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Animal rescue organizations support Clark County’s proposal to award money to the animal shelter, but not to its current management.
Volunteers told the Clark County Commission Tuesday that the Animal Foundation’s failed effort at managing intake by setting appointments for the public to turn in pets or strays has shifted responsibility to already-drained rescues, which operate on their own time and money.
“Until recently the Animal Foundation had always accepted strays on the same day. Now they want half a million dollars to do it in three days,” Bryce Henderson of No Kill Las Vegas said during public comment, adding “if you found a lost pet today, the next available appointment is August 1.”
Appointments to relinquish owned animals are in mid-October.
TAF CEO Hilarie Grey admitted the effort was “a mistake.”
Jim Anderson, director of Clark County Animal Control, told commissioners TAF’s managed intake process has been a drain on county resources.
“Before this current challenge with people surrendering animals, animal control officers did not respond to any calls for people surrendering their animals,” Anderson said, adding TAF’s policy of not accepting relinquished animals prompted the county to alter its policy.
The Animal Foundation’s plan to address its capacity crisis is focused on a call center intended to prevent owners from relinquishing their pets. The call center would also offer information on other services such as veterinary care. TAF is asking Clark County, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas to chip in a total of $600,000 to accomplish its goal. The governments currently contribute $4.7 million to TAF to take in unwanted animals and strays.
Grey said the shelter took in close to 3,000 owner surrenders last year. She’s hoping to reduce that number by almost a third by offering resources to pet owners.
Kristy Stevens of Hearts Alive Village told commissioners the organization’s call center answers more than 500 calls a month.
“The majority of calls are help to access veterinary care. Our human support services department is critical for what we see as community sheltering, keeping animals in their homes and out of the shelter.”
Stevens says Hearts Alive “is so dedicated to the concept of prevention” that it has equipped animal control officers with veterinary service vouchers to assist pet owners they encounter with medical needs.
While some rescues, such as Hearts Alive Village, supported more money for TAF, others told commissioners the public has lost confidence in TAF and has turned to rescues, or even letting their animals run free.
Henderson told commissioners he hoped “someone will ask them while their intake numbers are going down… yet the money they receive from the jurisdictions is going up.”
In 2017, TAF took in 30,500 animals. In 2022, intake was down to 24,215.
Henderson also suggested commissioners inquire about TAF’s expenditures on administrative salaries.
In 2020, TAF spent $784,697 on five administrative salaries and $309,000 on three veterinarians, according to tax returns.
Grey, a former public relations executive, became CEO of TAF in January of 2022. Her predecessor, Christine Robinson, earned $239,967 in 2021, according to TAF’s tax return.
The average salary for an animal shelter CEO in the U.S. is $123,061, according to salary data website payscale.com.
Grey has declined to be interviewed by the Current. Last week, she told KNPR that TAF requires about $9 million a year to adequately fund services.
“They don’t have money problems. They have a management problem, a leadership problem and a board of directors problem,” animal rescuer Dave Schweiger told commissioners. “They will never gain the trust of our local rescues…”
The county and other local governments want TAF to increase its intake, with rescues picking up the slack on the back end – providing medical care, if necessary, readying the pet for adoption, and finding a home.
The government is considering options to provide funding through grants or other means to qualified organizations.
The county is also awaiting the results of an audit of TAF. A draft is being tweaked for commissioners and the public, officials said.
Gina Griessen of Nevada Voters for Animals suggested the county tap its own talent pool and insert management at TAF, which is a private non-profit organization. Griessen reminded commissioners former county employee Robinson took over TAF after a deadly disease outbreak in 2007 forced at least a thousand animals to be euthanized.
“Why can’t we send someone over there to take over because the leadership they have now isn’t working?” Griessen asked.
Animal advocate Annoula Wylderich asked the county to do its part to alleviate animal overpopulation by cracking down on backyard breeders.
“Many of them have little to no knowledge about animal care. They have caused Parvo outbreaks. They have dumped sick animals and litters, which have become the burden of shelters and rescues,” she said. “And when we file a report and an animal control officer is dispatched, the most that officer can do is cite them and recommend that they get a license. Why? These people should be prohibited from acquiring a license. They should not be encouraged. We don’t need more breeders.”
The commission will revisit the animal shelter crisis in July.
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