A long running, ongoing battle between Mohave County government and Golden Valley animal sanctuary, RUFFF, finally is reaching a conclusion following a unanimous decision by the Board of Supervisors at its January 3 meeting. All five supervisors voted and passed a motion authorizong staff to begin the implementation of the revocation of the Zoning Use Permit for the RUFFF Facility. Meanwhile, the Western Arizona Humane Society (WAHS) utilizing its contract with Mohave County, has taken control of many of the animals and is making decisions about the health and suitability of adoption for the many dogs and cats now under its domain.
This has been a contentious clash of wills and legalities almost from the beginning due to multiple non compliance of code for over 12 years. Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson has always been at the forefront on this issue, saying “I’m like most people. I want to see a safe and secure sanctuary for homeless animals. However, almost from the beginning, RUFFF, has consistently violated code, including some basic sanitary necessities. The conditions for the animals have been deplorable and we’ve seen little to no improvement year after year.” Johnson then added, “I’ve warned repeatedly that RUFFF needed to meet county guidelines and work to meet minimal standards. The court has over ruled the county on issues of health and safety issues in the past. That along with misguided support from the outside got us to the position where animals were so neglected that they had to be euthanized ”
Supervisor Johnson blamed RUFFF owner Hillarie Allison for much of the problem. Johnson believes “she may have initially wanted to help these animals because many of them were in dire straits, but, she repeatedly neglected to properly care for them. It’s been a struggle, but, finally, all four of the other supervisors agreed with me at our January 3rdmeeting that her licensed needs to be revoked.”
See this detailed Timeline below to further understand the many multiple failed opportunities RUFFF had over many years to come into compliance. Supervisor Johnson concludes “RUFFF simply didn’t work with the county to provide safe and sanitary conditions for the animals. It is responsible for its own demise.”
- Hillarie Allison opened an animal shelter in 2000 in Bullhead City. She moved to Golden Valley in 2003.
- The first Zoning Use Permit (ZUP) for an animal rescue and sanctuary for this property was conditionally approved by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors on July 7, 2003, via BOS Resolution No. 2003 -229.
- It was extended for the first time with BOS Resolution No. 2004 -234A dated July 6, 2004. The request for extension indicated that the applicant had not been able to take possession of the property until the latter half of February (2004), and that the project was being redesigned and the dog runs had to be relocated due to an issue with property markers. The only conditions contained in this resolution were that the applicant must comply with the conditions of BOS Resolution 2003 -229. The time was also extended to July 7, 2005.
- The next request for an extension of time was received on October 7, 2005, approximately three months after the ZUP expired. Reasons for the request were that additional time was needed to resolve title issues so that the required dedications could be made, as well as delays in construction and acquiring funds. A site inspection indicated that there were zoning violations present on the property including open lot storage, and establishment of the operation prior to meeting the conditions of BOS Resolution 2003 -229.
- At its meeting on November 9, 2005, the P&Z Commission voted to continue the item to the January 11, 2006 meeting to allow the applicant time to correct zoning violations.
- The Commission heard the request at the meeting on January 11, 2006, and voted to again continue the item to the May 10, 2006 meeting. At the meeting on May 10, 2006, the Commission again continued the item to the June 14, 2006 meeting to allow time to determine the maximum number of animals to be allowed under the Zoning Use Permit (ZUP.) The applicant (Hillarie Allison) indicated that she could live with a maximum of 150 adult dogs, and that there were already over 100 present.
- The Commission considered the item at its June 14, 2006 meeting, and recommended approval of an extension of time, based in large part on the fact that a site plan had been submitted for review. This extension was finally approved by the Board with BOS Resolution No. 2006 -421 dated July 10, 2006, approximately one year after expiration. BOS Resolution No. 2006 -421 was conditioned on compliance with the conditions of BOS Resolution No. 2003 -229, placed a restriction on the permit that no more than 135 adult dogs may be maintained on the property. This extension expired on July 3, 2008, and no further extension requests were received.
- A draft site plan (SP06 -038) was provided by the applicant on May 10, 2006, and after review by staff and commenting agencies, a letter was sent to the applicant on July 5, 2006, noting the deficiencies and asking the applicant to make the necessary corrections and return the site plan for further review.
- A corrected site plan was not submitted to the Department by the applicant. The use continued since the expiration of BOS Resolution No. 2006 -421 on July 3, 2008, in violation of the Mohave County Zoning Ordinance, and the number of animals increased to approximately 200 dogs and 100 cats.
- July 28th, 2008: Email to Hillarie Allison re: plan review application has not been received.
- August 11, 2008: Email from EHD to Ms. Allison asking her to complete the plan review application and submit with fee.
- Sept 5, 2008: Plan review and fee submitted by Ms. Allison for R.U.F.F. Showing 135 Adult dogs, 200 Cats, 12 Pot belly pigs. Site map shows 150 Adult dogs but says only 135 are allowed by ZUP.
