By Leon Worden/SCVNEWS.com
Chase Bank announced Wednesday it is awarding a $100,000 grant to Villalobos Rescue Center, a pit pull shelter in Agua Dulce that’s preparing to leave California.
Villalobos was one of 100 charities across the country to split a $3 million giveaway and one of the five largest recipients. The biggest recipient ($250,000) is United Sikhs in Service of America, a New York City-based charity that provides humanitarian relief to the needy.
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“The grantees were picked solely by Facebook users,” said Erich Timmerman, a JPMorgan Chase spokesman in New York. He said the financial institution took a “democratized philanthropy approach” by allowing Facebook users to vote on recipients from Nov. 8 to Nov. 22, and Villalobos was one of five nonprofits to receive the most votes.
That’s probably because the Agua Dulce bully shelter is known to viewers of the Animal Planet network as the producer of the TV series, “Pit Bulls & Parolees.”
According to a recent Animal Planet press release, Villalobos operator Tia Torres “continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Over the past decade she’s built Villalobos, the largest facility in the United States for the rescue and rehabilitation of her beloved pit bull breed.”
Animal Planet noted the unusual nature of her staff.
“(Torres has) faced the discrimination that came with being married to a convict and endured the intolerance surrounding the pit bull breed,” the press release said. “She’s also managed to recruit and foster a staff of parolees who help keep her facility running smoothly, raise two daughters and adopted twin sons, and fight a raging wildfire that threatened to wipe out her precious home and animals.”
According to the Villalobos website, the shelter has operated for 18 years in Los Angeles County and was preparing to move to Tehachapi when Kern County officials reportedly deemed the operation “dangerous” and pulled the plug.
“After spending countless days and dollars preparing for what was to be a paradise for pit bulls,” Torres’ website states, “Kern County did a 180 on us and denied our permits to operate at the last minute. This was after we had been told with each step in the process, ‘No problem, everything is looking good.’
“The Kern County Sheriff’s Department also got involved by sending the county commissioners a three page letter saying that we were ‘dangerous,’” the website states in a Nov. 13 posting. “Our good work in Los Angeles County meant nothing to these people.”
Villalobos says it’s leaving Califronia and setting up two different operations in two different states – one for “unadoptable” dogs and the other for rescues and adoptions.
Villalobos is’t saying where it’s moving but said expects the move to be complete by Dec. 31.