The founder of a Thousand Oaks dog and cat shelter has adopted a new policy prohibiting certain gun owners from adopting pets there, sparking numerous threats against her.
Kim Sill, 61, announced the new rules in Shelter Hope Pet Shop’s weekly newsletter in late May.
“We are pro-gun control,” the bulletin said. “If your beliefs don’t match ours, we won’t adopt a pet for you.”
The new policy at the nonprofit shelter, which has been in the Janss market for more than 11 years, went into effect May 31. It involved adding a single question to the shelter’s adoption questionnaire: “How do you feel about gun control?”
The change was not well received by gun rights advocates. NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter called the new policy “dumb.”
“Having this…political litmus test comes at the expense of needy and homeless dogs and cats,” she said.
Sill said the new policy grew out of the 2018 mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks that killed 12 people and most recently the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, during which 19 schoolchildren and two adults died.
“After what happened in Uvalde, I thought: ‘God knows, what can I do? ‘” she said. “The only reason I asked the question in the app was to open up the conversation and try to bridge the gap.”
Since a media report last week about the new policy, Sill said the pet store has been inundated with threats, including death threats.
“Thousands of emails and hundreds of voicemails,” she said. “People threatening to kill us and all the animals in the shelter.”
Wanting to clarify the policy, Sill said Wednesday that she does not have a general rule prohibiting gun owners from adopting pets. She said she would make that decision after interviewing all gun owners who are interested in adopting.
“It’s person to person,” she said. “I believe in responsible gun ownership. Some of the people who worked for me owned guns.”
But they must be gun law reform supporters and be at least 25 years old to be adopted at her store, she said. Sill said she might let someone who owns a handgun for personal protection adopt. She might even let someone who owns an assault rifle adopt, she says.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “That hasn’t happened to me yet.”
Sill said she wouldn’t automatically say no to an NRA member, either.
“But they’re probably not willing to have a conversation with me,” she said. “They don’t believe it’s my business.”
The threatening messages sometimes include profanity and frequently call out Sill for allegedly violating the 2nd Amendment.
“You are violating 2nd Amendment citizen rights,” one person said. “And personally, if I was one of them, I’d take you for every fucking dollar you got.”
Another caller said: “I would like to adopt two. I want to call them Smith & Wesson.”
Sill also gets a lot of pushback on the dugout Facebook page, which indicates that the shop works mainly with volunteers.
“To save a pet from death or homelessness, you must agree with our policy or leaving is a shitty way to care for animals,” one commenter said.
Sill said she reported the threats to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
She made a 2018 documentary called “Saved in America“, about animal rescues.
Mike Harris covers the county towns of Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, as well as countywide transportation. You can contact him at [email protected] or 805-437-0323.
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