People and Pets Are Equally Amazing

In this column I often extol the virtues of animals and herald the benefits that sprout from pet ownership. Fundamentally, I spend a lot of column inches shouting, “aren’t animals amazing?”  They are indeed.  This week I was reminded of another truth that sometimes can be harder to see—people are amazing.

I had the pleasure to speak to community members who enrolled in an estate planning series sponsored by the wonderful folks at the Western Nevada Community Foundation (as well as a number of other local charities, including Nevada Humane Society). I was immediately struck by the number and diversity of Northern Nevadans who are participating in this series.  It’s not always easy to think of one’s mortality, and, in a roundabout way, this entire subject circles back that that issue.  Of course, these individuals are examining ways to establish their legacies and protect their hard earned assets, so hopefully most viewed this from a sunny side of the street perspective.  In any event, it was truly heartwarming to see so many of our neighbors looking to the future and thinking about their community, our community.  As I spoke, I accidentally caught myself actually listening to myself—I wasn’t prepared for that.  I know that might sound a little… something, but I come from a family where anyone who uses one word when they could have used ten is just not trying hard enough.

As I recanted the life-altering legacy gift of Carl and Virginia Mansfield and the world-changing effect it has had on NHS, I found myself really reflecting on that. The Mansfields were humble people who lived modestly and spent a lifetime dedicating their free time to homeless cats.  They were heroes as a result of what they did in their lifetimes.  They saved countless cats through their actions, generosity, and refusal to “just look the other way.”  All the while, they invested wisely and saved their money.

The Mansfields commitment to homeless cats did not end with their departures from this world. Through the Community Foundation they ensured and empowered NHS to save more lives and do ever more.  Through their actions while in this world they ensured that their passion and their lives work would continue.  Their giving goes on in perpetuity and their legacies as giants in the world of animal welfare in forever remembered.  They have, without embellishment or hyperbole, saved tens of thousands of lives.

Living what you say is an admirable achievement. Ensuring what you believe far beyond your lifetime is downright revolutionary.  People are amazing.     

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Despite My Job, I’m No Expert in Animal Training

Often, because of my job, people assume that I am an expert in all things animal, including training. Any of you who have seen my beagle, Doyle, and me on the streets and in the parks of Reno know that we are not dog training honor graduates, despite attending several training programs and owning a number of gentle leaders and humane harnesses.

However, Doyle and I are soon headed back to training because I believe it truly makes a positive difference in the dog-human relationship. There are lots of skilled dog trainers and “behaviorists” in our community who can help dogs and owners live happier lives together. Training techniques vary, so it’s important to do your homework and find a trainer with an approach that feels compatible with you and your dog.

In the animal sheltering world, finding assessment, modification and behavioral interpretation that works for the organization is essential. It’s the key to creating differentiation between animals who are safe to adopt out into our community and those who are not.

At NHS, we take the role of saving animal lives while keeping our community safe incredibly seriously, and approach both responsibilities with equal levels of concern and sobriety. To this end, NHS brings national experts in animal behavior and sheltering to our community every year.

Dr. Kate Hurley, program director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at University of California, Davis, spoke at NHS in October about an innovative approach to community cat management. Just this past week, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant Kelley Bollen spent four days at NHS educating staff, community members and animal professionals from around the region on animal behavior assessment, enrichment and modification techniques.

I know of nowhere in America where the community’s shelter puts more time, energy and resources into using scientifically substantiated, innovative methods to save animals and protect the public. This commitment to using only predictive and research-based, scientifically supported assessments in a keystone of NHS. So is our nation-leading animal lifesaving rate. We are as proud of our stewardship of homeless, forgotten and abandoned animals as we are of our dedication to the safety of Washoe County. Moreover, I am so proud to part of a community that so values a lifetime approach to learning and continual improvement.

Kevin M. Ryan is chief executive officer of the Nevada Humane Society.

Events That Help Animals:

The Great Cat Snip through April 30: Have your feline friend spay or neutered for $25 at Nevada Humane Society. Appointments are required; call 775-856-2000, ext. 333.

