Animal shelter overcrowding incident leads to passionate meeting

Published: Jul. 14, 2009 at 7:11 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2009 at 4:43 PM CDT
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By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis' Animal Services Advisory Board held a passionate meeting Tuesday over a complaint about an overcrowding incident over the weekend that led to a dog fight.

At the meeting, Advisory Board member Michelle Buckalew confronted Memphis Animal Shelter administrator Ernie Alexander about the incident.

"It just seems that the staff is a consistent factor in the equation of the compassionate care not improving," she said.

The complaint alleges the shelter was at full capacity, ran out of food, and a dog fight began when an employee trying to stretch the food supply brought one dish into a cage.

"We were never out of food," Alexander said.

He then explained what really happened.

"We had an influx of dogs to come in from both the city and the county, where we had three to four animals per kennel," he said.

Alexander claimed the dog fighting was due to the overcrowding, and not a food shortage.

"You're having to basically referee to avoid dog fights," he said.

Alexander told the board the shelter is open-admission by law, and he must take in animals from every city around the county.  At it's peak, shelter euthanizes up to 75 animals in a day.

"Whether it's Memphis Animal Services, Shelby County, or the back of a pickup truck, I have to accept that animal," he said.

Buckalew said the system is broken.

"Whether it has been the mayor, whether it has been your staff, or whether it has been a combination of all, it is still broken, and the euthanasia numbers have not decreased," she said.

Alexander told the group he recently found a new pet adoption location at Poplar and Erin to help reduce the euthanasia rate.  He hopes building the new shelter will cut down on some of these concerns.

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