Shelter Hope Pet Shop in Thousand Oaks recently added a new question to their adoption application: “How are you doing on gun control?”
Kim Sill, founder and owner of the 11-year-old Janss Marketplace-based animal shelter, announced the move late last month following a series of mass shootings across the country.
“We believe that if we can make our voices heard about how we feel, we can have an impact,” reads the May 31 announcement. “We do not support those who believe the Second Amendment gives them the right to purchase assault weapons. If your beliefs do not align with ours, we will not adopt a pet for you.
Sill told the Glans she was never a political person publicly, but something stirred inside her after the murder of 19 fourth graders and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.
“I only have so much more time left on this planet, so I’m going to express how I feel,” Sill said.
She said she had no interest in adopting animals for NRA members because they didn’t want to “have the kind of conversations that I have.”
“If you lie about being an NRA supporter, make no mistake, we will prosecute you for fraud,” the ad reads. “If you think it’s our responsibility to protect ourselves in public places and to arm ourselves with a gun, don’t come to our house to adopt a dog.”
The Thousand Oaks resident said animal rescue groups have the right to ‘discriminate’ against someone if their fence isn’t the right height and she doesn’t see Shelter Hope’s new policy any differently.
“Every time I open an app I think I want it to be perfect, I want it to be right,” she said. “And most of the time it is. I decided because I have this little bit of power in my animal rescue world, I might add a question.
Sill’s life has been impacted by gun violence. In 1998, her sister, Michelle Stevens, was shot dead by Stevens’ husband, who failed to undergo a mental health check to purchase the gun he used to kill her. Sill said running her animal rescue business is what got her through the pain and loss.
Three months before the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in 2018, Sill said, the shooter came to her store to perform community service and, based on questions from investigators, she believes he was looking for. his store as a possible target.
Reaction to Shelter Hope’s position has been largely positive, she said: 99% of people who have asked to adopt pets since the question was added appreciated the opportunity to have this conversation, even if they own guns.
She said that once the conversation is over, they can find common ground.
She said her phone kept ringing and her voicemail was full of messages from lawyers and members of the National Rifle Association threatening to bring her to court. Others threatened to come to her store with guns, threats which she reported to the police.
Ryan Hughes, a lawyer with Tuple Legal, a local law firm specializing in nonprofits, said Shelter Hope was within its rights because gun ownership is not a protected category under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits California businesses from discriminating against individuals. on categories such as their gender, race or religion.
“They make the decision not to provide services to a particular category of individuals. Can they do this? . . . Essentially, yes,” he said.
Tax-exempt nonprofits are banned from certain types of political activity, he said, such as using a substantial part of their annual income (more than 15%) to lobby. for or against the candidates and the legislation. But the adoption requirements don’t violate any of those standards, he said.
Sill said she has so far only turned down one request based on gun control views, but she believes that request was not taken seriously.