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Betty White Challenge aids Elko Animal Shelter

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Betty White

Betty White poses with Uggie the dog from the film "The Artist" as she arrived for her Friars Club Roast in New York on May 16, 2012.

ELKO – Elko Animal Shelter is already benefitting from the Betty White Challenge that is sweeping the internet, and more local donations for the challenging honoring the legendary TV star will be accepted leading up to Jan. 17 – her 100th birthday.

White died on Dec. 31, but fans came up with the Betty White Challenge to honor her and recognize her love of animals, with the graphic stating: “On Betty White’s 100th birthday, January 17th, everyone should pick a local rescue or animal shelter and donate just $5 in Betty White’s name.”

Donations larger than $5 are accepted, and Karen Walther, manager of the Elko Animal Shelter, said that as of Jan. 13, $365 had been donated at the shelter from four families.

She said the challenge is “a wonderful, wonderful idea, and I know how much she (White) cared for animals.”

A movie about the life of the late Betty White will premiere on what would have been her 100th birthday, January 17. The film will celebrate highlights from the trailblazer’s nearly eight-decade-long career.

Elko City Manager Curtis Calder told the city council about the Betty White Challenge and said donations also will be accepted at Elko City Hall for the city-owned shelter.

Walther said the shelter volunteers’ Facebook site may also have a way to accept donations. Laurie Cabaret is the volunteer coordinator, and she recently wrote on Facebook that 16 people had donated to the challenge.

Calder, who is also president of LASSO, the nonprofit fund-raising arm of the city-owner shelter, had good things to say about the shelter, especially the effectiveness of the spay and neuter clinic for dogs and cats.

He said that despite the growth of the area over the past decade, the clinic “has effectively reduced animal intakes by 54%.” In other words, the spaying and neutering has kept down the cat and dog birth rates, so fewer strays end up at the shelter.

“Prior to the establishment of an on-site spay/neuter clinic, our animal intakes were approximately 3,000 per year. For 2021, we were at 1,369,” Calder said.

Nearly 6,000 animals have been spayed or neutered since 2011, which was the first full year the Dumke-Weeks Spray/Neuter Clinic was operational. The late Dr. Jack Walther was instrumental in starting the clinic, and veterinarians Dr. Anele Kandawasvika and Dr. Erika Johnson contributed their time and expertise, Calder reported.

The current veterinarians for the animal shelter are Dr. Bill Wright and Dr. Hannah Rodriguez, who are contracted by the City of Elko but paid by LASSO.

“They are great. We could not be successful without them,” Calder said.

Statistics for 2021 show that the 1,369 animals taken to the shelter were down slightly from 1,373 in 2020 but much lower than the 1,979 animals brought to the shelter in 2019. Walther said the shelter was closed in the early days of the pandemic and then opened for appointments only.

Of the 1,369 animals taken in during 2021, 966 were strays, 274 were surrendered by owners and 124 were seized, 79 of those bite cases.

Last year 435 animal were adopted out, were 491 returned to their owner, 179 went to rescue groups, and 250 were euthanized.

Walter said the rescue organizations the shelter uses are the Humane Society in Reno, the Humane Society in the Salt Lake City area, and SPCA of Northern Nevada in Reno.

The statistics also show that 246 dogs and 159 cats were spayed or neutered in 2021.

“We are doing our best to work against high numbers by spaying or neutering,” Walther said.

The shelter at 2210 Pinion Road covers nearly all of Elko County, although Calder said the county doesn’t contribute to the shelter.

Walther said Carlin has its own shelter for dogs, and West Wendover has its own animal shelter.

Numbers of animals at the Elko shelter vary, but there were only 10 on Jan. 13, following adoptions earlier in the week. Walther said of the 10, three are cats.

Elko Mayor Reece Keener praised Calder and Walther.

“Throughout Curtis’ tenure as city manager, he focused much time and energy on the Elko Animal Shelter. He’s always been there to make sure that the program was successful and executing on its mission. Shelter manager Karen Walther’s dedication has also played an important role in the shelter’s success,” he said.

Calder said he is “proud of our team at the animal shelter. They do great work on behalf of the animals.” Veterinarian technicians are Alyssa Mangum and Kirsten Kowing, who are city animal shelter employees and perform “double duty” assisting with surgeries.

Animal shelter workers are Vickie Cooper and Rachel Hooper.

Walther said LASSO — the Local Animal Shelter Support Organization — provides funds to the shelter from fundraising and donations.

“We encourage funding through LASSO,” she said.

One LASSO fundraiser that is still in progress involves the sale of posters donated by local businessman Scott Reutner about three years ago. There are 13 of 29 Cowboy Poetry Gathering posters dated from 1985 through 2013 still available to purchase through LASSO.

Dog licenses issued by the city in 2021 totaled 430, compared with 588 the prior year and 776 in 2019. Walther said city licenses are sold at the animal shelter, but county dog licenses must be purchased at the Elko County Courthouse. The county issued 596 licenses in 2021, 660 in 2020 and 741 in 2019.

Dogs can be adopted from the Elko Animal Shelter for $85. That covers the cost of spaying or neutering, a locator microchip and any vaccines needed.

The cost to adopt a cat is $65. There also is a 50% discount of adoption fees for senior citizens.

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