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Advocacy group sues Animal Foundation, alleges poor shelter conditions

A local animal advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the Animal Foundation on Tuesday, alleging that the shelter is violating county code and made false representations about improving conditions for animals in its care.

Bryce Henderson, the president of No Kill Las Vegas, said his advocacy organization filed the lawsuit against the Animal Foundation because he believes conditions at the shelter have gotten worse in recent years. Henderson said he started No Kill Las Vegas about 10 years ago to speak out against the Animal Foundation after serving as a volunteer and raising concerns over the shelter’s euthanasia rates.

“We didn’t originally set out to be a thorn in their side for 10 years, but that’s what it’s turned into because they refuse to engage with the community,” Henderson said Tuesday.

Kelsey Pizzi, a spokeswoman for the Animal Foundation, declined to comment on the lawsuit because of the ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit alleges ongoing problems at the shelter, including overly crowded and unsanitary conditions, long call times, inadequate veterinarian care, failing to spay and neuter fostered animals, and people being unable to surrender an animal or drop off a stray cat or dog without making an appointment weeks in advance.

“Plaintiff and other members of the animal rescue community however are forced to remain silent out of a concern they bring attention to TAF’s failure to spay and neuter that instead TAF will euthanize these animals,” according to the lawsuit. “Plaintiff is left in a catch 22: bring awareness to TAF’s misconduct but at the risk of TAF retaliating and euthanizing healthy animals.”

The lawsuit claimed that the Animal Foundation is violating its contract with the county by failing to provide sanitary conditions for animals, failing to provide 24-hour medical care and failing to spay and neuter all animals. The complaint also referenced documented issues at the Animal Foundation since the COVID-19 pandemic led the shelter to close its doors or only operate by appointments.

In April, Clark County commissioners questioned the shelter over its increased animal intakes, euthanasia rates and staff dissatisfaction. The Animal Foundation has maintained that the pandemic and economic factors exacerbated an increased number of animal intakes, hiring challenges and difficulties securing veterinary services.

The Animal Foundation is partially funded through contracts with Clark County, the city of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas. The local governments collectively provide about $5 million annually to the shelter, which is about one-third of the foundation’s overall budget.

Tuesday’s lawsuit alleges that last year, Henderson met with the new CEO of the shelter, who said she would look into Henderson’s concerns, including the shelter’s phone system, adoption process and veterinarian services.

Henderson alleges he was told he would “begin to see positive changes,” and No Kill Las Vegas agreed to stop making negative posts on social media criticizing the shelter, according to the lawsuit.

“Unfortunately, the four months NKLV gave TAF to make changes never materialized any of the changes,” the lawsuit states, alleging that the Animal Foundation made misrepresentations during the meeting.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to order the Animal Foundation to hold a public meeting, and to issue an order prohibiting the shelter from violating the county code.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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