LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Three weeks after a respiratory virus outbreak closed all dog intake and limited dog adoptions at the Animal Foundation, animal control doesn’t know what to do with stray dogs as other shelters remain at capacity.
The shelter, which is paid millions of dollars from taxpayers across the Las Vegas valley to provide animal sheltering services, announced via Twitter on Oct. 3 that an outbreak of pneumovirus would alter dog adoptions and intakes at the location for the foreseeable future.
The shelter experienced an increase in pet surrenders over the summer, specifically in September.
The changes rippled throughout other shelters, causing some to reach maximum capacity and having difficulties with getting stray dogs where they need to go.
Anni Labansat, who lives in Spring Valley, experienced this when driving to work on Sunday.
“I see two dogs running around in the street. Cars beeping, running around. I’m like, ‘oh my gosh,’” Labansat said outside her home Tuesday evening. “I get them in my car and I’m thinking ‘okay, I’ll call animal control.’”
However, when she got in touch with a Clark County Animal Control operator, she said she was told that “there’s really nowhere you can take them” and to leave the dogs where she found them because the agency did not have anywhere it could take them to.
A spokesperson for the City of Las Vegas released a statement confirming to 8 News Now that it is currently not responding to calls about stray dogs because of the pneumovirus outbreak at the Animal Foundation that has infected at least 73 dogs as of Oct. 19.
The statement continued, “It is important to limit the number of animals being taken there until the situation improves. To help with this, we are trying to limit intakes by mitigating situations in the field when we can. If reuniting a dog with its owner is determined to be safe for the animal, the owner, and the community, we are doing that whenever possible.”
With no collars or microchips on the two dogs and no space at home to shelter them with her cats, Labansat did not know what to do with them. She knew, however, she was not going to leave them.
“I’m like, well, I don’t understand. This is what you’re there for. What do I do?” Labansat said. “I’m just a regular person. I’m not trained to deal with these things.”
She said she spent the next two and a half hours driving around where she found the dogs while calling every shelter to find vacancies. Her only option, besides leaving them, was to board them at a nearby vet. With no medical records for the two dogs, it cost her over $200 to vaccinate and board them for the night.
This situation is the best-case scenario the Nevada SPCA and other shelters can hope for right now. Executive Director Lori Heeren said they typically direct people who find stray and lost dogs to the Animal Foundation for the next steps. However for over three weeks now, they haven’t had that option.
“We’re getting over 50 calls a day that we weren’t getting previously about lost dogs, about ‘I found a stray dog’ and ‘where do I bring it.’ I mean, just people walking through the door with their stray animals,” Heeren said inside her shelter Tuesday afternoon.
The call volume is a roughly 40% increase from the amount typically received, she said. It has also been made worse by an increase in owner surrenders in recent months following rising inflation.
With space for 250 animals, Heeren said they have been over capacity for weeks which has put a strain on her staff of around 30 people.
The shelter has gotten creative to take in extra dogs by utilizing a medical isolation area on-site and a foster program offsite.
However, the dogs keep on coming and the executive director said it is gone as far as taking in a dog from Metro Police after officers arrested its owner and didn’t know where to shelter it.
A small staff, facing a huge crisis they’ve never experienced before.
“We are overwhelmed, and it can’t continue. It’s not sustainable. We need to start getting some answers about when (The Animal Foundation is) going to reopen and what the solutions are going to be,” Heeren said. “I just don’t think the community understands the severity this crisis has climbed to.”
A spokesperson for the Animal Foundation told 8 News Now that they are only accepting dogs in last-resort scenarios currently, typically involving law enforcement involvement. They did not comment on when full adoptions and intakes will resume.
The foundation also announced Tuesday that they will be fully closed on Mondays starting next week “to focus on team member development and training.”
If you find a stray dog, both Clark County Animal Control and the Nevada SPCA recommend that you post fliers around your neighborhood and post information about the lost dogs on social media.
The county spokesperson adds, “If a resident feels they can safely handle the dog, they could also walk the dog around their neighborhood to see if it will head home, or bring the dog to a local veterinarian to be scanned for a microchip. Then, if the microchip shows who owns the dog, the resident can bring the dog to its owner.”