DELTA Rescue loses challenge to L.A. County inspection requirement
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:
LOS ANGELES–The Los Angeles District Court of Appeal on
August 8, 2006 affirmed an earlier ruling by Los Angeles Superior
Court Judge Victor H. Person that the Dedication & Everlasting Love
To Animals sanctuary, better known as DELTA Rescue, is subject to
inspection by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care &
The 94-acre care-for-life sanctuary houses approximately
1,500 dogs and cats. A subsidiary, Horse Rescue of America, cares
“The department annually inspected and licensed DELTA Rescue
from 1985 to 1993,” summarized Metropol-itan News-Enterprise staff
writer Steven Cschke. “In 1998 the [animal control] board and DELTA
Rescue entered into an agreement whereby DELTA Rescue would be exempt
from the licensing requirement as long as it retained nonprofit
status, complied with rabies vaccination requirements, and the
department had no cause to believe it was mistreating animals, DELTA
Wrote Justice Kathryn Doi Todd, for the court, “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.”
Inspection became an issue after the agreement was observed
for five years, DELTA Rescue founder Leo Grillo contended, when he
sued the rendering company that collects carcasses from Los Angeles
County animal control.
“The next month,” Cschke wrote, “the department requested
permission from DELTA Rescue to inspect one of its shelters for the
purpose of issuing a license. DELTA Rescue 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 Rescue’s properties,” under a warrant.
“Building and Safety issued 15 notices of violation,” Cschke
continued. “The animal control department told DELTA Rescue that it
intended to issue a license conditioned on the violations being
corrected, and referred the matter to the district attorney’s
office. A criminal action against Grillo for operating a shelter
without a license is currently pending.”
Grillo contends that the inspection was reinstated as
retalitation for his case against D&D Rendering, of Vernon, and for
mailings which have been intensely critical of Los Angeles County
animal control director Marcia Mayeda.
The youngest person ever to head Los Angeles County animal
control, when hired in July 2001, Mayeda has helped to cut the
combined Los Angeles city and county shelter killing toll from 14.5
dogs and cats killed per resident at the beginning of her tenure to
just 3.9 in the most recent fiscal year.
Mayeda has also put new emphasis on inspecting and licensing
animal care facilities, after inheriting a long-running dispute over
regulation involving multiple agencies and Wildlife Waystation, of
Angeles National Forest.
The value of inspection was evident in November 2002 when
neighboring San Bernardino county charged Tiger Rescue founder John
Weinhart with neglecting 40 tigers at the Colton sanctuary, which
was subsequently closed.
In April 2003 Riverside County animal control officers and
state wildlife officials found 88 dead tiger cubs at Weinhart’s Glen
Avon home. Weinhart was in February 2005 convicted of cruelty and
The California Department of Fish & Game is required by law
to annually inspect exotic animal facilties, but actually visited
only 14 of 338 sites in 2004, Los Angeles Times staff writer Amanda
Covarrubias learned in April 2005 from state documents. Fifty-one
exotic animal facilities are located within Los Angeles County.
There is no California state inspection of dog and cat
shelters. Regulation of dog and cat facilities is left to local
Grillo told ANIMAL PEOPLE early in the DELTA Rescue case that
his objection to inspection is not to inspection per se, but rather
to being inspected by a local agency with a contrasting operating
philosophy, which he called a conflict of interest. Grillo called
for state inspection of shelters, unlikely to be enacted in
California in an era of budget cuts and reduced state-level
No-kills vs. animal control
DELTA Rescue is known for providing quality care-to formerly
feral cats and abandoned dogs, mostly pit bull terriers, whom
founder Leo Grillo has found in the nearby Angeles National Forest
and on other public lands.
However, the DELTA Rescue case evolved as animal control
agencies throughout the U.S. struggle to cope with increasingly
frequent shelter neglect cases, typically involving no-kill
facilities operated by lone individuals. Thirty-seven incorporated
nonprofit no-kill shelters were either prosecuted or warned for
alleged animal neglect during 2005.
Some cases have been dropped amid claims by no-kill advocates
that the real issue was philosophical conflict.
Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska, in mid-August 2006
returned about two dozen animals to Loving Companions Animal Rescue,
operated by Donna Buck-Davis, two weeks after a controversial August
2 raid by animal control officers. No charges were filed.
