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8-Year-Old Works Hard To Make Homeless Cats Comfortable

Jayleigh (rt) Jessa (left) show how cats at the HCWS clinic love the blankets made by Jayleigh.

Jayleigh (rt) Jessa (left) show how cats at the HCWS clinic love the blankets made by Jayleigh.

At 8-years-old, Jayleigh Swift is already hard at work helping homeless animals.   The third grade student handmade 50 blankets to keep the cats that come to the Heaven Can Wait clinic feel cozy and comfortable while they recover from spay and neuter surgeries.

Jayleigh’s proud grandmother, Karyl, explained that her granddaughter earned money to buy the fleece for the blankets from her allowance and she used reward money for getting a straight A report card to buy dog food.  “We need to take it to them, they need it,” Jayleigh told her grandmother.

In addition, Jayleigh gave a speech to her classmates at Explore Knowledge Academy about homeless pets.  Later the school decided to hold a dance that raised funds for Heaven Can Wait Animal Society.

The family toured a feral cat clinic.

The family toured a feral cat clinic.

Jayleigh and her family recently had the opportunity to tour the spay/ neuter clinic.  They got a firsthand look at how the blankets are being put to use.  Harold Vosko, Heaven Can Wait’s president, thanked Jayleigh for her generosity and congratulated her on a job well done.  We hope Jayleigh never stops helping homeless animals and that one day her dream to become a veterinarian comes true.

Harold Vosko, HCWS President thanked Jayleigh for her caring about animals.

Harold Vosko, HCWS President thanked Jayleigh for her caring about animals.

Heaven Can Wait Animal Society needs your help TODAY to save homeless cats and dogs.  Through our aggressive and targeted spay and neuter programs, we believe there will soon be Zero homeless pets euthanized in Southern Nevada.

Jesse showing one of the 50 handmade blankets.

Jessa showing one of the 50 handmade blankets.


Alley Cat Allies Sponsors Special Spay/Neuter Clinic

Alley Cat Allies, HCWS and C5 sponsored spay-a-thon to get ahead of kitten season.

Alley Cat Allies, HCWS and C5 sponsored spay-a-thon to get ahead of kitten season.

Alley Cat Allies, the national organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats, sponsored a special “Spay-a-Thon” Saturday, March 9 in which 240 feral cats were neutered at the Heaven Can Wait Clinic.

The event was held to get a jump start on curbing “kitten season” among the feral cats living in Las Vegas. Volunteers with the Community Cat Coalition of Clark County (C5) helped humanely trap 188 cats to neuter and volunteer veterinarians and vet-techs from Heaven Can Wait Animal Society gave their time to spay/neuter and examine the felines.  Later the cats were returned to their colony site.

“Las Vegas is a great example for high-volume, high-quality TNR programs across the country,” said Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies. “Kitten season is perhaps the most important time of the year to champion this practice, because it improves the lives of the cats while humanely ending the breeding cycle among feral cat colonies.”

Taking cats off into the clinic.

Taking cats off into the clinic.

Springtime is “kitten season” – the time of year when female cats go into heat and give birth to litters of kittens after only 63 days of pregnancy. Keith Williams, director of C5, said volunteers worked into the night Saturday and Sunday to trap and spay/neuter an additional 52 cats, bringing the total number of cats spayed over the weekend to 240.

“The dedication of our volunteers to completing projects and the Heaven Can Wait clinic to supporting them is key to the success of our TNR efforts,” said Williams. “It is obvious why we are so successful. This type of caring and dedication will not be stopped.”

After surgery cats are tagged so they can be returned to the correct colony.

After surgery cats are tagged so they can be returned to the correct colony.

Heaven Can Wait and C5 partner together every month for a “feral cat clinic” where 100 to 300 cats are humanely trapped, sterilized and returned to their colony.  With the onset of kitten season, both groups were grateful to be able to hold an additional spay-a-thon with sponsorship from Alley Cat Allies.

