CALIFORNIA -- The owner of a Burbank animal shelter charged with abusing and neglecting hundreds of dogs and operating a kennel without a license is countersuing the city for harassing her.
Pamela Miller (aka Pam Miller, Pamela Miller-Sackter, Pam Sackter, Pamela Sackter), owner and operator of Burbank Animal Sanctuary, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court accusing the city of Burbank of violation of her civil rights, false imprisonment, false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, defamation, negligence and assault and battery.
The Burbank resident named 24 people in her lawsuit, including a Burbank Municipal Court judge and a number of city officials. She claims authorities violated her civil rights by subjecting her to many warrantless searches of her home, embarrassing her, ruining her reputation and taking pictures only of the kennel areas that had not been cleaned.
City prosecutor Eric Hovatter, who is named in the 26-page complaint filed June 9, declined comment on Thursday when asked about the federal lawsuit. He said only, "I haven't even looked at it."
Miller could not be reached for comment. Messages left at the Millerwood Animal Sanctuary were not returned Thursday.
The city filed a criminal case against Miller in August 1998. The matter was expected to go to trial last week. But Burbank Municipal Court Judge Aklan Kalkin transferred the case to Pasadena Municipal Court after Miller filed the federal lawsuit, because it named Burbank Municipal Judge Rand Rubin.
Authorities were also looking for a public defender to represent Miller because her private attorney, Ira Salzman, was dismissed from the case last week. He cited a conflict of interest.
Miller is representing herself in the federal lawsuit.
Volunteers at Millerwood Animal Sanctuary first complained about Miller in September 1997. They reported to city officials that more than 100 dogs were malnourished and living in filthy, cramped conditions.
The shelter opened in 1993 as a nonprofit organization to rescue and house hard-to-adopt pets, such as pit bulls.
Miller's license to operate a kennel ended in 1998 and the city refused to renew it, Hovatter said. She appealed the decision and her appeal was denied in January.
Burbank animal-control officials estimate Miller continues to house about 120 dogs in violation of city code. In Burbank, a person with more than four dogs must apply for a kennel permit.
The conditions in which Miller's dogs live are "not good to very bad," Hovatter said.
In documents she filed in federal court, Miller accuses former volunteers at her kennel of conspiring against her and launching a campaign to make sure she would lose her license.
Miller calls photographs of the kennel conditions "manufactured" and accuses some of those named in the suit of stealing her dogs.
The lawsuit claims that the purpose of the action was to "manufacture justification" for the Burbank animal-control agency and its superintendent, Fred DeLange, to close down her rescue operation.
DeLange, expected to be a witness in the criminal trial, would say only that he is eager for it to get under way.
The criminal trial is scheduled to begin June 28.
(LA Daily News - June 18, 1999