Animal activists make allegations against county
Then later renege on claims
Animal rights activists are accusing the Tehama County agriculture and sheriff’s departments of not doing the job of enforcing animal regulations.
On Tuesday a group of five animal activists converged on the Tehama County Board of Supervisors to voice their allegations of rampant dog kennel code violations and puppy mills in the county.
“Give us locations where this is occurring and we will get to them,” Sheriff Clay Parker said.
He explained to the activists and to the board that his department took over the enforcement division of the county’s animal services just two years ago and has been working understaffed since that time.
“We have a staff of three and one of them has been serving in Iraq. That leaves us so short in covering the entire county that I have been out working code violation enforcement myself,” he said.
Although the meeting’s agenda item concerning animal services was about a zoning ordinance, the activists continued to talk about puppy mills and mistreatment of dogs in the county, going so far as to claim Tehama County is now on the Humane Society of the United States top five list of having puppy mills.
A puppy mill, according to Janie Hopper, organizer of ResQ Animal Coalition in Redding, is a for-profit dog breeding facility “where there is no regard for the animals’ health, well-being, or hereditary defects”.
“Tehama County has gained a national reputation as being an easy place to run a puppy mill,” Hopper said to the board.
When asked to substantiate this claim, Hopper said during an interview on Thursday, it was the “unofficial, unscientific belief of Jennifer Fearing, chief economist of the Humane Society of the United States,” and that “Jennifer has since reneged on that comment as well as stating Tehama County is on the top five list.”
“This county’s animal services system is broken and I have some suggestions for you,” Hopper said.
Board Chairman George Russell said he was empathetic to the group’s message, but reminded them that the day’s issue was about zoning and asked that when they spoke to please refer to the agenda subject.
“We will be more than happy to have you make and provide us with a list of suggestions,” Russell told Hopper. “In the meantime we will do some research and homework and see where we are going to go with this. We recognize your concerns but this just is not going to be resolved today.”
Under Hopper’s suggestion, Russell said a task force may be formed to investigate the alleged puppy mill problem.
Parker said to the board that a meeting was held between himself, Agriculture Commissioner Rick Gurrola, and Planning Director George Robson to address the zoning issue concerning licensed dog kennels.
The current zoning code prohibits the operation of commercial kennels in certain areas unless a use permit is obtained through the planning commission but the ordinance does not authorize the animal services director to deny or revoke the license of an operation that does not comply with these requirements.
“That meeting is what led to the request to clarify language in the zoning code to allow the director of animal services to be authorized to deny or revoke a kennel, dog license in the event the kennel premises violates the county’s zoning code,” Gurrola said.
The proposed zoning ordinance first reading received the board’s unanimous approval.
If passed the new zoning ordinance will provide additional enforcement to shut down out-of-compliance licensed dog kennels in the county.
According to Parker, his department has just recently received a list of all of the kennel licenses in the county and has already been doing an annual check on each licensed kennel, whether it be a commercial or hobby license.
One local breeder near Corning, who asked to remain unnamed, said an animal regulations enforcement officer had come to their kennel and said the kennel was not in compliance due to zoning.
“He was very polite and more than willing to work with us,” said the kennel owner. “He gave us options and a reasonable time to come into compliance.”
According to Parker, complaints of animal neglect or abuse need to be reported by citizens in the community.
“We want to be alerted to any problems, but we will not be going out full-time looking for problems. That is not possible with the staff we have. We need the communities help,” he said.
Julie R. Johnson can be reached at 824-5464 or firstname.lastname@example.org