Sunday, December 12, 1999

California: Pamela Miller's trial has been postponed

CALIFORNIA -- Pamela Miller (aka Pam Miller, Pamela Miller-Sackter, Pam Sackter, Pamela Sackter) will have to wait a bit longer for her day in court.

Miller, whose trial on charges of operating an illegal dog shelter in Burbank had been scheduled to begin Thursday, now has until March to prepare her defense, court officials said.

Miller is accused of 14 Burbank municipal and penal code violations in connection with the non-profit Millerwood Animal Sanctuary at 110 and 120
W. Linden St.. Authorities allege she has operated without a kennel license since July 1998. On Thursday, Miller's trial was continued until March 10.

Among other violations, Miller is charged with cruelty to animals, impounding an animal without food and keeping animals in unsanitary conditions. She has denied all the charges.

The legal battle to keep the sanctuary open has been brewing since July 1998 when the Burbank Animal Shelter denied Miller's bid to renew her kennel license. In January, the Burbank City Council upheld that decision.

Since then, Miller has filed two lawsuits in U.S. District Court in which she has named city officials and local municipal court judges as defendants. She also filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In the federal lawsuits, Miller claims the city and numerous individuals violated her civil rights in an illegal search, said Asst.

City Atty. Richard Morillo. The city is waiting for decisions on requests for dismissals in both cases, he said.

The Superior Court case included a motion to overturn the City Council's decision not to renew her kennel license. In July, the court ruled in favor of the city, Morillo said.

In October, A Superior Court judge granted the city a preliminary injunction to force Millerwood to cease operating without a license.

The injunction allows the city to take possession of 120 dogs housed at the kennel. However, Miller appealed that decision in November and has managed to keep the city from acting on the injunction, said Michael Duberchin, Miller's attorney in the civil cases.

"This is about saving 120 lives," Duberchin said. "I don't know what the reason is behind the city -- I don't care what their motives are -- I just want to save those animals."

Duberchin said Miller does not have the funds to move her rescue operation to another city.

Shelter Superintendent Fred De Lange said that while the rescue is in better condition, Miller has failed to arrange adoptions for any of the dogs.

"She's caused this by not finding them homes," he said. "I would like to see her find those animals homes."

But Duberchin said the dogs Miller cares for are not easy to place.

"You can't find people who want junk yard dogs," he said. "They don't
want one-eyed, one-legged pit bull mixes."

(Burbank Leader - December 11, 1999)