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Permit for special condition animals reinstated by officials

Nye County commissioners reinstated a permit that allows possession of special condition animals at a Pahrump residence after emotional pleas from the residence owner and members of the public.

According to Nye County documents, Abby Hedengran had a permit revoked after officials found several prohibited animals in a residence. Nye County commissioners voted 4-1 to reinstate the permit with a caveat of a conditional use permit.

The issue originated after officials responded to a public complaint. As a result, Nye County Animal Control discovered several prohibited animals at a residence, among them a Fennec fox that is prohibited in Nevada and two bobcat hybrids that didn’t have the required possession permits.

“One cat was discovered in the master bedroom with the door closed and the second cat was discovered inside a smaller bedroom with the door closed, effectively trapping both cats inside the rooms,” according to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office permit revocation notice.

Nye County Animal Control Officer Susan Ryhal said the conditions inside the bedrooms were not sanitary.

“The odor was unbearable for us to breathe, it was burning our eyes, our nose, our throat,” Ryhal said.

Following the revocation of the permit, other animals were removed from the property on Nov. 17, 2016. Five exotic cats were left at the property, along with six dogs, chinchillas and sugar gliders, according to the documents.

Hedengran, a full-time caretaker for the animals, lives at another residence part-time, according to the documents. Jackie Freeman, the owner of the property, told Nye County commissioners, “99 percent of the time somebody is there.”

In his documents, Hedengran argued that his special conditions animal permit was revoked in error.

“The action of seizing the animals was purely an overreaction by Nye County officials and has itself resulted in personal suffering and irrevocable damage to both Jackie Freeman and Abby Hedengran,” the documents said.

Two animals have passed away since then. Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said they were fed bad meat that was left outside the gate.

“That was the veterinary diagnosis for the reason those two animals died as far as I know,” Wehrly said.

Hedengran said in the documents that the animals lost their lives as a result of the stress.

“The animal control officer was informed of the possible stress that the animals may suffer as a result of taking the animals to a different facility. Also, both Jackie Freeman and Abby Hedengran pleaded with animal control not to take these animals and asked them to be notified if there were any problems arising with the animals,” the documents said.

Nye County District Attorney Angela Bello said there is currently a legal dispute as to whether a fox is legal.

“My office yesterday did file those charges. That does not mean that they will be found guilty. They are presumed innocent,” Bello said.

Commissioner Donna Cox, who visited the residence, said the county hasn’t proven its case.

“In my opinion, everything looked fine, the animals were healthy, they were strong, they had water, they had food. Obviously, they had not been neglected. I saw in no way that they were being treated cruelly,” Cox said.

“This is still America, I still think we have some rights,” she added.

“It will fall back on the back of the county to pursue taking them away (from their owners),” Cox said.

Dan Schinhofen, the only commissioner who voted against reinstating the permit, said, “We are a free nation, and we do have laws. That helps us also.”

Nye County Commissioner John Koenig said he received correspondence from seven people asking to refuse the license and others not to refuse the license. He asked Cox to include a conditional use permit in the motion, as the property has a grandfathered use.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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