Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2017

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Animal rescue group thrust into limelight of ‘Arson Puppies’ case


Steve Marcus

A Dachshund and French bulldog look out from a kennel at the Animal Foundation Campus, 655 N. Mojave Road, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. They were among 27 puppies rescued during a fire at the Prince and Princess Pet Shop on Jan. 27.

Rescued Puppies

Yorkshire terrier puppies look out from a kennel at the Animal Foundation Campus, 655 N. Mojave Road, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. The puppies were rescued during a fire at the Prince and Princess Pet Shop on Jan. 27. Launch slideshow »

Diana England never thought she would inherit the “Arson Puppies.”

As a founder of A Home 4 Spot Animal Rescue, a pet-centric nonprofit agency, she followed the case closely. Nearly every rescue center, animal rights advocate and dog lover in Las Vegas knew about the furry, wet-nosed survivors of the Jan. 27 arson fire that ravaged Prince and Princess Pet Boutique. It was difficult to ignore stories about the puppies trapped in legal limbo.

England had applied to foster some of the puppies, but she didn’t expect to receive them.

Then earlier this month, her phone rang. It was the attorney for Donald Thompson, one of the co-owners of the pet shop. He wanted to donate the puppies to A Home 4 Spot, a rescue center that focuses on the unseen: abandoned, stray or sick dogs that might otherwise be euthanized.

Shocked, England agreed to help the puppies.

Yet, it hasn’t been so simple.

The call launched the nonprofit into the center of the chaotic case for ownership of the most famous dogs in Las Vegas.

“A lot of people have a lot of hands on this,” said Rebecca Anderson, a volunteer board member at A Home 4 Spot. “(There’s) very high emotions, especially when it comes to cute little puppies. Everyone wants to protect them.”

While Thompson and the Animal Foundation, which has been caring for the puppies, work to determine who has legal ownership over the animals, A Home 4 Spot has done everything it can to prepare for them.

A Home 4 Spot paid out of its savings account the $270 licensing fee for Thompson to claim the puppies. The dogs’ superstar status helped A Home 4 Spot raise more than $8,000 in one day to pay a good-faith bond to the Animal Foundation.

Meanwhile, the puppies will be treated like the other dogs A Home 4 Spot rescues. There’s a fleet of trained volunteers ready to foster them, while England and other volunteers conduct interviews and home checks to find the right owner.

“This is actually pretty easy for us,” Anderson said. “We’ve been prepared for this.”

Dealing with the public, however, has been trying. Since pet shop co-owner Gloria Lee, 35, and co-defendant Kirk Bills, 27, landed in jail for allegedly setting the shop on fire, a fervent base of advocates and animal lovers has protested every step of the way.

Anderson has a file labeled “Arson Puppies” stuffed with more than 200 applications to adopt the 27 puppies Home 4 Spot doesn’t even legally own. Even though the group asked the public to wait until ownership of the puppies was settled, applications keep flooding in to adopt the dogs.

For the most part, the attention has been good for the small nonprofit organization. Its Facebook page has spiked by 300 new likes (they’re lucky to have seven in a day), and more people are looking at their dogs available for adoption.

Yet, not everyone agrees that they belong at A Home 4 Spot. People have started criticizing the nonprofit on social media, claiming it is too small, too inexperienced and looking to make a profit off the dogs.

Anderson says those claims fail to take into account the fact that the rescue agency has saved more than 1,600 dogs from shelters since it was founded in 2009 and has never been questioned for its methods.

Meanwhile, A Home 4 Spot plans to increase transparency when it comes to its adoption charges.

“It’s been an up-and-down roller-coaster ride,” Anderson said. “We’ve had a lot of criticism about our organization, a lot of mistruth and uneducated responses, and we’re trying our best to deal with every single one of them.”

Through the chaos and barking public, A Home 4 Spot’s mission remains the same. It only wants what’s best for the puppies.

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