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Gas leak scare at Nevada SPCA called 'suspicious'

Conditions deteriorating at aging animal shelter
NSPCA shelter
Posted at 6:09 PM, Jul 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-23 23:30:15-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Two furnaces at the Nevada SPCA are now being kept under lock and key.

"We went out and got chains and put padlocks on each of them," said the Humane Network's Mark Robison.

Humane Network, the shelter's interim trustee, took those steps after possible sabotage on Monday morning.

Two gas valves had been opened.

"There was gas coming out of this furnace here and no one knows why," Robison said.

They don't know why someone would've activated the furnace thermostats. They hope it was an honest mistake.

"It could have been somebody who thought that the thermostat worked like their thermostat at home and they were trying to do something to make it cooler. Honestly we just have not been able to determine what happened," Robison said.

What they do know is they had to get out.

"An employee, I believe, smelled gas and everyone was evacuated," Robison explained.

While employees were outside, they had to leave the animals inside as firefighters investigated.

The areas where the furnaces are located weren't covered by security cameras. They are now.

Humane Network installed new ones after the incident Monday morning.

"It would have been nice had they been in yesterday so we might have been able to see what happened with that thermostat."

Robison says if things had gotten worse, the animals would have been the ultimate victims.

"Because getting all of the animals out of here quickly if there had been a fire or something like that would've been extremely difficult."

Southwest Gas tagged the equipment as hazardous and turned it off until a proper cleaning is done by a licensed contractor.

"We're just learning things as we go here and we keep uncovering more and more things that just need attention."

Humane Network took over as interim trustee after the previous board resigned amid a financial scandal exposed by 13 Investigates. Our reports focused on unfulfilled promises of a new shelter building and spending board members called suspicious.

Now the Nevada Attorney General is investigating possible misuse of funds by Former Board President Kathy Jung.

Trustee Mark Robison says it's not just missing money in question. Actual items like food, toys and blankets are in question too.

"There have been rumors and reports over the years of donations going missing and just behavior that is questionable."

That's why they've installed even more security cameras than the ones to watch the furnaces.

"There had been places that were not covered with the cameras, including places where donations were stored, and the main place that if things were to leave the building -- where they would leave from -- the back door."

But the biggest challenge they're facing right now is keeping the kennels cool.

"It's been a difficult last two weeks where we've had at least three times where the temperature has risen above the minimum state level for shelters for keeping animals safe -- which is 85-degrees."

Robison says only six of the shelter's 24 rooftop swamp coolers are in working order.

"All of the other ones up there are in disrepair and not putting out the amount of cooling that they should."

They're rusted, corroded and hampered by calcium deposits.

"It's a constant struggle in this heat and it really just shows that this is just not the right building for a shelter."

Humane Network doesn't think the shelter can last on Dewey Drive much longer and they're looking at other properties.

"We put in a bid on one on Friday last week and we're still waiting to hear back from the sellers if they accept our offer. We're just looking for a place that is safe for the animals and a good environment for the animals."

Former NSPCA President Kathy Jung declined an interview about past maintenance issues, but a public relations firm hired by her lawyer says she believed staff members were properly handling facility maintenance.

She says day-to-day maintenance operations were not her responsibility.

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