Grabert is new kennel master

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / September 27, 2000

LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Animal Shelter has a new kennel master.Last week, the parish administration hired Vickie Grabert to run the beleaguered shelter.

Grabert was hired following the resignation of former kennel master Melissa Vial, who quit after claiming animal control officer Kenneth Hicks was not following her orders and the parish administration was not listening to her complaints about Hicks.

Vial was appointed kennel master after the parish took control of the shelter from the St. John Humane Society back in May. Ever since then the shelterand the parish administration have weathered a barrage of criticism from animal lovers in the parish. Vial managed to clean up the shelter and maintainit. However, after the parish hired Hicks, things seemed to fall apart.After Vial’s resignation Hicks was arrested on 56 counts of animal cruelty and put on leave without pay by the parish. Until Grabert was hired,volunteers and members of the St. John Parish Animal Control AdvisoryBoard were taking care of the animals at the shelter.

Grabert said she has quite a few years of experience working with animals.

She said she worked for many veterinarians and also worked closely with the kennel master of the St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter, who happens to beher mother.

Grabert said her first priority is to “get everything in order.” She said thecages are now suitable for the dogs. Her next job is to get a new trailer forthe cats and clean up the rest of the shelter area.

Except for one parish employee who is helping keep the cages clean, Grabert is the only animal control employee working at the shelter. She picks upstrays, handles complaint calls, feeds and waters the animals and cleans the cages.

Henry DiFranco, director of Public Works and Utilities and Grabert’s direct superior, said that because of Hicks’ situation parish officials don’t know when she will get a new animal control officer to help her out.

“We still haven’t decided whether we will advertise for an animal control officer position,” said DiFranco.

However, the delay doesn’t seem to bother Grabert.

“There’s no big rush,” said Grabert. “I have everything under control.”The only people who seem unhappy with the parish’s choice of kennel master are some members of the Animal Control Advisory Board.

Board president Kay Durr and board member Barbara Falgoust complained that the parish did not consult the board before hiring Grabert.

“I think they are trying to dissolve the board,” said Falgoust. “To theadministration, the board has become unimportant and unwanted.”

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