The raid was apparently precipitated by a complaint from
local resident Valerie Sims, who took about a dozen puppies to
Buck-Davis, but later alleged that they were prematurely sterilized
and became infected when children played with them at a Tanana Valley
State Fair petting booth.
Buck-Davis told Chris Eshleman of the Fairbanks Daily
News-Miner that Loving Companions sponsors about 700 sterilization
surgeries per year.
Loving Companions houses about 80 to 100 animals, Eshleman reported.
Precious Pets, of Hesperia, California, housing 55 cats
and 28 dogs, was told by animal control officers in late July 2006
“to make $40,000 of renovations within a week, move or be shut down,”
due to zoning violations, reported Hesperia Star staff writer Beau
“We’ve been receiving a series of complaints,” Hesperia
deputy director of development services Tom Harp told Yarbrough. By
mid-August, however, Harp was looking at options for reclassifying
Precious Pets from a “kennel” to a business in the same category as
veterinary clinics and pet stores, which would allow the
two-year-old shelter to remain where it is.
Among other recent prominent no-kill shelter cases:
* Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Arthur Hiller on July 28
ordered Companions for Life founder Robbin D’Urso, 44, of
Fairfield, Connecticut, to surrender custody of three children who
are between the ages of seven and 11 to her estranged husband,
Vincent D’Urso, pending compliance with a home clean-up order.
One day earlier police seized 129 dogs from Robbin D’Urso’s
premises and changed her with 14 counts of cruelty. She was also
charged with contempt of court for allegedly violating an order to
keep no more than three dogs on the property.
“Robbin and Vincent D’Urso, married in 1993, are locked in a
bitter divorce dispute. Vincent D’Urso claims his wife has a drug
and alcohol problem, and poisoned his Pepsi with Syrup of Ipecac on
January 26, 2006,” reported Connecticut Post staff writers Andrew
Brophy and Daniel Tepfer. “Fairfield police also are investigating a
complaint that Robbin D’Urso threatened one of her neighbors,”
Brophy and Tepfer continued. “The neighbor previously complained
that D’Urso spray-painted profanities on his house, but police said
they could not prove that. State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
said that his office has evidence Companions for Life may have failed
to comply with state charity laws.
“According to its latest report, the organization raised
$44,000, purportedly for the purpose of animal rescue, and spent
$48,000. Our investigation concerns possible improper use of these
funds,” Blumenthal said.
The other Companions for Life trustee, Martin Lopow, 44,
of Bridgeport, told Brophy that he had delivered 200 dogs to Robbin
D’Urso in 2004 and 2005. Lopow said he received the dogs from a
rescuer in Virginia.
* A grand jury in Maricopa County, Arizona, on August 1
reinstated cruelty charges against Hooved Animal Society of Arizona
operator Cynthia Karen Voss, 45, for allegedly neglecting 11 horses
who were seized from the sanctuary by sheriff’s deputies in October
2005. The initial charges “were dropped May 25 in the Hassayampa
Justice Court pending further investigation,” wrote Brent Whiting of
the Arizona Republic. “Court records show Voss was sentenced Jan.
28, 2004, to a two-year term of unsupervised probation after a
Yavapai County conviction on a misdemeanor charge of animal abuse,”
* Animal control officers in Preston County, West Virginia,
on June 30 seized 164 allegedly neglected dogs and cats from Star
Ridge Ranch & Rescue in Bruceton Mills. Six animals were found dead.
Another 30 were euthanized at the scene, due to the severity of
their condition. Preston County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Bolyard told
news media that legal research would be necessary to determine who to
* Animal control in Berkeley County, West Virginia, on
July 11 seized 149 dogs from Second Chance Rescue, of Inwood,
charging founder Mara Spade, 61, with neglect. Second Chance
offered animals for adoption at pet supply stores and a veterinary
clinic in Loudoun County, Virginia. Loudoun County animal control
director Thomas Koenig told the Washington Post that his agency had
received nine complaints about Second Chance since 2003, and had
issued Spade a written warning for allegedly leaving dogs unattended
in a closed van, but had not brought charges against her.
Berkeley County animal control officer Donna McMahan “tried
for several years to inspect Spade’s property but received a search
warrant only in June,” the Washington Post reported.