A PETA photo showing the living conditions of chinchillas on Lurlie's ranch
Lurlie Adams, the 90-year old former owner of the Valley View Chinchilla Ranch who had her 422 chinchillas taken from her amid accusations of mistreatment is fighting back.
Adams had bred chinchillas at the ranch for over 30 years before selling the operation to Hollywood mogul and Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon in August. Not long after the purchase agreement was drafted, Adams's ranch was overtaken by representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the San Diego County Humane Society with claims that Adams was raising the animals for their fur and not for sale as pets.
In a new lawsuit, Adams is accusing PETA and Simon of disparaging her name and conspiring to frame Adams as a pelt trader and not a responsible chinchilla breeder.
Reads the lawsuit, PETA and the Sam Simon Foundation conducted a "clandestine and pre-textual investigation which was then laced with photos and video of other Chinchilla farms to falsely and maliciously accuse Ms. Adams of breeding Chinchillas for ‘pelts’ as a ‘fur farm,’ falsely accusing her of cruelty to her Chinchillas in order to incite public sympathy and by doing so, raise funds/donations for PETA."
The lawsuit was filed four months after Adams and her 95-year-old husband Jim Adams announced they were selling their ranch.
Shortly after the announcement, an attorney for Simon contacted Adams. On July 22, attorney Logan Smith emailed Adams with a purchase agreement to buy.
"Please let me know if you have questions or any proposed changes to the agreement," reads the email. "Once we reach agreement, I can come out to your property to finalize the agreement and make arrangements for the closing and transfer of the animals and business assets. I will be available later this week or early next week."
Hidden video footage of the ranch emerged soon after the visit and was posted to PETA's website. The video showed hundreds of chinchillas kept in single cages. After getting wind of the chinchilla farm, workers from the San Diego Humane Society launched "Operation Chinchilla."
"On Tuesday, August 19, four teams of experienced San Diego Humane Society animal welfare professionals rescued 422 chinchillas during an 8-hour rescue operation in Vista, CA. This is the largest animal rescue in the history of San Diego Humane Society," read a press release.
But now the 90-year old Adams hopes to set the record straight.
"Ms. Adams is informed and believes PETA and Mr. Simon, through counsel, made private, confidential arrangements with her to buy her Chinchillas and her business for $50,750 and then falsely and fraudulently told the Human Society shelters they had investigated Ms. Adams' Chinchilla ranch and had discovered abuses, torture and killing of the animals for their effort to effectuate a 'rescue' of the Chinchillas. In fact, Ms. Adams' Chinchillas were being treated very humanely and were being raised and offered for sale as pets for over 30 years."
Continues the lawsuit: "Simon was the producer of Cheers, the Drew Carey Show, and co-creator of the Simpsons TV shows, a multimillionaire who self-reports to have terminal cancer and who is seemingly using his considerable wealth to support what he, misguidedly, believes to be meaningful causes, like 'rescuing' Ms. Adams' perfectly happy, healthy and safe Chinchillas."
Attorneys for Adams go on to say that more than one dozen chinchillas died during the move to shelters.
Katherine Shenar, spokesperson for the Humane Society, confirms that some of the animals did in fact die but not because of the move.
"No deaths occurred during the transport or even within the first week of having them in our care. When the animals came, each chinchilla received a complete medical exam. We then learned that several had preexisting medical conditions including lung and kidney disease, dental disease, neurological issues, and bacterial infections. In addition to our own staff, the humane society hired two outside vets who specialize in South American animals. We take this very serious and everyone here worked so hard."
According to Shenar, 374 chinchillas were adopted, 16 are still available for adoption, 2 are currently undergoing medical care, and 19 died, 8 of which were euthanized.
Adams is seeking damages for fraud, invasion of privacy, defamation, and infliction of emotional distress, among other allegations.