A dog boarding and rescue operation in Santa Ynez got the green light to operate Wednesday after one appeal of its permit was withdrawn and another was denied by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission.
Commissioners voted 4-0 to deny the remaining appeal and uphold the zoning administrator’s approval of a minor conditional use permit for Hollon’s Hounds at 1601 Edison St.
Third District Commissioner John Parke recused himself from the hearing because his firm represents one of the appellants, he said.
The commission reached its decision after determining the project met the requirements of the County Land Use Development Code, Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan and Comprehensive Plan.
While commissioners said they are dog lovers, they also noted the commission lacks the authority to make a decision based on the grounds cited in the remaining appeal, which essentially centered on animal neglect and abuse.
“This is very difficult because Planning and Development does not have jurisdiction over animal care,” said Chairwoman and 2nd District Commissioner Laura Bridley. “This is really a land use application.”
Fifth District Commissioner Dan Blough agreed: “Animal Services should be the [agency] to determine the proper care of animals.”
First District Commissioner C. Michael Cooney and 4th District Commissioner Larry Ferini echoed their opinions and supported the project.
“Continued abuse will become evident, if it exists,” Cooney said, adding the commission “would be remiss to move out of our jurisdiction.”
The decision will allow Breann Hollon to operate a commercial dog boarding and daycare facility with a nonprofit dog rescue operation on a 9.69-acre parcel zoned AG-1-10 and surrounded by single-family residences, equestrian training and boarding facilities and agricultural lands.
Hollon plans to house as many as 21 dogs belonging to locals and tourists and rescued by Milton’s Mutts along with three of her own for a total of 24 dogs on the property, according to County Planning and Building Department documents.
The site includes an existing horse barn, a pole barn and two stables, where the dogs will be housed, and a single-family residence and secondary residence, where four employees will be housed, according to the documents.
After the zoning administrator approved a minor conditional use permit for the operation in late January, two appeals were filed, including one by Peter Cheney, who said it would be incompatible with the neighborhood.
He also said dogs could contaminate an intermittent stream when they crossed it to reach the exercise yard, and he had concerns about fencing and the potential for noise.
However, after Cheney met with Hollon, she revised the project to resolve his concerns, and he withdrew his appeal.
The other appeal was filed by Elizabeth Gullo, founder and executive director of the nonprofit C.A.R.E.4Paws that works to improve animal welfare throughout the county, who said the appeal was based on her experiences while living on the site.
Gullo said she saw dogs left unsupervised and going without food and water, with feces and urine not cleaned up, dogs being adopted out without first being altered and dogs going without veterinary care.
She said the facility had operated without licenses and permits and Animal Services officers had responded to complaints about the operation eight times between July 2017 and April 2020, which she said seemed excessive.
During public comment, veterinary technician Angela Adan, who also had lived at the site, repeated many of Gullo’s claims.
But Hollon refuted some of Gullo’s and Adan’s accusations and explained mitigating circumstances for others, noting that despite the eight Animal Services visits, some unannounced, the operation had never been cited for animal abuse or neglect.
“It’s not true that animals have not been seen by a veterinarian,” she said, calling the appeal “a witch hunt.”
“I’m so happy to have reached an agreement with Mr. Cheney,” Hollon said. “I just want to get back to serving the community.”
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