KINGMAN - The owner of a Golden Valley animal rescue cited for multiple violations will hold an open house Saturday to let the public judge the conditions of the facility for themselves.
Hillarie Allison has operated the Rescue Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation (RUFFF) no-kill animal sanctuary on a 41-acre property since 2003. She is charged with more than 30 misdemeanor counts alleging various health code violations, as well as operating a kennel without a license and failing to renew RUFFF's non-profit status.
Allison acknowledges that a paperwork mistake led to her non-profit status being dropped, but she said she filed the necessary papers when the mistake was discovered and that the non-profit status is pending.
She also acknowledges that there are some maintenance issues that need to be addressed on the property, but she said those upgrades require money - money she said needs to go to the animals first.
"My priority is the care of the animals," Allison said. "The other things, yes they need to be done, but I had to take care of the health and well-being of the animals first."
Judge Lee Jantzen ordered an inspection of Allison's facility following a hearing in which the County asked for a permanent injunction against RUFFF.
The shelter is still open but currently prohibited from accepting any new animals.
Officials with the Sheriff's Office, Western Arizona Humane Society and the County's Environmental Health division inspected the facility Friday. The Humane Society counted 209 dogs, 88 cats and 12 pot bellied pigs, which were generally said to be in overall fair condition. Around 20 of the cats required veterinary attention, which Allison characterized as dental problems.
Problems allegedly found during the inspection include unsafe water connections; standing water outside of kennels; improper food storage and contaminated/spoiled canned foods; unbagged feces stored in an improper container; multiple flies in the food storage, cat housing and dumpster areas; and the presence of rats and their droppings.
Allison staunchly denies the rat charge.
"Neither myself or any of the volunteers have ever seen a rat on the property," Allison said. "We have field mice, but we are in the desert. That is going to happen."
County Civil Attorney Dolores Milkie said a rat ran across the foot of one of the inspectors Friday.
Milkie also outlined several other charges, including canned foods on a pallet being stored outside that had been exposed to the elements and began popping open, along with dry food that showed evidence of rodent infestation.
Allison said that in that case, the food showed up unannounced one day as a donation, and that volunteers covered it with a tarp until they could properly store it. Heavy rains and winds last month were responsible for the weathering, she said.
Milkie said the county has been attempting to work with Allison for more than two years to address the need for health code and planning and zoning compliance.
Allison received several extensions from the Planning and Zoning Commission in the last several years, she said, with the last one expiring in 2008. Milkie said that Allison's original request to Planning and Zoning was for half of the animals she currently has.
"It's been a long, drawn-out process," Milkie said.
She added that no medical records have been maintained on the animals, placing volunteers in danger if they were to be bitten or otherwise hurt by an animal.
Allison denies that she doesn't have records for the animals. She said she handed inspectors two reams of records and has spent more than $100,000 on veterinary care for the animals.
Milkie said there are also two trailers on the property in which people are living that have no septic system. Allison acknowledges that as well, and says that she wants to install a septic system, but that it again takes money.
Allison said it costs thousands of dollars to operate her sanctuary. She said the changes the county is requiring are simply out of her reach.
The county, for example, is requiring Allison to install a concrete run for the dogs that can be more easily cleaned and sanitized than the dirt run Allison currently uses.
Allison said she moved into the facility before the ordinance requiring the concrete run was instituted two years ago. She has been quoted upwards of $200,000 for the concrete run, which she said would be inhumane for the animals, especially in the summer heat.
"I want to work with the county to come into compliance, but some of the things they are requiring are simply not feasible and not humane," she said.
Another hearing before Judge Jantzen will take place in the next couple of weeks, during which time the county will present the results of the inspection to the judge, who will determine RUFFF's fate.
Allison's facility will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to mid-afternoon Saturday.
Those wishing to visit should turn south off of Highway 68 onto Estrella, left on Diabase, then right to Laguna. RUFFF may be contacted at (928) 565-BARK.