Woman Gets Fired From Shelter for Her Photos of Dogs Scheduled to Be Killed

Back in September we shared the story of Teresa Berg, a photographer who volunteers her time to take professional quality adoption photos for dogs in shelters. Sadly, similar efforts to save dogs through photography aren’t always encouraged. A woman named Emily Tanen was fired from Animal Care and Control of New York City back in May for her photos of dogs scheduled to be euthanized. Her crime? Violating the group’s strict photo policy, which includes a rule prohibiting showing humans in photos. The New York Times writes,

When she started working at Care and Control, Ms. Tanen said, she believed that the animals were photographed poorly and that the images failed to convey the warmth of a potential pet.

With her art background from her studies, Ms. Tanen decided she could do a better job with her $1,500 Nikon.

[…] Ms. Tanen said she tried to comply with the rules, but sometimes felt her judgment trumped her superiors’. She continued to show people’s hands touching a dog, even after receiving a warning against doing so. “I think they just didn’t want photos of animals that they were about to kill looking cute and adoptable and happy with people, but they said it was because their research showed that photos with people didn’t encourage people to adopt,” she said.

You can see some more of Tanen’s photographs here (be warned: they show humans).

Fired From a Shelter After Photographing the Animals (via Gizmodo)

  • John Vito

    > but they said it was because their research showed that photos with people didn’t encourage people to adopt,” she said.
    That’s bull crap! Like to see what research they did!

  • susan sabo photography

    That’s a ridiculous policy. I shoot for my local shelter here in Long Beach, CA. In fact, one of the first projects I did with them was to shoot portraits of their employees WITH the dogs and cats as part of the Shelter Improvement Project. The portraits show beautifully the bond between people and animals, and they are now hanging in the shelter lobby. 

    In addition to showing happy, well-cared for animals, it also shows the shelter officers in a positive light, boosting their morale and showing the public that these people really do care for the animals they are in charge of. 

  • Red Fern

    This is sad; I thought this was an awesome project when I first heard about it — a smart way to do good with photography.  I suppose the facility is within their rights if the photos were taken on their grounds and they violate their policies, but still… one would think that if she got releases from the people in the photos this would be okay.  I know it’s not so cut and dried, though.

    BTW, the title of this article is a little confusing at first glance; it makes it sound like the woman is to be executed for her photos!

  • Six Local

    Wow, fuck these people. 

  • Laurel Tofflemire

    The policy was likely set because it is illegal to use people’s images
    in advertizing without formal permission. If the people decided to sue,
    the shelter had a problem. Or the newspaper refused to publish the
    images with people for that reason.  Whole thing could have been cleared
    up by getting a ‘Model Release’ from the people.

  • Todd Walker

    She knew the rules, she willingly broke the rules, she got fired. She was wrong. Just because you don’t like the rules doesn’t mean you get to ignore them. And if you do ignore them, you have to be ready and willing to face the consequences of doing so. I’m getting really sick of these kinds of stories. If you think the rules are stupid, work to get them changed. But don’t blatantly disregard them then complain when you have to answer for doing so.

  • Daschund

    It might be dumb or might be for the wrong reasons that they don’t want people in the photos, but I think that rules are rules. If you don’t like the rules, change them or go somewhere else, but if she knew about the rules, was warned about it and kept doing it, there is no reason to complain about being fired. Seriously, don’t try to make the other side look bad.

  • Ian Ludwig


  • Schleppangel

    I don’t see any dogs in those shots. 

    I just see some potentially dangerous Ghetto Ponies (Pitbulls).

  • Mike

    You’re a ghetto ponie, Schleppangel!  Seriously, sometimes you have to keep your ridiculous words to yourself.

  • Alan Dove

    The only exception is civil disobedience, i.e. deliberately breaking an unjust rule to call attention to its unjustness. It’s not entirely clear from the story, but I suspect that may have been her intent. If so, mission accomplished. Now the shelter is feeling lots of pressure to explain their policy.

  • kurnot

    People are, in essence, complaining about the policies of the shelter, not about the fact that Tanen got fired.  They are merely aghast at her termination because it came about as a consequence of violating these policies.  I don’t see why you’re “getting really sick of these kinds of stories”; the story had a neutral tone.  Maybe you’re getting sick of the comments to the story.  Also, I didn’t read anything about Tanen complaining about getting fired.  If you have a link, I’d appreciate it.  Thanks.

  • Theenglishrider

    There’s a little bit more to the story than that.  The NYC ACC kept “refining” the rules to thwart Ms. Tanen’s efforts to get dogs adopted through her beautiful photography.  First the rule was no people could be shown with the intention of not catching passersby who might object to being caught in the photos.  Then it was no people at all, including shelter volunteers who were willing to be photographed.  Then it was hands.  Okay…hands?? Really???  What is not mentioned in the article is that the ginger haired young man in the photos was also given the boot a short time after Ms. Tanen.  I have a lovely pit bull from the Manhattan ACC, and trust me, this so-called shelter is a sham.  If you go down there you must be prepared to wait and wait and wait, while the surly staff shuffles around in slow motion. 

  • Guest

    I’m guessing the red-headed model was also fired? why would the shelter fire a man who devoted 30+ hours a week to the most troubled animals in the shelter?? I fail to see an explanation for that.
    Regarding the woman’s dismissal–isn’t the supposed policy to protect the ‘model’, who more than clearly consented to the photos? I can’t see another reason why they wouldn’t allow people in photos, other than vague references to some social psychology “research” conducted.tons of shelters have videos of people interacting with dogs, not to mention photos with people. a lot of shelters even have youtube pages. 

    The photographer thing, I can maybe understand if she was blatantly ignoring the rules after being told numerous times. The guy who devoted half his time to care for the animals–I fail to see why he needed to be fired. Poor explanations and vague references to “research” unmask the real issue at hand here.

  • Avec

    You make a good point there, Todd, but you don’t have to sound like a douche bag making it.

  • kurnot

    I have a feeling the guy was fired because he was defending Tanen.  He did agree to have his photo taken, after all.

  • Nikisright

    Sometimes you have to bend the rules, especially when they are not just. She took a stand, for the animals sake, and that shows me that her love for the creatures she’s paid to take care of is bountiful. Too bad the bureaucracy of this shelter overshadows what it is they are suppose to be doing. Finding homes for these animals is what it is all about.

  • Gary Wagstaff

    Feck ‘em! They’re just looking for a reason to ban anyone that shows the reality of what’s actually going on.