13 Investigates


Pet owners, employees, local leaders want accountability from The Animal Foundation

New CEO says the shelter will get better
Dogs impounded at The Animal Foundation
Ariana Dunbar
Animals at the Animal Foundation
Animals at the Animal Foundation
Hilarie Grey, CEO of The Animal Foundation
Animals at the Animal Foundation
Animals at the Animal Foundation
Philena Carter
Animals at the Animal Foundation
Animals at the Animal Foundation
Victoria Seaman
Animals at the Animal Foundation
Dogs impounded at The Animal Foundation
Posted at 4:51 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 23:58:03-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Millions of your tax dollars continue to pour into The Animal Foundation, a place 13 Investigates exposed as a shelter in crisis.

It's been three months since we called attention to all the problems, and we're back to see what's changed. There's a new leader, but are the pets any safer?

"Watching those prior stories, seeing the conditions that are there... Just the thought of it was... It made me sick," said pet owner Ariana Dunbar.

"Nothing has gotten better since you aired your investigation," added City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman.

And former Animal Foundation employee Philena Carter said, "It's not... It's not getting better."

Not for pet owners, employees or the local leaders who award The Animal Foundation its contract to operate.

And certainly not for the animals who end up there.

"Unfortunately," said Carter, "because they're so short-staffed, animals often go without the care that they need."

Animals like Ariana Dunbar's boxer, Molly. Molly got out, so Dunbar scoured the neighborhood and surrounding areas, then posted on social media. A neighbor alerted her to a boxer on The Animal Foundation's website.

Ariana Dunbar
Ariana Dunbar tells 13 Investigates how her boxer, Molly, ended up at The Animal Foundation. Dunbar said the shelter didn't contact her to come get her dog, despite identifying Molly through her microchip.

"The post didn't say if it was male or female, and it didn't have a picture," Dunbar said.

Dunbar went to check as soon as the shelter opened the next morning.

"They said they didn't have her, and I asked them about the boxer that had been found, and they said it was a male," she recalled.

Not willing to give up, she asked to see all the dogs and for staff to run Molly's microchip number again.

WATCH THE SERIES: 13 Investigates | Allegations of pets in peril at The Animal Foundation

"So, she puts in the chip number again and looks up at me and says, 'Oh, she's here.' When they brought her out to me, she had a collar that they had put on, in addition to the collar that she had when she went missing, and they had written her name on it," Dunbar said. "So, they knew who she was and who she belonged to, and they just didn't even bother to call."

Ariana Dunbar's boxer, Molly, got out and ended up at The Animal Foundation.

"Well, the situation with Molly was very unfortunate, and it was from some human errors that occurred," admits Hilarie Grey, The Animal Foundation's new chief executive officer.

She says Molly's case is a wake-up call, "And it's also indicative of ways that we can work better as an animal welfare community."

Molly had been hit by a car and had two compound fractures, with bones in her leg sticking out of the skin. She'd gotten temporary care but needed emergency surgery.

Between City Animal Control, the emergency veterinary hospital and The Animal Foundation, Molly had been in someone's custody for about 36 hours, and Animal Foundation records confirm her microchip was found.

SIMILAR: Local leaders demand answers, call for audit of The Animal Foundation

After her boxer, Molly, got out, Ariana Dunbar says she was hit by a car and taken to The Animal Foundation with a compound fracture in her leg. Despite identifying Molly, Dunbar says the shelter did not contact her when her dog showed up, and Molly sat with a broken leg for a day-and-a-half before Dunbar figured out she was there.

"There was a point where the contact could have been made to the owner immediately," said Grey. "That could have been settled long before Molly ever ended up here."

For Dunbar, "It's really upsetting, because had they called me when she was originally scanned, which was about 1:30 or 2 in the morning, right after she went missing, I would've been there immediately!" she said. "Instead, she sat in a cage for a day-and-a-half. It (her leg) was infected. Luckily, she didn't have to lose her leg."

Philena Carter worked at The Animal Foundation for two months in December and January before she says she couldn't take it anymore and quit.

