Maddie's Pet Project

Nevada animal welfare leaders find inspiration at Las Vegas conference

By Kimberly Wade

Kimberly and Newton

With animal welfare, the secret is an open mind,” said Joe Elmore recently to a gathering of animal welfare leaders from shelters and rescue groups from across Nevada. “When we come together there is nothing like it – the power is unstoppable.”

CEO of the Charleston (South Carolina) Animal Society, Elmore spoke at Maddie’s® Saving Nevada’s Pets Conference in Las Vegas. He was keynote speaker at the semiannual event organized to support existing animal welfare leaders, encourage new ones, share best shelter practices, and help attendees network to create new partnerships. The conference brought together for one day more than 85 people representing 26 groups for one day.

Elmore encouraged conference attendees to share their stories. “We need to communicate the phenomenal work we do in our community,” he said. “We need to share the incredible power of the human-animal bond, the incredible power of compassion, with the world. You can always make some level of impact, so what I want to leave you with, is the challenge to unleash your mind.”

A second keynote address about rethinking shelters’ roles in managing community cats was given by Dr. Kate Hurley, director for the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program and force behind the Million Cat Challenge. Based on years of experience, she explained the failed theories behind traditional approaches to feral cats as well as the science behind successful efforts to trap, neuter and return free-roaming cats – and how this saves lives and money.

Vanessa Stuart of Animal Rescue Group of Northern Nevada (ARGONN) described the day as, “A truly inspiring conference followed by an equally inspirational tour of two high-volume organizations. There was so much information to absorb and it was such a great opportunity to network and meet new people.” Stuart’s biggest takeaway was “taking a fresh new look at increasing adoptions and adding much needed foster homes.”

Other national speakers addressed such topics as turbocharging pet adoptions and cultivating a foster-care community to get more pets out of shelters.

Christy Stevens, executive director for Hearts Alive Village in Las Vegas, said because two representatives from her organization attended, they were able to attend every session offered, not missing out on anything. “We were able to share what we learned and truly benefit from all that was offered. I particularly enjoyed hearing perspectives from a diverse group of our peers. I know I speak for more than myself and our organization when I say how much more hope and inspiration we feel in our valley because of what you are helping us to become.”

Stevens was referring to a special panel discussion that featured leaders from five Clark County animal welfare organizations and government agencies talking about how they have achieved success in improving lifesaving for cats and dogs in the region. Panelists were Chris Robinson and Carly Scholten of The Animal Foundation; Dr. David Henderson of Heaven Can Wait Animal Society; Carol Fox of Homeward Bound Cat Adoptions; Joe Macias of Mesquite Animal Control; and Ann Inabnitt of Boulder City Animal Control. A point brought up by all of them was that no one person or organization can accomplish any of this alone and that by working together, building partnerships and keeping communication open and honest, success will be achieved.

One of the biggest positive influences on the lives of cats and dogs in southern Nevada was Harold Vosko, president and co-founder of Heaven Can Wait Animal Society. He had been scheduled to speak during the panel but passed away the night before the conference. Heaven Can Wait’s medical director and Vosko’s close friend, Dr. Henderson, carried on in his place. Vosko spearheaded the organization’s in 2000 with a vision that every dog and cat in the Las Vegas Valley would receive the love, care and companionship they deserve. Heaven Can Wait did this by ensuring that people had access to spay and neuter services for their pets and feral cats, providing surgeries for more than 130,000 dogs and cats.

SAVE THE DATES: The next Maddie’s® Saving Nevada’s Pets Conference is planned for Oct. 17, 2019 in Reno at the Peppermill. This conference is free to management and leadership of Nevada animal shelters, animal services agencies, rescue groups, nonprofit spay/neuter clinics, community cat/TNR groups, and other animal welfare groups. To be notified when RSVPs begin being accepted, email

Maddie's® Pet Project in Nevada aims to elevate the status and well-being of cats and dogs across the state through partnerships that increase adoptions from animal shelters and improve access to veterinary care in underserved areas. The campaign and this conference were made possible by the generosity of the Nevada-based Dave & Cheryl Duffield Foundation and supported by Maddie’s Fund®.

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