- Oct 8th, 2008: Site visit of shelter with Ms. Allison
- Dec 11, 2008: Plan review deficiency letter mailed from Denise Roby to Ms. Allison listing all of the unmet requirements and asking for a written response for each and the timeline required to meet each requirement.
- Jan 21, 2009: Email to Ms. Allison from EHD. No plan review response to deficiencies has been received at this time by EH. Ms. Allison emails back that she will try to get a rough plan to EHD by February 1, 2009.
- February 23, 2009: Complaint received from member of the public — gross unsanitary conditions in catteries, dead animals left unattended, no hand washing facilities
- Feb 24, 2009: Letter to Ms. Allison: No written plan review response has been received. If response not received within 30 days, a Notice of Violation will be issued for operation without a permit.
- May 5, 2009: Email from Ms. Allison to EHD. Apology for taking so long, and states that “Gordon” will be getting EHD a “progress report” ASAP.
- June 6, 2009: Email from Ms. Allison stating that “Gordon” wasn’t able to send what he had written. She states they have had a huge influx of abandoned animals and that they are doing everything to honor EHD’s requests but, concludes that time constraints, plus health and money problems are slowing them down.
- June 29, 2009: Meeting between EH, P &Z (zoning) & Ms. Allison. No plan review response (Ms. Allison said she would have it completed in 1 week). No current zoning use permit (ZUP). No EHD permit to operate.
- Aug 7, 2009: Notice of Violation issued (NOV)- No plan review response, no annual permit
- August 24, 2009: EHD responds to 8/23/2009 email from Dr. Robert Hopkins, Ms. Allison’s expert witness /contract veterinarian. EHD states that RUFFF is considered a kennel under the ordinance and answers a couple other questions.
- Dec 11, 2009: Letter to Ms. Allison regarding intent of EH to issue a Compliance order if permit was not issued by Jan 31, 2010.
- Dec 17, 2009: Email from Robert Hopkins D.V.M as a response to Plan review deficiency. No physical address provided for a written response
- Dec 22, 2009: 2nd Notice of Plan review deficiency mailed to Ms. Allison (No address for Hopkins): Restrooms (wastewater), Kennel surfaces (flooring) easily cleanable with wastewater disposal to permitted septic system.
- Jan 28, 2010: Email from Robert Hopkins D.V.M., which is his response to Dec. 22, 2009 deficiency letter. That letter said that RUFFF does not meet code requirements or Aquifer Protection permit Requirements.
- Feb 1, 2010: Compliance order for operating without a permit issued, A $5,000.00 fine can take place if compliance is not met..
- Feb 22, 2010: Written request for Administrative Hearing hand delivered by Hillarie Allison on Feb 22, 2010. Did not list unavailable dates or times, Did not ask for review of anything specific at hearing
- March 1, 2010: Letter from Rachel Patterson to Ms. Allison providing dates & times for the requested hearing. Mailed certified, but, not picked up until April 5, 2010.
- March 10, 2010: 8:30 a.m. with Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen continued to March 25th at 8:30 a.m.
- Instructed by attorney to post notice of administrative hearing at property.
- March 10, 2010: Posted letter to Ms. Allison at R.U.F.F. location with date and time of hearing. Took pictures of dog & cat & pig enclosures with standing water /feces /wastewater.
- March 16, 2010: 10:00 a.m. hearing with Bruce Leeming, Hearing Officer. Ms. Allison not at hearing.
- March 17,2010: Judgment & order received from Bruce Leeming in favor of Environmental Health Division (EHD)
- March 17, 2010: Packet mailed to Ms. Allison of information provided at hearing /exhibits offered at hearing by EHD. Packet returned in mail to EHD
- March 25, 2010: Preliminary injunction was issued by the court, requiring that RUFFF obtain a valid permit to operate; that RUFFF cease soliciting and accepting donations under the guise of a non – profit organization, that EHD have immediate access to the premises for the purposes of evaluating the condition of all animals and any records that are maintained, and that RUFFF cease acquiring additional animals and no animals be removed from the premises (however, after the inspection, EHD agreed for animals to be removed for the purposes of adoption).
- March 26, 2010: Inspection of RUFFF premises by Mohave County (Animal Control, Environmental Health and Zoning). Violations on this date include illegal sewage disposal/illegal connections to wastewater system; kennel floor area not easily cleanable, standing water /mud in 1/3 to 1/2 of kennels and walkways; backflow prevention needed; unpermitted RVs on property (illegally connected to septic or not connected at all), harborage for vermin (much trash /refuse on property); improper food storage; pigeons, mice and flies observed, physical hazards in kennel areas, Improper removal /storage of discarded feces
- April 2, 2010: Environmental Health Department (EHD) delivers notice to Ms. Allison stating that she may adopt animals out. (Preliminary injunction had stated animals may not leave the property — which was for the purposes of the March 26 inspection which had been completed by this time).
