Vocal pit bull rescuer and reality TV star Tia Torres has been uncharacteristically silent following the denial of her application for a conditional use permit to build a shelter for 100 dogs on a 20-acre parcel in Old West Ranch.
Since the March 10 public hearing before the Kern County Planning Department, the only public comment made on behalf of Torres’ Villalobos Rescue Center has come in the form of a Facebook post April 4:
“Tia is still working on alternatives, it won’t include moving the rescue to Tehachapi, and that is their loss, truly. Just hang tight, the dogs are fine and still getting lots of love from the volunteers on Saturdays. Thanks.”
The Tehachapi News has received no response to requests for comment from Torres, as well as Animal Planet, the television network that airs Torres’ popular reality show, “Pit Bulls & Parolees.”
Residents of Old West Ranch say there has been “a lot less traffic” on the mountain community’s rural, dirt roads since Torres apparently halted improvements on the Snowshoe Lane property. Property owners and residents objected to the proposed shelter based on increased traffic, noise and risk of wildfire. County planners deemed Torres’ proposal “detrimental to health, safety and welfare of the public or property and residents in the vicinity.”
Had Torres filed an appeal before the county’s March 23 deadline, it’s likely that county officials would have been forced to call for a full environmental impact report (EIR) at an estimated $100,000 cost to the applicant.
“I think it’s a very good thing she didn’t appeal,” said Old West Ranch resident Donna Moran. “It probably would have been a waste of money. That money could go toward the support of the dogs.”
Moran and many of her neighbors initially expressed concern that it would be impossible to safely evacuate 100 dogs in the event of a large-scale fire, such as last summer’s West Fire. Residents maintain that the safety of humans and the welfare of the animals has always been the primary concern.
“We love animals up here,” said Buzz Grantham, vice-president of the Old West Ranch Property Owners Association (POA). “We really would like to see them [Villalobos] succeed. This is just not the right place for it.”
Grantham said he feels it’s “appropriate” for Torres to withdraw her plans to move the Agua Dulce-based rescue to Old West Ranch. But should she decide to live on the Snowshoe Lane property, “We would welcome her into the community.”
Torres summed up her opinion of Tehachapi in a March 10 Facebook post titled, “A Note from Tia re Tehachapi Meeting Today:”
“How did my efforts for saving Pit Bulls and Parolees turn into a nasty, bitter and vicious battle from a small town who on the outside appears to be nothing short of Mayberry RFD? Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful and caring people there. But in a world where children are killing themselves for being bullied to death, I now know exactly how they feel. But in this case there is no school bully...the bully is the town itself.”