TACOMA, Wash. - A local animal welfare group says it's facing extinction because of a new policy by Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo over t-shirts. On Tuesday, both sides met in a federal courtroom to argue the case that could decide if an auburn animal sanctuary can survive.
Higher Taste is a small, Hindu-based animal welfare organization that runs an animal welfare sanctuary with horses and Indian cows in Auburn.
The only source of income for Michael Lund and family members who operate Higher Taste is from t-shirt sales. They’ve sold them for more than 15 years outside the gates of the Point Defiance Zoo.
But, the zoo has now banned sales outside the gate. Lund believes it's because the zoo doesn’t want competition for new retail it added inside.
“I don’t know what’s bothering them," says Lund, “But it does to the point where they're calling police, saying we're the disturbance."
In a federal court lawsuit, Higher Taste says its t-shirt sales and religious interests are protected by the first amendment.
A lawyer for Metro Parks Tacoma says the group can spread its message outside the zoo, it just can’t collect money.
“They can wear their t-shirts and show them to other people. They can hand out fliers. They can do many different things in order to express whatever free speech they feel is appropriate,” says Mark Roberts.
He says allowing Higher Taste to sell shirts would open up the zoo entrance to other vendors.
Higher Taste has asked for an injunction to stop the zoo from enforcing its ban. Judge Benjamin Settle said he may rule in two weeks.