Much like the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, Noah’s Animal House in North Las Vegas provides hope and safety to the pets of women and children leaving a chaotic environment in search of a new life. Founder Staci Columbo Alonso was inspired to name the shelter for her teenage son, Noah, who shares similar features with the biblical animal savior.
“I named my son Noah because of my love of animal rescue and my faith,” Alonso said. “Just like Noah’s Ark gathered all of the animals to keep them safe and start a new life, I wanted my son to grow up with a strong sense of responsibility and purpose.” The shelter, located within the grounds of the Shade Tree shelter, 1 W. Owens Ave., houses dogs and cats and provides foster parents for animals that need special care. The pet sanctuary works in partnership with the Shade Tree, which offers refuge to women and children, including boys younger than 18.
The story behind the animal shelter is personal. After Alonso, a Philadelphia native, moved to Las Vegas in 1992, she began serving on the board of the Shade Tree. Three months into her pregnancy, Noah’s father died, and it was then that she realized the crucial part her pets played in her healing process. “My two dogs played an important role of grief recovery,” Alonso said. “They were there to greet me every day in an empty house with this amazing and unconditional love and happiness. They needed me, and I needed them. They were truly my best friends through my pregnancy and kept me smiling.”
While the animal shelter opened in 2007, she was inspired to name it for her son, who was born on Feb. 24, 2001. Now, 14 years later, those characteristics have been instilled in him. “I’m really grateful that my mom decided to name the shelter after me,” Noah Columbo said. “It’s quite an honor to know that I potentially saved not only the lives of animals but of people, too. I really believe that animals deserve the same love and affection that humans do.” The shelter is equipped with two cuddle rooms, which are designed to look like living rooms, with a couch and carpet. Women and children can stay inside the room for up to 30 minutes a day to play with their pets and relax.
There is also a back patio for women to take their dogs outside in a secure location where they cannot be seen by people outside the shelter. Noah’s can accommodate up to 36 dogs and cats. Besides housing dogs and cats, Stephani Hinkson, manager at the nonprofit, said it also has provided shelter or fosters to lizards, turtles, guinea pigs, birds and horses.
“When we opened Noah’s, it was so that women could escape their abuser and not risk their pets being hurt or killed because she escaped,” Alonso said. “We’ve seen how women and children with pets at Noah’s move forward with their life easier than those who don’t have pets. Pets play an important part of the healing process. They offer support by wagging their tails and cuddling.”
In order to help women stick to a daily routine, pet owners are responsible for caring for their pets, including taking them on walks and cleaning after them.