Memphis Animal Services gets hundreds of chickens from cruelty case

One of the 223 chickens confiscated by Memphis Animal Services unknowingly poses for a photo. The addition of the birds brings an already over-crowded shelter to a breaking point.

Staffers at Memphis Animal Services are preparing for the arrival of some 223 chickens at their main facility on Appling City Cove.

The chickens were rescued by MAS officers after being confiscated from the owners. Those owners will be charged with 223 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, one count for every bird, the shelter said.

Between the time the shelter was notified of the alleged cruelty case and the time trucks pulled up with the chicken cargo was less than four hours. In that time, the director of the animal shelter Alexis Pugh said, staffers hustled to a tractor supply store to buy feed, and the sally port of the building was converted into a giant, make-shift coop with one hundred wire cages being in the temperature-controlled room — two to three birds per cage.

The addition of hundreds of landfowl is yet another blow to Memphis’ animal shelter, which has been at or over capacity for months now. The shelter has resorted to frequently posting the list of animals, mostly dogs, who are scheduled for euthanasia for various behavioral or physiological issues.

Pugh calls this moment the shelter finds itself in, “disheartening.”

“It has been perhaps one of the toughest time periods that we’ve ever faced, including right after I got here, because it feels like we’ve gone backwards,” Pugh said. Shelters nationwide, she said, are experiencing staggering intake numbers unmatched by outgoing animals.

Memphis’ shelter was built to accomodate roughly 400 animals. With the addition of the hundreds-strong brood of chickens, the shelter is in a crisis.

“It is an unheard of record,” Pugh said. “We have close to 950 animals now.”

Not all of the animals are in the physical shelter, but hundreds currently are. Pugh said the staff is constantly worried about the confines they can provide for the animals.

“We are trying. We really are trying. But there comes a breaking point, and we’re about there,” she said.

To that end, MAS is once again pleading for any kind of help. If animals are adopted, that not only frees up shelter space but also enables staffers to adequately care for their animals.

If someone can’t adopt, Pugh said, then consider fostering. If paying for an animal’s needs isn’t feasible — the shelter has a program in place that helps with food and supplies.

“Anything, anything at this point. We even need help taking care of the chickens at the shelter, so if you want to volunteer to help, come on chicken people.”

The shelter has employed a number of promotions over the past year to encourage adoptions, including the most recent one — a $25 Kroger gift card for every week an animal is fostered in your home.

“But it’s just… crickets. No one is showing up. We’re getting in about 25 animals a day, and we’re not adopting out nearly as many,” Pugh said.

To foster, adopt, or volunteer with the shelter, head to the city’s website and click on an option that suits you. The shelter is open potential helpers from noon to 4 p.m., daily.

The chickens will be ready for adoption by Thursday.

Micaela Watts is a reporting covering access and equity with The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at

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Memphis Animal Services gets hundreds of chickens from cruelty case

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