Walk for the Animals, May 24th Join animals lovers from all over Northern Nevada at the Sparks Marina for the 7th annual Walk for the animals. A fun filled day of music, entertainment and walking to save lives. Online registration and other details available at

Moving Forward to End Local Support of Puppy Mills

Three cheers to the Reno City Council. Our community owes a heartfelt thank you to the Mayor and council members for unanimously voting this week to impose a 180-day moratorium on issuing new business licenses to stores who sell pets. This vote is big step forward in ending our community’s support of puppy mills. Our community stood up for and took responsibility for those who cannot speak for themselves. Once again I am reminded of what a special place this is.

The facts are very simple. The majority of dogs offered for sale in pet stores are sourced from large-scale breeding operations, better known as puppy mills. The practice is every bit as inhumane as it sounds. I have had the misfortune to witness first-hand the devastation, horror, and abuse animals held in mill situations endure. This is not breeding– it is manufacturing. It is dirty and it is grim. Puppy mills and stores profiting from this malfeasance have no place in Washoe County, one of the most humane communities in America. By eliminating the revenue and outlets for perpetrators of this cruelty we can help end puppy mills and with one voice say, “not in our town. “

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s explore exactly what we are talking about. As defined by the ASPCA “A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects.”

Dogs from puppy mills are often unsocialized, fearful and at higher risk of a myriad of genetic maladies ranging from kidney disease to blood disorders. They often arrive in pet stores, and often their new homes, with a host of diseases that could put the purchased puppy, existing pets, and even their new owners at risk.

More heart-wrenching than all of the above is how the animals are treated before they leave the mills. Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. To minimize cleanup, dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs—and it is not unusual for cages to be stacked up in columns. To maximize profits, dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. After they are physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce, the mothers are often killed.

Support of this “industry” has no place in our community. Obviously, I hope that you choose adoption as your first choice of pet acquisition. Twenty-five percent of canines in American shelters are purebred dogs. There are breed-specific rescues for every breed imaginable–just Google the breed rescue you are searching for. If still you cannot find that the perfect little four-pawed guy or gal for you, there are many wonderful, responsible breeders who can help you meet your match. You can find more helpful hints at or

Feline Appointed as Chief Executive Officer; Old CEO is MIA

Nevada Humane Society is pleased to announce the appointment of Sebastion Siameski as the new Chief Executive Officer. Sebastion has not been with the agency long and only thus far in the role of office cat, but he quickly revealed the leadership qualities that are needed to successfully run a shelter of this size.

Nevada Humane Society Operations Director Denise Stevens stated the appointment would place Nevada Humane Society on the leading edge of animal welfare. “We are always looking for new ways to innovate and this is just an example of that,” said Stevens. “In addition, we know from best practice research that we need to include our client’s voice in developing our policies and strategic focus, and this is just another opportunity to do that. Sebastion was a client of our organization before accepting this position, so what better leader than that!”

Sebastion’s first action as CEO? To change the title of Nevada Humane Society to Cats, Cats, Cats, and Sebastion. His next step? To increase cat adoptions and spread the amazing support that cats offer as leaders! Sebastion explains that barn cats work to keep outdoor areas rodent free, office cats can transfer phone calls and send emails, physical trainers (energetic, active cats) will coach other felines on staying in shape by chasing the red dot to increase cardio activity, and finally, yoga instructors (lazy cats) will encourage stress reducing techniques during regular work hours, such as napping in the sun and inhaling catnip.

While many animals have been employed in a variety of roles, including military service, Sebastion is one of the first to take on a leadership position within an animal welfare organization. Staff and volunteers are currently behind the change, though dog people are offering resistance.

Kevin Ryan, the previous CEO, has been reported as missing. He was last seen as Sebastion chased him from his very own office after discovering a lack of treats.

For more information about Nevada Humane Society, visit or call 775-856-2000.

Sebastion Takes OverApril Fool’s!

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