What does it mean when a rescue is asked to sign an Animal Welfare Agreement?

What does it mean when a rescue is asked to sign an Animal Welfare Agreement between their rescue and an animal shelter they “pull” (save cats and dogs) from? This question has come up since Greenville County Animal Care Services (GCACS) in Upstate South Carolina has asked the organizations who rescue from their facility to sign a Humane Discourse and Conduct in Animal Welfare Agreement.

The screenshot leaves the print too small to read clearly for this article, but the content of the agreement is listed below.

Contract for GCACS (transcribed below)

“We the individuals and organizations in conjunction with Greenville County Animal Care reject and condemn verbal abuse, threats, harassment, and other acts of violence directed against animal welfare personnel and volunteers. As rescue partners, we call on every animal welfare group to join us in actively promoting compassion and respect, not just for animals, but for those people who work tirelessly on their behalf. By signing this agreement, we the individuals and organization will not engage in attacks on fellow individuals, organizations or agencies in any manner as they do not further the cause of animal welfare. We, along with Animal Care and its approved rescue group partners, when discussing differences of policy or opinion, agree to do so in a manner that is neither denigrating nor abusive. Different groups can have (and voice) differences of opinion but need to display those differences in a respectful way.”

The Greenville shelter (not to be confused with the Greenville Humane Society) has often been the subject of controversy. In other words, they do good things and they do bad things. Those who follow their pet rescue page on Facebook, as well as the volunteers who promote the animals (and do an excellent job of it), know you can be both “for” and “against” the shelter at the same time.

What concerns me, and the cause for this article is those in rescue who have taken the time to consult an attorney have been told NOT to sign this agreement. It really raises some red flags on the part of the shelter.

For one, I know rescues see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes at a shelter. Any shelter. If abuse or neglect or if policies are being broken, this new Animal Welfare Agreement would prohibit the rescue from reporting it.

Shelter Director Shelley Simmons says we all have to work together for the welfare of the dogs and cats at their facility. But how is it helping when rescues are being told they shouldn’t sign the agreement? I also wonder whether this would prohibit rescues who save sick or injured animals from posting photos on their wall, as in a way that would be negative publicity for the shelter.

Is this contract even legal? Wouldn’t it be easier to not do anything wrong that rescues would feel the need to report on? This new contract isn’t saving lives. I fear it will costs them.Has anyone had any issues with Greenville lately? Please feel free to sound off in the comment section of this article (Facebook comment section is faster, as comments from Facebook don’t have to be approved before being posted).

Has anyone had any issues with Greenville lately? Please feel free to sound off in the comment section of this article (Facebook comment section is faster, as comments from Facebook don’t have to be approved before being posted).

Elisa

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What does it mean when a rescue is asked to sign an Animal Welfare Agreement? — 31 Comments

  1. Would welcome comments of other attorneys on this — will give my first reaction & need to think more. It’s not unusual to have such statements of principle circulated in humane circles — I remember one nationwide pledge like this which circulated several years ago & got signatures of many organizations big & small. The problem is that the terms are vague & that’s why it makes people uncomfortable. On one level it’s easy to make a promise not to make any attacks — it’s like making a promise not to beat your wife. But when you ponder the meaning of “attacks in any manner” you see that could include pointed criticism. Or does it??? Having had cases in which good animal people had to contend with vicious attacks by trolls, I can understand why it would be appealing to get consensus about the boundaries of fair & civilized discussion & disagreement. I choose to believe that this request is made in good faith but suggest that it be reworked to be more specific in what is ruled out. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this pledge would be legally binding in any case– it’s simply a statement of principle.

    • The problem is those in rescue see things the rest of us don’t and they can’t even speak out about them on social media anymore. I’ve had PM’s come in that I have to keep confidential because I’m not there, but I trust the rescue in that they’re true.

      • Then that’s the real problem — how can rescuers have & use their voice? Have often thought there should be an organization of rescues that could develop political strength. At the very least, we should gather & share info about legal strategies — these would differ in different jurisdictions. In NC there have been successful lawsuits against public shelters — don’t know about SC. Need to draw SC attorneys into this.

        • Federal law, ie 1st Amendment, is nationwide. That, in my (legally) uneducated opinion makes state law irrelevant in this issue

        • Animal advocates attend every county council meeting in Greenville. They helped bring about the very program that is now having pregnant cats spayed on intake. From what I’ve heard even near full term. That’s not what advocates wanted.

          One council member said he was more concerned with the sidewalks than with animal welfare. Go back and read the article I did about pregnant cats. http://pictures-of-cats.org/does-anyone-know-whats-going-on-with-pregnant-cats-brought-to-upstate-kill-shelter.html

          • In my TNR rescue group, pregnant and even near term cats undergo abortion and are spayed. No ill affects to date after 8 years. Some members have a difficult time with that. However, TNR is all about eliminating numbers.
            I was one of a few who had a very pregnant cat about to be spayed, but she went into labor minutes before and delivered 4 kits at our headquarters. No one advocates the killing of thriving newborn kittens; but, abortion is necessary. After socializing the kits, 3 of them were adopted out to loving homes.

            • I’ve been told they’re dropping off the 2-pound kittens who are TNR’d right along with mama. It would seem that young they could be socialized. Can you imagine the pain the females must experience? That’s where a lot of the anger is coming from. People in rescue know things but this paper will prevent them from saying anything.

              The shelter staff has also been asked to sign the same agreement so what happens in the shelter stays in the shelter.

      • I have commented. I don’t think the contract is deliberately designed to curtail freedom speech but it may make people wary of criticizing others which may indirectly cause censorship. It is enforceable. There must have been some problems with nasty criticism in the past. Is PoC in the firing line?! I mean is there an implied reference to this website.

