Kevin Ryan Takes the Helm at Nevada Humane Society

by Diane Blankenburg

When Bonney Brown and I decided to launch Humane Network, a non-profit animal welfare consulting organization, earlier this year, our top priority was to help the board of directors find someone who could take over the leadership of Nevada Humane Society (NHS) and ensure that the lifesaving efforts realized over the last six-plus years would flourish.

There were hundreds of applicants with various degrees of qualifications as the board looked for the perfect fit. Fortunately, for the organization, the community, and mostly the homeless pets, Kevin Ryan emerged as the top candidate and has now taken the helm at NHS as its Chief Executive Officer.

Kevin is the former Executive Director for Pet Helpers in Charleston, South Carolina and has extensive experience in animal welfare and non-profit organization leadership. Most recently, he helped lead a South Carolina initiative that dramatically increased lifesaving for dogs and cats—boosting the save rate in Charleston County from 37% to 77% while growing the income for Pet Helpers by $1.5 million.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Kevin through the recruiting process and during the last three weeks in his new post as CEO of NHS. He is an energetic, intelligent, dynamic person who is 100% committed to the lifesaving of homeless pets. “I am honored to join the talented and passionate team at Nevada Humane Society and am looking forward to continuing and enhancing the work being done,” said Kevin.

As I have said many times, I could not have been more proud to serve this community and its animals that depend on us. We have been very fortunate to have had Bonney Brown’s leadership for so many years—leadership that helped make Washoe County one of the safest communities in the country for homeless pets with a 94% communitywide save rate for dogs and cats.

I am now so very proud to have Kevin Ryan in that leadership role where I know he will take Nevada Humane Society to even greater heights. So please join me in welcoming Kevin to our community!

Note: Kevin Ryan will join Bonney Brown and Diane Blankenburg in writing this column. Kevin’s first edition will be next week.

Events that Help Animals

Home for the Holidays Pet Adoption Drive at Nevada Humane Society through January 1. Adopt a pet and help reach the goal of finding homes for 1,200 pets. Special adoption fees are $50 for most adult dogs and fees are waived for adult cats. Shelter located at 2825 Longley Lane, Reno. Open 11:00 am to 6:30 pm daily and 10:00 am to 6:30 pm Saturdays.

Kindness Prevails

by Bonney Brown

One evening last week, Beata was walking her dog, Loki, along their usual route. When they approached a vacant lot, Loki stopped and began sniffing at the fence of the overgrown property. Loki would not budge so Beata knelt down to see why and spotted a small animal carrier that had been thrown over the high chain link fence.

It was too far to reach so Beata located a long stick and moved the carrier a bit—she heard a soft meow in response. She looked for a larger stick to try to move the carrier closer to the fence, but was unsuccessful, so she flagged down a pickup truck that was driving by. The kind driver agreed to help even though he was on his way to an appointment. He climbed over the fence and got the carrier out. It was a tiny, flat carrier and the young mother cat and two kittens barely fit inside. The driver also allowed Beata to use his cell phone to call Animal Services. They asked that she take them home until an officer could come by to get them.

Beata walked two miles home with the carrier and put the cat and kittens into a dog crate. They hungrily ate the food she offered. Neighbors came out to see what was going on and they decided to adopt one of the kittens on the spot.

When you start to contemplate the cold heart of the individual who put the animals in a carrier and tossed them over the fence dooming them to a horrible fate, well, your view of the human race can become quite dark. But as usual, Beata had a better way of looking at it. She shared a quote from Mister Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

This story has many helpers—heroes really. There’s Loki (the dog), and Beata, the man in the pick-up truck, the neighbors who opened their hearts and home to one of the kittens, the animal services officer who took the cat and remaining kitten to the shelter, and the Nevada Humane Society vets and staff who took care of them and will find them loving homes.

The world is full of kind people who do the right thing, and thankfully, they far outnumber the thoughtless people.

Do Dogs Watch TV?

By Diane Blankenburg

Horses racing over land in War Horse.  Lively birds strutting  across a glacier in March of the Penguins. Spotted pups playing with each other in 101 Dalmatians. Cats running to their food dish in a Purina commercial. What do these have in common? Yes, they all involve animals but they also are favorite viewings for my yellow lab Boomer on my 50-inch flat screen television.

