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Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
January 30, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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January 30, 1997

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32 Thursday, Januy. 0, 1997 Pahrump Valley Gazette Dogs have always been part of Clark Wheeler's thmily. A childhood companion, a friend in all of life's seasons. Wheeler values his canine friends. His current friend is a Springer Spaniel, a breed of dog he once raised. A hunting trip turned Wheeler's devotion for dogs into a life dedicated to improving conditions for "throw-a-way" pets. Wheeler and his son were hunting in Ash Meadows when the senior man returned to the truck to rest. A large, ragged dog wearing a chain collar, crawled out of the bushes. It stared at Wheeler, but kept its distance. When son and dog returned, the stray ran to the hunting dog. Wheeler asked his son, "What have you got to eat?" Informed there was nothing Wheeler offered the dog a mint. The wary canine crept forward. "Grab his collar," Wheeler said. "You're crazy," his son said, "he's a Pit Bull." Still, he grabbed the collar, and the two coaxed the dog into the truck. They returned to Pahrump and took the dog to the Nye County Animal Shelter administered by the Nye County Sheriff's Office. Wheeler asked what would happen to the dog. He was told it would be held for five days to give the owner time to claim it. Most animals are then held for an adoption period. When that elapses they are euthanized. Wheeler returned to Ash Meadows and posted notices all over the area where he had discovered the Pit Bull in hopes the owner would respond. When that didn't happen, Wheeler started making calls and lound a home for the dog. He also found a home for another shelter inmate, a German Shorthair. Almost a year later, he is still finding homes for dogs, but that is only a small part of his pursuit to improve the lives of abandoned animals. Wheeler was disturbed by the number of unwanted pets that became county charges. In the first six months of 1996, 672 dogs, cats and a few ferrets and rabbits came to the shelter. Most of the animals would be killed. Only a few would find a "happily ever after" life with a caring family. The same skills that made him a number one problem solver for McDonnell Douglas at an earlier life stage served him well in his pursuit to help unwanted animals. Wheeler contacted County Commissioners and Sheriff Lieseke and told them he wanted to volunteer to help. He said he received encouragement and 100% support from SheriffLieseke and Commissioner Cameron McRae, who are both dog owners. Adoption was not as successful as it should be Wheeler thought. He saw the $50 adoption fee, which only covered half of the fee for the required spaying/neutering, as a major GETTING ACQUAINTED- Randy and Lynn Callahan are getting acquainted with a labrador they hope to adopt. Clark Wheeler is pleased to see another placement. The Lab isn't available until 5 days elapse to see if someone will claim him. If not, he has a new home. ACROBAT-Volunteer Tamam Thompson poses with a kitten nicknamed"lp" for her show offsomersanlts and spins. "Flip" captivated a visitor and found a new home. obstacle. The surgery was necessary to prevent the produc- tion of more unwanted animals. The key was to be able to provide the procedure at a lower cost and to cut the cost of adoption. Wheeler decided part of the solution was to perform the surgery at the shelter. This would have two advantages. It would save money, and it would guarantee sterilization was performed. It would be done before the adopted animal was released. Puppies and kittens would have to be returned for the surgery as soon as they were mature enough. Having formulated his plan, Wheeler went to work. With the assistance of the Nye County Commissioners, surplus materials were obtained from the Nye County Regional Hospital in Tonopah. An autoclave, trays, a lockable medical cart and a portable surgical light all came from the county facility. The stainless steel sink and counter had been removed frrm the Tonopah Senior Center. The counter was resurfaced, and a local contractor donated the required plumbing. Betty Miller donated a custo m made stainless steel gurney and work table. She also donated a number of other tables and several chairs to the shelter. Only the stainless steel surgical table and the anesthesia equipment was purchased new. Wheeler says they obtained $30,000 worth of surgery equipment for $5,000. "The success of the program hinged on finding one or more veterinarians who would agree to work at the shelter surgery one or two days a week. Wheeler contacted every veterinarian in the area. Stephen J. Romeo, D.V.M. agreed to perform the required spaying/neutering and give rabies shots on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The new program went into effect January I, 1997. Adoption fees are now $26 for a cat and $40 for a dog. The fee includes a $5 license fee, $5 for a rabies shot, a $10 adminis- tration fee and spaying/neutering. Wheeler, citing the many studies that indicate pet owner- ship improves the quality of life for senior citizens, convinced the county commissioners to set special adoption rates for residents 55 and older. Seniors can adopt pets from the animal shelter for $5 which covers the license fee. The pet, as with all others leaving the shelter, will be spayed/neutered and re- ceive a rabies vaccination. Application can be made at the animal shelter or at the Senior Center. Why not carry the $5 special adoption program one step further and include disabled residents of all ages. Again, numerous studies show that pet ownership has beneficial effects. The commissioners agreed with Wheeler, and the disabled were included in the new program. Enough? Well, Wheeler thinks if teenage girls (and boys, too) had apet of their own, really their own in their own name, it would help cut the rate of teen pregnancy. They would give and receive love from their pet. They would also have responsibility for a life. Right now, his thoughts on this are just a seed. If it germinates and grows like his other ideas, it will soon be a full fledged program. Today, as when he began working with the animal shelter last spring, Wheeler's goal is to reduce the population of unwanted dogs and cats, and to find loving homes for the current crop. Spaying/neutering the animals adopted through the county shelter helps, but the solution lies with responsible pet ownership. People with pets should have all animals spayed/neutered. There will still be plenty of animals avail- able from breeders. Pet owners also need to keep rabies shots and vaccinations current for their own and their animal's protection. Pet's need a healthy diet and should be kept in a safe, clean environment. Too often, Wheeler says, pets are acquired in an emo- .tional, spur of the moment decision. One example is the puppies and kittens given away or sold in front of the grocery store. They're cute, and people take them without considering the responsibility and expense involved in their care. Wheeler says, "About 75% of those animals end up at the county shelter." He tells about one woman and her daughter who brought a dog to the shelter. "He was sc cute when we saw him in front of the market," the woman said, "but he got too big." When the woman wanted the collar and leash back, Wheeler asked, "why?" The woman said, "Because, we'll get another dog." Licensing dogs and cats is required by county ordinance. The fees, $5 for spayed/ neutered animals and $10 for unaltered ones, are used to help pay for the county spay/neuter program, rabies shots, temporary distemper shots and animal pick up. "It is all spent on animals and working toward zero population growth of unwanted animals," Wheeler says. "Every pet owner has a responsibility to license their animal because it' s the law and because it helps animals." Licenses are available at County Animal Shelters, at the Sheriff's Substation and from many veterinarians. A certificate verifying the , animal has been vaccinated for rabies, pro- vided by the veterinarian at the time of vaccina- tion, is required to license the animal. Rabies vaccinations for all dogs, cats and ferrets three months of age or older are required throughout Nye County by an ordinance passed February 20, 1996 and effective April 1, 1996. Wheeler says it is estimated that as few as 25% of the dogs in Nye County are protected by current rabies vaccinations. Captain Richards, of the NCSO, suggested a mailer sent to all the residents of Nye County could be the best way to educate people about the rabies vaccination/licensing re- quirement. Wheeler immediately started working on a flier using excerpts from the ordinance to reformpeople of their legal responsibilities for their pets. What motivates a senior, who had a leg amputated a little over two years ago and has earned a rest after a lifetime of work, to voluntarily take on such a demanding project? "I'm a doer, Wheeler replies, "and, this needs doing." GOING HOME-These beautiful golden retrievers stole the show when visitors arrived. They were adopted together keeping family ties intact. I