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Veterinarian Spotlight: Dr. Henderson

By Keely Biggs

 

Veterinarian Spotlight is a new series to the Heaven Can Wait blog highlighting the veterinarians that give their time and talents to our low-cost spay and neuter clinic in the effort to stop pet overpopulation in the Las Vegas.  Each month Keely Biggs, who created the series, will bring readers an interview with one of the dedicated veterinarians who are helping HCWS achieve our number one goal – stop the senseless killing of 30,000 animals in area shelters every year.

 

I had the privilege of interviewing the medical director of Heaven Can Wait, Dr. David Henderson, whose passion for the cause and dedication to professionalism and adherence to high standards was obvious. Dr. Henderson’s story really is quite remarkable. He grew up in southern Florida and never graduated high school. He always knew he wanted to be a veterinarian, but never quite knew what it entailed. After he finished his GED he went on to pursue a veterinary medicine degree, thinking it was only a six-week course. Eight years later he graduated after four years at UNLV and four more at the University of Colorado. He became the doctor he always wanted to be.

Dr. Henderson watched for 25 years as the feral cat population in Las Vegas rose to staggering numbers. He lobbied to implement mandatory spay/neuter laws. For four years he was the designated veterinarian at the City of Las Vegas Animal Shelter. He told how every day the staff would bring in a giant trashcan on wheels for him to fill with euthanized cats and dogs that they had no room for and couldn’t adopt.

“The mountains of dead cats, dogs, puppies, most [of the animals] perfectly adoptable and perfectly healthy but too many because people couldn’t be responsible… that’s why I got involved… it’s horrible,” said Dr. Henderson.

Dr. Henderson bought his clinic, the Sunrise Veterinary Clinic on Eastern Ave and the 95 freeway, in 1983 when his clientele consisted mainly of Nevada Test Site employees. He had been involved with the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society before also teaming up with Heaven Can Wait in 2003. The initial plan was for him to lend his facility for Sunday spay and neuter clinics. Soon this led to Dr. Henderson becoming our organization’s Medical Director.

For seven years Heaven Can Wait performed spay and neuter surgeries on tens of thousands of cats and dogs thanks to the generous use of Dr. Henderson’s clinic.

Three years ago, Heaven Can Wait opened our own clinic across the street. “The standard is higher than the regular practice…it’s all about safety first… we basically do the spays the way I would do my own pet… that’s the way we do it here [at Sunrise Veterinary Clinic] and that’s the way they do it across the street,” said Henderson.

 The Heaven Can Wait clinic is located at 546 N. Eastern Ave, Suite 175. Dr. Henderson boasts that the clinic has at least three licensed veterinary technicians on duty at any given time, which is more than the average veterinary clinic.

Dr. Henderson is also a professor at the College of Southern Nevada and teaches during the Spring term. He teaches Emergency Medicine and Critical Care for the Veterinary Technology program, so he has first dibs on the students that graduate. All of his veterinary technicians at Sunrise Veterinary Clinic, as well as the Heaven Can Wait Spay and Neuter Clinic, graduated at the top of their class. As Medical Director for Heaven Can Wait, his job is to also hire and train the other veterinarians and set up all of the protocols.

Dr. Henderson also reflected on the new spay and neuter ordinance that went into effect in the valley. It was something he attempted to pass 20 years ago. He and his colleagues were met with much opposition from breeders and others who didn’t understand the importance of the ordinance. He believes now people understand, considering there is a hefty $1100 fine that goes along with not complying.

“We’re seeing the tipping point; I think [the population] is going to really start to go down in the next two years… the only way to stop [euthanasia] is to decrease the impounds and the only way to decrease the impounds is to remove those surplus animals and spay and neuter, that’s it, it begins and ends with spay and neuter… There’s a finite number of homes and there’s always more than that finite number of animals that need homes and unless you match that, you’re not going to fix the problem… Cats are dying 2 to 1 over dogs [a year], 20,000 cats and 11,000 dogs”.

Dr. Henderson estimates he has performed a whopping 100,000 spay and neuters throughout his career!

Doc, as most people call him, performs spay and neuters for Heaven Can Wait at least two days a week when he is not busy teaching in the Spring. He is married with two kids and, just recently, a grandson. He has one “grand dog” and two cats of his own, both of which came from the feral cat clinic. One had a broken leg and one was paralyzed.

He has won awards and recognitions from countless organizations including the American Red Cross Hero Award in 2009, Judith and Ken Animal Advocacy Award in 2011, a 2008 Jefferson Award, and recognitions from the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society from 1995 through 2006. When Doc Henderson is not busy working at the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society or Heaven Can Wait, teaching at the College of Southern Nevada, or managing his own practice for that matter, he enjoys playing golf.

It was a pleasure to sit down and get to know someone who has provided structure to the very foundation of Heaven Can Wait. Without Dr. Henderson, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Every day is a new day for us, and one day closer to conquering the pet overpopulation crisis in Las Vegas. If you haven’t already, make sure to get your pet spayed or neutered if they are over four months of age. The Heaven Can Wait low cost clinic is open Monday through Thursday, 9 am to 5 pm. You can make an appointment for your pet by calling (702) 227-5555 ext. 203 or by going to www.hcws.org and filling out the clinic registration form.

 

Here is a pop quiz:

What is the leading cause of death in cats and dogs?

A. Being struck by a car

B. Predation from wild animals

C. Euthanasia

D. Metabolic Bone Disease

E. Cancerous tumors

F. Kidney failure

Find out the answer on the next “Veterinarian Spotlight”!

Click Here to see how you can help continue the support for the HCWS low-cost spay and neuter clinic.

 

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One Response

  1. All of us at Community Cat Coalition of Clark County (C5) have the utmost respect for Doc! He understands the feral cat issue and see the big picture and on top of it all he is a wonderful person! Thanks Doc for all you do! Debbie & Keith Williams

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