The cozy little world of animal shelter executives has been rocked quite severely this past year or so, leading shelters in the U.S. to place their volunteers (as well as rescues) under what most consider a ‘gag order.”
Thank you for your help with this. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this policy.
Guess what Brent? What you’re doing is ILLEGAL! This article on PoC.org explains how First Amendment rights are being violated when volunteers, staff, and rescues are forced to sign such documents, or who are banned from animal shelters for being ‘whistle blowers.’
Section 1983, published in PDF form by the National No Kill Advocacy Center states the following for applying Section 1983 to rescue
“There can be no dispute that complaining about abuses or violations of law at shelters is a constitutionally protected right. A rescuer not only has the First Amendment right to speak out against abuses and violations of law committed by a governmental entity, he or she also has a constitutionally protected right to demand that the government correct the wrongs that are identified. This includes the right to threaten to sue or to actually file suit against the shelter.”
One recent case was settled by a Baltimore judge who ruled in favor of rescue and volunteers banned from a shelter after speaking up for the animals after a rescue coordinator for Virginia-based Fancy Cats Rescue Team criticized the care provided to animals at the Baltimore County Animal Services in Baldwin.
An email was sent to the shelter demanding change in the high rate of euthanasia and the low rate of adoption for the animals coming into the facility. The shelter director retaliated by banning Fancy Cats from the future rescue of animals from their facility.
In 2014, Fancy Cats, along with volunteer Denise Arnot, sued director Charlotte Crenson, alleging that their right to free speech had been violated.
The Baltimore judge ruled
“the right to exercise constitutionally protected free speech, free of a state actor’s retaliatory adverse act and violated a clearly established constitutional right.”
It was also ruled animal shelter executives aren’t immune from lawsuits brought about by volunteers, staff, and rescues who speak out.
There are several violations, which can be backed up with FOIA report from Greenville County about instances that occurred at the shelter over the past year or so. Keep in mind this is NOT the Greenville Humane Society. A lot of people confuse the two. GCACS is the high-kill shelter located on Furman Hall Road.
Some of the incidents (there are many more) over the past year or so include
*the dog noted to have an imbedded collar , on intake and found to have the SAME collar imbedded when released to a rescue
*the cat a rescuer was told was “not yet vetted”, he needed a rabies vaccination , and staff “didn’t have time “ to perform the vaccination. He was found dead in his cage a couple of days later
*the dog who’s owner was contacted to come and get him. On her arrival, she was scuttled into an office and told her dog had been killed
These are only a few of the incidents on record. Others involve the killing of newborn and feral kittens trapped and brought into the shelter.
Wouldn’t it be easier to address the real issues, rather than illegally curb the constitutional rights of those involved with the shelter, and who are the only voice the dogs and cats there may ever know?
Greenville County Animal Care isn’t the only shelter guilty of violating First Amendment rights. Greenville Dog Examiner has been reached out to several times over the past few months following the banning of volunteers from shelters in North and South Carolina, whose only crime was asking for more humane conditions for the animals in their care.
Most animal shelters in the United States need a major overhaul. Telling volunteers and rescues to keep their mouths shut isn’t the most productive way to go about this, but it does appear to be the most common.
Common sense would argue that if a shelter isn’t committing illegal or unethical acts involving the animals in their care, a gag order wouldn’t even be necessary.
Please feel free to leave a comment adding to this, or your story of being banned by your local shelter for speaking out.