A Dog’s Journey Connects the Year’s Biggest Animal Welfare Cases

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) – With a case of massive cruelty in Nye County and a burgeoning crisis at our local shelter, animal welfare has been in the spotlight in much of our media coverage over the past few years. months as the two parallel stories unfolded in our community.

Now these stories are converging.

“I’ve worked so hard on these two cases this year,” animal advocate Gina Greisen said.

His group, Nevada Voters for Animals, took the Nye County case to 13 inquests this spring, 10 weeks after a litter of puppies were born on a dusty, desolate property in the Amargosa Valley… where several months later, sitter Oksana Higgins would be arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty involving nearly 300 dogs.

Greisen’s group had been monitoring the operation of the Est Alfa kennel, owned by Higgins’ ex-husband Vasili Platunov, who also faces animal cruelty charges.

Nye County authorities call Platunov an illegal breeder and hoarder of security dogs, including Russian Caucasian Shepherds and Armenian Gampers.

“We had a visit from Oksana and when we were done she started telling us the dogs they were ready to spay and spay and some of the dogs they were ready to rescue,” Greisen said, remembering his visit to Amargosa. in April.

As 13 Investigates first reported, Platunov returned about 30 injured and severely malnourished dogs to the Spring to Desert Haven Animal Society in Pahrump.

Higgins allowed Nevada Voters for Animals to take two puppies.

“They had been starved, so they had special needs and behavioral issues, even at that young age,” Greisen said.

She named one of the puppies Cherry Cola, who was food-aggressive at just 10 weeks old.

“And as we know, there were a lot of hungry, there were a lot of puppies that died, there were a lot that died of disease and parvo and such, so I can’t imagine what, in his 10 weeks of life before I had her, which she had already been through.”

This would only be the beginning of Cherry Cola’s problems.

“Knowing what she’s been through before, and then knowing that she was all alone, scared, in the middle of the desert, and someone had done this to her…It’s devastating,” said Lori Heeren, director executive of the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA).

“And we brought in Cherry Cola, who is an Armenian Gamper, when she was just a few months old, and she was unfortunately fired several times. This last time was devastating for us.”

The pup went through four families in five months.

Heeren says the last dumped her in the desert near Apex and left town.

The good Samaritans who spotted the dog in a mud puddle spent hours tricking him into trusting them so they could catch him.

When Cherry Cola was discovered in the desert, she was taken to The Animal Foundation.

When the NSPCA discovered her whereabouts, they tried to retrieve her, but were told they would have to wait a few days as the shelter was experiencing an outbreak.

Now that she is back at the NSPCA, she is being kept in medical isolation.

Animal welfare advocates tell us that, were it not for the Cherry Cola case, this outbreak at The Animal Foundation may never have been made public.

Cherry Cola was found in the desert on Sunday, October 2.

Heeren says: “We contacted them on Monday October 3rd to see if we could get Cherry Cola straight away and were told there were a few sick dogs so I asked again if we could just get her back. , we have a vet team on site, an isolation ward, we were really worried because she was so scared and traumatized and we wanted to be able to help her as soon as possible and we had no response . on the nature of the outbreak, and we haven’t heard back.”

No one from The Animal Foundation would go on camera, but they provided emails showing they responded to the NSPCA on October 4, saying that in addition to the illness at the shelter, they were also working to contact the linked owner at the Cherry Cola chip. The email does not give any details about the nature of the outbreak.

The shelter’s marketing manager says he “immediately notified anyone who left the facility with a dog that likely had contact with the sick dog, and shelter dogs that had been exposed to the sick dog were placed in quarantine.” .

Greisen did a Facebook Live video on Monday, October 3 from outside The Animal Foundation.

“And within a very short period of time after being evicted from the property, they issued an update because the media had also started asking questions,” Greisen said.

Darcy Spears: “What would we have known about the epidemic without Cherry Cola?”

Gina Greisen: “I don’t think we would have known anything.”

In The Animal Foundation’s Facebook post from the night of October 3, they said they had suspended dog adoptions due to “respiratory illness”.

It wasn’t until the next day that they updated the post with details, admitting they had had details of the highly contagious and life-threatening illnesses the previous week.

Darcy Spears: “They didn’t share anything with you?”

Lori Heeren: “No, and I specifically asked about the nature of the outbreak. We found out about it on social media. That’s how our staff found out about it.”

The Animal Foundation said its veterinary team had “made decisions based on diagnostic test results to avoid misinformation and confusion among the public”, adding: “We have been proactive in disseminating this information once results of those tests received. Those directly affected were notified immediately, and our team worked to issue a detailed statement to the public.”

“We’re one of The Animal Foundation’s biggest transfer partners and nobody told us that,” Heeren said.

The Canine Pneumovirus and Strep Zoo outbreak has forced The Animal Foundation to not allow any dogs in or out of the municipal shelter that serves the City of Las Vegas, Clark County and the City of North Las Vegas.

“This is an unprecedented crisis,” Greisen said. “We’ve never seen a time when they closed the doors of Animal Control.”

Clark County Animal Control does not currently respond to calls about stray dogs, instead trying to mitigate situations on the ground and only bringing injured or aggressive dogs to the shelter.

The City of Las Vegas says it works with residents on a case-by-case basis, enlisting the help of community veterinarians to treat seriously injured animals.

North Las Vegas, the smaller jurisdiction, says The Animal Foundation has cleared space to receive their confiscated, sick and injured animals.

As for Cherry Cola, she now awaits what’s next… A fifth placement where hopefully she will finally receive the training and care she needs to stay in a forever home.

On Wednesday, The Animal Foundation released this update on the developing outbreak.

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