        • PoC isn’t involved in any way except to get the issues out in the open. People are interpreting the contract in different perspectives on the heels of very few cats on the shelter page plus cats who may not be feral being released back where they were found. Rescues are also seeing things they can’t report on if they signed the contract.

  2. What they deem being abusive etc is nothing more than disagreeing with them..I have gone back and forth with them re aborting ALL MOMS to be AND releasing 2 lb kittens to fend for themselves..

  3. I was advised not to signed this paperwork, that is was nothing but a bunch of BS and just the shelter trying to strong arm and show power over rescues. My problems have been discussed with the assistant County Adminstrator and the shelter director and nothing came of that meeting but a waste of my time away from my job. They want to maintain not allowing me to pull Schnauzers because there is a community need for dogs at the shelter, the community does not have a need, the community in fact has failed these dogs, as my rescue and many other rescues have taken in various dogs that have been adopted from the shelter that came back in with major medical issues. What they don’t realize is Target Zero is funded by Maddie’s Fund. Maddie’s Fund is owned by a couple and named in the honor of their late Mini Schnauzer. From my understanding GCACS is following the policies of Target Zero and in which receives funds from them. I’ve reached out to Maddie’s Fund as a Schnauzer rescue and Schnauzer lover to let them know how GCACS is failing not only this breed but other dogs and animals as well. This free and low cost adoption stuff and not working with rescues needs to come to a halt ASAP! I think we should all ban together in memory of the poor dog that was adopted on free dog day and brutally hit by a car two days after the adoption. In memory of all the horrors of what happened to dogs that we don’t actually know about that were adopted on free dog adoption days. Yes people there was heavy chatter amongst known dog fighters on FB about the free dog adoption day.

    • I was advised not to sign sorry guys I’ve been dealing with this crazy BS contact all week it’s wiped me out mentally!

      • Target Zero is a sham. They are good at teaching shelters how to fudge the numbers and hide misdeeds. Sara Pizano was known as Dr Death in Miami and run out of the shelter on a rail

        • I agree I will 100% speak against SCAM Target Zero and Maddie’s Fund was made aware of all the happenings from one Schnauzer lover to another I’m hoping for some response from them.

    • Beth, did you see where one of the “free adoptable dogs” from a few weeks ago was allowed to run loose with no fence and was killed? LOTS of blood so it suffered. It didn’t die instantly.

      • Yes I have all that in my phone and records I did a screenshot of it all I even forwarded to the assistant county administrator she did not respond.

  4. Yes, the truth needs to by out. You don’t want it to be quiet. There is many things go wrong there. Shouldn’t be keep quiet. It will be keep going on. It needs to be stopped. And the word needs to out. This innocent animals, and people need to help them, even the truth has to be out.

  5. I think it’s arguable, but in leu of waiting for a legal decision, my instinct would be not to sign such an agreement. Not the same thing, but I was once presented a non-competition agreement to sign wherein I was told my job depended on it. Everyone else in the company but me signed it. I thought it was illegal to even have been presented the agreement, and it turned out it would have been illegal for them to sue me either way. They also had no basis to fire me either way. I saved my career by not signing it… and I did the right thing by my clients. The gag order agreement sounds like the same kind of thing. Just drawing it up jeopardizes the animals’ lives.

  6. Wouldn’t this agreement come under the clean hands doctrine. It would protect an innocent shelter/rescue/individual from slander but if they were guilty of actual neglect and brought suit there would be no legal standing ?

  7. It appears a NDA is not binding if there is illegal activity. A lawyer would have to take the intricacies from there.

  8. There could also be a legit claim of signing under duress if that was the only way to take custody of a cat and if it was documented immediately by a veterinarian. Sorry for three posts in a row I can’t edit on this site.
    These contracts NDA are meant to protect honest people from slander but the law will not hold a contract valid if there are elements that are illegal.

  9. Well, in my view it is enforceable but it is strange because it is designed to stop people being nasty to others and those who work in other organizations which implies that in the past people have been nasty to each other and it has affected the running of the shelter and animal rescue generally.

    Perhaps I am missing something but I don’t see a big problem with it which probably makes me unpopular.

    It does not stop people criticizing others and organizations:

    “Different groups can have (and voice) differences of opinion but need to display those differences in a respectful way.”

    ..but criticism must be respectful. I presume that means in terms of language used and in other forms of communication (e.g. images) used.

    It may make people wary of speaking out which may be a form of censorship. That seems to be the downside.

    • I am in rescue and deal with this shelter if you say anything negative towards their policies or the way they do things either on FB or meetings with the county administrator they get mad. They also have gotten nasty with rescues for having a diff in opinions. I was told I was threatening staff before by just clearly stating that I was going to have to set up a meeting with the county administrator. How is that deemed a threat?

      • Thanks Beth. The agreement then appears to be an attempt at censoring people and stifling dissent. Not good.

  10. Well, I don’t believe that I would sign a contract like this as it is worded. My gut tells me that their goal is to, somehow, stifle whistle blowers.
    I don’t find this thing truly legal.

  11. if this place has had problems in the past & THEN they write THIS thing up it is clearly an attempt to silence others BEFORE they can bring charges against them. if im not mistaken, in binding contracts BOTH people/entities need to sign it & it has to be stamped/notarized with BOTH signees present or it cant be used against u. what probably happens is THEY confront u over signing the document & THEY say there could b problems, but if there is breach of faith, contract, or illegal activities on the part of the shelter then its void. i could b wrong on that, but thats what i remember of contractual agreements. its purposefully vague so it can SEEM to encompass more than it does. all it really is is about vulgar language being used when describing the shelter &/or its practices. it SEEMS like its more but its not, & THAT is how they get u.

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