Her picture tore at my heart. A 5 month old puppy tethered to the wall cowering in fear. Visible wounds on her face and body. Don’t worry baby we will save you, I told her. Her picture had been emailed with a plea to help her. She was at Lied Animal Shelter (aka The Animal Foundation) the city kill shelter. But if a foster could be found for her a rescue would then pull her to safety. So several rescuers started sending out the plea for help to our networks. In a few hours offers to foster, adopt, and donate medical funds started pouring in. She would be safe.
Then I received an email from one of our volunteers. He had called Lied offering to adopt her and take care of her. He was told she had mange and she was not up for adoption. And they told him she would be euthanized by the end of the week. I sent out an urgent email – WE HAVE TO GET HER OUT NOW! A rescue has already tagged her, I was told. What’s going on? So much confusion. Don’t worry little one, I told her picture, so many people want to help you. You will be okay.
Then even worse news arrived. They were not letting any rescues have her either. They were just going to kill her. WHY???
It baffles the mind. And if you are not in the world of animal rescue it is probably inconceivable to you. A 5 month old puppy that has several people wanting to adopt her, others wanting to foster her, and rescues willing to pay to pull her, not to mention people wanting to donate money for her medical funds, and yet the shelter is still going to kill her. I am in the animal rescue world and it is still inconceivable to me… every time it happens.
I guess this time it was the last straw. I sent out an email to everyone asking them to please contact Lied and ask them why they were killing this 5 month old puppy when there were people who wanted to help her. I also asked them to send it to any media contacts they had. I then forwarded that email to every Lied administrator. I received a reply from Jason, Director of Operations at Lied. I guess he didn’t like the idea that people were questioning his decisions because he asked me, in the future, to contact him first before sending out “mass” emails or contacting the media. Of course. He wants to control the story.
Jason said she had mange and also didn’t pass their initial aggression screening so she was a danger to the public (??) I guess Jason had never heard of all the other dogs around the country with mange even worse than hers who were successfully treated and are now living happy lives. And imagine that – a scared and probably in pain puppy didn’t pass an initial behavioral screening? Why that’s unheard of. A scared animal exhibiting expected behavior for a scared animal. Let’s kill her!
All this time different people were calling Lied, emailing them, or even going down there hoping to adopt this puppy. And everyone was getting a different story. She was dead. No she wasn’t. She was going to be killed at the end of the week. Or tonight. Who knew? Jason, who kept telling everyone to come to him with questions, wasn’t answering them. He wouldn’t confirm if she was alive or dead. He wouldn’t respond to my request to have an independent trainer evaluate her. And he wouldn’t answer the most asked question: Why? I don’t mean his repeated talking points that she had mange and was now, according to him, a most dangerous dog. But WHY kill her when there were people who wanted her despite her condition? Why not give her a chance at life when it wasn’t going to cost him anything? Ah, but maybe it WAS going to cost him something. His pride perhaps? Or a loss, however briefly, of power and control? Would that really matter more than the life of a 5 month old puppy?
And people continued to email and call, begging for this puppy’s life. A Facebook page was started: Why is Lied/Animal Foundation Killing a 5 Month Old Puppy? The puppy was given a name: Phoenix. Because as someone said, ” from her sadness and possible death, reform will rise”
On her Facebook page some people asked what we wanted. And they said don’t blame the shelter – it’s not their fault people are irresponsible. What we wanted, of course, was first to save this puppy’s life. Second, we wanted Lied to stop with all the misinformation, lies, and obfuscation. We wanted them to be more transparent and stop trying to hide from the public what was going on there.
It seems as if Lied management is more concerned about their public image than they are for the animals entrusted into their care. The Lied Rescue & Foster Coordinator and the Assistant Director of Operations spend time monitoring rescue networks to see who is making what they deem “negative public comments” about them. You would think they had better things to do with their time. Like save animals.
So what is Lied calling “negative public comments”? Saying an animal will be killed if not rescued/adopted soon is a negative public comment (even when true) according to them. Saying a pit bull doesn’t have much of a chance there is a negative public comment (while they kill approximately 400 pit bull type dogs there EVERY month). Even saying an animal is urgent is considered a negative public comment. Obviously the transparency at Lied is as transparent as the Dead Sea.
Yes, people can be irresponsible. Yes, everyone needs to spay and neuter their pets. At the same time we do blame THIS shelter. Because it doesn’t have to be that way. Shelters all across the country are going No Kill . They are doing it by joining up with the community rather than just blaming them. Right in our own backyard up in Reno is the crown jewel example of shelter reform, Nevada Humane. They save 94% of all dogs and 95% of all cats entering the shelter. At Lied only about 61% of dogs and 27% of cats there make it out alive. Of course those Lied statistics are from a couple years ago. Getting statistics from Lied is as easy as, well, fishing in the Dead Sea. Where can you get Nevada Humane’s statistics? Right on the front page of their website. Now that’s transparency!
So how did Nevada Humane do it? You can read about it here . One of the most important things was getting the right people working at the shelter. They ALL have to buy into the No Kill philosophy. That is not happening at Lied.
Just two days after we started our mission to save Phoenix we finally got our answer from Jason. He had her killed. He killed a 5 month old puppy just because he could. There was no legitimate reason to kill her. She had people who wanted her. She had people willing to do whatever needed to be done to treat her medical issues and any other issues she had. She had people who wanted to give her the life and love she deserved. Jason deemed her not worthy of life or love. He criticized us for wanting to help her rather than other dogs he said deserved our help more. As if most of us don’t already help other animals every day of our lives. Jason said in an email that he was looking for rescues to take “happy and healthy animals.” I guess the sad and sick at Lied can just go right into the body bags. As rescuers we CHOOSE to help the sick ones, the old ones, the pit bulls, the not so pretty and the not so well-behaved because they need us the most. How dare the Jasons of the world tell us who we should direct our compassion to and which animal should touch our hearts?
Phoenix may have been just one dog but she deserved a chance at life as much as any other. And she also represents all the animals like her that go into this shelter system and don’t get a chance. The ones they deem too young, too old, too scared, too hyper. The sick ones even if they’re treatable. The blind ones. The starving ones who growl when they take their food away. Or any animal the one deciding just doesn’t like.
Phoenix, I’m so sorry I was wrong. We couldn’t save you. But we will save others in your honor. We will bring shelter reform to Las Vegas in your honor. We will bring a law to Nevada that will prevent any shelter from killing any animal a rescue is willing to take. We will bring the Companion Animal Protection Act ( CAPA) to Nevada.
Jason seems to think there are too many irresponsible people here in Las Vegas. He doesn’t seem to think there are very many people here who care. Sign the petition to bring shelter reform here. Prove him wrong. And let Phoenix rise again.
Petition for Shelter Reform
Rescue Five-O (CAPA)
No Kill Advocacy Center
Contact Lied Animal Shelter