The 27 puppies who survived a kerosene-soaked arson attempt on a pet store where they lived could soon find loving homes.
The Clark County District Attorney’s office has set a 72-hour deadline for someone to assert ownership of the dogs or they will be turned over to The Animal Foundation and put up for adoption.
A letter announcing the deadline was sent on Thursday to the owners of the Prince and Princess Pet Boutique at 6870 S. Rainbow Blvd., south of the Las Vegas Beltway. One of the shop’s owners, Gloria Lee, faces arson charges for trying to burn down her shop with the dogs inside.
If the owners — the other is Lee’s husband — assert ownership rights of the dogs, the district attorney’s office would review their “ability to properly and legally take possession of the puppies.”
The county could take ownership of the dogs as soon as Monday, after which the adoption process would be announced to the public.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson said, “I am confident that we are moving in the right direction at this time. And I am pleased that the action taken by my office brings every one of these puppies closer to moving out of the shelter and into a permanent loving home.”
Earlier Friday, a Las Vegas judge ordered Kirk Bills held on $310,000 bail in connection to the Jan. 27 pet store fire.
Bills, a fledgling professional boxer, faces 31 counts, including 27 counts of attempted animal cruelty, one for each puppy. Lee, 35, faces similar charges. If convicted, the two could face dozens of years in prison.
Prosecutors say surveillance video shows Lee let Bills into the shop, where he tried to start a fire using kerosene splashed onto the puppy cages.
The blaze was extinguished by a sprinkler system, and the puppies survived unharmed.
But on Friday at a bail hearing before Justice of the Peace Janiece Marshall, defense lawyer Roger Bailey said the video is dark and it’s unclear who the person is in the video.
Bailey, who asked for $60,000 bail for Bills, said his client had no prior felony convictions, just a couple for simple battery misdemeanors in his home state of Illinois. He said Bills wasn’t fleeing, but was visiting family in the Chicago-area on a pre-planned trip when days after an arrest warrant was issued he was caught by an FBI-led task force.
The lawyer acknowledged a “damning” piece of evidence against his client might be a phone call Bills made to Lee while she was in jail, following her arrest in the arson case.
Bills, who appeared in court wearing navy blue jail scrubs with his arms and legs shackled, was recorded telling Lee, “I’m not going to be able to come sign for you ’cause girl they are looking for me too. Why are they looking for me girl, they chased me, they chased me but I got away. Did they see whose face it is?”
Court papers revealed that on Jan. 29, two ATF agents went to Bills’ Henderson home and watched as he entered a BMW sport utility vehicle. The agents followed for a short time, before Bills sped away.
Marshall said she was very concerned about the phone call and set the hefty bail, which amounted to $10,000 for each count.
If he is able to post bail, Marshall said he will be placed on house arrest.
Prosecutor Shanon Clowers had asked for $400,000 bail.
Lee also remained jailed in the Clark County Detention Center on $310,000 bail.
Meanwhile, County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she appreciates the district attorney moving forward to resolve the puppy situation. She noted that changes made to county code a couple years ago add more flexibility to situations like these, so that animals aren’t in limbo indefinitely.
“These puppies need to be socialized,” she said. “They don’t need to live in a cage.”
Review-Journal writer Ben Botkin contributed to this report. Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review journal.com or 702-380-1039.