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Willowbrook stable cleared of animals after evacuation order

July 16, 2012 |  1:40 pm

A Willowbrook stable once home to more than 150 animals was officially cleared Monday, more than a month after a fire at the oft-cited property prompted an evacuation order from L.A. County.

Aaron Reyes of the county's Department of Animal Care and Control said inspectors toured the premises Monday morning and the last horse was being removed.

"We're happy to report that all the horses have been relocated," Reyes said.

The stable sits on a raised patch of land dotted with plywood structures, a few riding areas and swarms of manure-feasting flies near the intersection of West 131st Street and Athens Way.

Although often praised as an affordable option for boarders by customers who told The Times they paid $120 a month to stable their horses, the property was issued more than 100 citations in the past five years, including allegations of animal abuse, unlicensed buildings, drug possession and other violations.

The relationship between the county and the stable's owner reached a breaking point June 17 after a fire broke out at the property, killing three horses and a goat. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to impose new regulations on the 1.5-acre center and ordered all the animals removed by June 27.

"There's horrible building issues, horrible sanitation issues," Jacqueline Green, a county animal care and control officer who visited the scene, told The Times last week. "Since we started coming here regularly about a year ago ... conditions have improved 1,000%, but they're still not anywhere close to being good enough. The fire just drew attention to the higher-ups."

After only a few owners were able to remove their animals by the county's original deadline, officials extended it to Sunday.

Now that the animals are gone, Reyes said, county inspectors will make "informal, periodic inspections just to make sure we don't have any animal-related issues occurring there that need our attention." The property owners — Nickolas J. Tokaruk and the Tokaruk Family Trust — have agreed to tear down the stable and rebuild, he said.

"It served the community well for the past 70 years," he said of the stable. "Hopefully the new stables will continue to serve the community well for 70 or more years."

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— Kate Mather

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