A Thousand Oaks pet shelter asked adopters if they support gun control. Then came the threats

A brown Chihuahua sits on a dog bed
Alf, a 6-year-old Chihuahua up for adoption at the Shelter Hope Pet Shop in Thousand Oaks. The shelter has added a question to its screening protocols: “Where do you stand on gun control?”
(Kim Sill / Shelter Hope Pet Shop)

A Thousand Oaks pet shelter is facing a barrage of hate-filled messages and threats since the owner announced that it has started screening potential adopters for their stance on gun ownership and reforms.

Shelter Hope Pet Shop owner Kim Sill said in a recent newsletter that her team would add a question to its screening protocols: “Where do you stand on gun control?”

But since multiple news outlets covered the shelter’s decision — including a segment questioning the move Wednesday on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” — Sill said she has received an onslaught of hateful messages and violent threats.


When reached Friday, Sill was too distraught to speak at length about the policy, saying she feared for her life after receiving so many threats. She said she was awaiting help and updates from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office after reporting dozens of voicemails, emails and calls threatening her and the pet shelter.

She also said she planned to close the shelter for at least a few days amid the onslaught of vitriol.

Sgt. Jason Karol, a public information officer with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, said investigators were looking into the matter. He was unable to provide a count of the threats reported because they were continuing. “There’s a very high volume of phone calls and emails coming in,” Karol said. “It’s an ongoing thing.”

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He also declined to confirm whether any threats had been deemed credible but said investigators had been in touch with Sill since the issue entered the public discourse.

“A large majority of [the threats] are from out of state, so they’re working with outside agencies to determine if some of these are credible,” Karol said.

In the newsletter, published last month, Sill wrote that the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers, as well as the 2018 shooting in Thousand Oaks that killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill, pushed her to make the change.


“Our community of Thousand Oaks became part of all the other cities in America, now scarred with the reputation of a mass killing,” the newsletter said. “Shelter Hope Pet Shop in no way will continue to operate if we are even remotely part of the problem. We support teachers, children, and businesses who provide services to the public, but we’ve had enough of all the senseless killing.”

In a statement sent Friday evening to The Times, Sill added that her sister had been killed in an act of gun violence, so for her the issue “hits close to home.”

Sill told Fox News earlier this week that her sister was shot and killed by her husband in 1998.

“He bought a gun two days previously, with no mental health check, and killed her,” she said.

“My neighbors were gunned down at Borderline, and every mass shooting keeps burying the memory of them deeper and deeper,” Sill wrote in her statement to The Times. “Although I might only be an animal rescuer, I have compassion for people and I wanted to do something after [Uvalde]. I thought that if everyone did just one thing, we could make a difference.”

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The newsletter explained that the shelter already had a lengthy interview process in place for people looking to adopt pets, including questions about age and living situations. The question about gun control simply adds to that, Sill said.


“We live in the only country in the world that continues to support weapons and not communities,” Sill wrote. “We will continue to support our community, but if you are pro guns and believe that no background check is necessary, then do not come to us to adopt.”

She told Fox News that pet adopters’ stance on guns is relevant because she has been known to make house calls to respond to emergencies.

“God forbid if you have a stroke, and your wife calls me up and tells me to come to your house and get the dog,” Sill said. “I might not feel safe coming to your house knowing that you are very radically opposed to me thinking it’s not OK for an 18-year-old to have a gun.”

The shelter’s June 1 Facebook post promoting the new policy has received almost 2,000 comments, the vast majority questioning it or disparaging Sill or her business. But Sill said Friday that she remains steadfast in her decision.

“I’m trying to make a difference,” Sill said. “A conversation needs to be held with every human I adopt to. I’m not advocating that everyone’s guns should be taken away. I’m advocating for some commonsense legislation that will keep guns out of the hands of people who commit these mass killings.”