SILVER SPRINGS - Operators of an animal rescue facility claim they have been the object of ongoing harassment by county animal control personnel.
Tom Blomquist, co-founder with his wife, Lee, of the Silver Springs Spay-Neuter Project, said he believes his questioning of department policies led to the recent filing of nuisance complaints against his facility by a neighbor and by animal control officers.
Appearing before the Lyon County Planning Commission to answer a complaint against his permit to operate, Blomquist said animal control officials "have decided to go after us. I am tired of fighting an uphill battle against county employees trying to take the law into their own hands."
The not-for-profit Silver Springs Spay-Neuter Project is located at the Blomquist home on Fort Churchill Street. Founded to promote the spaying and neutering of pets as an alternative means of animal control, the facility has operated under a special use permit since 1997. Their current population of 20 dogs consists of animals over the age of 10, special needs dogs and dogs on daily medications.
Blomquist charged animal control officers have illegally required spay/neuter deposits for dogs over 4 months old, mandated spay/neutering of dogs under four months, have not keep any records of deposit transactions and have illegally mandated that all checks be made out to ABC Clinic in Carson City.
According to state statute, animal control releasing agencies must establish spay/neuter deposit accounts at a financial institution. Refundable deposits are required from those adopting dogs under 4 months of age.
"State law says dogs over 4 months must be spayed/neutered by the shelter before they can be adopted. Veterinarians recommend they not be fixed before this age. Deposits may only be collected on those under 4 months to assure those adopting them will get them fixed when they are old enough," Blomquist said.
"I find it strange that one day after the Sept. 14 Animal Control Board meeting, where I challenged animal control personnel regarding their deviations from the law and asked where the paperwork for non-refunded deposits is, I was presented with a citation."
According to Blomquist, the complainants moved into the home well after his project was established and his kennels are in obvious view from the second story of the home.
The citations were dismissed by the Lyon District Attorney's Office.
Addressing the issue in a letter to the Planning Commission, County Commissioner Chet Hillyard said, "It appears the Blomquists are being harassed by complainants who seem to be motivated by animal control officers. I have been the resident commissioner since the beginning of their special use permit and have not received one complaint against them."
County Commissioner Bob Milz told the board, "I think there is harassment coming from animal control. They have to treat all complaints the same. This is why we established a separate animal control division."
Lyon County commissioners created an Animal Services Division in August, removing animal control from under the jurisdiction of the sheriff's department. Lyon County Manager Stephen Snyder is temporarily serving as Animal Services director until the position is filled. He said the job description is being re-evaluated and should be advertised by next week.
After reading of several letters of support and hearing testimony in support of the Blomquists' efforts, the planning commission unanimously approved renewing their special use permit for another year.
Commenting after the meeting, Snyder said he is aware of Blomquist's concerns.
"I have met with animal control staff and they are also aware of the concerns," Snyder said. "I have not been able to substantiate the charges regarding the violation of state statutes; however, there are changes in the works and in the organizational structure. Based on today's testimony, I will continue to look into the charges of harassment."
Snyder said, to his knowledge, the recent complaint, instigated by the owners of the home adjacent to the Blomquists, is the only one the county has ever received regarding the spay/neuter project.