SAN DIEGO — A Los Angeles animal rights organization has sued San Diego County Animal Services, claiming it violated the California Public Records Act by failing to respond to a request related to the alleged mistreatment of horses at a ranch near Rancho Santa Fe earlier this year.
In a lawsuit filed Aug. 7 in San Diego County Superior Court, the Los Angeles Alliance for Animals alleges that they have received no response from Animal Services regarding two records requests submitted in April.
Zohra Fahim, president of the Los Angeles Allegiance for Animals, said she requested copies of a necropsy report for a horse that died on a property on Artesian Road earlier this year and copies of complaints received by the department relating to animals at the property.
The California Public Records Act requires agencies to respond to requests within 10 days of receipt by providing the requested information or explaining in detail what can and cannot be released under the law.
“[The] petitioner has a statutory right to have respondent process its public records requests in a manner that complies with the California Public Records Act. Petitioner’s rights in this regard were violated when respondent failed to promptly provide public, non-exempt records to petitioner in response to the California Public Records Act Requests,” the lawsuit states.
Animal Services declined to comment on the lawsuit, stating they had not received the complaint.
The records request relates to an incident from late March when Animal Services responded to a complaint of an elderly horse at a property on Artesian Road that was down and trapped in mud.
The department contacted the horse’s owner and private veterinarian to euthanize the horse, but the animal died before it could be euthanized, Animal Services representatives said.
Animal Services also received several complaints about general poor conditions at the property, where between 40 and 60 horses were believed to be kept.
Since early April, the department said they had investigated conditions at the site, including an inspection of each animal on the property.
County spokesperson Chuck Westerheide said the department cannot share details about their findings on the property because the investigation is still ongoing.
“Our goal is to achieve voluntary compliance with animal owners by working together with owners to resolve issues before enforcement actions are needed. We are still working with the owner at that site,” Westerheide said.
While agencies often decline to share documents that are part of an open investigation, they are still required to respond to the requestor within the 10 days.
Westerheide also said no necropsy was conducted on the deceased horse, so there would be no report to share.