By Jim Donahue and Ron Peltier
The Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, a group of compassionate, caring individuals, is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) animal humane organization. It formed in the year 2000 by a group of five concerned citizens with the lofty goal of building a beautiful 20 acre sanctuary to house all of the unwanted animals in our community.
Their primary mission is to eliminate the senseless killing of more than 30,000 cats and dogs annually in Las Vegas area shelters.
Their vision is to focus spay/neuter efforts on targeted neighborhoods, feral cats and at-risk dog breeds to reduce the local impound and euthanasia rate; form local coalitions with other rescue groups, animal control agencies and community leaders; educate target groups to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership; rescue, rehabilitate and place homeless, unwanted, and abandoned companion animals into permanent homes; and fostering youth involvement through animal-related educational programs.
In the meantime, animals were and still are dying at a rate of around 30,000 per year in our local shelters while many more simply die on streets. Therefore, we decided to refocus our efforts away from rescue and more into promoting spay/neuter as the solution to our pet overpopulation problem here in Las Vegas.
We learned early on that spay/neuter was one of the prominent common denominators that other successful cities and states have used to reduce euthanasia in their shelters and since have focused heavily in this area. Through simple spay and neuter surgeries, thousands of unwanted litters are prevented each year in our community.
During the past seven years, we have spayed and neutered close to 40,000 cats and dogs. Last year, because of the Nevada Community Foundation’s assistance, we were able to sterilize an unbelievable 7,745 animals! We also placed close to 900 cats and dogs through our adoption programs. Amazingly, we do all of these great things without even having a public facility!
The latest and greatest news is that we will be opening a spay/neuter clinic location in the City of Las Vegas this June. This clinic will serve as a much-needed resource for those who aren’t able to afford sterilization services at regular veterinary prices. We are also working on securing a permanent clinic location in the City of Henderson. On April 19th, a resolution was introduced to award Heaven Can Wait a 2.4 acre parcel of land adjacent to their shelter for the purpose of building an even larger spay/neuter clinic and office facility. If passed on May 19th, we will then sign a 50-year lease at $39 a year and will have six years to plan and begin construction on our future.
In addition to focusing on animal spay and neuter programs, Heaven Can Wait successfully operates several additional programs aimed at reducing animal suffering and euthanizations through educational and rehabilitation programs throughout the community.
Tales to Tails is a children’s literacy program that utilizes animals to assist children who are having a difficult time reading. Children will read aloud to Heaven Can Wait animals, many of which were rescued. The animals serve as a calm, non-judgmental audience, and the special bond that forms between the children and the animals help the kids overcome a number of speech, reading and self-confidence issues. On average, children’s reading skills advance two grade levels after participating in the Tales to Tails program.
Pups on Parole (as seen on “The Dog Whisperer” and voted best episode of year) has proven to be an incredibly successful program for not only animals in need but also for the community as a whole. Inmates are trained to rehabilitate “problem” dogs, and in turn, the animals help rehabilitate the inmates by teaching them essential life skills such as structure, discipline and affection. Many inmates who have completed the Pups on Parole program have obtained careers in related fields such as groomers and trainers. And through the program, over 600 obedience trained dogs, which were once seen as having little chance of being adopted due to behavioral issues, have been placed into permanent, loving homes. The Pups on Parole program currently operates in The Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center and The Jean Conservation Camp.
Feral Cat Clinichas been the flagship program in Heaven Can Wait’s W.A.R. (War Against Reproduction) aimed at controlling the overpopulation of feral (wild) cats and eliminate their suffering.
Ground Zero is our second W.A.R. program aimed at providing spay and neuter options for people who want to be responsible pet owners, but cannot because of cost or transportation problems. Utilizing a mobile veterinary clinic, Heaven Can Wait can bring these essential services to the communities that need it most.
It’s The Pits is a program aimed at helping the largely misunderstood pit bull breed. While the properly trained pit bull is loving, intelligent and very loyal, untrained pit bulls or worse yet pit bulls trained to be aggressive have given this breed a bad name. And their reputation has only gotten worse in recent times with events such as the Michael Vick dog fighting incidents. Because of this, pit bulls in shelters have very little chance of being adopted, and every day in the Las Vegas area, 15 pit bulls are put down.
Pet Adoptions — While the majority of our efforts are on spay and neuter programs, Heaven Can Wait does house and prepare a limited number of cats and dogs for adoptions into permanent, loving homes. Heaven Can Wait is also assisted with adoptions through a partnership with PetSmart.
Heaven Can Wait and its programs are made possible with generous donations from the community and the relentless spirit of our wonderful volunteers to make a difference every day in the lives of animals. If you would like to donate to Heaven Can Wait go to https://www.hcws.org/donate If you wish to become a Heaven Can Wait volunteer, go to https://www.hcws.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities.
Heaven Can Wait Animal Society has lots of great cats and dogs that are ready to be adopted into new homes. Cat adoptions are held from Thursday afternoon through Sunday, and dogs are adopted Saturdays at Petsmart in the Arroyo Crossing Center off I-215 and S. Rainbow. What follows is one story about a successful adoption.
“We are so lucky to have Foxy as our family member,” explains Michelle Tsu, who adopted Foxy from Heaven Can Wait a few months back. “In fact, we (Michelle, her husband and daughter) benefit more from him than he benefits from us,” she says. She understands from her recent experience with Foxy what research demonstrates again and again—owning a dog can improve your life–literally. Dog owners typically exercise more (via walking the dog), have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and report being happier among other benefits. Adopting a dog can save your life.
But Michelle and her family had never owned a dog before, so she was a little nervous. Michelle decided that having a new family member to experience with her daughter was worth the chance. However being dedicated to finding permanent homes for its dogs, HCWS does not like to take chances. Foxy is a graduate of the “Pups on Parole” program, (all of HCWS dogs graduate from the program before being adopted) and as such he was well trained. Indeed, Michelle says “The best part I like about Foxy is he understands our demands and follows the house rules very well. He is so smart that you can’t resist loving him.”
One of things about Foxy that endears him to Michelle and her family is his personality. Like many companion animals, Michelle says that Foxy can sense her moods. Foxy even seemed to sense that he was about to be adopted as Michelle talked with the volunteers. Foxy is also a chicken. Michelle says that “Foxy is so chicken that his own shadow frightens him.” So maybe Foxy is not the best guard dog, but he is still an important member of the family.
Having worked with HCWS to adopt Foxy, Michelle and her family could not be happier both with the process and Foxy. She says, “I wanted to thank the Heaven Can Wait volunteers for encouraging me to have a great pet like Foxy.” Michelle recommends adopting an adult dog from HCWS because “they are trained already.” It is nice to take a dog home who already understands the commands ‘sit’ and ‘stay,’ but not having to house-train your new champion is much better. To see if you’d like to take a dog home, please browse through our dogs that are up for adoption.