“At this time of year, Alley Cat Allies will focus on the plight of feral cats and publicize the fact that spay and neuter can offset kitten season,” said Aileen Walden, Interim Director of Community Programs and Support.   “We will offer spay-a-thons in several areas around the country.”

One of the patients.

One of the patients.

Aileen explained that statistics show 80 percent of pet cats are sterilized, while only 2 percent of feral cats are fixed.  Stopping feral cats from breeding will cut down greatly on euthanasia rates.

Aileen is also an advocate of targeted spay and neuter programs, like Heaven Can Wait’s Operation Clean Sweep that goes into low-income neighborhoods.  She cited a study that found 90 percent of pets were fixed in households earning $35,000 or more, but the numbers plummeted to 50 percent in households with lower incomes.



Saving Feral Cats Is A Passion For Two Sisters

Joy Reyes considered herself an amateur cat rescuer until she ran across a home with 40 feral cats.

Joy Reyes considered herself an amateur cat rescuer until she ran across a home with 40 feral cats.

College student Joy Reyes calls herself and her sister Jane, “amateur cat rescuers.”  The sisters love cats and as kids they brought home a variety of strays.  Each time they saw that the cats were examined by a Vet, spayed or neutered and adopted into a good home.  Last year Joy ran into her first feral cat colony and after seeing so many cats living on their own, she thought there must be a better way to save these animals.

Joy turned to the Internet for answers and learned about Heaven Can Wait Animal Society’s feral cat clinics that sterilize and vaccinate free roaming cats. HCWS loaned traps to the sisters and they returned to the clinic with 10 cats.  All of the felines were fixed, got their shots and had their ears-tipped so they could be identified by other trappers.  Joy and Jane returned the cats to their colony.  On their next trip to HCWS, the girls had 19 cats in tow.

The Reyes sisters learned more about the plight of feral cats who are susceptible to starvation, predators and the elements.  They volunteered to hand out flyers for the HCWS program called Operation Clean Sweep that spays and neuters every free roaming cat and owned pets in at-risk neighborhoods.  The girls were especially helpful because they are bilingual and could answer questions from the Spanish speaking neighbors.

While handing out flyers, Joy came across a house with cats running everywhere.   The situation was the perfect example of how fast a colony can grow if the cats aren’t fixed.  She spoke with the owner who agreed to let her trap all of them.

Jane with Cocoa, one of the many cats the sisters have rescued.

Jane with Cocoa, one of the many cats the sisters have rescued.

The project became a family affair for the Reyes clan, which included help from the girls’ parents, Tony and Sofia.  Shortly after dark the family set out traps on the property and waited in their truck until they heard the clap of a trap shutting tight.  Then one of them would grab the trap, label it and stow in the truck.  At about 1a.m. they would move the cats to the clinic, give them fresh food and water and go home.

“It was exhausting, but nice that our family worked together,” said Joy.

The process took nearly a week, but a total of 40 feral cats were caught.  Members of the Reyes family checked in on the felines every day and were especially attentive to those that were held for recovery.

Dad Tony provided protection when the girls trapped at night and Mom Sofia soothed the kitties after surgery.

Dad Tony provided protection when the girls trapped at night and Mom Sofia soothed the kitties after surgery.

Of the 40 cats, a litter of 4 kittens, one friendly adult and a friendly youngster were kept by Heaven Can Wait for adoption.  All have been placed into new homes.

That made Joy especially proud.  “It’s nice to know that you helped reduce the number of feral cats, but it’s really nice to know some were adopted,” said Joy.

The woman living on the property has moved away so Joy and Jane have become the guardians of the colony.  They go to the feeding site often and the neighbors know to contact them if any new litters are born nearby.

Judy, the HCWS Clinic Coordinator, is very proud of Joy and Jane and says with their help, “The feral cat population in that neighborhood has been greatly reduced.”

HCWS Feral Cat Clinics are held monthly.  To date we have spayed and neutered more than 80,000 free roaming and owned pets.  If you would like to get involved or learn more: CLICK HERE.

