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Animal rescuer files $5 million claim against Apple Valley for defamation

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In Part One of this series we informed readers about the jihad Town of Apple Valley officials are undertaking to rid the town of naysayers who disagree with the town’s animal control policies and procedures. In a Sept. 17, 2013 email, Marc Puckett, assistant town manager, stated:

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“[B]e advised that it has been brought to my attention that slanderous and libelous statements have been made against the Town and its employees regarding operation of the Animal Shelter. We do take misrepresentations of facts, slander and libel very seriously. As such, I have forwarded those comments to the Town’s Attorneys for review and consideration of follow-up action against the individuals involved.”

And they were quick to take action against one local rescuer who got on their bad side. Mary Ryan is fighting back with a $5 million claim against the town. She is represented by Louis Fazzi, Esq., who handled a similar case in Hesperia that resulted in an out-of-court settlement of $200,000, paid by the city so that their practices and procedures would not be challenged in federal court.

Ryan operated German Shepherd Angels Rescue in Apple Valley and she is one of the first within the local rescue community to receive “follow-up action.” The only reason she knows of for this: Ryan reported an Apple Valley Animal Shelter staff member, who treated the animals in his care roughly and who was rude to residents, to Apple Valley Animal Services Manager Gina Schwin-Whiteside.

From there she found herself under constant scrutiny, especially by Animal Control Supervisor Barbara Cornett, who stepped up the action in May 2012. Cornett systematically harassed Ryan over a period of months. Finally, in July of this year, the town revoked her animal services permit that allowed her to have eight dogs on her property.

The scrutiny and retaliation did not stop Ryan from saving the lives of high desert German Shepherds. She continued her work, housing her Shepherds at local kennels and conducting weekly adoption events at those kennels with great success.

But then the kennel needed space and Ryan had to pick up the puppies. She brought them home one evening in October and made arrangements for a new kennel the next day. While a transporter was present to help with the transfer, the town raided her home.

The town was quick to issue a news release, vilifying Ryan in the local press and on social media. According to the release, “[Ryan] was cited with cruelty to animals, exceeding animal limitations, and disposition of dead animals.”

The local newspaper, the Daily Press, offered up the press release to the public as gospel truth without independent investigation. Shelter supporters with personal relationships with shelter management quickly jumped on social networking sites, repeating rumors that had little or no factual basis, before the raid was even completed. The town’s jihad was in full force.

To the general public who read the Daily Press story, the most disturbing aspects of the charges were “cruelty to animals” and “removing three dead dogs.” Ryan adamantly denies the animal cruelty charges because all puppies old enough to be weaned and dogs confiscated were healthy, happy and very adoptable, until they spent time in the Apple Valley Animal Shelter. There was no animal cruelty, according to Ryan.

Neither the Daily Press nor the Town of Apple Valley bothered to make public the fact that on Nov. 26, 2013, Apple Valley Animal Control notified the San Bernardino Superior Court Clerk’s office in Victorville, Calif., that the 31 animal cruelty counts had been removed.

The three “dead dogs” counts, all infractions, remain but both entities left out important details in an effort to gain the public’s ire against Ryan. There were three dead puppies, wrapped thoroughly in blankets, placed in plastic bags and then placed in the freezer waiting transportation to be cremated. These were no “dead dogs” that were found on the property filled with maggots and decaying as the story would lead readers to assume.

Unfortunately, in the rescue world, many animals don’t survive even after being pulled from shelters simply because of the disease spread in shelters due to many shelters not using accepted cleaning protocols. A puppy dying is a way-too-frequent occurrence for any rescue that deals with a high volume of animals.

These are just a few of the half-truths and outright lies presented by town officials and promoted by the Daily Press to take the heat off due to the town’s own high kill rates in their disease-infested, taxpayer-funded shelter. The shelter is under scrutiny and the actions of town officials in covering up the atrocities may become the basis for additional lawsuits.

There is much more to this story and the extent to which town officials are willing to abuse taxpayer funds for this jihad. We will describe more instances of taxpayer money being wasted in Part Three of this series. In the meantime, the five town council persons—Art Bishop, Barb Stanton, Scott Nassif, Curt Emick and Larry Cussack—refuse to address the concerns of the citizens, preferring instead to use tax payer money to litigate against its residents for speaking out.

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