During her short tenure, she took photos and videos, which she shared with city leaders.

"There are animals sitting in waste. They're sitting on damp floors with no blankets. They're scared. They're mentally declining because we can't socialize them if we don't have enough people to even feed them," Carter said. "Everything is getting neglected."

While animals inside were going hungry, Carter found pallets of food sitting outside with no one available to unload them.

"Utter lack of resources... And it was just very sad," she said. "The only time I saw forward progress was if an email went out saying 'All hands on deck, we need to clean the place.' And that happened one time while I worked there, and it turns out the city was coming to visit."

RELATED: Pet owners seeking to reclaim lost pets at The Animal Foundation face heartache, frustration

Philena Carter
Philena Carter tells 13 Investigates she worked for The Animal Foundation for two months before she became so distraught with the conditions that she could no longer take it.

Councilwoman Seaman admits the city isn't getting a true picture of shelter conditions.

"Where is the oversight?" asked 13 chief investigator Darcy Spears asked Seaman. "Who are they accountable to for the millions of tax dollars we pay them to run a shelter that doesn't really appear to be functioning properly?"

"There's no transparency," said Seaman. "Right now, there's no accountability. And I will make sure that there will be."

Hilarie Grey says she will, too.

"The team that takes care of the animals that was very understaffed is now up to speed on staff," Grey said.

But will they stay?

"Attracting good employees, keeping good employees — it keeps coming up again and again that the pay scale is off here," Spears said to Grey. "The CEO makes a quarter-million dollars a year and other top-level executives are paid six-figure salaries. The people doing the work are making $13 an hour. Any discussion about leveling the playing field a little bit?"

Hilarie Grey, CEO of The Animal Foundation
Hilarie Grey has been installed as CEO of The Animal Foundation in recent months. She agrees the shelter can and should be more accountable for the millions in taxpayer dollars they receive to take proper care of animals.

"Absolutely," answered Grey. "There's been discussion about making sure that we take a look at not just pay scales, but other things that are important to people: education, cost of living increases."

"Meanwhile," said Carter, "we're on the front line, getting yelled at every day because no one can answer the phones. Because if we answer the phones, the animals don't have food. Or they're dying."

In Carter's time at the shelter, she worked through a two-month backlog of unanswered voicemail and email messages from owners looking for their pets.

RELATED: Whistleblowers detail a shelter in crisis at The Animal Foundation

"My last two days, we saved six lives from emails — old emails. I was scared to take days off," Carter said.

One case involving two pit bulls stands out. Internal documents show one dog was moved to adoptions.

"The other dog was scheduled to be euthanized," Carter said. "But this was someone's service animal! And she's been reaching out via email for weeks! She missed two of her appointments, so they gave up. They gave up! They marked it for euthanasia for behavior because the dog was not doing well in the shelter environment."

She referred the pet owner to Councilwoman Seaman for help. Seaman picked up the woman, who had no transportation, and brought her to the shelter.

Victoria Seaman
Councilwoman Victoria Seaman pledges to hold The Animal Foundation accountable. She admits the City isn't getting a true picture of conditions at the shelter, which operates on millions of dollars in taxpayer funding.

"The experience was appalling," Seaman recalled. "I ended up waiting two hours and 15 minutes to get her dogs back, and the one that was in line to be euthanized was the friendliest dog I've ever seen. He jumped in my car; we were able to pet him. There were no behavioral issues that I saw."

Asked about the situation, Grey said she didn't have the particulars so she couldn't really speak to it, "but would be happy to look into that."

Carter says every concern she raised was met with the same response: "We're working on it."

Grey came on as CEO after Carter quit. She says they are working on it.

"Can we get better? Yes," she said.

Local leaders have asked for an audit but were advised by legal counsel that they'd have to meet with The Animal Foundation's board first. That won't happen until late March.

In the meantime, Grey is making it her mission to meet with elected officials to at least start talking about how they can better work together.

Find more in-depth reporting from 13 Investigates at ktnv.com/13-investigates.

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