There has been debate over the years on whether dogs can actually watch TV. We humans need about 20 images a second to perceive what we see as continuous film. Dogs have much sharper eyes than us and need 70 images per second. With modern TVs generating more frames per second, dogs can now perceive the pictures as film, just like we do.

According to Ernst Otto Ropstad, an associate professor at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, “They probably see the new TVs just as well as they see the world in general.” In the United States, hopeful producers have recently created special television channels just for dogs. A channel explicitly aimed at canine viewers launched in Israel earlier this year, following a successful launch here in the States.

For my Boomer, it doesn’t matter whether the screen animals are real or animated. It doesn’t matter if the storyline is dramatized or a documentary. It doesn’t matter what kind of animals, although horses are his favorite. He doesn’t just watch, moving his head with each action—he yelps and whines and jumps at the TV as if engaging in real-life activity. The degree of intensity depends on the type and level of the screen action—sometimes so relentless that I can no longer watch the movie.

In my home, this behavior is very dog specific to Boomer, as my other two labs are true couch potatoes and sleep through it all. Ropstad believes there are individual differences in dogs, even though science doesn’t have an answer yet to why this is so. One theory is that dogs’ hunting instincts take over and if they are more instinctive in the real world, then they will be more stimulated by the activities on the screen.

Cats have similar vision abilities to dogs. A friend shared that one of her cats, Cassidy, loved the opening to Star Trek that showed the Enterprise moving through space and her sister had a cat who loved to watch a particular weather man on a local TV station.

Even though my home is not a scientific research lab (no pun intended), there is no question in my mind that Boomer watches TV and understands what he is watching.

Events that Help Animals

Nevada Humane Society’s Blue Jeans Ball on November 16, 5:30 pm, at Atlantis Casino Resort to benefit homeless pets. Mayors Cashell and Martini honored. Festivities include formal dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions, raffles! Live entertainment by Nashville’s country superstars, Whiskey Dawn. More info and tickets available at

Who is That Doggy in the Mirror?

By Bonney Brown

When we humans look into a mirror we immediately recognize ourselves. Most children can recognize themselves in the mirror by their second birthday. Psychologists used to view self-recognition in a mirror as a major feat of consciousness and an important hallmark of self-awareness. Research shows that chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, dolphins and magpies also recognize themselves in a mirror. Yet most dogs and cats seem to ignore their images in a mirror. So, does this mean that they have no sense of self?

Dogs’ and cats’ eyes are substantially different from ours and as a result they see the world differently. They also differ from us in the ability to detect scents. A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times better than ours. That’s pretty impressive, but dogs are even more sensitive with a sense of smell that is 1000 times better than ours.

University of Colorado biologist Marc Bekoff recognized that dogs are considerably less affected by visual happenings and more affected by scents than are humans. He set about demonstrating self-awareness in dogs through a five-year experiment with his dogs and their own urine deposited in snow.

Cats mark objects by rubbing their faces against them to leave their scent and anyone who has ever walked a dog knows how eager most dogs are to read “p-mail,” as Dr. Marty Becker calls it. The most important sense for dogs and cats is not sight, as in humans and primates, but smell, so perhaps in scientists were barking up the wrong tree by relying upon a visual test alone to determine self-awareness in animals.

“What is important to us is not the same to them,” wrote James Lautner of the Pussington Post. “When they see themselves in the mirror they don’t say ‘how cute I look, I hope that other cat will fancy me.’ Their image seen by themselves doesn’t have the significance that our image has to us.”

To those of us who live with dogs and cats, it’s really not surprising that dogs and cats recognize themselves (and others) by their scent.

As writer Will Cuppy once observed: “If an animal does something, we call it instinct; if we do the same thing, for the same reason, we call it intelligence.”

Events that Help Animals

Nevada Humane Society’s Blue Jeans Ball on November 16, 5:30 pm, at Atlantis Casino Resort to benefit homeless pets. Mayors Cashell and Martini honored. Festivities include formal dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions, raffles! Live entertainment by Nashville’s country superstars, Whiskey Dawn. More info and tickets available at

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