Cats and dogs, rejoice!

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 11, 2009



LAPLACE – With a simple snip through a shiny blue ribbon, years of turmoil over a new animal shelter for St. John Parish were officially put to rest.

Parish officials joined St. John Animal Control staff and a handful of area pet owners to celebrate the grand opening of the new shelter Wednesday morning. The $759,000 facility, which was the constant topic of debate from parish council members who squabbled over the location, was built just a few feet from where the old shelter still stands.

“I’m as happy as a lark,” said longtime shelter manager Linda Allen. “I think it is fantastic compared to what we have been operating with for so long.”

Upon his inauguration in January of 2008, Parish President Bill Hubbard’s first order of business was to request authorization from the council to move forward with construction of the shelter. The request was approved unanimously by the newly minted council.

“And this is merely the first step in what will truly be a state-of-the-art shelter facility,” Hubbard said. “I’m really happy with how it turned out. It is something the parish can be proud of.”

The new facility, which is the first in a two-phase project, adds space for 10 cats, 20 kittens, 15 dogs and 20 puppies, said St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe. Boe said the parish plans to continue to use the old shelter, which has space for 16 cats and 19 dogs, as a holding facility where sick animals can be isolated and treated. The parish currently has 41 cats and 33 dogs available for adoption. The facility typically handles about 1,200 dogs and 700 cats per year.

“My hope for this new facility is that the parish puts more of a focus on adoption and continues to spread awareness of spaying and neutering,” said St. John Animal Control board member Desiree Berger. “If you have enough people coming in to adopt and if enough people understand the importance of spaying and neutering, you have the opportunity for a completely ‘no-kill’ shelter.”

About a dozen residents showed up Wednesday with their pets to celebrate the opening and take advantage of the free microchip implants for their animals. The chips contain owner information about the pet in the event that the animal gets lost.

“It looks a lot better than the shelter they were using,” said Mark Williams of LaPlace, who came out to have his two dogs microchipped. “It’s important to have a place where animals can be adequately maintained.”

The celebration wasn’t just for St. John area residents. Some of those in attendance, such as Nicole Hartwell and her mother Gwen, traveled for 10 hours across several states to be in LaPlace for the grand opening.

Hartwell, 27, a volunteer manager of an animal shelter in Tampa, Fla., adopted two dogs from the St. John shelter and said she and her mother couldn’t miss the official opening.

“The shelter staff has been like family to us and they did a lot to help us through the adoption process,” Hartwell said.

She added, “It is a great step for the parish if they can encourage the community to step up and be willing to adopt animals. I think they will eventually outgrow it, but it is a professional-looking building where they can focus on adoptions.”