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  • Writer's pictureAubrie Kavanaugh

Silent Shelter - An Important Film about Free Speech and Animal Shelters

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

We hear every week about shelter volunteers who have been silenced by shelter leadership as a condition of volunteering. Some have been been required to sign waivers or forms which state they will not make any negative or critical comments about the shelter operations. Other volunteers do not speak out about what they see and hear because they fear being "cut off" and no longer allowed to help animals in need.

We recently had the opportunity to have some discussions with documentary filmmaker Dana Keithly about her upcoming film called "Silent Shelter."

"Silent Shelter is a documentary feature that exposes the country's broken animal sheltering system, which is seen through the eyes of those in the trenches, the volunteers. These individuals have an up-close view of the harrowing and often absurd practices that many publicly funded animal shelters engage in on a daily basis.

The film explores the all too common experience of how dedicated shelter volunteers and rescuers show compassion and concern for the animals at their own risk. Speaking out often violates the shelter's restrictive non-disclosure policies that these individuals must sign in order to volunteer. If they break these agreements by doing anything the shelters view as negative, these volunteers are dismissed.

Yet these volunteers and rescuers are also the taxpaying citizens that are funding these city and county run facilities. These confidentiality agreements invariably take away First Amendment rights to check governmental misconduct and expose the deliberate lack of transparency and accountability within the country's animal shelters.

What unfolds in the film is a shocking and often irreverent look at the politics and propaganda, backstabbing and retaliation that often encompasses animal welfare. Told through the personal accounts of those who dare to speak up for the voiceless."

In our first discussion, we talk about the film generally and also talk about the application of what we commonly call "Section 1983" to this issue of organizations trying to silence free speech. This video last less than 15 minutes.

In our second discussion, we talk about the subject of shelter leadership as it relates to the film. This video last less than 15 minutes.

Information about the film is found at these links:

This is an incredibly important topic and we are hopeful Dana will be able to secure the funding necessary to finish the film! The crowdfunding page for the film is at this link.

1 comment



MAXFUND ANIMAL SHELTER did that to me in Denver. Now, all of the volunteers cannot speak up about the tragic things that happen on a daily basis, because they don't want to "get involved" as it would effectively end their (sometimes decades-long) involvement with the shelter, and keep them from doing what they can for the unfortunate.

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