Behind The Scenes

Joanie Spina
During the past decade lots of wonderful videos have been filmed highlighting Heaven Can Wait, our spay/neuter clinic and our community programs. We would like to take this time to introduce the person who has been on the camera side of these videos and send her a long overdue Thank You!

Joanie Spina, award-winning director of the popular documentaries, “Born To Die” and “Dr. Death” has generously given her time and expertise behind the scenes filming and directing countless videos for our group. Owner of Roxie Video Productions, Joanie has been sharing her passion for saving homeless animals with HCWS since she moved to Las Vegas in 2002.

Joanie explained that when she moved into her Las Vegas home the neighborhood was overrun with feral cats and she knew something had to be done to stop their misery. A lucky introduction led her to Heaven Can Wait where she learned about our feral cat clinic and trap-neuter-return program. Joanie had just completed a degree in videography and offered her skills to our group.

“After 30 years in the entertainment industry I wanted to do a project that was an important cause to me. I knew the feral cat story needed to be told,” said Spina.

Joanie combined her staging and directing background from her days with the David Copperfield show with her new filming skills and made several videos of Heaven Can Wait’s feral cat clinic. She caught on tape the mass delivery of feral cats trapped by volunteers, the pre-surgery prep performed by volunteer vet-techs and the spay and neuter surgeries done by local veterinarians.

Joanie calls the clinic, “A well-oiled machine.” She is encouraged by the progress HCWS President, Harold Vosko has made over the years. “It’s been very rewarding to see how Harold keeps the momentum going,” said Spina.

Recently Joanie has been behind the scenes with HCWS spokesperson Taylor Makakoa for a new series of videos. The team has filmed stories about our cat adoption program, Pups on Parole program to rehabilitate rescued dogs, Pawsitively Seniors cat foster program and more.

Joanie is the proud guardian of three dogs. Soon life will be taking her away from Las Vegas and Heaven Can Wait will miss her greatly. On behalf of everyone in our organization, thank you Joanie for all you have done for homeless animals and for all your help to Heaven Can Wait.

If you have a talent or skill you would like to share with HCWS please complete a volunteer application at: http://www.hcws.org.

Inside The Heaven Can Wait Spay/Neuter Clinic

Take a tour inside the Heaven Can Wait Spay/Neuter Clinic.

Heaven Can Wait Animal Society opened Nevada’s first private, non-profit Spay/Neuter Clinic in June 2009.  Our goal is to sterilize 10,000 – 15,000 high-risk cats and dogs each year. 

These are pets owned  by people in at-risk areas and feral cats that otherwise would continually have litter after litter of unwanted kittens and puppies.  This uncontrolled birth rate is responsible for nearly 30,000 animals a year  euthanized in our local shelters simply because they run out of room. 

Heaven Can Wait realized years ago that pet overpopulation cannot be controlled through adoption alone.  Our best hope is to reduce the number of pets impounded and euthanized by reducing the birth rate.

Since opening our doors HCWS has spayed/neutered 81,000 cats and dogs.  We are excited to report that in the past two years, Las Vegas has turned a corner with a significant reduction in the number of homeless pets dying in shelters. 

In the video below, HCWS spokesperson Taylor Makakoa takes viewers on a tour of what goes on inside our Spay and Neuter Clinic.

Four days a week, we offer low-cost and targeted no-cost spay/neuter. If you are interested in making an appointment or talking with one of our appointment schedulers, please call us at 702-655-4800 or email clinic@hcws.org.

The HCWS Clinic is supported through donations.  If you would like to contribute please Click Here. 

New Trap-Neuter-Return Class Taught By C5

Not all cats are adoptable like Magoo pictured above. That’s why HCWS and C5 work hard to teach people how to help feral cats. For information about Magoo e-mail: cats@hcws.org

Have you ever wanted to learn how to manage a feral cat colony?  Do you have questions about an existing colony?  Do you want to know how TNR programs work?  Well, there’s a class for that and it’s being taught once a month at the Heaven Can Wait clinic for anyone who wants to attend.

Debbie Williams of the Community Cat Coalition of Clark County (C5) is excited to teach the two-hour seminar where she shares her passion for managing feral cats and introduces people to our very active local Trap-Neuter-Return program. 

