Longtime Lied Animal Shelter operators at the nonprofit Animal Foundation committed Thursday to going “no kill” by 2020, announcing they plan to adopt the same model long touted by many of the foundation’s loudest critics.
Foundation officials said they plan to cut Lied’s average euthanization rate by more than half over the next five years, reductions that would put the shelter’s kill rate below the 10 percent threshold generally considered acceptable at so-called no-kill shelters.
Such facilities refuse to kill animals even when they are at maximum capacity, but will euthanize terminally ill animals or those deemed a threat to public safety.
To reach that goal, shelter workers say they’ll rely on a “phased approach” aimed at increasing the number of animals placed in new homes, decreasing the number of euthanizations and lowering the total number of animals in the shelter’s care.
Each of those figures is already trending in the right direction. The foundation has reported a steep decline in euthanizations and a 27 percent increase in animals placed outside the shelter since 2010. They’ve also seen a 25 percent decline in the number of overall animal arrivals, a figure shelter Operations Director Carly Scholten has credited to countywide spay and neuter ordinances first enacted five years ag0.
Foundation Executive Director Christine Robinson said additional outreach and adoption discount programs will encourage families to take pets off the shelter’s hands or find a new home for those animals before they reach the facility.
The shelter hopes growing its transfer program will also help dump off some of Lied’s more common boarders — think pit bulls and chihuahuas — to out-of-state markets where those breeds might be easier to place in a home.
Above all, Robinson said, the shelter will rely on new nonprofit and foster care partnerships to help cut way down on the number of animals it kills, including a new “trap, neuter, return” pilot program for feral cats that will be managed by Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society.
“While we’re proud of the work we’ve done today, we can do better, both as an animal welfare organization and as a community,” she said.
“We can save all of the healthy, treatable animals that enter our care and we will work tirelessly to achieve this goal.”
Lied, which does not turn away animals under any circumstances, took in roughly 33,982 dogs and cats in 2014 — down around 40 percent from the last time the shelter operated as a no-kill facility in 2007.
That was the same year that U.S. Humane Society outcry over severe crowding and disease outbreaks forced the foundation to euthanize more than half of the shelter’s animals and temporarily close to the public.
Both the Humane Society and the foundation say conditions have improved dramatically since then, though potshots aimed at the shelter’s management have never waned.
No Kill Las Vegas — a grassroots, Las Vegas-based nonprofit that’s been the loudest critic of the foundation’s approach to euthanizing sick and unadopted pets — put up stiff competition for a lucrative, five-year $41 million Lied operating contract that Clark County leaders renewed with the foundation in March.
No Kill President Bryce Henderson said the foundation’s move toward no kill is a giant step in the right direction.
He sounded especially heartened by the foundation’s decision to work with Best Friends, which Henderson called “one of the nation’s leaders in progressive shelter practices.”
His own animal advocacy group has spent months pressing foundation leaders to return to a no-kill model.
The nearly 2-year-old organization now boasts 1,600 members. Almost all are connected through social media. Many have made their presence felt at Las Vegas City Council and County Commission meetings, where they have spent hours haranguing elected leaders over management of the Las Vegas Valley’s largest animal shelter.
Henderson left little doubt that they’ll be right back it at it should the foundation fail to reach its new, lofty aims.
“They weren’t interested in the (no-kill) idea a year and a half ago, so this is a huge turnaround,” he said. “When we didn’t get the response we were hoping for, we focused on political pressure. … Sometimes we were controversial, but it needed to be done.
“I think it had a tremendous effect. I think it shows the impact people can have.”
The foundation contracts with Clark County and the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas to house animals that are brought in for 72 hours. During that 72-hour period, the animals are not up for adoption, but can be reunited with their owners when possible.