Fans of “Pit Bulls and Parolees” on Animal Planet have watched as Tia Maria Torres relocated her Villalobos Rescue Center, a facility for abused and abandoned Pit Bulls, to her “dream” location in Tehachapi, Calif.
But Torres’ dream may not come true if the president of a local property owners’ association has her way.
According to Tehachapinews.com, the Kern County Planning Commission is holding a hearing on March 10 regarding Torres’ request for a conditional-use permit for a shelter that will house up to 100 dogs.
When Lula Merle King Carnes, president of the Old West Ranch Property Owners Association (OWRPOA), heard about the hearing, she sent a letter to friends and neighbors, urging them to express their concerns by writing to the planning commission and attending the hearing.
In the letter, which was posted on the Villalobos Rescue Center’s Facebook page, Carnes wrote that based on a phone survey, the majority of residential property owners were against the permit, as were seven of the eight OWRPOA board members.
“The piece of property in this first notice was originally established to house just a few mixed breed (not Pitt [sic] Bull) rescue dogs by [its] previous owner,” Carnes wrote. “The six or seven dogs she had were a problem…can you imagine 100 dogs, Pitt Bulls, along with their parolee handlers.”
While Torres has applied for an animal-shelter permit, Carnes wrote that “what she’s really wanting is a place to take in parolees (at the expense of the government) and match them up with 100 Pitt Bulls for your viewing pleasure and her pocket book.”
Carnes also made a comparison to the case of Diane Whipple, who in 2001 was “mauled to death in her own hallway by a ‘people friendly’ dog (although not Pitt Bull) raised by prisoners,” Carnes wrote.
In a news release posted on the Villalobos Facebook page, Torres stated, “Never in my dreams would I think that such an angry and hateful woman co-existed there … Never once did she ask me or come to me with concerns as some of the other nice folk up there have.”
Torres noted that Carnes does not live near the Villalobos location, “yet she, for some reason, wants to shut down an organization that helps men and women get on the right track to life.”
As of today, more than 10,700 people have signed a Change.org petition supporting Villalobos. Torres asked people to send supportive letters and emails to her by February 22, but Tehachapinews.com reported that comments can still be submitted to the planning commission until the hearing on March 10.
Torres has urged people to be polite in their correspondence, and not to respond directly to Carnes because she does not want her supporters portrayed as threatening.
To support the Villalobos Rescue Center, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the County of Kern Planning and Community Development, 2700 “M” Street, Suite 100, Bakersfield, CA 93301-2370 before March 10.