“There are an estimated 200,000 – 250,000 feral cats living in Clark County,” said Williams.  It is Debbie’s goal to teach as many people as possible to understand the nature of free-roaming feral felines and protect them from cruelty and starvation.

The class teaches participants:

  • How to trap a feral cat
  • How to care for a cat before and after sterilization surgery
  • The Clark County Ordinance regulating feral colonies
  • Deterrents available so felines are able to live as good neighbors
  • How to manage a feral cat colony

Classes are free and held once a month from 11a.m.- 1p.m. at the Heaven Can Wait Clinic at 546 N. Eastern Ave.  The next class is scheduled for October 27 followed by November 17 and December 8.  To register, e-mail: TNRclass@c5-TNR.org.

Come to the class and Debbie will even share some of her feral cat “trade secrets” that include: where to buy coyote and fox urine crystals to deter free-roaming cats from wandering into unwanted areas.

Your support for community programs such as this are greatly appreciated – Click Here for details.

Veterinarian Spotlight: Dr. Nichole Wagner

Nichole Wagner, DVM a one-of-a-kind veterinarian.

By Keely Biggs

This month I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Nichole Wagner. Your pet can meet Dr. Wagner if you happen bring him or her by the Heaven Can Wait Spay and Neuter Clinic on a Tuesday. She also participates in our monthly Feral Cat Clinics. In addition, Dr Wagner is a full time veterinarian at the Mountain Vista Animal Hospital, under Dr. Taylor.

A rare native Las Vegan, Dr. Wagner graduated from Clark High School’s Math and Science magnet program and entered the University of Nevada Reno’s Pre-veterinary Medicine program. She then went on to Colorado State University. While at CSU she participated in a rotation with the Denver Dumb Friends League, which is a shelter where she met her next animal companion; a Labrador mix named Sally Jane. She also worked with the Larimer County Humane Society performing spays and neuters.

During her sophomore and senior year, Dr. Wagner did an internship at the Argus Institute, which is a teaching hospital at CSU that focuses on “veterinarian-client-patient communication” and teaching compassionate communication to veterinary professionals. While interning there she helped start up their Pet Hospice Program which focuses on peaceful, dignified “end-of-life care for pets. There she was awarded the “Outstanding Senior Award”. Her work at the institute sparked a passion in pain management and end-of-life care. Dr. Wagner also became certified in Veterinary Acupuncture through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

As if that wasn’t enough, she was the president of a group called “Students for Human Animal Relationship Education (SHARE) where members went out to elementary schools to educate students on pet overpopulation and dog bite prevention. Dr. Wagner graduated in 2006 with her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and came back home to work for the Mountain Vista Animal Hospital.

In 2008, after two years of practicing, she decided to take the advice of her boss and colleagues to try her hand at Heaven Can Wait. She volunteered for one feral cat clinic and was immediately hooked! When asked about whether she thought they were making progress on the pet overpopulation problem she cited data from Keith Williams of the Community Cat Coalition of Clark County (C5). She says according to surveys, the numbers of cats euthanized yearly are decreasing.

After being with Heaven Can Wait for four years, Dr. Wagner says she wouldn’t be able to leave. She credits Heaven Can Wait for bringing her focus to pet overpopulation. She says she feels like she is making an impact and this is her way of giving back to the community. Along with that, the mentoring she has received from Dr. Henderson and his colleague, Dr. Olsen of the College of Southern Nevada, has been invaluable.

Dr. Wagner lives with her boyfriend, her dog, Sally Jane, and three cats; Hank, Maya and Simon. All of which are rescues… with the exception of her boyfriend of course! In her spare time Dr. Wagner enjoys spending time outdoors, especially hiking.

It is clear Dr. Wagner was the perfect fit for Heaven Can Wait by her long history of being involved with spay and neuter and educating the public before she had even graduated. We are truly lucky to have her on our team. If you haven’t already, make sure to visit Dr. Wagner to have your pet spayed or neutered. 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.