From November 3rd to the 9th, Memphis Animal Services will make a concerted effort to raise awareness of opportunities to adopt homeless animals in observance of National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation week.

Memphis Animal Services (MAS), the largest animal shelter in Memphis, serves the entirety of Shelby County minus Bartlett, Germantown, and Collierville, which each have their own animal services.

Katie Pemberton, the Community Engagement Specialist at MAS, is in charge of spreading the word about events and opportunities for anyone to foster or adopt animals.

“We get in, on average, 30 to 50 animals each day,” Pemberton said. “We will take in more than 11,000 animals this year; our intake was up 30% this year from last year.”

The goal of MAS is to give every animal a home and every home a pet, and they will take every opportunity to promote their services to save animals from euthanization.

“On average, we do about 15 adoptions a day and about 3,000 each year,” Pemberton said. “About as many go out to rescue groups that raise funds to save animals from shelters or the streets.”

MAS encourages people to adopt by reducing the cost of adoption for some events, recently including a “Game of Thrones” themed day and a “Name Your Price” day.

“We try to have adoption promotions at least once or twice a month, but it depends on where the need is and whether our intake or capacity is really high,” Pemberton said. “Any time we can hijack the news and put the focus on our animals, we want to capitalize on that. An example of that is that on election day, if you come in with an “I Voted Today” sticker, you get a $10 adoption.”

MAS also takes time to ensure that the animals in their care get vaccines and testing for disease, including heart worms and even feline leukemia.  For families with pets, MAS will even ask that you bring your pet to the shelter to see how well the pet gets along with the adopter, but only if the pet has been properly vaccinated and doesn’t have immune deficiencies.

“We do some offsite adoption events, at festivals and the like,” Pemberton said. “They are highly labor intensive and not very effective at adoptions, but it’s one of the most popular ways for people to reach out. However, lately we have been doing kitten adoption events at PetSmart, and those have been wildly effective. We really have to focus our resources on where we can get the most return and where we can save the most lives.”

My own family adopted our pet cat from MAS at a “Clear the Shelter” event several years ago. This event allowed people to come and adopt a pet for free, waiving the typical adoption, vaccination and neuter/spaying costs. However, MAS no longer holds any Clear the Shelter events due to outcry from a vocal minority in the community.

“The only reason we don’t do free adoptions any more is the outrage from a small number of community members takes up all our time, Pemberton said. “Some people believe that because you came and adopted a pet at a free adoption event, you can’t afford a pet and you shouldn’t have a pet. We do not believe that. We believe that you should be able to get a pet, and prepare for how you can care for it. If we can save you money on the adoption, you have more money to care for your pet.”

For anyone who wants to support MAS, adoption fostering, volunteering and donating are all options. MAS receives some funds from both the local government and from grants, but any blankets or squeaky toys are also accepted. For instance, IKEA donated some play structures for the animals.

For anyone looking to foster or adopt, Pemberton recommends knowing the rules. Some landlords and Homeowners Associations have very tight rules on what pets are and aren’t allowed, including some restrictions on breeds. MAS does not label their animals any particular breed, but that designation is largely left to the judgment of the landlord.

“What I suggest when adopting a pet is to ask staff and try to find pets that fit your personality, not based on looks,” Pemberton said. “I really beg people who don’t have weight or breed restrictions to consider those options. Those are the dogs that need you. The little yorkie does not need you; he will be adopted the day he comes in.”

“We have not had to euthanize a small dog, cat or puppy for space in three years,” Pemberton said. “But large adult dogs are still dying for space and they need help more than anybody else does.”

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