Animal Foundation reserves desirable pets for VIPs - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Animal Foundation reserves desirable pets for VIPs

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Crate after crate of pit bulls, Chihuahuas and terriers: It's what you'll find at Lied Animal Shelter, also known as The Animal Foundation.

In November, FOX5 reported some volunteers' concerns over how money and animals at the shelter were managed.

Now, the shelter's development director and former volunteers are sharing more about the priority that is given to some members of the public over others when it comes to adopting highly desirable dog breeds.

You will receive special treatment if you are a donor or friend.

Bryce Henderson, a former volunteer at The Animal Foundation, said he and his wife not only supported the shelter with their time but with their money.

Henderson now runs No-Kill Las Vegas, a nonprofit that rescues animals that would otherwise be put down.

Henderson said when certain dog breeds are brought to The Animal Foundation, they are put on VIP holds.

"This is a community shelter. It's paid for with our tax dollars, and everyone should have access and availability to adopt the animals, not just their friends that they've cherry-picked animals out for," Henderson said.

Andy Bischel, director of development for The Animal Foundation, said VIPs do get special treatment because often they are big donors, and that, he said, ultimately saves more animals.

"At times there are highly adoptable animals that can generate potential giving on the back end, and as a nonprofit we need to maximize that," he said.

Bischel further said The Animal Foundation is only contractually required to provide sheltering services for the first three days. After that, the costs of sheltering each animal falls on the shelter. After the three days, Bischel said, The Animal Foundation can adopt out to whomever they like, however they see fit.

Bischel said VIP cases like this have only happened about 25 times in the last year. He said it's also part of his job to contact anyone from the public that shows interest in a special breed and that anyone can submit a form on the foundation's website if he or she is interested in adopting a specific pet.

Henderson's account differed from Bischel's.

"This happens routinely. In fact, when a high-valued dog is brought into the shelter, intake is told to immediately tell the head of fundraising," Henderson said.

For a decade, Michelle Graham worked at Disneyland as an animal handler, working with exotic animals and livestock. She came to work at The Animal Foundation and, during her first month there, was promoted to animal care manager. Graham was in charge of 40 employees and four supervisors. After two years at the foundation, Graham said, she was fired.

"It's a community job. You have to be open to different ideas and work with the community. Any time my staff or I wanted to make changes or we had a great idea, we were immediately shut down. It was very difficult," Graham said.

Graham said she was well versed in VIP treatment with the animals. She said she recalls a specific incident in 2014 when a litter of French bulldogs was confiscated and brought to the shelter.

The highly sought-after puppies can go for thousands of dollars, but according to Bischel, those French bulldogs were never offered to the public.

He told FOX5 one went to a VIP, another to one of his friends, the third to the foundation's Best in Show event and the fourth was reported missing.

"It was a big deal when they came in. French bulldog puppies are very valuable; of course they were very cute, and a lot of people were interested in them as far as employees go. One morning we came in and one was missing,” Graham said.

Bischel said his team looked over security footage and was never able to come up with a definitive answer as to where the puppy went.

In another instance, Graham said, not only was a VIP given special treatment but she never had to pay an adoption fee.

On another occasion a group of farm animals was confiscated. Graham said two Shetland ponies, a stallion and a mare, goats, sheep and about 50 chickens were adopted out for free. Graham said she personally delivered the farm animals to an Animal Foundation board member.

"When the board member asked what she owed, my boss, Carley Scholton said, ‘Oh, nothing. Don't worry about it.' I was quite shocked," Graham said.

"We don't get a lot of farm animals. So on an occasion where we can place animals that came in together, we like to keep them together. I don't know the specific case we're talking about," Bischel said. "We're not hoarding anything. We're not holding anything back from the public. We're maximizing the opportunities we have to raise money so we can provide services to the animals that come in."

The Animal Foundation's contract with Clark County is up in July.

Commissioners have continued to award The Animal Foundation the contract for its sheltering services because no other entity has come forward.

Copyright 2015 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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