Animal Foundation staff walks out amid reports of poor conditions

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The sudden and unexpected resignation of eight Animal Foundation staffers Sunday led to temporary disruptions at the east valley shelter, according to the nonprofit.

Those who resigned were part of the intake team — half of whom were scheduled to work that Sunday — halting the shelter’s ability to accept pets, said the foundation, adding that intakes had resumed Monday with the help of a volunteer force.

Foundation leadership, flanked by elected officials during a Monday press conference, addressed the issues, including the resignations and animal overpopulation.

They repeatedly referred to the current state at the shelter as a “crisis” and called on community members to volunteer and temporarily foster animals.

“I was shattered, personally,” said foundation CEO Hilarie Gray about the resignations. “It just broke my heart that our team members felt like they didn’t have another path but to make the choice to leave.”

Quitting employees said they decided to leave due to staff shortages, high turnover, low wages, “struggle for space,” and “the amount of times we have gone without any help despite asking,” according to a resignation email that named the eight staffers. .

They wrote that they felt “belittled” and that Gray hadn’t made the changes she had promised.

Asked if the foundation expected additional walkouts, she only said she was in daily contact with the team to express the foundation’s mission and to reassure them “that they work hard.”

Gray said that she had reached out to those who quit in an attempt to figure out what went wrong, and that she hoped they would consider returning.

More animals coming in

Gray said that animal intakes this month were up nearly 50 percent compared to the previous two years, a “historic” trend being experienced nationwide, which was exasperated by the pandemic and a downturn in the economy. In September alone, she said, the shelter had taken in more than 2,000 animals.

If some of the roughly 150 animals taken in by the shelter on Saturday, for example, had been scanned for chips by animal control, they could’ve likely been taken straight home, said Gray, who supports measures like a recently-passed Clark County ordinance that bans animal sales at pet stores to relieve some of the intakes.

The development came as the city of Las Vegas was set to discuss the state of the shelter at 655 N. Mojave Road, on Oct. 19, amid reports of turmoil and “disgusting” conditions at the dog intake area. Councilwoman Victoria Seaman raised concerns after she conducted a surprise visit she classified as an inspection earlier this month.

Gray previously told the Review-Journal that Seaman’s visit was a “political stunt.”

Seaman defeated Gray for her council seat in 2019.

Criticism of ‘inspection’

During the most recent City Council meeting, a pair of fellow council members criticized Seaman’s visit to the shelter, with Councilwoman Michele Fiore decrying the so-called inspection.

“I want to urge anyone in our city, on our council, if they feel like there’s an issue, maybe volunteer, put sneakers on, gloves, and volunteer,” she told the council Wednesday without naming Seaman. “Rather (than) do gotcha things, I think we need to be more about volunteering.”

Fiore said Monday that she and her staff had helped clean and disinfect kennels at the intake area.

“When we talk about volunteering,” she said, “Instead of complaining, and being part of the problem, come here with us and be part of the solution. These animals need you.”

Councilwoman Olivia Diaz, whose ward includes the shelter, had criticized Seaman for bypassing city staff and unexpectedly visiting the shelter earlier this month.

She said Monday she wanted the best outcome for the foundation, which in 2020 received $4.7 million from fees and government contracts with Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County, according to financial disclosures. The foundation said the funds cover about one-third of its overall budget, noting that the contracts cover law-mandated holds for animals found or taken from people.

“We band together,” said Diaz, noting that there is help for pet owners who are considering surrendering their animals. “We come together as a community to overcome these challenges,” she added.

North Las Vegas Councilman Richard Cherchio called on both sides the need to put their differences aside while lawmakers seek longer-term solutions.

“We can agree to disagree on how things should be done in the future,” he said. “But right now, we should all agree that the most important thing is to take care of our animals.”

The foundation said it was waiving orientations and other requirements for those who want to temporarily foster some of the less-needy animals. More information can be found at animalfoundation.com or 702-384-3333.

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



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