Charges filed against dog-rescue operator
By Anne Krueger, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 1:09 a.m.
Alice Via, who has been tending to rescued dogs since 1994, now faces misdemeanor charges related to their care. County officials seized 63 dogs from her Lakeside property.
Background: County Animal Services officers seized 63 dogs from
Alice Via, a Lakeside animal-rescue operator, who was accused of failing to properly care for the animals.
What’s changing: Prosecutors filed six misdemeanor charges.
The future: Via is scheduled to appear in court July 8. County officials say they will begin to offer the dogs for adoption.
LAKESIDE — Six misdemeanor charges were filed Friday against a 65-year-old woman accused of failing to properly care for more than 60 rescued boxers and Chihuahuas at her Lakeside home.
The charges against Alice Via were filed more than three months after county Department of Animal Services officers arrested her and took away the 63 dogs she kept. The dogs have been held at the department’s San Diego shelter while prosecutors weighed the case against her.
One charge against Via alleges that she had an unlawful kennel because she kept more than six adult dogs without a permit. She is also charged with keeping animals in an unsanitary environment, failing to treat a contagious animal and three counts of failure to care for an animal. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
Animal Services officers had sought a felony charge of animal neglect against Via when she was arrested March 10, but Deputy District Attorney Richard Huffman Jr. said a felony count was not filed because Via has no criminal record. She is scheduled to appear in court July 8.
Via, who has been tending to rescued dogs since 1994, said she took good care of the animals. She said she devoted her life to caring for them and spent a large amount of her own money on their veterinary care, food and other expenses.
“My whole focus for 17 years has been the welfare and care of dogs,” Via said. “It’s been a passion, an honor, to help those dogs.”
Via kept the dogs in crates about 3½ feet long and just over 2 feet wide, and allowed the animals to go out twice a day in her roomy backyard, with chinaberry and mulberry trees to provide shade. She said the boxers were comfortable in the crates, which had food and water.
“They would jump up into the crates,” she said. “It was a happy place.”
John Carlson, deputy director of Animal Services, said the dogs suffered from a variety of ailments, including mange, malnutrition and dehydration. He said all the dogs have been treated by veterinarians since they were taken, and have daily play groups with volunteers at the Gaines Street shelter to get the social interaction that boxers require.
“We’ve been working feverishly to maintain the dogs in a good psychological state,” Carlson said.
Via said she kept more dogs than she ever had before because she was called by an increasing number of owners in financial distress who could no longer care for their animals. Animal Services officials acknowledged that they also called Via, asking her to take boxers that had been brought to county animal shelters. Via said that she got 30 to 40 dogs a year from Animal Services, and that shelter workers never asked how many dogs she had when they asked her to take another.
Via said the shelter dogs probably would have been euthanized if she hadn’t taken them, so she couldn’t say no.
“You take dogs in because you know you can help them,” she said. “I had the room to do it. I had the house. I had the yard.”
Carlson said rescue operators are aware of the laws limiting the number of animals they are allowed to have, which vary in municipalities around the county. Many rescue operations have a network of other homes where they can send animals when they have too many in their home, he said.
Via’s eyes filled with tears when she talked about her pet 8-year-old boxer, Maggie Mae, who has become severely ill since she was taken from Via.
“She was healthy when they took her,” Via said. “Three months later, she’s at death’s door.”
The dog suffers from bloat, a life-threatening illness. Via said Maggie Mae became ill because she was forced to compete for food at the shelter. Carlson said boxers are prone to the disease and that the cause is unknown.
Via wants to bring her pet home, but Carlson said the dog is being evaluated by a veterinary specialist. He’s hopeful that Maggie Mae will recover.
“Our concern is that we want to make sure that this animal gets continuing care,” Carlson said. “To bring it home and let it linger until it dies is not an appropriate thing for us to allow.”
Carlson said the dogs, which were seized under a search warrant, couldn’t be released from the shelter until charges were filed. He said he hopes the dogs will be available for adoption now.
“Once they are released for us to place them, we believe we are going to be able to place all those dogs in new homes,” he said.
Anne Krueger: (619) 542-4575; firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @UTannekrueger
PLEASE NOTE: COMMENTS AND PHOTOS FROM ALICE VIA CAN BE SEEN ON THE BOXER RESCUE WEBSITE AT