Director Alexis Pugh of Memphis Animal Services made plenty of changes when she took over the shelter last year. One of the biggest was implementing a safety net program designed to keep pets with their families, and get lost pets back home.

Maddie’s Fund® spoke with Pugh to find out more about the shelter’s innovative use of the Nextdoor social platform to help reunite lost pets and their families, and how other shelters can do the same.

“In 2016, we took in 4,199 stray dogs and 698 stray cats,” Pugh said. “It makes up the majority of our intake for dogs.

“We got the idea to use Nextdoor for posting stray pets right around the time we added our Community Engagement Specialist to our staff. We were meeting with the Mayor’s communication team to determine what resources were available to us, what our limitations would be, etc.

“It was in that meeting that we learned about the City of Memphis using Nextdoor to communicate strategically with specific neighborhoods. We didn’t realize that as a government agency, we have the ability to post in any Nextdoor neighborhood in our city — our experience had been just with our own personal accounts, where you can post in your neighborhood and a few surrounding neighborhoods. We thought it could be a really effective way to target an area where an animal was found, and utilize the residents in that area to see if they recognize the dog.”

Since implementing the program, MAS has seen a year-over-year increase in reclaimed pets of around 19 percent of intakes. How exactly does the process work?

The shelter team started out by discovering whether or not they could build a report with their shelter software, Chameleon, that would allow them to generate a list of every pet who came in stray on a specific day, along with some basic info about the pet, and most importantly, the location found. They next assembled a team of volunteers who were willing to work from home on their own computers, who committed to posting the found pets to Nextdoor on certain days of the week.

Right now the process is that a staff member generates the report from Chameleon and emails that to our volunteer team,” said Pugh. “The volunteer for that particular day then posts the pet.”

A challenge they face with the current process is that the found pet reports are generated manually by shelter staff, who only work Monday through Friday. Pets who come in over the weekend aren’t posted for a day or two, which slows things down. They are working on creating automated reports that will unstop the weekend pipeline and get pets onto Nextdoor more quickly — a key to the often-fast-moving lost and found pet environment on the platform.

One pet, Dallas, was reunited with his family thanks to a Nextdoor post, and MAS shared the happy story on their Facebook page:

Does Pugh have any advice for other shelters considering giving Nextdoor a try? “We absolutely recommend it if you’re a municipal shelter and your city can get you access to a government agency on Nextdoor,” she said. “Especially if you’re located in an area with a lot of highly engaged and responsible pet owners, this could be a game changer!”

To learn more about Nextdoor, visit