the shelter. (See New Director of Memphis Animal Services Has High Hopes for Shelter) She instituted many changes, but recently hired animal-lover and experienced animal rescuer Katie Pemberton to be the Community Engagement Specialist — a fancy name for someone who will help with marketing the animals, running a website, managing social media, and spreading the word about what the shelter does.

Pemberton practices what she preaches. She has two rescue dogs, one a coon hound and the other a pit bull, a hospice-foster black lab mix, and a cat named Angus. Who runs the house? She did mention that the cat bullies the pit bull.

Pemberton spoke with Shelter Me about some of the positive changes to the shelter. The shelter has continued the practice that Pugh began last summer of not labeling the dogs with guesses about their breed makeup. Pemberton commented, “No longer are breeds listed for dogs because it’s a guess, and it’s been proven to be wrong so much of the time. Why make a life-defining designation that you are not sure of.”

MAS is an open access shelter, and when the kennels are filled, difficult decisions must be made about who lives and who is euthanized. But both Pugh and Pemberton are excited about something that they hope will give those animals most at risk a better chance of getting rescued or adopted.

Grayson is urgently in need of a home. His previous owner said that he is good with other animals and children and knows sit, stay, and shake.

Pemberton shared with Shelter Me the new procedure for sending information to their partner rescues about those urgent dogs:

“What’s been extremely helpful is that every day, we have this long list of rescue emails to rescues that pull from us, and every day they receive a list of animals who are critical. That is the list of animals who are in danger if we have to euthanize the next day. There are many different criteria, one is the longest in the shelter. If we have space, no one is euthanized, but at least the rescues know that those are the dogs most in need (cats, too).

Every day, they receive a list of the dogs who are owner surrender (and are available immediately) and strays (they are available after three days). Every day we are sending out emails. There are two emails each day. Sometimes there is an extra email that is a plea for an animal with a medical issue where we’ve stabilized the animal but it needs more medical care.”

Pemberton said that the emails regarding the urgent animals are sent out by 10:00 am so that there is time during the day for rescues to share the information and arrange rescue if interested. The shelter needs to receive an email by 5:00 am the next morning with the rescue stating that they will pull the dog or cat. If space is not needed, the shelter does not euthanize.

This new policy will give rescues a chance to network urgent dogs and cats in an effort to find them foster homes or rescue. The pulling rescue must be a rescue partner with Memphis Animal Services. For information about this visit Pet Placement Partner information.

The shelter tries to share any information about temperament of the dogs. There are memos in the animals’ files about positive behaviors and any concerning behaviors. Pemberton said that she has personally entered a lot of positive behavior information about the dogs she has interacted with.

Training the public in how to work with their dogs is important so that behavior problems are addressed before a pet is relinquished to the shelter. Toward that goal, the shelter offers an “Ask the Trainer” session where pet owners can attend (without their pets) and ask a trainer about issues and problems they might be having.

Two animals at the shelter needing a home are:


Chattanooga is a ten-year-old cat who was surrendered to the shelter with several other cats. She is sweet and very fluffy. At ten, she can still give years of love and affection to a family, but her chances of being adopted are limited to those who are willing to take on a senior kitty. She is beautiful both inside and out. Her ID# is #A292718. The adoption fee is $75 and included her spay, microchip, vaccinations, a collar and ID tag.


Beckham is a chocolate brown, two-year-old male dog who has a white stripe down his face ending in a white-tipped muzzle. He is initially timid, and when he was taken to an off-site adoption event, he was frightened at first. But with patience he got more comfortable, and by the end of the day, he was begging for attention. He’s super sweet and very cuddly. Beckam’s ID number is #A292796. His adoption fee is $75 which includes his neuter, vaccinations, microchip, ID tag, collar and leash.

Adopting a pet is now easier at the shelter. There are large posters explaining the process and how to find and adopt a dog or cat. The shelter wants to be welcoming to people and make it a destination for those looking to add to their family.

The shelter now has their own website. Before, getting to the shelter website involved following a circuitous route of links through the City of Memphis’ website. Rescues interested in becoming rescue partners should contact the shelter. Transport from Tennessee to other parts of the country is possible thanks to several transport groups.

Volunteers to help walk dogs, socialize them, help visitors, and do other tasks are always needed. There is a workshop for those interested in helping the dogs and cats at the shelter on January 30, at 10:00 am. The shelter wants to make volunteers amateur photographers who can take candid pictures of the dogs and cats to share on social media. Intake pictures are often blurry. Animals are frightened at being left at the shelter and may look scared. Good photographs go a long way toward finding a dog or a cat a rescue placement or adoption.

The final message? Visit your local shelter to find a furry companion. They are often overlooked and usually have a huge selection of dogs and cats — and one will be just right for you!



Pamela Kramer

​Animal lover and rescuer. Lives with 4 cats, 4 dogs, 1 bird, 2 frogs and usually one foster animal (and very understanding husband). Reviews books (especially about animals) and educates children about compassion toward animals. Former household animals include rabbits, rats, and other assorted creatures. Also writes at


  1. Sloan P. Cowart says:

    One day for rescues to network and raise money for pledges and they think this is great, they are delusional! 20 dogs on a new list everyday at the moment, no rescue can rescue 20 dogs a day get real and start more adoption events and network and transport animals to no kill shelters if they are serious about saving animals but they are not from the extreme amount euthanised in the last few days, earlier this month and at Christmas!!!

  2. Kaseigh Long says:

    I cannot see that Memphis is even on shelter me.

    How can I help with that?

    Submit a request like I did for Maury County?

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