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County commissioners grill Animal Foundation over ongoing ‘crisis’

Updated April 18, 2023 - 5:26 pm

Clark County commissioners on Tuesday demanded action from the Animal Foundation to tackle the ongoing “crisis” faced by the nonprofit shelter, which is experiencing increased animal intakes, euthanasia and staff dissatisfaction.

Commissioners, who asked the foundation for concrete planning, timelines, and regular updates, said they’ve been flooded with complaints about perceived failures at the shelter, located at 655 N. Mojave Road.

“We are overwhelmed with the number of complaints and concerns that have been expressed to us,” Commissioner Jim Gibson said.

“You’re not going to make everybody happy,” Gibson later added. “There are times when you won’t make anyone happy, but at the end of it all, you have to have a plan.”

The back and forth came after the foundation’s leadership laid out a report about the state of the shelter, which is partially funded through contracts with Clark County, the city of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas. The local governments provide about $5 million yearly, or about one-third of the foundation’s overall budget.

‘We continue to invest’

Nationwide, the pandemic and the economic downturn has exacerbated an increase of animal intakes, hiring challenges, and difficulties securing veterinary services, the foundation contends.

“We cannot, physically, or through our capacity for care, take (in) infinite animals,” said Hilarie Grey, the Animal Foundation’s CEO. “That’s when you see staff burnout; that’s when you see bad conditions in the shelter.”

She noted that unannounced inspections from local officials have turned out fine. The shelter recently hired about 12 new staffers, and are working to hire more, Grey said.

“I get COVID, a lot of things happened over COVID … but we’ve never been in this big of a situation,” Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick, who asked to see the foundation’s budget, said the issues go back years. She chastised increased wait times at the shelter to take in animals.

“I care about this shelter, because I get phone calls all day long, every day,” she said. “We continue to invest, invest, invest.”

Officials from the three local jurisdictions that fund the shelter recently met to discuss strategies. The county and the city of Las Vegas are in the midst of auditing the foundation’s taxpayer funds.

Commissioner William McCurdy II said he understands the challenges the shelter is facing, but that moving ahead, officials need to see concrete action.

“Without adequate timelines and benchmarks that you set for yourselves, we won’t know how to measure you with comparisons from the past,” he said.

Some of the commissioners, the foundation, and the animal advocates who were vocal during public comment, appeared to agree on possibly funding independent rescue groups.

‘Stop fighting’

“We’re a community of animal people,” Grey said. “Everyone who’s come here today is here because they want to solve the problems and we need to do it together.”

Gibson said that while some would like to see the shelter fail, that’s not an option. He would rather see the foundation and the rescue groups mend their relationships and collaborate.

Commissioner Tick Segerblom, who requested the discussion, said he supports funding the nonprofit rescue groups.

He said he was hopeful the disconnect between groups can be solved.

“They have a great facility,” he said about the foundation. “They’re not evil people, they love animals as much as anybody.”

Segerblom added: “We just have to get to the bottom of it and stop fighting and say, ‘let’s figure out a solution.’”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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