LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — All animal shelters have critics, and The Animal Foundation is no exception.
Though it's made significant progress over the last decade, the past few months have brought a storm of criticism over deteriorating conditions and understaffing, with many calling for CEO Christine Robinson to resign.
"We're realizing that The Animal Foundation is in crisis," said Amy Clatterbuck, who runs Hearts Alive Village, one of The Animal Foundation's community rescue partners. She says Robinson's pending retirement comes as no surprise.
"I think that a change in leadership needed to happen quite a bit ago."
In an announcement she called "bittersweet," Robinson said that after 14 years of leadership, she'd be stepping down at the end of this year.
In an email, she cited the changing needs of the community, saying the evolution of The Animal Foundation requires "Different leaders with different skills and expertise and a renewed sense of energy."
She also touted the recent success of their Mission Possible initiative for reaching its "zero euthanasia" goal for all healthy and treatable animals in 2020.
"That effort was strenuous and I think they did a fantastic job at moving towards that goal," Clatterbuck said.
The Animal Foundation operates one of the highest volume single-site animal shelters in the country.
Robinson, who's currently paid about a $250,000 salary, joined the non-profit organization at a critical time after the Humane Society of the United States declared a state of emergency at the shelter in 2007.
Much has changed for the better under her leadership but the current staff and animal advocates say things have been going downhill with many employees leaving in frustration.
"We've put it out there, posted that we hoped that she would step down," said Gina Greisen of Nevada Voters for Animals. "Things are really bad right now. The shelter is in crisis. I feel like history is repeating itself."
This change.org petition calling for Robinson's resignation has just more than 800 signatures.
Among the concerns it lays out:
- The shelter, which is paid millions of tax dollars, is turning away strays and delaying or preventing owners from reclaiming their pets or adopting animals by requiring appointments, which can be backlogged for weeks
- Despite getting a $1.25 million PPP loan in February, The Animal Foundation is understaffed, cages are filthy, animals are being neglected and staff are overwhelmed
- Despite their "No-kill" publicity campaign, they frequently euthanize animals with treatable medical conditions or pawn animals off on overwhelmed rescues
- Despite local laws, they are adopting out animals that have not been spayed or neutered
The petition demands Robinson be removed in order to restore accountability and transparency.
"It's time for her to step down--retire--whatever you want to call it," Greisen said. There's a lot going on. There's a lot of change that needs to happen. And I believe there's a no-confidence vote from the community now, especially the rescue community, so it's time."
The Animal Foundation declined our request to talk to Christine Robinson, saying she's not currently doing interviews.
In a recent 13 Action News report, the shelter's communications manager said they're making changes, wait times are improving, and they're actively trying to recruit more people to make up for an acknowledged staffing shortage.
Robinson will continue to lead the organization for the next five months and work with the board to find her successor.