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Solvang-Based Animal Rescue Team Appeals Cease-and-Desist Order

Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department notification to wildlife-rehabilitation facility is latest in ongoing neighborhood war

Julia Di Sieno plays with two of her dogs at the Animal Rescue Team wildlife-rehabilitation center in Solvang. She is appealing a notice of violation and order to shut down issued by Santa Barbara County. Click to view larger
Julia Di Sieno plays with two of her dogs at the Animal Rescue Team wildlife-rehabilitation center in Solvang. She is appealing a notice of violation and order to shut down issued by Santa Barbara County.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
A tiny coyote pup is fed from a bottle at the Animal Rescue Team in Solvang. Click to view larger
A tiny coyote pup is fed from a bottle at the Animal Rescue Team in Solvang. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A wildlife-rehabilitation facility in rural Solvang has filed an appeal after the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department sent a notice of violation and direction to shut down operations.

Animal Rescue Team, on the 800 block of Carriage Drive off Highway 246, was sent the violation notice and order to cease on April 6.

But the notice is just the latest salvo in a neighborhood war playing out in social media and through government agencies for the Animal Rescue Team facility located on more than an acre.

After sending a March 20 letter advising of a complaint and reminding operator Julia Di Sieno of the rules, the county issued the formal notice of violation and order to cease operations.

“The wildlife species rehabilitation shall be conducted in a manner that is not injurious to the health, safety or welfare of the neighborhood, and does not create offensive noise or odor as determined by the director after advice from the Public Health Department,” Petra Leyva from the county Zoning/Code Enforcement Program said in the March letter.

Under the Land Use Development Code, a wildlife-rehabilitation facility can operate at the site without a zoning permit unless it creates noise or a nuisance.

In the April 6 notice, county Planning and Development Director Glenn Russell said he had determined Animal Rescue Team’s operations create “offensive noise” affecting the surrounding residential neighbors. 

The noise complaint allegedly centered on a howling coyote, an allegation Di Sieno doubts, noting other neighbors have heard coyotes in nearby vineyards. 

She was given 90 days to cease operations or 10 days to file an appeal, which Di Sieno said had been done last week.

The county Planning Commission will hear the appeal, but probably not for a few months, Leyva told Noozhawk.

Assorted cages and pens fill the backyard at the site, where Di Sieno said the goal is to ready animals for their return to the wild.

"We are not hoarders. ... We move animals on and off constantly," she said. 

On a recent visit, weasels scampered through their cage while two young foxes slept in a makeshift den inside their own cage.

Inside the house, a tiny coyote pup, so young its eyes weren’t open, slept in a carrier in a bedroom, where Di Sieno fed it from a small bottle. 

This isn’t the first complaint the county has received on the Animal Rescue Team.

"It doesn't matter what we do," Di Sieno said. "We are the bad guys."

A 2013 complaint claimed the site was noisy and smelly, but the case was closed as no violation, Leyva said.

Two years later, another complaint charged she had a rooster and seven dogs on the property. Di Sieno reduced the number of dogs on the site. The rooster ultimately was found to be within regulations.

Di Sieno claims neighbors record people visiting her property, while neighbors say it is Di Sieno who records them.

One neighbor kept a Halloween decoration of a dog skeleton facing Di Sieno's property. Neighbors blame Di Sieno for the fact that coyotes show up at their properties. 

But Di Sieno has her supporters, with an online petition drawing 564 signatures toward the 1,000 goal seeking to allow Animal Rescue Team to operate in peace.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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