LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is hoping it can finally prove the old saying “good things come to those who wait," because the wait for a new shelter has been long.
There’s also been a complete change of leadership since 13 Investigates exposed problems that led to criminal charges against the former director.
With a mid-October move-in date fast approaching, the Nevada SPCA is working quickly to convert 5375 Procyon Street, Suite 108, into a functioning animal shelter.
It's gone from an empty warehouse to a sea of steel as the shelter's bones take shape.
The Nevada SPCA has a capacity of 300 animals on any given day, making it the second-largest animal shelter in Southern Nevada.
"We went from trying to figure out how to adopt and foster animals in a COVID environment to dealing with all of the owner surrenders from the eviction crisis, and that is heartbreaking," said executive director Lori Heeren.
The new facility behind Allegiant Stadium is just five minutes from the current Dewey Drive shelter but Heeren says it'll be a world apart.
One of the biggest changes will come in the form of medical care.
"In our veterinary room, which we don't have in our current facility, we will not only see all of our own animals, but part of our vision for Nevada SPCA is also to be able to offer more services for the public since low-cost veterinary assistance is so needed," Heeren said.
They'll also have special rooms for staff to evaluate dogs' behavior.
"It's important that we're aware of any behavioral challenges and if there are any of those, our staff will work with them to train them and then be able to advise a potential adopter exactly what the animal needs when they bring them into their home," she said.
Once they're ready to adopt, their furry faces will be posted online and made available with three meet and greet rooms for potential adopters.
"And these are the rooms where adopters can come in and spend some time with a dog. Also, they can bring in their dog from home to make sure that their dogs get along," Heeren said.
Nevada SPCA takes dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and rats but the cats have emerged as the early success story when it comes to donation dollars.
The free-roaming cat colony rooms are still being built, but already paid for with donor dollars.
"And it's all women," noted Darcy Spears. "It's a female support group, so the ladies have come out with the cash!"
"It is!" Heeren said. "Go, cat ladies!"
They're still looking for sponsors to help fund the dog kennels.
"You can honor your best friend by sponsoring a dog kennel for as little as $166 per month for one year," said Heeren. "You'll receive a beautiful 8-by-10 inch plaque with your personal message on it that will be displayed on a kennel in our new facility."
The new facility will also have a sophisticated ventilation system and one big upgrade in the form of indoor air conditioning.
"For years, our dogs have been living in indoor-outdoor kennels, which is kind of counter-intuitive in a desert environment, and it's been really hard for us to keep the temperatures down to where they need to be," Heeren said.
They'll also have an outdoor, shaded exercise area, separate entrances for dogs and cats, and private rooms for pet owners surrendering their animals.
"There are a lot of those instances where it's heartbreaking for the owner. This is going to give those owners some privacy when they make that excruciating decision to bring their animal to us so we can re-home them."
The most unexpected part of the whole process was the start--getting the space. Landlord Phillip Smith, who lives in California, made it possible when the NSPCA kept getting turned down for a new location.
"We can be a challenging neighbor with our barking," Heeren admitted. "And people are worried of course about the smell, which we do a really good job of maintaining all of that. And he didn't hesitate."
That and the outpouring of community support have meant everything to Heeren and her staff as they've struggled to shed the shadow of former board president Kathy Jung.
Our 13 investigations led to Jung being charged with three felony theft counts for misappropriation of donor money meant for animals.
A preliminary hearing in her case is set for November--one month after the new facility opens.
"Literally, I think it brings tears to my eyes because this has been such a hard two years for our staff. And we're going to make mistakes but we are working harder than ever, and we are transparent with everything."
The Animal Foundation and community rescues have been overwhelmed with owner surrenders since the pandemic began.
The problem is predicted to get even worse when evictions ramp up.
The Nevada SPCA hopes the opening of their new facility will provide substantial help and relief for homeless animals.
They've got a fundraiser coming up on Saturday, Oct. 9 for the organization's first Neon Dog Walk event from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Sunset Park, where 300 dog lovers and their best friends will walk the 1.7-mile Dunes Trail loop.
Festivities in Neon Village after the walk will include food, beverage, stage entertainment and lots of dog-related booths for a glow-in-the-dark evening of family-friendly fun.
NSPCA wishes to thank Findlay Toyota, Dogwalkers and Vodka for Dog People for their support.
You can register now on their website to sign up as a walker and to donate.