When Jeremy Beckham went with more than a dozen other people to the board meeting for the Northern Utah Valley Animal Shelter Thursday, they discovered that a supposed fire code violation prevented them from attending. They were also not given an opportunity to speak during a scheduled public hearing.
Beckham said that they planned to speak during the "public comment" period, which is scheduled at the beginning of almost every government meeting — except for legislative committees — and provides the public an opportunity to talk about any issue on their minds. But after Beckham suggested that they skirt the fire code issue by having people that wanted to speak rotate through the meeting, he says he was told by NUVAS officials that the public comment was canceled. Some of the group was able to go into the meeting before the so-called "fire code" issue, but they were not given a chance to speak.
The group had gone to speak against the NUVAS practice of selling dogs for research purposes. Prior to the meeting, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had sent an "action alert" to its supporters.
According to public records that Beckham got from the NUVAS shelter, the dogs are sold for $150 each, which netted the shelter $1,500 in revenue last quarter. He said they are the only shelter in Utah that still sells animals for research purposes.
"I'm not surprised the shelter would cancel the public comment," Beckham said. "It's shameful and embarrassing what they're doing."
When the group was barred from the meeting, they decided to stage an impromptu protest. Beckham said it was pretty "standard" for a protest, although they did, apparently, have one person dressed in a dog costume—prompting the obvious question of how much a human dressed as a dog would sell for. (I kid, I kid).
After the meeting, which also required police response to handle the apparently unruly and extremely dangerous human/dog protest, The Daily Herald attempted to get comment from the NUVAS board and the director. The best they could do was get an explanation that public hearing was canceled because it was "untitled."
Beckham said he has spoken once before during a NUVAS board meeting, and that it seems like the "most appropriate" place for people to express their opposition to the business practices of a public entity. NUVAS, however, apparently disagrees.
"Clearly, the shelter feels they are above accountability," he said.