Animal Shelter needs rescuing; St. John struggles with overcrowding & awareness

Published 12:14 am Saturday, February 24, 2018

Community outreach and facility renovations were cited as possible solutions to ongoing maintenance concerns at St. John the Baptist Parish Animal Shelter Thursday during a special meeting.

A recent survey of the Animal Shelter conducted by Parish officials revealed capacity and ventilation issues, with cages stacked in office spaces to accommodate a staggering number of animal intakes within a limited space.

There are so many cats at the shelter that parish officials said kennels have been set up in office space.

Animal Advisory Board members and St. John the Baptist Parish Animal Shelter representatives banded together with local government officials to address concerns and present solutions to bring the facility up to par with shelters in neighboring parishes.

Gutting rooms in the front of the building, stripping and resealing flooring and replacing urine-scented sheetrock are nonnegotiable changes that must occur for the Animal Shelter to align with state requirements, according to Parish President Natalie Robottom.

Located at 488 W. Second St. in LaPlace off of River Road, the St. John the Baptist Parish Animal Shelter is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with adoption hours taking place from noon to 4 p.m.

Dogs, cats and small household pets such as guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters and domestic birds are welcomed at the Animal Shelter.

The Shelter takes in neglected animals identified through cruelty investigations and partners with local organizations to find appropriate boarding for livestock animals such as horses and pigs, according to Robottom.

Stocked primarily through stray captures and owner surrenders, the Shelter has housed up to 173 animals at a time.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Animal Shelter is located at 488 W. Second St. in LaPlace off of River Road.

Robottom said phase one of the Shelter’s construction, totaling $760,000, was designed with four offices, a surgery center and adoption and fostering rooms to hold 10 cats or 20 kittens and 15 dogs or 20 puppies.

The recently completed $173,000 addition has an intake room, 22 dog kennels and three quarantine kennels  , bringing maximum capacity as outlined by Parish Operating Procedures to 37 dogs or 74 puppies and 34 cats or 68 kittens, plus three spaces for quarantine.

Though above capacity, Robottom said the number 173 can be misleading since kittens and puppies are housed with their mothers for health reasons until they are old enough for adoption or transport.

She proposed removing a wall near the back of the Animal Shelter and separating the AC unit to make additional appropriately tailored space for animals.

However, the solution to overcrowding lies in an aggressive approach to adoption and transferring animals to shelters in neighboring communities, according to Robottom.

She emphasized euthanasia is neither a recommendation or a valid solution to St. John’s overcrowding concerns.

According to Animal Shelter manager Rachael Sance, adoptions currently range from $80 to $130, and a proposed price drop to $75 would allow St. John Parish to compete with the St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter.

Robottom said a proactive approach through education and spaying and neutering services could decrease the number of community strays and lessen the amount of intakes.

“It’s about teaching our residents to properly take care of their pets so they don’t become strays or mistreated,” Robottom said.

“It’s not an issue for us, personally, but it’s an issue for the animals. It’s very difficult for our limited staff to manage these large numbers.”

Free spaying and neutering services are offered at the Animal Shelter, Sance said, though they are not widely advertised so as to not become unmanageable.

Sance said Animal Advisory Board members suggested forming a 501c3 to allow for grant applications, since securing funding has been an issue dating back to the Animal Shelter’s start.

Renovations to the St. John the Baptist Parish Animal Shelter will come in increments, according to Robottom, and the path to change begins with the budget process. Rather than adding new taxes, there are plans to rededicate existing funds.

St. John Com-munications Director Baileigh Rebowe Helm said Thursday’s meeting attracted a large group because people care about animals and the public needs to understand the importance of the Animal Shelter.

“We build gyms, libraries, schools and civic centers, and the Animal Shelter is just as important to this population of people,” Helm said.