This week we will take a look at Heaven Can Wait Animal Society (HCWS). The group, who works with both cats and dogs, covers the Las Vegas area and the surrounding county in Nevada. Sharon Seltzer, one of the group’s founding members and volunteers, talks about HCWS and the work they do.
The HCWS mission statement: To eliminate companion animal suffering and pet overpopulation through aggressive spay/neuter, adoptions, community outreach programs, and education. (You can visit their website to learn about their 5-year plan as well.)
A conversation with Sharon
What year was HCWS founded?
We started meeting in January 2000 and applied for our 501(c)3 on March 15, 2000.
Why was HCWS started?
There were five original founders (including me), who are all local animal lovers. We started HCWS because Las Vegas was euthanizing 30,000 healthy adoptable dogs and cats each year and we wanted to put a stop to that. Our biggest efforts go to spay/neuter and TNR.
What is your role with the rescue?
I am a founder and a member of the board of directors. You name it and I’ve done it, from completing our 501(c)3 application, to writing our newsletters, blog, brochures and fundraising materials; working on fundraising events, employee payroll deduction plans and tabling; handling registration at spay/neuter clinics and special events; working dog and cat adoptions and washing soiled towels. Plus, I get to govern our organization and help design its future. P.S. I am a volunteer. No one on our board gets a salary.
Does your rescue have a shelter or is it foster-based or both?
Our dogs live at the women’s correctional facility and come out once a week for adoptions. Our cats are in foster homes and at a local PetSmart store. We also have a small facility at our administrative office for newcomers who need to be quarantined.
Approximately how many cats and dogs has HCWS adopted out?
We’ve adopted out about 8,000 animals over the years AND spay/neutered 10,000 to 13,000 per year.
Excerpt from Facebook regarding their January Feral Cat Clinic: Sunday’s HCWS Feral Cat Clinic was an enormous success due to all these hard working volunteers. 262 cats were spayed, neutered, vaccinated, and ear tipped within 6 hours. This is an all volunteer based event from our amazing trappers to our amazing veterinarians. We encourage all groups to participate and always thank C5 and Humane Society for showing up each month.
What is the hardest part about running an animal rescue?
Funding and changing people’s attitudes about spaying/neutering.
What is the best part about running an animal rescue?
To know you’ve saved a life and given that dog or cat a second chance. Also the great volunteers!!
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting a rescue?
See what else is being done in your community and how you can join or interface with them. Don’t reinvent the wheel, especially if someone or some group is already working toward the same goal. It’s expensive to run a rescue and if you start your own you’ll be sharing that donation money with all the other rescues in your area. You all may be stretched too thin.
In your experience, what has been the best way to collect donations for your rescue?
We do them all, special events (annual holiday luncheon, walk-a-thon, fashion shows). Corporate funding, mailers (especially at the holidays), employee payroll deduction plans, bequests, tabling events, GRANTS… PetSmart Charities has been great to us as well as local corporate and philanthropic charities. We also get the vanity spay/neuter license plate fees.
Do you have any sponsors?
We don’t really have sponsors except for special events, but corporations have kind of adopted us… for instance Southwest Gas (utility), MGM Foundation and others plus PetSmart Charities support us regularly and so do their employees. We also get free food for fosters and low income families from national pet food companies.
Do you hold adoption events?
Yes, dogs are adopted on Saturdays and cats are adopted Thurs-Sunday. One of the founders has a pet supply company and grooming, so we hold dog adoptions there. Cats are at a local PetSmart.
Do you partner with any other rescues?
Absolutely. A group called C5 traps cats and we spay/neuter them. We also partner a lot with our local Las Vegas Valley Humane Society. We also have a coalition with ALL of the rescues that meet regularly.
Is your rescue currently looking for volunteers or foster parents?
ALWAYS. We have a forms online for them to register for volunteer orientation and foster.
Do you find that it’s hard to come by volunteers or fosters?
Fosters, yes. Volunteers, not as hard to get, except not all stay with it for very long. On the flip side, we have some who have been with us since the beginning and that includes veterinarians.
Is there a rescued animal that stands out to you?
I was working adoptions one time on New Year’s Day and my assigned guy was a puppy named Rowdy. Now that I think about it, he looked a lot like my puppy Bailey. He was so nervous. We were in a mall and when I opened the glass door for him to go outside to potty, he walked right into the glass. He was sweet and I almost took him home, but just at the end of the day a family adopted him. I visited them and even wrote a story for our newsletter about them. It was their first dog. Unfortunately, about a year later they adopted another puppy and Rowdy was banished to the outdoors. We talked to the family, but it didn’t help. They loved their new tiny puppy over Rowdy’s big size. They wouldn’t relinquish him to us. After a few years, our municipal shelter called to say a dog named Rowdy (with our ID microchip) had been turned over to them. We got Rowdy and he was adopted into a wonderful, loving home where he was a cherished pet. When Rowdy was about 6 years old, he developed cancer and passed away. It always haunts me that I didn’t take him home.
Anything else we should know about the rescue?
It’s a group of very dedicated volunteers. Our President Harold Vosko has been running the day-to-day duties for 16 years… for free.
What’s one fun fact about yourself?
My roommate in college was a bird. His name was Perky and he loved to sit by the sink in the bathroom and watch me get ready for the day. He also loved to jump in my cereal bowl!
A big thank you to Sharon for sharing Heaven Can Wait Animal Society with us. Kudos for all the work you do for cats and dogs in the Las Vegas area! You can connect with HCWS through their website and Facebook. If you would like to donate to them, you can learn more here.
If you’re a rescue group looking for fundraising ideas, you may want to follow HCWS on Facebook! They definitely have some great ideas.
Some of the available adoptables at Heaven Can Wait
(learn more here)