By Ricardo Torres-Cortez Las Vegas Review-Journal
September 15, 2022
Las Vegas Councilwoman Victoria Seaman said she was appalled with what she saw at the Animal Foundation shelter after she showed up for an unannounced visit, which she classified as an inspection, earlier this week.
A stench of feces permeated from kennels that held distressed dogs at an intake area where animal control officers deliver animals found overnight, she said. Some of the 30 or so dogs sat alongside dry and fresh waste, while others rested beside overturned bowls of food.
Pictures she shared with the Review-Journal showed soiled blankets.
“The place was appalling,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve never seen anything so disgusting that an animal should have to sit in a cage in those conditions.”
In all, Seaman said, she and Jason Potts, the city’s chief of public safety, saw only one employee in the area.
“He could not get to all the cages,” she said. “Of course he didn’t get around to cleaning up the dry feces.”
But had the councilwoman taken a look at the rest of the shelter Monday morning, even the adjacent room, she would have likely spotted an 11-member team cleaning areas that currently hold about 900 animals, according to the nonprofit, which is partially funded with tax dollars.
Either way, Seaman is calling for an “audit” of the foundation, which in 2020 received $4.7 million from fees and government contracts with Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County, according to financial disclosures, and the councilwoman said she was putting it up for discussion at the Oct. 19 meeting at City Hall.
A Las Vegas spokesman confirmed the item would be on the agenda.
The funds cover about one-third of the foundation’s overall budget, the organization said. The contracts cover law-mandated holds for animals found or taken from people.
Foundation CEO Hilarie Grey and board member Jan Jones Blackhurst, former Las Vegas mayor, vehemently rejected Seaman’s characterization in a phone interview Wednesday.
“We find that to be nothing more than a political stunt, and not an indication of anything,” Grey said.
“The councilwoman’s antics are getting a little tiresome,” Jones Blackhurst said.
They noted that Seaman showed up before the shelter was open and that the power to inspect it does not belong to her. They said the shelter is routinely subjected to random checks by county and city inspectors, something they welcome.
“Animal control does not report to a council member,” Jones Blackhurst said, calling Seaman’s actions on Monday inappropriate.
Seaman also misstated the position of the worker she “surprised,” the foundation said. He is an admission specialist in charge of visiting animal hospitals and recovering injured animals.
It’s not rare to see feces in the intake area from dogs that are brought overnight and that often spend some time in animal control vehicles for hours before they’re taken to the shelter, the board members said.
Each animal is evaluated by teams of veterinarian and behavioral specialists, they added.
Seaman said that she’s been aware of issues at the shelter since November and that she regularly receives tips from within the organization about mistreatment of animals. She also alleged that the nonprofit pushes out anyone who speaks out.
Grey and Jones Blackhurst denied the allegations, which the former mayor called “categorically untrue.”
The board met with city and county officials earlier this year and works to address emerging concerns, the members said.
“I don’t buy it. I’m not gonna buy it,” Seaman said. “The animals are the concern that I have.”
If Seaman wanted to help, Jones Blackhurst said, she could advocate for allowing animal control to microchip animals so they could be returned straight home, increase funding for shelters, or move to ban sales of animals at pet stores like Clark County recently did.
“But she’s not doing any of that,” she said. “It’s not constructive; it’s disingenuous.”
“She was interested in her own political agenda,” Jones Blackhurst said about Seaman’s visit Monday. “Nobody cares more about our homeless animals than this staff and this board, and if the councilwoman wants to help, we would love the help. If she just wants to cause problems for her political agenda, then she’s not doing anything to help these animals.