NJ animal shelter sued after negative comments were deleted and users blocked on the shelters Facebook page

A federal lawsuit was filed in March at the U.S. District Court in Camden by three volunteers at a county-operated animal shelter in Pleasantville, New Jersey. The trio claims their First Amendment rights were violated when their comments were deleted and they were blocked from the shelter’s public Facebook page.

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Atlantic County Animal Shelter is being sued by Anna Strang, Dawn Marie Jacoby, and Michael Price after the shelter page removed negative comments and banned them from the page after the tree alleged abuse against dogs. It was their belief the shelter wasn’t following procedure in handling or killing the dogs, their attorney Edward Harrington Heyburn said.

Heyburn stated in an interview with NJ.com

“When you have a government (Facebook) page, you can’t censor it. These posts can’t be deleted and you can’t prevent someone from commenting.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of an investigator of the shelter by the local Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that determined the allegations of abuse were unfounded. According to Heyburn, the SPCA didn’t interview his clients, nor did they ask to see the shelter’s records. He said a sign is visible at the shelter instructing the volunteers to feed the dogs less due to expense.

The people who run the Facebook page never notified the plaintiffs or explained why their comments were removed. They’re seeking an injunction that would prohibit negative comments directed at the shelter be removed just for speaking out about issues that concern them about the cats and dogs at the facility.

Shelter Director Katherine Kelsey has been named as a defendant of the publicly run shelter. Public information officer Linda Gimore said the county is reviewing the lawsuit and will respond at a later date.

The Facebook: Atlantic County Animal Shelter community page has very few bad reviews. Most are in praise of this shelter. Readers, how do you feel about this lawsuit? Since this facility is operated using taxpayer dollars, should those who pay taxes in this area be allowed to comment on their page without the risk of their thoughts and complaints being erased?

Please sound off in the comments below.

Elisa

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