The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland says Baltimore County officials violated free-speech rights by banning photography at the county-run animal shelter, a move the ACLU describes as an effort to stifle critics.
The letter describes the photo ban as showing “a government agency endeavoring to limit its exposure to criticism and public accountability, and to stifle any perceived criticism that does arise, even where the agency’s purpose of serving the animals of Baltimore County is undermined as a result.”
County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler says the complaint is baseless and stems from a small group of pesky do-gooders:
“This is a story manufactured by a handful of advocates who were disrupting shelter employees from doing their jobs,” Kobler said.
Don Mohler, chief of staff for the County Executive, also has excuses:
“[The animal advocates] wanted to manufacture a crisis, and they would wait around until a dog soiled the cage and immediately take a picture and post it — inferring that the dog had been living in those conditions for a period of time, and that’s not true,” Mohler said.
Such dedication. Waiting around for a dog to pee in his cage so they could snap a photo. But in case you don’t buy that, he’s got another good one:
“This is not about photography,” Mohler said. “This is about the fact that there is a group of advocates who really want Baltimore County to release wild cats into the community.”
The county apparently has a kill policy for cats it determines to be feral. And pesky do-gooders, along with the overwhelming majority of the general public, think that’s wrong.
Not to be outdone, Kobler also offered a back-up excuse for the photo ban to the newspaper:
“For some animals, the shutter click and the flash can frighten animals that are already nervous in a shelter environment. So sometimes, the staff members might ask people not to take an animal’s picture,” she said.
Both Kohler and Mobler said that the public is generally allowed to take pictures of the animals. Except when they’re not. But that’s because reasons.
So to recap, it’s not that Baltimore Co is trying to silence critics and violate their Constitutional rights, it’s assorted other things:
- Volunteers photographing shelter pets are disruptors who prevent the staff from doing their job of killing more than 60% of the animals in their care.
- They wait around all day for a dog to lift his leg in the cage just to capture the puddle on the floor.
- They actually don’t care about photographing animals, they just want the county to stop killing feral cats and start doing TNR like other progressive shelters.
- The flash from the camera scares animals and the county officials just aren’t going to stand by and let shelter pets be frightened. After all, there’s killing to be done – lots of it. Calm, friendly killing – not like the flash of a camera.
If for some insane reason you are still not feeling reassured, I got you:
County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, said the shelter has made strides in overcoming past issues. He trusts it’s being run well.
“Every time there’s a policy, there’s a reason,” he said.
So there you go. There’s some reason for the photo ban. This guy apparently doesn’t know what that reason may be but strides have been made and everything is fine, probably.
(Thanks Clarice for the link.)