Freedom and Information: Act!

Some people feel intimidated about asking for public records, even though our government says you have a right to the information.  If a shelter receives its funding from taxpayers, the shelter must provide records to the public upon request.  To my mind, all public shelters should have at least their statistics and kill lists posted online.  How can we save pets that we don’t even know are scheduled to be needlessly killed?    Here are a few resources to take the scary off obtaining public records:

  • Forcing Transparency:  pdf by Kate Neiswender on “using state public records and Freedom of Information laws to get records and statistics from animal shelters”
  • Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) site has a list of tipsheets on FOIA requests

If you decide to request statistics from your local municipal shelter, please let me know when you receive the information.  I’ll be glad to share the numbers on the blog.

15 thoughts on “Freedom and Information: Act!

  1. It’s official. Time to throw a parade for Shirley. Since today is Fat Tuesday I’m thinking today is good.
    Also wanna give a big shout out to Mark O’Brien at WSOC in Charlotte. Stand up guy who believes in helping the four-leggeds. His interview with Deborah Farhi about the Chesterfield Co SC dogs shot by ACOs is here WSOC was the first to bring this story to the public. If you appreciate the WSOC coverage please leave a comment on one of their stories. Previous stories are linked under yesterday’s interview.

  2. Yesterday the Supreme Court rejected the government’s broad use of an exemption in the federal Freedom of Information Act. In an 8-1 vote, they threw out an appeals court ruling that backed the Navy’s decision to withhold maps showing the extent of damage expected from an explosion at an ammunition dump in western Washington.

    The feds had withheld the data under a FOIA provision dealing with a federal agency’s “personnel rules and practices.”

  3. you all might want to know that through the freedom of information act that you can get access to your medical rescirds from the medical information have a right to access your medical records once a can also get access to all government records through the F.O.A.

  4. Thank you for the information, very important. One of the best Freedom of Info resources out there is right here-North Carolina Open Government Coalition. One can even locate sample letters etc.

    In SC when an animal is euthanized: “…the animal’s body may not be disposed of until death is confirmed by a certified euthanasia technician.” Here is the link to the SC Dept of Agriculture:

    You can see this would perhaps pose an issue in this case where there appears to be no sign off or no actual documentation relative to disposition of the dogs in question. The only document that has been mentioned is the ‘log’ which only contains those animals receiving lethal injection. The others are simply indeterminate?

    This is why people need to make FOI requests for any/all records, data, correspondence, logs relative to the dates in question.

  5. My question – how does PAWS play into this since they are a private group? I mean – we are still waiting on records from them….according to them they are a private group and not held to the same standard as publicly funded ‘shelters’ where does this leave us in getting the info from them?

    In regards to the AC in Chesterfield – the log they keep does only contain the animals that were killed by injection…but they have to have some way to tracking the amount of animals that are brought in, adopted out, and all that fun stuff. So where would it be? AND – how would we go about asking for ALL documentation in regards to the animals that came in, got adopted/fostered/etc, as well as those that have been killed (both by injection and shooting)?

  6. Every year I spend $50 – $100 on a records request for the euthanasia log from our local animal control. (I have to pay 25 cents per page to have them photocopy it…I wonder how much money I would save if they went no kill?!) It used to be that they’d give you eight pages for free or charge you 10 cents per page, but when I got 27 people to request eight specific pages each a few years ago, they quit that policy and upped the fee to 25 cents per page.
    I go through the log page by page every year. It’s my way of paying tribute to those who died. The majority of the animals killed in 2010 were owner requested (I think, I haven’t crunched the numbers exactly.) While the facility was under construction they actually quit euthanizing ANY animals. Seems they don’t really HAVE to kill?)
    Lots of sick cats with bad behavior. (I’m thinking that’s any cat taken to animal control where they get URI and are stressed.) The year before they euthanized more than 100 white mice…one at a time, with a rather large dose of FatalPlus! My tax dollars at work.
    This year they killed an 8 year old husky because it was *too old*—my *baby* turned eight last year!
    My vet used to buy ad space in the paper to advertise the euthanasia numbers at Animal Control the year before. But she’s been so busy, she hasn’t done that this year.

  7. Question- I have heard that the state run pounds get state money for the drugs used to euthanize. Does anyone know if this is true? I have also heard that they have to use x amount to receive the finding?

  8. Thank you for this informational article. I wish more people would request animal shelter records yearly and look them over.

    I just tweeted and facebooked (do the same): Freedom & Information: Act! Isn’t it time to see just what your public shelter has been doing? #animalshelter

  9. I LOVE this site. Only on brief criticism…it is usually called the “Freedom OF Information” Act. We have a shelter in our county (Fort Defiance Humane Society) who has been in violation of Ohio’s laws for years… They did not even have a copy of Ohio’s “Sunshine Laws” until I gave them mine. They are pros at the smoke and mirrors of hiding things from the public and have fired employees, volunteers and “board members” who asked too many questions. Thankfully, the County Commissioners finally called them on it, although to-date no real actions have been taken against them, only warnings.

    1. Yeah, I know what it’s called. My title was intended to be a play on words.

      Did you end up getting the records from the shelter who was trying to hide them? I’d be interested to know what it was they wanted to keep quiet.

    2. It is interesting that you bring that shelter’s one I was looking up info on not too long ago. AND one shelter here in OH that I am finding it hard to locate records/info on. I was wondering why that shelter was so hard to locate info on when many other OH shelter haven’t been nearly as hard to find/locate info on their stats. Many OH shelters put info directly on their websites with links to each years records as far as deaths, return, adoptions, etc are concerned. Now I understand better why that is the case. Maybe we can start a group that can do phone calls/letter writing to the County Commissioners to see that they stay on top of things with this shelter.

      Can you tell us anymore info on the shelter…assuming you live near it and might have more info than some of us who live farther away…even though I am in OH I don’t know that I’d be able to ‘run to’ the shelter to see things for myself and if you’ve been there and can tell us more info about things happening there it will give us more to go on to make calls & write letters with specific concerns that you have noted, or gotten from talking to people that use to work/volunteer here.

  10. Erica… I can give you the info we have so far. actually alot of noise is happening, but the FDHS just does not get it. If you are really interested I can email you the info I have. Getting real solid information from them has been difficult. All I did was start asking questions about why they suddenly changed their name to Fort Defiance HS, and now I am on the enemy list… but I am on a list with many really dedicated animal people, so its all good. email me at

  11. If you want YOUR city to become a No Kill city, share this with your City Council Members, and Mayor, and strongly urge them to support it, and ask others in your city to do the same:


    If made into law, this will go a long ways towards rendering the “euthanasia” (murder) records of healthy pets, non existent.

  12. I agree with public disclosure. Transparency is what I look for in government entities as well as non-profit organizations. I believe in being informed. If an organization is reluctant to provide public disclosure information or I get the run around, there are other legitimate organizations I can donate to.

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