By Mark Waite
Symphony Animal Foundation was granted a conditional use permit after a 5-2 vote by the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission Wednesday for a temporary no-kill animal sanctuary at 2171 E. Bond St., over a chorus of opposition from neighbors.
Coincidentally, the address is the same location as FLOCK, For the Love of Cats and Kittens, where 748 cats were removed in the summer of 2007.
Laraine Harper, founder and president of Symphony Animal Foundation, has been conducting a well-publicized drive to establish a no-kill sanctuary in Pahrump, on 10 acres of land donated on Wheeler Pass Road.
“Our community is in great need of a no-kill facility for our animals and temporarily operating SAF at 2171 Bond St. affords us the opportunity of saving lives now while we build our facility,” Harper said in a letter to the RPC.
While that address was the location of the FLOCK disaster, Harper assured the commission, “although the history of this property has been adverse, I can assure you that no one affiliated with FLOCK has anything to do with SAF or its operation.”
Planner Beth Lee barely finished her brief, introductory remarks before RPC member Vicky Parker asked: “There’s no numbers mentioned here. Do we know how many animals? Or is there a maximum?”
Lee said Nye County Animal Control Officer Tim McCarty would determine the maximum number of animals allowed on the 4.77-acre site. That didn’t satisfy the curiosity of the RPC. Member Dave Richards in his first meeting, voted against the permit along with Jennifer McCall.
RPC member Greg Hafen II had questions about whether Bond Street could handle the traffic; public works representative Tim Dahl said it’s a dedicated public right-of-way but is not the county’s responsibility.
The planning report states the Bond Street property will be available to the public for adoptions, only during the daytime and will only accept domestic animals.
“What Symphony is trying to do is secure a temporary location while we build out the 10 acres we have out on Wheeler Pass. We have a lot of those construction services being donated to us, so it’s taken longer than we anticipated, since we aren’t paying for those services we’re kind of at the bottom of the food chain. So the paying jobs take precedent over us,” Harper told the RPC.
Harper said, “We don’t want to crowd the animals. We want the animals to be comfortable in their environment. We don’t want to hoard a bunch of animals. We want to be very proactive in their placement. Without a facility, we placed over 300 animals this year in our foster program. We’re going to continue to use our fosters.”
Harper said she plans to follow the example of animal sanctuaries she visited back east that pipe music in to soothe the animals.
RPC member John Koenig said a conditional use permit is only valid for one year, not two. He made the motion to approve the permit but only for one year.
Karen Jackson, owner of KNYE-FM, said, “Daily I get calls from people who are having to downsize or becoming homeless. They don’t know what to do with their animals and they’re dumping them. This is a way that we can at least get these animals off the street and I know Laraine will push as hard as she can to get this 10 acres done in a timely manner.”
Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis was also at the table alongside Harper but didn’t address the RPC.
Symphony supporter Denise Arceo said a few horses have been housed on that property recently, which is fenced with barbed wire around it. She said “it’s not a perfectly quiet area,” there are cattle in the area and quite a few dogs.
Barb Jorgensen said she donated time and resources in 2007 when the FLOCK incident occurred.
“This is not going to turn into a FLOCK situation,” she said.
But Deborah Hardin, a next door neighbor, said thankfully the Best Friends organization cleaned up the FLOCK mess last time. She said the ground is still infected to the point she can’t let her house cats out or they’ll get sick.
“Now they’re wanting to go there again. Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Hardin said.
A music major, Hardin doesn’t want to listen to the music either. She added the road is deplorable.
“I would please invite any of you to come out there, but do it in a four-wheel drive, particularly if it rains,” Hardin said. “It’s to the point the post office won’t want to deliver to me.”
Harper disputed her allegations the 17 eight-foot by 10-foot sheds weren’t insulated. Harper said they were 12-feet by 30-feet each and insulated.
“I love the idea of a no-kill facility but it is not in the proper place. This is our retirement home. We moved from Vegas where we had a nice home just to get out to a quiet neighborhood. Yes, we have a few dogs but it’s quiet,” said Carol Vorkenhagen. “I love animals. I’m not against a no-kill facility but just not there. It’s going to depreciate our value and take away our quiet living.”
Neighbor Carla Clayton said, “with the cats there was the odor, with the dogs there’s the noise and now they say they’re going to play music?”
“Nobody’s going to convince me that those dogs aren’t going to bark and they’re going to bark 24/7,” she said.
Colleen Landay asked neighbors to understand it’s a temporary facility.
“If they could just take it in their heart, if they could see the horses we have rescued, the animals out in the desert tied to a cactus, they’ve been tortured,” she said. “They’re thinking of themselves. We’re speaking for the animals. Nobody else is speaking for the animals.”