TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — Outrage and more allegations. The Baltimore County Animal Shelter comes under fire again. This time, the ACLU says the shelter is stepping on the public’s First Amendment rights.
Christie Ileto has more on this new battle being waged.
The ACLU says volunteers were asked to leave the shelter for taking photos inside–a move they believe is to silence critics. The county says that’s simply not true.
In a video shot by the ACLU, Sarah Hardy says she was snapping photos of cats inside the Baltimore County Animal Shelter, when:
“There was a corrections officer there. She continued to follow me from cat cage to cat cage,” said Hardy.
Hardy–a volunteer at the time–was asked to leave.
“Then I received in an email that I was no longer needed,” she said.
An October letter from the ACLU says this photography ban is a violation of free speech rights.
“I think their explicit policy is to prohibit inappropriate photography,” said David Rocha, ACLU.
The shelter has long been marred by shocking allegations of poor veterinary care and a high euthanasia rate.
“What they don’t want is photography that reveals the conditions in the shelter,” Rocha said.
A county spokesperson says the ACLU complaint has no merit and that their attorneys are right now reviewing this letter.
“We welcome volunteers, but we have certain rules and regulations for volunteers,” Baltimore County Health Department Director Gregory Branch said.
This past April, Branch gave WJZ a tour of the shelter following complaints from a group demanding reform.
The shelter has since expanded services, hours and hired two new vets and will open a new $5 million facility next year. Still, the ACLU says they hope this letter prevents stories like Sarah Hardy’s from happening again.
Officials say the shelter did, at one point, ban photos inside, but that ban has since been lifted and the public is allowed to take photos of animals that are out for adoption.
The ACLU says it should have never gotten to this point. The county says this issue has been manufactured by a few individuals.
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