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County OKs 5-year shelter contract with Animal Foundation

A Clark County Commission decision Tuesday to extend The Animal Foundation contract to continue operating a shelter wasn’t what the shelter’s chief critic had hoped for, but a No Kill Las Vegas official said it will look for other ways to help animals.

The commission gave the foundation a contract with an initial five-year term. That was a bone for No Kill, which had criticized a prior contract proposal of 10 years

The grassroots organization had hoped to work out an arrangement for taking over the county’s animal shelter services in July 2016. With those plans scuttled, it will look at other avenues for rescuing animals, possibly by opening an adoption center on a smaller scale.

Tuesday’s 6-1 contract renewal vote came after a tide of criticism was mounted against the county’s animal shelter provider. Commissioners heard about two hours of testimony from a packed chamber about the future of animal shelter services. Commissioner Tom Collins cast the dissenting vote.

No Kill Las Vegas had wanted commissioners to only approve a one-year extension of the county’s contract with the foundation. Bryce Henderson, president of No Kill Las Vegas, said that would have given the group enough time for fundraising and building a shelter to take over the county’s animal population near the intersection of Decatur Boulevard and Russell Road in July 2016. Its goal: Eventually get at least 90 percent of the shelter’s animals leaving it alive.

The meeting was the culmination of months of back-and-forth between the county and animal activists.

Commissioners originally had a proposed 10-year contract for The Animal Foundation, with two five-year options to renew for up to 20 years.

The Animal Foundation has already worked with the county under an agreement to take care of stray animals for the 72-hour legal hold period. The foundation also contracts with the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.

Testimony from the public was tearful and passionate at times Tuesday, with many saying they want a shelter that euthanizes fewer animals. But animal shelter officials pointed out that the trends are improving toward less euthanasia — the goal sought by those in the audience.

“Our numbers are going in the right direction,” said Christine Robinson, executive director of the foundation.

The foundation euthanized 27,981 dogs and cats in 2010, but that dropped to 13,187 in 2014. Also, fewer animals are entering the shelter: 43,367 in 2010, which dropped to 31, 437 in 2014.

The rates among individual animal types varies. Three out of four dogs end up leaving the facility alive, Robinson said. Only about a quarter of the cats are released with an owner.

The Animal Foundation has two parts — the shelter that houses animals for the 72-hour hold period and a campus where some animals are kept beyond that for potential adoption. The county only pays and contracts for the initial 72 hours. The foundation is responsible for the adoption side.

“We’re not asking to start taking in animals tomorrow,” Bryce Henderson, president of No Kill Las Vegas, told commissioners.

Commissioners agreed that more community involvement is needed to solve the problem of pet overpopulation. They praised the No Kill organization for its efforts to boost awareness about the issue.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said the five-year period is a good length for the shelter, and annual reports will keep the county abreast of progress.

“Just because you have good intentions doesn’t mean you can pan out,” she said of the No Kill organization’s proposal. But she added the group has good momentum to put toward the issue.

The five-year contract has three five-year options for renewal, which means the county could end up using the foundation for the next 20 years.

Despite not landing the contract, the organizers at No Kill Las Vegas said they were glad the contract length got reduced.

“We think we were ready to do this and we know we could,” Henderson said, adding that his organization will work to find common ground with The Animal Foundation.

Henderson said his organization plans to submit a proposal to the county again in five years. For now, it will look at other efforts, possibly a pet adoption center in Henderson.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.

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