- April 10, 2010: Received report from Dr. Leo W. Egar, consulting Veterinarian for the Humane Society of the United States
- April 12, 2010: Three Notices of Violation (NOV) hand-delivered to Ms. Allison (trash /refuse;
- congregation of pigeons; and illegal sewage connections
- April 25, 2010: Email from Ms. Allison stating that several dogs and 1 cat were transferred to another facility.
- April 28, 2010: Environmental inspects to follow up on NOVs. All items have been resolved or were very close to being resolved (sewage connections, pigeon congregating and refuse/vermin harborage issue).
- May 10, 2010: Email from Ms. Allison stating they had adopted out 4 dogs over the last week.
- May 18, 2010: Letter to Ms. Allison setting a timeline for her to obtain her Zoning Use Permit (ZUP) so that a health permit can be obtained.
- May 21, 2010: In preparation for the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing, EHD sends comments to Development Services. EHD comments that Ms. Allison has never obtained a health permit with the EHD and that if her ZUP is approved she must contact EHD by September 1, 2010. Recommends also that the ZUP be a temporary Zoning Use Permit and that if she does not comply with the requirements of the health department that the ZUP be rescinded. Also recommend not to increase number of animals allowed on the property and that the amount should be lowered based on volunteers and resources that Ms. Allison has. Item placed on the July 14, 2010 Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) agenda
- July 24, 2010: PZC hearing. 6 month conditional ZUP approved
- August 2010: The Board of Supervisors approved a 6 month conditional ZUP
- August 24, 2010: Environmental Health sends letter to Ms. Allison. Now that her ZUP has been approved, EHD needs a new site plan copy (update the plan review from 2008). It is also stated that she will receive a letter after the updated plan review is complete. EHD asks for response by September 10, 2010.
- September 14, 2010: Receive response from Ms. Allison with an updated site plan
- September 15, 2010: Email from EHD to Ms. Allison asking for a current count of the animals to date and for a volunteer schedule
- January 26, 2011: EHD Receives copy of Ms. Allison’s Application for an extension of time for the ZUP.
While waiting on the ZUP hearing, EHD decides to inspect the RUFFF premises after Ms. Allison tells EHD a chemical toilet and hand washing station have been provided for employees, and backflow prevention has been installed on all hose bibs.
- March 3, 2011: EHD inspects RUFFF premises (with Zoning Division). However, several outstanding issues still remain before RUFFF can obtain the health permit.
- April 13, 2011: Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. Ms. Allison asks for an extension of time for her ZUP. (Her former ZUP expired in February 2011). PZC recommends approval for a 6 month extension of time with the condition that Ms. Allison decrease the number of dogs to 135 by November 2011.
- May 2, 2011: Board of Supervisors approves the 6 month extension of time for Ms. Allison’s ZUP with same conditions as PZC.
- May 4, 2011: EHD receives an email from Ms. Allison asking what is next. She asks if she should come in to get the papers for her health permit or if there is something else she needs to do first.
- May 12, 2011: EHD replies that Ms. Allison has been given a copy of her last inspection report and that those items need to be completed prior to being approved for a health permit. The items are again spelled out in this email.
- July 20, 2011: After discussion with the County Attorney’s Office regarding the situation and the fact that we hadn’t heard from Ms. Allison since May 4, 2011, EHD issues a Notice of Violation (NOV) for operating without a permit. Items to be corrected prior to permit issuance are outlined in the NOV with a deadline date of August 19, 2011.
August 24, 2011: EHD performs an inspection of Ms. Allison’s premises. Same issues found PLUS
backflow preventers now missing (this was a violation that was previously corrected) and cross –
connections found. In addition, junk on lot, creating a harborage area for vermin.
- August 26, 2011: EHD issues a Compliance Order (CO) to Ms. Allison giving her until September 9, 2011 to remedy the issues found so that a health permit could be issued. The CO again spells out what needs to be done for compliance and also states that all any other items as required by the Mohave County Ordinance currently in effect need to be in compliance for permit issuance (including those items that had previously been corrected and were now out of compliance once again).
- September 8, 2011: Ms. Allison sends a request for an administrative hearing (in response to the CO)
to Patty Mead, Health Director, and copies Mary Ann Roche, Environmental Quality Supervisor and Rachel Patterson, EH Manager.
- September 8, 2011: EHD notifies hearing officer and hearing will be set for October 5, 2011 at 10:00 AM at 3250 E. Kino Ave, Kingman, AZ
- September 9, 2011: EHD sends notification of hearing to Ms. Allison by certified mail
- September 12, 2011: EHD attempts to conduct follow -up inspection (to Compliance Order issued August 26, 2011) at property. Ms. Allison not there. EHD also planning to deliver copy of hearing notification, but unable. Inspection rescheduled for September 13, 2011
September 13, 2011: EHD unable to perform inspection due to inclement weather. Inspection
scheduled for September 15, 2011.
