State Fish & Wildlife Department Restricts Animal Rescue Team Operations

Revised memorandum of understanding prohibits Solvang organization from rehabbing coyotes and large mammals

By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor

The California Department of Fish & Wildlife has restricted the types of animals a Solvang rescue facility can rehabilitate, prohibiting coyotes, foxes and other critters.

Animal Rescue Team, operated by Julia Di Sieno at 875 Carriage Drive outside the Solvang city limits, now is allowed to care for birds, rabbits, opossums, raccoons and squirrels.

However, the three-year permit set to expire March 31, 2020, bans her organization from treating many of the animals, including coyotes, that she had previously rehabilitated at her site.

Changes from the previous MOU include a requirement to use visual barriers between different species to avoid habituation and minimize stress, a  Fish & Wildlife representative told Di Sieno.

“Also this MOU does not allow rehabilitation of coyotes, bobcats, badgers, foxes or deer fawns at your facility,” Nicole Carion, wildlife rehabilitation coordinator, said in a June 12 letter.

Carion added that any coyotes, foxes and deer at her site could be kept until Sept. 1 since release was pending.

The new agreement also says domestic animals should not be allowed to intermingle or come into contact with wildlife undergoing rehabilitation.

“This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, keeping chickens outside of wildlife cages, and allowing domestic dogs or cats to live or intermingle with wildlife being rehabilitated inside residences, garages, or other structures,” the MOU says.

She is not allowed to initiate or be present or on the scene of any bear, mountain lion or other big game animal rescues, including adult deer and fawns.

If she receives any calls about those animals, the MOU directs Di Sieno to have the person call the Department of Fish & Wildlife directly “and the permitee shall have not further involvement with the animal or the department.”

The revised permit came as Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department issued a cease-and-desist order to Animal Rescue Team and months later rescinded the notice of violation and order to quit. 

On the Animal Rescue Team Facebook page, Di Sieno touted the rescinded letter from Santa Barbara County and later mentioned “a few limitations” while denying the rehab facility had been shut down.

“Thank you to each of you, who stood by our side,” a Sept. 7 post on the Animal Rescue Team Facebook page said.

“The neighbors that did this to us will pay! Especially the immediate neighbor! Their cameras continue to zoom onto our property!!!! All soon to be disclosed.

“We never closed, we never will!”

The changes to her state permit had not been noted on the organization’s website, which claimed as of Wednesday, “A.R.T. focuses on large mammal rescue, although birds, including raptors, and reptiles are never turned away. We also are licensed to rescue fawns and have special isolation facilities. Domestic animals are also occasionally fostered until a loving forever home can be found.”

Fish & Wildlife representatives remained mum about the reason for the revised permit, with spokesman Andrew Hughan only saying he would “decline to comment on this for your story at the moment.”

However, it’s no secret Animal Rescue Team and its neighbors have battled over the rescue organization’s operations with allegations of harassment on both sides.

Neighbors complained about howling coyotes and odors coming from the property, and claim an increased number of predators, some of which prey on livestock in the area. They also allege previously released coyotes return to the neighborhood.

Di Sieno said she has been subjected to neighbors pointing cameras at her property and other incidents, leading her to put up fencing that blocks the view from off the property.

Her attorney, Philip Seymour, said they don’t understand the basis for the revised agreement and restrictions, claiming the state had not received any complaints about the quality of care by Animal Rescue Team.

“I think we’re going to try to get it amended so we can start helping those animals,” Seymour said.

If the request for an amendment is rejected, ART could file an appeal, Seymour said, adding he expected to seek the change soon.

— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com