As previously reported in the Valley Voice on January 15, 2015 and February 5, 2015, Wendy and her son, Brian Jones of Tulare County remain in battle against Tulare County Animal Control. The Joneses claim Tulare County contrived an unlawful seizure of their family pet “Clyde”, who was subsequently ruled “vicious” by County hearing officers and set for euthanization.
Complicating the matter, before that happened, the County claims that sometime during the evening of January 4, 2015, someone took Clyde by first cutting the fence into an adjacent building area, then cutting specifically into Clyde’s cage at the Tulare County Animal Control facility. The Joneses claim Tulare County authorities immediately accused them of committing the act, and that authorities who questioned them were verbally and physically abusive.
Ms. Jones claims that her attempts to lodge complaints against several officers involved in the matter has been blocked by what she refers to as a “good ol’ boys club” within the Tulare County law Sheriff’s Department and connected government.
Meanwhile, Ms. Jones still seeks to vindicate Clyde while decrying what she asserts has been an autocratic process on the part of Tulare County in taking Clyde from her family without due process.
In a new development, William Fabricius of Ducor, another Tulare County dog owner also claiming unlawfulness on the part of Tulare County Animal Control, has joined forces with Wendy Jones against what they both claim is a continuance of the infamous Carcasses-for-Cash scandal unearthed at Tulare County Animal Shelter in 2007. Fabricius claims Tulare County Animal Control unlawfully seized and murdered twenty-five of his dogs from his remote ranch in Ducor pursuant to an illegally-placed order issued by embattled Judge Valeriano Saucedo.
On November 4, 2015, Ms. Jones, with the assistance of San Francisco animal attorney Christine Garcia, confronted the County before Judge Hillman in Department 7 of Tulare County Superior Court.
With Fabricius and a growing number of outraged supporters present, Jones and Garcia squared off against Tulare County counsel Kevin Stimmel and paralegal Nicol Dennewitz, who argued the case had been fairly adjudicated, that Clyde had been deemed vicious appropriately, and that the County had broken no laws.
In an attempt to counter Garcia’s arguments of county impropriety where its hearing officers are routinely paid to rule in favor of Tulare County Animal Control, attorney Stimmel argued that such remuneration was approved by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, and appropriate pursuant to Thornbrough v. W Placer Unified Sch. Dist., 223 Cal. App. 4th 169 (2013).
Conversely, Garcia argued that a judge in any proceeding who is paid by one of the parties in the case is an obvious violation of due process Haas v. County of San Bernardino, 27 Cal. 4th 1017 (2002), and that authorities had violated local, state and federal limitations on authority meant to protect the public from government overreach.
Garcia went into detail, discussing the County’s disregard of ten of eleven elements needed under established law for finding Clyde vicious, and expressed concern for the County’s disdain for a process she considered customary in county animal hearings elsewhere in the State and abroad.
She described the County’s unilateral seizure of Clyde and reactive financial charges against the Joneses as inapposite to fee waiver provisions, and accused the County of essentially steering vicious dog hearings against the public in its own financial interests.
The tense debate heightened at one point when Garcia referred to the singular bite to the Jones child’s face as a “nip”, to which Judge Hillman took umbrage. “It wasn’t a nip counsel. I’ve seen the pictures.”
Undeterred, Garcia outlined the problem into three issues; accusing Tulare County for disregarding established “provocation law”, of disregarding Wendy Jones’ considerable certification in animal control policies and procedures, and transgressing clear principles of fairness and integrity in county hearings.
While granting judicial notice of various other exhibits Jones and Garcia had admitted into evidence, Judge Bret Hillman nevertheless refused to provide judicial notice of the county contracts Garcia and Jones admitted into evidence demonstrating county animal control hearing officers have a financial interest in ruling in favor of Tulare County.
Counsel Stimmel argued the County’s ad hoc unilateral selection and payment of hearing officers was approved by the Board of Supervisors and that Garcia’s other points of argument were irrelevant where Garcia and Jones had not met their burden of showing that the County’s seizure and subsequent hearing process was deficient.
Perfidiously, Judge Hillman himself argued the Joneses’ petition for relief was moot where the County had already lost Clyde. “I don’t see how I can do anything in this matter. The dog is gone already. I can’t give him back to you.”
Counsel for Jones argued against the court’s evasive stance stating, “We’re here to vindicate Clyde and argue the County did not follow the law in taking him.” Judge Hillman summarily announced he would take the matter up for review and render his decision in the near future.
Wholly uninspired by the proceedings, Jones stated, “All of this was argued already in briefs and he still rendered a tentative ruling basically ignoring everything we had to say. I doubt he is going to change his mind regardless of the facts and evidence.”
After the hearing, Jones and Garcia filed a post-hearing declaration, with exhibits, evidencing the Board of Supervisors never approved payment to Tulare County Animal Control hearing officers; revealing what appears to be a county patronage scheme happening under the Board’s nose.