Judge rules in favor of rescue and volunteers banned from Baltimore shelter after speaking up for shelter pets
This is one article that should be kept as a reference by those who have been banned from animal shelter rescue after asking a particular shelter for a change in policy.
Back in 2013, 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. Crenson attempted to have the suit settled in her favor. On January 21, Maryland U.S. District Judge James Bredar denied Crenson’s request, ruling that Fancy Cats and Arnot properly alleged a violation of
“the right to exercise constitutionally protected free speech, free of a state actor’s retaliatory adverse act,” his opinion states,
And that Crenson is not immune from being sued since her alleged conduct…
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“violated a clearly established constitutional right.”
Judge Bredar also determined the rescue and volunteers claims are over a valuable government benefit, meaning they had the right to serve as volunteers or partners with a government organization.
In December 2014, another lawsuit was filed, backed by an ACLU letter accusing the shelter of free-speech suppression. Baltimore County has been asked to cease and desist from practices that fail to abide by laws that require the shelter to provide the following:
- Potable water
- Wholesome food
- A healthy and clean living environment
- Exercise and veterinary care
- Effort to contact the owner of an impounded animal
Three concerned citizens, Anne George, Jody Kesner, and Jody Rosoff, who filed the December suit, alleges the county shelter is guilty of:
“routine failures result in the mistreatment and neglect of sick, wounded, and healthy animals alike, and in the unnecessary, inhumane, and wrongful killing of animals.”
This ruling, and the second suit being filed may prove to be landmark cases, as many shelter employees, volunteers and rescues across the United States have faced banishment after speaking out for animal welfare. Since Judge Bredar has decided enough is enough when it comes to the mistreatment of shelter animals, perhaps other judges will follow his lead and begin to hold shelter directors responsible for the inhumane treatment they either authorize or turn a blind eye to.
Please share this article with your friends, especially those who work in any capacity for their local shelter. Your comments are welcome.
Thanks for this Elisa. This is good news, of course. I admire the people for suing the shelter. Well done. The judge has to decide as he has done because one of the great tenets of living in America is freedom of speech. That said there are many abuses of it which go unpunished.
As you say the case will help volunteers who are gagged. They can refer to it when in discussions with the organisation. In fact, if I was going to criticise a shelter I’d do it in writing and in the opening paragraph I’d quote this case and tell them they have no right to try gag me.
Of course they can still sack the person if they are employed but that would probably be in breach of employment law. Volunteers are in a vulnerable position because I don’t believe they are protected by employment law.