Kennel Receives a Reprieve : Simi Valley: Despite a neighbor’s complaints, the city says couple’s operation can stay as long as it’s not run for profit.


Since November, Simi Valley officials have been poised to slam the gates shut on the kennel and canine rescue center that Tom and Tina Dunn have operated for the past 10 years.

The Dunns’ next-door neighbor, concerned about barking and odors, had complained that the couple was running a commercial kennel, boarding up to 25 dogs. The neighbor said such a business did not belong in a residential area.

City planning commissioners agreed, but the City Council, in a 4-1 vote, granted the Dunns a reprieve Monday. Council members said the kennel can stay, as long as the couple doesn’t run it for profit.


On Tuesday, Tina Dunn was playing with her Alaskan malamutes near the kennels behind her Barnard Street house, relieved that her run-in with City Hall was over.

“I was afraid,” said Dunn, 42, who owns eight malamutes and is now caring for eight other canines. “A lot of people want to see this as a kennel case. I thought of it as a custody case because I didn’t want to lose my dogs.”

By overturning the Nov. 4 Planning Commission decision and granting the Dunns a special-use permit, the City Council brought an end to a series of emotional public hearings that pitted neighbors in the semi-rural Kadota Fig area against one another.

Tina Dunn is a breeder of Alaskan malamutes, which resemble Siberian huskies but are larger and stockier. Because of their strength and endurance, malamutes have been used as sled dogs in the Arctic.

In the dispute over the kennel, many neighbors and animal lovers have sided with Dunn and her husband, saying their dogs have not created a nuisance.

Kathy Jenks, director of the Ventura County Animal Regulation Department, praised Tina Dunn for housing pets displaced by natural disasters and for rescuing purebred malamutes and other dogs from county shelters.


“If all pet owners were as responsible as Ms. Dunn, there would be no need for animal regulation departments or humane societies,” Jenks wrote in a letter to Simi Valley officials.

But other residents have supported the Dunns’ neighbor, Elaine Flores, who contended that the Dunns were running an illegal business that made it impossible to sell her vacant lot next door, which is zoned for housing.

Flores and her attorney, James G. Allen, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

But in a recent letter to the council, Allen stated: “To allow the keeping of 25 dogs on a one-half-acre parcel, immediately contiguous to the Flores’ half-acre parcel, merely assures that Ms. Flores’ property is unmarketable for the purposes for which it is zoned.”

The neighbors also have been involved in a legal dispute over where the boundary between their lots is situated.

At Monday’s council meeting, Allen suggested that city leaders were “inviting litigation” if they allowed the kennels to remain.

But Councilman Bill Davis said the kennel did not seem out of place in an area zoned for farm animals. He questioned why the dogs did not create friction between the Dunns and Flores until recently,


“For years, they seemed to coexist . . . until we got into a property line dispute,” he said.

Although residents from elsewhere in Simi Valley said they were worried about a proliferation of new kennels, Councilwoman Sandi Webb said such fears were groundless.

“This does not necessarily set a precedent,” she said. “This is a local issue, just within this neighborhood.”

Councilwoman Judy Mikels said she was so concerned about making the right decision that she made several undercover trips to the neighborhood. She parked on the street to find out just how much noise and odors the Dunns’ dogs produce.

Mikels said the Simi Valley Freeway, running immediately behind the kennels, generated more noise.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t hear that much commotion,” she said. “I heard the freeway traffic much worse than the dogs.”


Councilwoman Barbara Williamson cast the lone opposing vote.

“To rescue an animal is one thing, but this is a business,” she said. “When you have 25 dogs in a confined area, they’re going to make noise.”

Before the council approved their permit, the Dunns agreed to let city staff members check their books to make sure their boarding fees do not exceed the cost of caring for the dogs.

Tina Dunn said Tuesday that she was pleased by the council’s decision. “I was afraid that in all the mudslinging, the facts of the matter would be obscured,” she said.

Although the kennel conflict is resolved, Dunn said the lot-line dispute with her neighbor remains unsettled. “It’s got nothing to do with the dogs,” she said. “I’m relieved, but I know that this isn’t the end of it.”