A couple of years ago, volunteers at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control started a “Friends of” page on Facebook. MACC wasn’t promoting its own animals online and some of the volunteers were professional photographers who believed that good photos and descriptions posted on social media could help get more pets out of the pound alive. Kathy Boyd began volunteering about a year ago after being inspired by the success and community involvement of the FoMACC page. She and the other volunteers would photograph animals and write up summaries of their observations and interactions with pets at the pound so that potential adopters could get some insight into the animal’s personality. They also gave all the pets names and answered questions from interested parties.
Since its creation, Ms. Boyd estimates that at least 100 people have adopted or fostered pets from the pound due to the FoMACC page on Facebook. But even while staff at MACC cooperated by supplying information to volunteers, they also complained. Ms. Boyd was told that staff did not like the extra effort required of them when potential adopters forgot to to make note of an animal’s ID number and instead inquired about a pet by name. Staff was also reportedly annoyed by angry phone calls from compassionate pet lovers after the FoMACC administrators moved a pet’s photo into a category reserved for pets killed by the pound, which was a common occurrence. MACC has historically tried to hide the killing at its facility, failing to report on any animals it deems “unadoptable”.
Around the beginning of summer 2013, things began to change. MACC staff stopped cooperating with the volunteers and refused to give them information on what happened to individual animals. The partnership deteriorated, at the animals’ expense. On November 2, the volunteer coordinator at MACC, Jeanette Weidermeier, called a meeting of the volunteer photographers which Kathy Boyd attended. It was announced at this meeting that MACC would be using its own photographers, posting its own photos (using PetHarbor via its website) and from now on staff would no longer be sharing information with the FoMACC Facebook page. A gag order of sorts was imposed upon the volunteers and they were all required to sign forms acknowledging the change in policy. Ms. Boyd writes:
So, at the meeting on Saturday, Jeanette passed out print copies of the new procedures. One copy for each person to keep, and one to sign. But I got a different piece of paper. Mine was a memo that said, in effect, “Thank you for graciously offering to step in when we needed photographers… and now we can let you go back to your passion – cuddling cats.”
Feeling distraught by MACC effectively killing a successful form of marketing for its animals as well as humiliated for being kicked to the curb in an open meeting, Ms. Boyd resigned. The FoMACC posted about the meeting on Facebook.
Our new website features the most accurate, real-time information for all of the adoptable and lost animals at MACC and allows for more animals to be seen online than ever before.
I checked the PetHarbor listings on the MACC website yesterday. There were 5 dogs and 10 cats available for adoption. While there were a couple dozen additional animals listed in the stray category, there were also duplicate listings there for some of the adoptable animals. It’s unclear to me how a facility that takes in roughly 4000 animals a year could find only 15 of them adoptable at this time. If this is MACC’s idea of allowing more animals to be seen online than ever before, I think their idea is clearly a fail.
Thank you Kathy Boyd for speaking out publicly about MACC’s attempt to stifle the First Amendment rights of volunteers and muzzle anyone telling the truth about the needless killing there. The volunteers have started a petition asking the city pound to reverse its decision and once again permit them to help save animals’ lives through their Facebook page.