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‘Arson puppies’ frenzy isn’t boosting adoptions in Las Vegas

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While many are interested in the 27 “arson puppies” (some are pictured here) at the Animal Foundation, other local shelters haven’t seen a difference in interest or activity in adoptions.
Photo: Steve Marcus

The Las Vegas Valley has been transfixed by the story of the “arson puppies,” 27 dogs rescued from a pet shop fire allegedly set by the store’s owner in January. The fate of the canines has been an ongoing saga, with public outcry after the Animal Foundation announced it would hold a raffle to place the dogs, a lawsuit to prevent the drawing and national headlines. The drama finally calmed last week when a judge ordered the parties to settle, and the Animal Foundation announced the raffle would go forward.

While all of the pups drew interest and will be heading to homes soon, thousands of other animals will not. The media hoopla over the animals hasn’t equated to increased adoptions.

“I’ve noticed no difference in interest or activity since this story started,” says Harold Vosko, president of the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, which has helped place more than 8,000 animals into homes and overseen more than 93,000 spayings and neuterings since opening in 2001.

Vosko says it’s not unusual for animals that make the news to see high demand—a sort of celebrity factor. “I think these puppies were the only ones the public wanted,” he says. “The news stories on these dogs never mentioned the 21,000 animals put to sleep last year.”

Naomi Yaussy, director of adoptions for Adopt a Rescue Pet, which has placed more than 14,000 animals since opening in 2000, says the interest in the “arson puppies” mostly comes down to trying to get something for almost nothing. “The people trying to adopt these puppies are trying to get a purebred animal because they can get it cheap.”

Yaussy says it’s all about breed. Some animals are in high demand while others languish. “We get so many calls asking, ‘Do you have Yorkies?’ If the answer is no, they’re not interested.” She has many purebred Chihuahuas, for example, but because that breed is common, she has trouble finding takers.

“I wish the story was promoting more adoptions,” she says, “but it’s not.”

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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