RUFFF has until November to fix sanctuary

KINGMAN - Rescue Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation is closing in on its fifth or sixth life.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen denied a request from the county for a permanent injunction to close the facility and gave the county and RUFFF until Nov. 1 to get the Golden Valley no-kill animal sanctuary into compliance with county ordinances.

RUFFF's owner, Hillarie Allison, was cited in 2010 by the Mohave County Environmental Health and Planning and Zoning departments for operating a kennel without a zoning use or a health permit and being over her limit of 135 dogs imposed by a previous zoning permit.

The county filed for a temporary injunction against RUFFF in March 2010 in order to force Allison into compliance with the county's kennel ordinances. It filed for a permanent injunction that would have closed RUFFF in October.

County staff argued in court in December that RUFFF has never fully complied with the county's ordinances.

Allison's attorney, Virginia Crews, argued that RUFFF has attempted to meet every requirement made by the Environmental Health and Planning and Zoning departments, but the departments always seem to find something new for her to fix.

Even county staff said that Allison has worked with them on a consistent basis to make the improvements necessary to bring the sanctuary into compliance with the county's rules.

Crews pointed out that Allison is in something of a Catch-22. The Board of Supervisors has required her to get a health permit before they would issue her a zoning use permit, but according to county ordinances, a property owner has to get a zoning use permit before they can get a health permit for a kennel.

In his ruling, Jantzen said he did not come by his decision to extend the deadline for RUFFF easily. He was frustrated by the fact that county ordinances do not differentiate between sanctuaries and kennels. He also felt that durable materials did not necessarily mean concrete floors, but it did mean something more than plain dirt.

"The evidence was not all favorable to RUFFF," he stated in his order. "The county proved with its evidence that most of the changes made by the defendant were not made until a few months ago and only with the threat of the facility being shut down or brought back to court. According to witnesses from the county, RUFFF has literally had to have been dragged kicking and screaming to its current level of cooperation with the county."

Allison said she was happy that Jantzen saw that RUFFF was trying to comply with the county but she was disappointed in his ruling about the kennel flooring.

Flooring is the one item that Allison and the county continue to disagree on.

County staff have interoperated the ordinances' requirement for kennels to be built out of "durable material" to mean concrete flooring.

Allison has testified that cement flooring is inhumane for dogs that are expected to live out the rest of their lives in a kennel. She prefers a natural dirt floor, which is cooler in the summer and absorbs water.

Allison said she will continue to work with county staff to bring the facility into compliance, but they also have to be willing to work with her. It's not easy for a non-profit organization to raise the money necessary in a rapid amount of time to make all of the improvements the county is requiring, she said.

Jantzen gave the county and Allison 90 days to reach an agreement on the flooring issue. If they can come to an agreement they are to notify the court by June 1 and the court will make a decision on the issue.