The Coast News Group

Group’s appeal over animal hospital conversion rejected

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council unanimously rejected a neighborhood group’s request to block approval of a proposal to convert a Leucadia veterinarian office into a small animal hospital that would allow overnight boarding for sick animals.

After hearing nearly an hour of emotional testimony on both sides of the issue, the council took several minutes to unanimously reject the appeal, filed by a group that calls themselves the Leucadia Neighbors, which was spearheaded by Leucadia man Bob Aronin.

The veterinarian behind the proposal, Dr. Brian Evans, expressed gratitude in the council’s decision, which upheld the Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the hospital’s plans.

“I’m very happy the council voted in our favor, now we can start providing care to the animals that need it,” Evans said.

The community group’s chief complaint was that animals would be left overnight without a veterinarian supervising them, which they claimed would be cruel to the animals.

The group had launched a campaign over the past few months accusing the veterinarian, Dr. Brian Evans, of animal cruelty, accusations that Evans called “incomprehensible” and that he said turned what should have been a land-use decision into an emotional debate.

The group sent out an email that linked the proposal to an incident involving a veterinarian facility in Arizona where, according to the email, animals died in an overnight fire.

Evans and supporters called the missive disturbing and inaccurate.

“We are animal care experts,” Evan said, reciting to the council his veterinarian credentials. “Which is what makes this such a hard pill to sit back and swallow.”

Evans countered that the practice of overnight boarding of sick animals without a veterinarian present is not unheard of in Encinitas, as five other animal hospitals also provide the service. Evans also said that the hospital has not received a noise complaint in its three years in existence as a veterinarian office and that noise — the other potential community complaint — would not be an issue.

Of the eight people who spoke on the issue, five spoke in support of the animal hospital’s request and criticized the neighborhood group for sending out mailers that included accusations that they characterized as slanderous and inflammatory. Three residents — including former mayoral candidate Sheila Cameron — spoke in favor of the neighborhood group’s appeal.

In the end, the council ruled that they could not overturn the decision based on anything except for land-use issues — nor would they in this case.

“I am not sitting here to be judge of veterinarian medical practices,” Lisa Shaffer said. “We are about giving people the ability to make choices… if one doesn’t want to let their animal stay overnight in a facility, one doesn’t have to let their animals stay overnight in a facility.”

Aronin initially requested that the hearing be postponed as he was recovering from a medical procedure that robbed him of his hearing, but the council voted to move forward with the appeal after Evans said a delay could push the hearing close to his pregnant wife’s due date.