City hosts public hearing on nuisance dogs

The Susanville City Council will conduct a public hearing pursuant to Title 6 of the Susanville Municipal Code to solicit comments regarding nuisance animals and/or conditions of real property of John K. Murray, 1409 Fourth Street, Susanville, California regarding nuisances: dog at large, unreasonable noise, non-licensed, etc.

The Public Hearing will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday Feb. 15, (or as soon thereafter as the agenda permits) in the Susanville City Council Chambers, 66 North Lassen Street, Susanville. All interested parties may attend and voice their opinions or concerns. Written testimony may be submitted in lieu of physical appearance. Please submit written testimony by Friday, March 10, for council review and consideration.

Synopsis
The subject property of 1409 Fourth Street has been a source of frustration for the neighborhood and the community for some time.  Records available at the time of the investigation show an attempt to bring this property into compliance started as early as May 19, 2017.  Throughout the years, neighbors have filed complaints relating to disturbances caused by the property owner and his many tenants.  Though in recent months, the property has not had tenant issues, the core of the problem has remained, that being the numerous dogs on the property.  Dogs have been a primary source of unreasonable noise, odors and fear.

Code Enforcement obtained records from the Susanville Police Department relating to calls for service for the property at 1409 Fourth Street.  From September 2017 through August 2022 there were at least 116 calls for service from this property.  The 116 calls for service do not necessarily account for all calls as multiple phone calls or requests throughout the day may not necessarily be represented in the final number.  It would be reasonable to infer that during this statistical period the community’s public safety partners (Susanville Police Department, Susanville Fire Department, Sierra Emergency Medical Services Alliance) have responded to 200 to 300, if not more, calls for service at this residence alone.

On Aug. 9, 2022, Code Enforcement successfully obtained a nuisance abatement order to compel the property owner, John Murray, to begin abating conditions fostering a nuisance on his property in the hope that the abatements would alleviate the issues facing the community.  Unfortunately, Mr. Murray proved not to be persuaded to take full ownership and responsibility for the issues plaguing Fourth Street.

In November 2022, Code Enforcement began assisting the Susanville Police Department relating to animal control issues as the department had not filled their vacant animal control position. At this time reports of John Murray’s dogs, dogs consistent to that of a wolf-dog hybrid, were consistently observed to be roaming at large and chasing wildlife.  The reported locations were generally in the area of Fourth Street as well as the southern end of the city such as Richmond Road, South Street, Cypress Street and the Maurino Manor Subdivision.  Code Enforcement obtained several written statements regarding the dogs.  The statements all named John Murray as the owner of the dogs and that they were being kept on his property off Cheney Creek Road.  Specific to this set of complaints, there was only one statement that was received by a taxpayer of this city, while all other statements were from residents of the unincorporated territory of Lassen County.

This matter escalated at the Jan. 18, 2023, city council meeting.  Many residents of the city of Susanville and those who reside just outside within unincorporated Lassen County, voiced their concerns over the dogs owned by John Murray.  This meeting and those that followed provided details that the dogs were roaming between Murray’s residence on Fourth Street and his property off Cheney Creek Road.  The Susanville Police Department continued their efforts to bring Mr. Murray into compliance.  Several citations for dog at large were issued by the Susanville Police Department and Lassen County Sheriff’s Office.  Additional details relating to law enforcement efforts will be provided by Chief Cochran.

On Feb. 15, 2023, Code Enforcement received information from Chief Cochran that Mr. Murray had self-admitted to having a total number of nine dogs within his Fourth Street residence.  Mr. Murray was provided with notice of a violation of the nuisance abatement order issued against him by the Planning Commission.  Mr. Murray was then notified of a public hearing to have a declaration by the legislative body of this city to name all the dogs owned by Mr. Murray to be a public nuisance and shall order the compliance to all local, state, and federal laws and to prohibit any activity that would foster a public nuisance to be allowed by his ownership of his dogs.

Public Hearing
Susanville Municipal Code Section 6.04.080 empowers the city council to declare any animal or condition of real property related to the harboring of animals within this city as a public nuisance and provide notice to the property owner with a timeline to abate said nuisance.

The city council shall consider any oral or written testimony provided to the council from any member of the public.  To ensure the respondent’s due process rights, the respondent shall be provided an opportunity to provide information or defense of his actions to the city council.

At the conclusion of the public hearing, the city council shall provide their written findings on the facts surrounding this matter and to whether a public nuisance exists.  In addition to their written findings, the council shall provide direction for the abatement of conditions constituting a nuisance.

Recommended Findings 

  • John Murray is the owner of record for 697-045 Cheney Creek Road, Susanville, California 96130.
  • John Murray is the owner of record for 1409 Fourth Street, Susanville, California 96130.
  • John Murray is the owner and responsible party for numerous wolf-dog hybrids that are kept between his property on Cheney Creek Road and Fourth Street.
  • John Murray has shown an inability to prevent the fostering of nuisance conditions caused by the numerous dogs under his care and responsibility.
  • John Murray has allowed his dogs to roam at large in violation of the Susanville Municipal Code.
  • John Murray has allowed his dogs to disturb the peace of the community by unreasonable noises and odors.
  • John Murray is in violation of the Zoning Ordinance by having seven or more dogs in his possession and at his residence on Fourth Street without first obtaining a kennel license and other land use entitlements.
  • John Murray is in violation of California health and safety laws and the Susanville Municipal Code for having dogs over the age of 4 months without proof of current rabies vaccinations.
  • John Murray is in violation of the Susanville Municipal Code for not having his dogs licensed.

Recommended Abatement Orders

  • John Murray shall reduce the number of dogs residing at the Fourth Street address to be 6 or less, unless John Murray submits for a kennel application through Susanville Police Department, and a Conditional Use Permit application through the Planning Department.
  • John Murray shall vaccinate or show proof of vaccination against the rabies virus for all dogs over the age of 4 months residing at the Fourth Street address within 10 days of this order.
  • John Murray shall license all dogs over the age of 4 months with the City of Susanville within 10 days of this order.
  • John Murray shall provide a written plan for the prevention of his dogs from roaming at large and disturbing the peace by unreasonable noises and odor to the city council within 10 days of this order.