Questions persist as The Animal Foundation asks for more money - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU


Questions persist as The Animal Foundation asks for more money

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A cat housed at The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas. (Tiffany Murphy/FOX5) A cat housed at The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas. (Tiffany Murphy/FOX5)

The Animal Foundation holds contracts with the city of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County. Each year, they pay about $4 million to The Animal Foundation for sheltering services.

At a recent meeting of the Clark County Commission, Animal Foundation Executive Director Christine Robinson asked commissioners for nearly $7 million to make repairs to the nonprofit's building.

Some rescue groups in the Valley say The Animal Shelter shouldn't be asking taxpayers for any additional funding, in part because in 2013 nearly 20,000 cats and dogs were euthanized at its facility.

Tax returns from 2013 indicate The Animal Foundation made $1.4 million that year, with depreciation.

"When you award the contract, the contract is a one-price contract. It's not like you can come back and ask for other things. You are a big company. You're an adult. You are supposed to figure out what your costs are supposed to be," Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said.

The Animal Foundation Director Christine Robinson said some of the money in the shelter's reserves will be used to reduce the number of animals that come through the door.

Sisolak criticized that. 

"That's nice down the road. Right now, we have a problem. We have a building that needs repair, and they aren't balancing their budget. They are not capable of running it," he said.

Robinson said some profits are spent on helping animals now.

"Some of that was spent on medical treatment, when in the past they may have not received that treatment. I mean, they all receive pain medication and that sort of thing, but I'm talking about actively treating them to prepare them to be able to be adopted, when in the past that may not have been an option," Robinson said.

The Animal Foundation said that recently 364 dogs found forever homes during a weekend adoption event. However, Bryce Henderson, founder of community action group No-Kill Las Vegas, said that while the kennels at The Animal Foundation were empty, a German Shepherd mix that was hard to handle on a leash, a timid 7-month-old pit bull and a dog named Cosmo with a chipped tooth were all put down.

"As long as there is space to keep them here and keep them healthy behaviorally and medically, we will do that. And we will wait for rescues. We sometimes wait a long time for a rescue that says they will come, but when there is no interest shown for days or weeks or we are full, at some point capacity becomes an issue," Robinson said.

Jessica Roch, former adoption counselor for The Animal Foundation, spent 11 months working under Robinson. She told FOX5 she left the nonprofit after being repeatedly instructed to deceive the public while watching healthy dogs being put down.

"We were told that when people would question us, because it was going to happen, when the public would ask us what happens to the animals when they don't get adopted or how long they have, or the number of animals that are brought in on a daily basis, we were told to tell them a little over 100 animals a day come in. But we were told to tell them that plenty of adoptions happen on a daily basis and there are many rescue groups and that creates plenty of space for all the animals coming in. That is not true at all," Roch said.

Scott Giacoppo, vice president of the Washington Humane Society, said his group was once in the same situation. He said that in 2007 they were euthanizing thousands of animals, but that all changed when a new administration was brought in.

“In 2007, our board of directors went on a national search for a new CEO and president,” Giacoppo said.

Giacoppo said he isn't familiar with operations at The Animal Foundation. However, he said he has dealt with other groups around the county that have had to expend energy and resources defending themselves and their sometimes-outdated practices.

"I know a lot of facilities are discouraged. They are burned out. They have been doing the same thing year after year," Giacoppo said.

The contract between The Animal Foundation and Clark County will expire next June. Sisolak said negotiations are down to the wire, and the county is waiting for other organizations to express interest in saving animals and money.

"I hope they are not playing ‘let's hide the ball' so we run out of time and we have no other alternatives," Sisolak said.

Robinson said The Animal Foundation has its challenges but will improve under her watch.

"This is a really young industry. It's a new field, and in new fields you learn, you grow, you discover new things," she said.

"Something has got to happen. The answers we got I don't think are sufficient to the questions that were raised," Sisolak said.

In 2013, 75 percent of cats and 38 percent of dogs brought to the shelter were euthanized. Robinson said she wants to work on a program that would reduce the number of cats brought in.

The director of the Nevada Humane Society in Reno was in town this past weekend. The Humane Society has expressed interest in a contract with Clark County, but there's no word on when or if the issue will be discussed with commissioners.

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