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13 Action News exposes problems at no-kill shelter

Problems exposed at no-kill shelter
Posted at 1:52 PM, Nov 19, 2018

A leaking roof, sewage hoses running through kennels, and a mauling so severe a woman nearly lost her foot -- those are some of the issues that have plagued Southern Nevada's best-known no-kill animal shelter where dogs are sometimes kept for years.

Many who have volunteered to help the dogs at the Nevada SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) say the animals may have shelter but they deserve much better.

13 Action News Chief Investigator Darcy Spears is digging deeper. 

There's one face you won't see on Joann Phillips' poster of shelter dogs that she has helped care for over the last few years.

Stanley is the name of the dog that attacked Joann at the NSPCA shelter. The same day he attacked Joann, he was featured on the NSPCA's website of adoptable dogs.


Darcy sat down with Joann's husband, Jim. He says that his wife is still too traumatized to talk about what happened on April 11. Joann had been a volunteer at the shelter on Dewey Drive three times per week for about a year.

Jim says Joann's job was to take the dogs from the kennel and give them to the people who actually walked the dogs. That is what she was doing when the dog began to maul her. 

NSPCA President Kathy Jung would not talk to 13 Action News about the attack, citing potential litigation. She simply said it was a "truly terrible accident."

She did talk about the color-coding system they use for dogs. Stanley had been coded yellow, which Kathy explained means the dog pulls or doesn't walk well on a leash. She also talked about how volunteers have to be approved to handle the dogs. And she said that the volunteer policies were reviewed after the incident.


But other former volunteers we spoke to say a lot more needs to change at the NSPCA.

Brittany Markarian says she was going once a week, every Sunday for two years from May, 2015 to March, 2017, and would leave each week crying. She told 13 Action News that she couldn't decide if she had done something good on the days she volunteered or contributed to something horrible.

Brittany's Change.org petition demanding reform has more than 1,600 signatures. One of the concerns listed on the petition was the condition of the buildings. 

Chelsea Collins backs up that claim. She is one of the 7 volunteers who reached out to 13 Action News. Chelsea volunteered at NSPCA from April, 2015 until the beginning of September, 2018. The NSPCA says she was dismissed for verbally abusing a prior executive director.

Photos she took during her time at the shelter show leaks in the roof that resulted in kennels being soaked. They also show swamp coolers and fans being used in place of proper air conditioning. In addition, photos show that dogs were not always provided with clean water to drink.

Animal Control has documented a "long history of problems" with the shelter. Going back to July 2014, records show overcrowded dog runs, uncomfortably hot temperatures and pigeons causing property damage and contaminating kennels and crates outside. 2014 records also document a dog that was recovering from sedation after surgery being walked on by other dogs in the cage.

County records and photos from January of this year (2018) confirmed that kennels were flooded and that the roof was in disrepair.

Jung says that they've had people come in and patch various holes and that the roof was fully repaired in May. So, we asked to see it.


Jung says that only full-fledged volunteers, complete with training, are allowed to look inside the kennels and 13 Action News was denied access. Jung did send photos to 13 Action News of the repaired roof and a repaired wall where a cinder block had been missing and a dog was able to stick its head through into the next dog's enclosure, but we were unable to verify if the repairs are complete. We do know for sure that one issue has not been resolved.

Chelsea says the sewage system at the shelter does not function like it should. Jung admitted that there are issues with some drains that don't work. 

Chelsea and Brittany say when they were there, they saw dogs standing in sewage, their paws covered in feces.

The waste water is currently pumped out of the kennels with sump hoses that run through the dogs' cages and empty into a ditch right behind the kennels' chain link fences.

When Jung took us back there, the ditches were full. She says they're emptied out each night.

Jung says that the Health District is aware of the issue and says that the shelter is handling the issue properly.


There's been quite a bit of talk about a new facility over the years and the NSPCA has held multiple fundraisers. Jung told 13 Action News that the plans for a new shelter have not been satisfactory and it's not what they want. She emphasized that money is not the issue and said that they hope to have new plans by January or February.

Jung says the NSPCA would like to break ground on the first phase of the new shelter in the Spring while continuing to focus on some of the shelter's veterinary success stories and rising adoption numbers.

Meanwhile, volunteers are worried about the shelter's long-term residents. Jung says there are several dogs who've been there for about two years.

Chelsea says she respects the fact that the NSPCA is trying to save as many animals as possible but a line has to be drawn in the sand with a focus on quality of life.

The NSPCA had more than 1,700 animals a year ago. Now they have about 600. They say they are doing the best they can as a no-kill shelter. 


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