Thursday, August 10, 2006
County Waiver of Animal Shelter’s Licensing Obligation Illegal—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles County’s alleged agreement with an animal shelter exempting it from the county’s licensing requirements is illegal and unenforceable, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Two Tuesday, in an unpublished opinion, affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victor H. Person’s order sustaining without leave to amend the demurrer of the Los Angeles County, Department of Animal Care and Control to a complaint for declaratory relief and other claims by Dedication and Everlasting Love to Animals, commonly referred to as Delta.
Justice Kathryn Doi Todd, writing for the court, said:
“Animal facility inspection and licensing requirements protect the public by ensuring that the facilities do not pose public safety and health concerns, that the animals are well treated and vaccinated, that disease is controlled, and so forth.”
Delta, owned by actor/producer Leo Grillo, is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to rescuing and caring for dogs and cats abandoned in Southern California. It currently cares for 1,500 animals on its 94-acre Acton site.
The department annually inspected and licensed Delta’s shelters from 1985 to 1993. In 1998 the board and Delta entered into an agreement whereby Delta would be exempted from the licensing requirement as long as it retained its nonprofit status, complied with rabies vaccination requirements and the department had no cause to believe it was mistreating animals, Delta alleged.
In 2003 Delta sued third-party D& D Services, which contracts with the department to pick up animals euthanized by the department, for fraud and unlawful business practices.
The next month, the department requested permission from Delta to inspect one of its shelters for the purpose of issuing a license. Delta denied that and all subsequent requests.
One year later the department, along with the local sheriff and the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety searched one of Delta’s properties pursuant to an inspection warrant. Building and Safety issued 15 notices of violation for structures on the premises. The animal control department told Delta it intended to issue a license conditioned on the violations being corrected, and that it had referred the matter to the district attorney’s office.
A criminal action against Grillo for operating a shelter without a license is currently pending.
Delta filed suit against the department seeking a judicial determination that it was exempt from all county licensing requirements and to enjoin all administrative, civil and criminal actions against it.
But Doi Todd said:
“Los Angeles County Code section 10.04.060 declares that the failure to obtain a license to operate an animal facility is a misdemeanor. An agreement to excuse such a misdemeanor is therefore illegal.”
Doi Todd explained:
“Because the alleged agreement would be directly contrary to the ordinance requirements of annual inspection and licensing of animal facilities, it would be against public policy and therefore void.”
The case is Dedicated and Everlasting Love to Animals v. Los Angeles County, Department of Animal Care and Control B183421.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company