Since “officially” joining the animal welfare community in 2010, working with others to help more pets and their people has always been an important aspect of what we do, as well as what I still believe makes the most sense. None of us knows it all or can even come close to doing it all, so to me, it seems like a logical conclusion to work together, making a larger impact. As I look back on the last few years, that idea has been supported and reinforced by some amazing organizations and people, both locally and across the country to whom I am eternally grateful. Unfortunately, there are also a fair amount of people and organizations that have done a great job of smashing my rose colored glasses of optimism into a million pieces. There are those who attempt to undermine your progress, those who feel threatened by your mere existence and then there are those who talk a good game, say they will do certain things and never follow through. At the top of the list of those who have made empty promises and failed to follow through is The Animal Foundation.
With this idea of working together, Incred-A-Bull as an organization has been very contentious of our public position in regards to The Animal Foundation, our local open admission shelter. Since our inception we have held meetings with their staff, executives and even board members. Our approach in those meetings has always been to provide simple, viable options on how we might be able to work together to help more of the dogs in their care, both “pit bull” and otherwise. Since it’s no secret that a very large portion of the dogs in their care are those labeled as “pit bulls,” we offered up an idea on how to reach recent adopters. Incred-A-Bull uses what we call our “info card” to spread the word about our mission and the services that we offer our community. These are 4×6 cards, printed in English on one side, Spanish on the other. Since 2011, we have been asking the staff at The Animal Foundation if we could include these cards in the goody bags that they send home with every adopter. Since our programs are aimed at owner assistance and keeping dogs out of the shelter, wouldn’t it make sense to include these cards, informing adopters of the support that exists for them should they encounter challenges with their new dog? Each time we proposed the idea we received a similar canned answer from multiple staffers about how the contents of their goody bags were currently under review. It wasn’t until February of this year, after presenting this idea to Executive Director, Christine Robinson and two members from the Board of Directors in November 2013 that we were able to get the green light on this very simple idea. While we delivered several hundred of those cards in question to the executive offices at The Animal Foundation in April, of the recent The Animal Foundation adopters that we have been in contact with, many who are already familiar with and would have recognized our brand, not one recalls seeing our information card in their adoption goody bag. Could they have run out? Or did they just never end up being utilized?
While the cards are a great resource, that is far from the end of the story. For quite some time I have been hoping that those in a position to implement change at The Animal Foundation would abandon their “we are doing the best we can” mantra or stop placing the onus of responsibility with the community like Christine Robinson recently did in Las Vegas Weekly by stating, “We certainly have a role, a big role, but this problem needs to be solved by the community.” However, despite the many attempts of individuals and groups (aka the community) to insight change, those ideas have been met with resistance, ignored or fallen on deaf ears. Now understand that none of these ideas are unattainable or cost millions of dollars. These are ideas that are successfully being implemented by rescues and shelters across the country. Even though on more than one occasion, The Animal Foundation staff failed to honor their word and the stories of their adversarial treatment of volunteers, pet owners and other animal welfare groups are many, I did my best remain optimistic that they genuinely were willing to work with others for the benefit of the animals in their care. That all changed in June when we were forwarded an email that contained Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani’s response to community members about her position on The Animal Foundation. Now I am not here to nitpick every misstep made by The Animal Foundation, what I am here to do is set the record straight about Commissioner Giunchigliani’s statement about Incred-A-Bull in relation to talks between the Animal Foundation and Incred-A-Bull in regards to the development of a shelter intervention program like what has been implemented by Downtown Dog Rescue in Los Angeles.
Prior to the primary election, citizens who are concerned about the state of the Animal Foundation’s operation of the shelter sent a survey of sorts to Clark County Commissioners. Commissioner Giunchigliani emailed out her response after the primary elections and provided the following response (in blue) in regards to Incred-A-Bull and shelter intervention:
Now, we say it was Commissioner Giunchigliani’s response, but while the word document attachment came directly from her office, upon further inspection, the info as pictured below, tells us that the author is Christine Robinson, Executive Director of The Animal Foundation, edited by Marcie Whelan, Commissioner Giunchigliani’s assistant.
Regardless of the source of this information, it is completely untrue. So, in an attempt to rectify the situation and set the record straight on where Incred-A-Bull stands in all of this, I sent the following email to both Christine Robinson and Commissioner Giunchigliani.
While we did receive this response more than seven weeks ago now, it is the last we have heard on the matter from either party.
Again reinforcing the opinion that The Animal Foundation has no genuine interest in working with others in the community to save more lives. And leading us to believe that Commissioner Giunchigliani puts very little value in those who she serves and even less in their animals as the questions posed by community members were a way for them to gauge her position on the issue. But how can her position be gauged when it appears she has had Christine Robinson answer for her?
The Animal Foundation’s lack of willingness to allow others in the community to help is just the tip of the iceberg. As far as a Shelter Intervention program is concerned, neither The Animal Foundation, Incred-A-Bull nor any of our other animal welfare partners could implement such a program because while they have been operating the Lied Animal Shelter since 2007, The Animal Foundation is unable to tell us or anyone else the “WHY” behind animals being surrendered by their owners to the shelter as evidenced by Director of Operations, Carly Scholten’s email above dated April 15th. Their website states their mission as, ”To eliminate the tragedy of pet overpopulation, The Animal Foundation believes community is essential, education is empowerment and action is everything. Our mission is to inspire and enable people to join the fight against pet overpopulation.” But I ask you, if your goal is to inspire and enable people to join your fight against the issues facing pets in our community, then why would you throw those same, well-intended people with viable and reasonable ideas that have been proven to save lives under the bus? Why do you keep making excuses and turning your back on those in the community who want to work with you to make our community a better and more humane place for companion animals?
With all of this being said, Incred-A-Bull has been trying to build a relationship with The Animal Foundation for years, and more recently trying to work with them to help implement a Shelter Intervention Program. I have gone back and forth about whether or not to share this story with the public. I have nothing against anyone at The Animal Foundation, many of their employees I am fond of, but my job is not to worry about ruffling feathers, my job is to be the voice for the companion animals in our community who deserve better. However, given the information above, I believe it is pretty apparent that The Animal Foundation is not prepared or even willing to implement change and engage in life saving partnerships with others in the community. With animal lovers calling for a movement towards no-kill, local governments are considering renewing The Animal Foundation’s shelter operation contract and the foundation asking for millions of tax payer dollars, I believe it is important to share our experiences, not in an effort to cause drama, but to pull back the curtain and relay our first-hand account of the lack of action and willingness to truly engage the community.