Anyone planning to adopt a pet from the Robeson County Animal Shelter might want to leave their camera at home.
A new policy enacted last month bars members of the public from taking pictures or recording video inside the shelter.
The no-camera rule is the next in a line of recent changes at the facility aimed at improving public perceptions of the pound.
The rural animal shelter has become a popular target of animal rights groups from across the nation as repeated reports of abuse have surfaced on Internet message boards. Dozens of photos of dead kittens, emaciated dogs and dirty kennels at the shelter have been posted online the past several months.
Albert Locklear, director of environmental health with the county, said the photos unfairly added to widespread criticism of the shelter.
"I know for a fact there have been a lot of pictures that have went out, that when the average person sees it, it's not an issue," Locklear said. "But there are certain folks out there whose hearts are easily moved, I think."
The county isn't trying to hide anything, Locklear said. The photos circulated by rescue groups have created a misleading image of true conditions inside the facility, he said.
"I invite anyone to come down to the shelter," Locklear said. "Will they see a perfect shelter? No. Will they find people who care about animals? Yes. Will they see a clean shelter? Yes."
Locklear said most other animal shelters in the state have similar policies.
Susan Barrett has yet to find one, she said.
The Winston-Salem animal rights advocate is among a handful of pet rescuers who have spoken out about the camera policy.
"Honestly, if they did their jobs, they would not care if we had cameras on us or not," Barrett said.
The no-camera rule was part of a new customer service policy approved last month by the Board of Health.
The policy also set a 15-minute time limit for visitors to browse the kennels for a new pet.
By Mike Hixenbaugh