- September 15, 2011: EHD conducts follow up inspection to the Compliance Order issued on August 26, 2011. Items in Compliance Order not remedied and other items exist that were previously corrected ( backflow prevention, illegal connection to septic system, etc.). Hearing notification hand – delivered in addition to being sent by certified mail.
- October 3, 2011: EHD receives request from Ms. Allison to postpone the administrative hearing for 60 days.
- October 3, 2011: EHD emails Ms. Allison regarding 60 day extension request. Email states hearing will go on as planned October 5, 2011 and that if she decides not appear, she will have waived her hearing rights.
- October 5, 2011: Administrative hearing is held at 3250 E. Kino Ave.
- October 7, 2011: Hearing Officer renders decision, finding in favor of EH
- October 25, 2011: Ms. Allison appeals hearing officer’s decision to Patty Mead, Health Director
- October 26, 2011: Health Director renders decision to appeal received on October 25, 2011. Upholds Hearing Officer’s decision.
- December 13, 2011: Judge takes case under advisement — has 60 days to render a decision
- February 14, 2012: Judge renders a decision — which is that RUFFF has until November 1, 2012 to comply with all requirements (permanent injunction not granted); EH must meet with RUFFF within the next 90 days to discuss appropriate durable flooring for cages /kennels.
- March 7, 2012: EH meets with Ms. Allison and Ms. Morley (Exotic Heritage Cat Association of America) to discuss flooring issue. Other issues were discussed to ensure we were all on the same page (confirmation that certain items are in compliance, etc.). No agreement was reached at this meeting. Ms. Allison said she would look at her options and pricing and get back to us in two weeks with a decision. We told her that any alternative flooring to “durable constructed flooring” would need prior approval from our office prior to purchase /installation.
- March 19, 2012: Development Services receives application for Zoning Use Permit from Ms. Allison.
- May 17, 2012: Met with Ms. Allison, members of Development Services and Kathy Tackett-Hicks to discuss site plan submittal. After the meeting, the EHD Manager approached Ms. Allison to remind her that an agreement on flooring must be reached by June 1, 2012. Ms. Allison said she was still shopping around and had some other ideas for flooring and would get back to us with samples.
- May 23, 2012: EHD sets up meeting time to go out to RUFFF facility on June 1, 2012 at 9:00 am to look at the wastewater /greywater connections from the TTs in response to issues brought up at the site plan meeting.
- May 25, 2012: EHD writes a letter to Ms. Allison again reminding her that we need to agree on flooring material by June 1, 2012. The letter is sent certified, by regular mail and by email. Not long after the email is sent, Kathy Tackett-Hicks drops off three bags with sample flooring material in them. EHD sends an email to Ms. Allison acknowledging the samples had been received and asks for the company name that provided the samples for any questions EHD may have.
- May 29, 2012: EHD calls S &S Materials in BHC. S &S Materials states they provided two of the samples to Ms. Allison (the crusher fines and the micro-aggregate.)
- The Planning and Zoning Commission heard this item on June 13, 2012.
- The BOS approved the Special Use Permit for an animal sanctuary in an A-R/36A (Agricultural-Residential/Thirty-Six Acre Minimum Lot Size) zone on July 2, 2012 via BOS Resolution No. 2012-104
- Permit was extended on July 3, 2014, via BOS Resolution No. 2014-115.
- It was extended again on August 1st, 2016
- December 7, 2016, Animal Control and County Health Department employees go out to the RUFFF property after receiving a complaint. The Building Department condemned the residence of Hillarie Allison and animal control removed all animals from inside the residence. They did not remove any from the outside kennels.
- December 30, 2016, Animal Control and County Health Department Director Patty Mead meet up with RUFFF representatives (Ms. Allison is not present. An inspection to determine if “critical violations” at the property residence had been corrected. Outside of a hand washing station being installed and trash removed, Ms. Mead determined that there was “non compliance of all other violations” and that the permit would be revoked. Animal Control began removing approximately 15 of the dogs from the premises with the cooperation of the RUFFF representatives who were present.
NOTE: Regarding numbers of animals on premises
March 2011: 177 dogs, 73 cats, 12 pigs
July 2011: 146 dogs, unknown # cats, 12 pigs, 20 “personal’ dogs (total 166 dogs)
August 2011: 146 dogs, 75 cats, 12 pigs, 35 “personal’ dogs (total 181 dogs)
September 2011: 134 dogs, 75 -80 cats, 12 pigs, 40 “personal’ dogs (total of 174 dogs)
December 2016: 197 dogs, 100 cats, unknown amount of pigs, chickens and other animals