LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The pressure's mounting tonight against the valley's largest no-kill animal shelter.
13 Investigates first exposed issues being raised at the Nevada SPCA, now former insiders are going to elected officials demanding change.
13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears updates her continuing coverage that's driving change in our community.
"Who among you would not take action?"
Retired Casino Executive Allen Karol issued the call to arms to commissioners as part of a group of former NSPCA volunteers, a former employee and an animal welfare advocate. The group of six told commissioners it's time for conditions at the non-profit shelter to change and it's time for the county to demand transparency and accountability.
"Animals are voiceless and helpless. They deserve better. Why would any community allow this to continue?" Allen said during the public comment period at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.
In November, 13 Investigates exposed dilapidated conditions and broken promises at the Dewey Drive shelter that houses the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, including a leaking roof, sewage hoses running through dog kennels and a volunteer severely mauled.
Former employee Marco Panta says conditions documented years ago were still present just a few months back when he left the shelter.
"Thousands and thousands of insects that infest the facility--mainly roaches and black widows--that can be found throughout during the night periods. Those roaches can be found roaming through the bedding, food and water bowls and sometimes on the animals themselves," Panta told commissioners
NSPCA President Kathy Jung wasn't available for an on-camera interview.
She said over the phone that those conditions are a thing of the past and life for the shelter animals has vastly improved, though they know they still have a ways to go.
Volunteer Rescue Coordinator Kara Matthews worked at NSPCA for six years, quitting just last month.
"It is neglect! It is shameful!" she told commissioners. "And people like myself--I'm caught in this in-between position. Do I go and help because I know I can help? Or do I take a stand and say this is wrong--we need to do something about this?"
Those who chose to take a stand Tuesday shared concerns not only about the animals, but also the money NSPCA takes in from fundraisers and donations for a new shelter that's been promised for years, but has yet to be built.
"They had approved plans and drawings that I was privy to almost six years ago," Karol said. "They told me they had the funds to complete the project. It was to be a total renovation of the facility. Not only that, but of course brand new housing for the animals. It never happened. Why? Where is that money? What happened to that project?"
"I think the county has to have a strong oversight role," said newly-appointed Commissioner Michael Naft. The NSPCA is in his district.
"You guys (at 13 Investigates) have been doing a great job of covering this story for a long time. But also I worked for the last six years for one of our nation's leading animal welfare members of Congress so the issue is not new to me, but it's new to me in the context of the county and how I can dig in and get involved myself."
The county licenses the NSPCA to do business as a non-profit. Naft says he's making it one of his first orders of business on the commission, thanks to those who voiced concerns.
"The concept of 'alive at any cost' should not come at a cost to an animal's quality of life, especially when it's a facility that is tasked with the care of these beings--some of whom may end up living there for the rest of their lives," Animal Welfare Advocate Annoula Wylderich told commissioners.
"They spoke out. I appreciated it. I spoke to them directly, I came upstairs and I called Animal Control and I called the director of the organization and that's why within a couple hours their voices are being turned into action," Naft said a few hours after the commission adjourned.
NSPCA President Kathy Jung emphasized that she and the current board are still cleaning up a mess from the previous director but she says they're leaps and bounds ahead of where they were.
She says formerly announced plans to break ground on a new shelter were premature but they're actively working to make it happen.