Minneapolis Pound Brings the Hammer Down on Volunteers Saving Pets via Facebook

Screengrab of a dog posting on the Friends of MACC Facebook page
Screengrab of a dog posting on the Friends of MACC Facebook page

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.

When asked about the situation by a local TV station, MACC issued a statement in response.  It reads, in part:

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.

Screengrab of a dog listed as adoptable on the MACC website.
Screengrab of a dog listed as adoptable on the MACC website.

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.

22 thoughts on “Minneapolis Pound Brings the Hammer Down on Volunteers Saving Pets via Facebook

  1. I wonder id Ms. Boyd could sue under Section 1983, since she has effectively been banned, and it was because she used her First Amendment rights to publicize the pets?

    1. Why not?

      “A question may arise as to whether a volunteer or rescuer needs to wait for a government official to follow through on a threat to retaliate before filing a claim under Section 1983 or whether a threat of retaliation alone is sufficient to trigger one. For example, some volunteers have been told by officials that publicly speaking about a shelter will result in the volunteer being banned. Since the whole point of a Section 1983 retaliation claim is to prevent the “chilling” (discouragement) of constitutionally protected rights, it seems clear enough that a threat of retaliation for exercising those rights, which is specifically designed to obstruct the exercise of those rights, should be sufficient to satisfy the actual injury element of a Section 1983 claim.” (From: Section 1983 To The Rescue)

  2. What a bunch of lazy bastards! Facebook works and they denied the assistance! What do they think they were hired for? They need to put forth the effort to find homes for each animal! Is there anyone we can contact? Legal action? These people are lazy and there must be something we can do to protect the animals! I’m so sick of shelter BS and I want shelter reform now! Where can we start?

  3. Protecting their own territory and egos – that’s all this is about.
    If they have to hide the killing, then they shouldn’t be doing it!

  4. If this is a “government” run facility, I would be thinking about the next meeting for the governing board of this place. There should be someone to get these volunteers on the schedule and they should have a LARGE group there to support them. They should notify the press, make press releases, they should hand out flyers in very public places like grocery stores or malls. There’s nothing like numbers and educated numbers at that to help the cause. Usually the statistics of a shelter are publicly accessible.

    1. I agree @brushcreekfarm! If we have a complaint, then we should also have a solution! But WE should also own this issue! We, not ‘they’, should identify the date of the next meeting of the board. Is there someone who is leading this protest? If not, is there someone who can step forward and take this on? I don’t know how to organize a protest, but I will be a participant!

  5. Well what a bunch of ASSHOLES!! do they not want to place these dogs? What has gotten into these shelters! I thought they would much rather give the dogs and cats a home than kill them! But I guess I was wrong. Something needs to be done about this. The people of the town need to get to the supervisors or the city council and YELL REALLY LOUD and tell them they will NOT STAND FOR THIS ANY LONGER!! This is simply BULLSHIT!!

  6. Another disgraceful shelter protecting the status quo, their inefficiency, their lack of compassion, and their insistence and persistence in hanging on to the archaic emptying of cages by killing!!!! Same on Minneapolis Animal Care and Control! It’s time for taxpaying citizens, animal lovers to take action and rid the shelters of killers! It’s time to embrace the No Kill Equation, which is a step by step plan to save lives and money! It’s time to take killing off the table!

  7. Why would you work at an animal shelter if you are not there to save the animals. That is like being a Teacher but hating children. Everything that can be done needs to be done to find as many of these animals homes as possible. Who cares about how/who makes it happen as long as it does happen. This seems like a universal theme in most shelters that the cities give over to other groups to run.

  8. Hey Shirley, thanks for highlighting this story. MACC was attempting to shows a softer and friendlier side when they hired staff (Jeanette) to manage volunteers and rescue partners. Despite that, their policies and leadership, however, keep showing up like this – control and cover. We keep calling for transparency. It is fundamental to making any change. We hope that as more people who are trying to help get pushed away, awareness grows and our city council will take some real notice. We have a new Mayor and a number of new council members, maybe this is an opportunity dressed up in messed up-edness.

  9. We had a similar situation with our page and Associated Humane Societies (i.e. the shelter who tried to take the starving pit bull, Patrick, away from his loving home) earlier this year. Our page was always independent of the shelter and we used it for a time to help Associated Humane Societies animals. We also evaluated dogs, did Petfinder profiles, helped round up volunteers in an unofficial program, counsel adopters, rescues, etc. Unfortunately, they did not like our criticism of shelter policies leading to unnecessary loss of lives (which was not stated on our page) and simply blocked us from the shelter’s Petfinder account and their Facebook page. They never responded to our email inquiring if we were banned so their message was quite clear.

    We now support efforts to build a no-kill shelter in Newark and help the many other animals needing help in the area.

  10. This keeps happening and will keep happening until people stand up and demand better from their public servants that their tax money pays for. I hope that the community will take a stand to help these animals.

  11. Find out who us on the board of directors and file several complaints. Basically flood the board of directors with complaints and asking for the current director to be removed and the policy to be changed. The ONLY animals that should be allowed to be euthanized are those that are so physically incapacitated that it’s the humane thing to do.

  12. Just checked out the new web site it is awful!! There is no info on the animals at all not even approximate ages. All they have for a description reads like a prison #. Very sad!!

  13. Animals should die because of the lazy asses unwilling to help? Keep fighting Ms. Boyd! The animals need a voice! Thanks for all you do! This is disgraceful!

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