Help needed to avoid overcrowding that contributed to almost 700 animals euthanized in ’17

Published 12:14 am Saturday, March 3, 2018

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish Animal Shelter staff members are dedicated but small in number, making volunteer-based support for outreach and adoption opportunities essential in addressing overcrowding.

With intake averaging more than 150 animals a month and space to safely house 37 dogs or 74 puppies and 34 cats or 68 kittens, the Animal Shelter has been identified as over capacity, according to Parish operating procedures.

Aggressively seeking out transfer partners, lowering adoption fees and educating the community about the importance of spaying and neutering are proposed solutions, according to St. John Parish Communications Director Baileigh Rebowe Helm.

“The shelter needs volunteers to get a number of programs off the ground due to limited staff,” Helm said. “We’ve had several events at the libraries in the Parish to begin an educational program, but our desire is to form a team of volunteers who can visit schools and begin a campaign that reaches all ages of our youth.”

Since September, the veterinarian on staff has worked one full day a week to neuter and spay adoptable animals, according to Helm.

She said the Animal Shelter hopes to allocate another weekday to offer affordable or free public spay and neuter services to reach lower income families.

This in turn will decrease the number of Animal Shelter intakes over time, Helm said.

The Animal Shelter is also considering lowering adoption fees, which are $80 for cats, $100 for puppies and $130 for adult dogs.

All animals are adopted spayed/neutered with age appropriate vaccinations, a health examination and a microchip that includes registration, according to Helm.

Cats and kittens are also combo tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, while dogs six months and older are tested for heartworms.

Adoptions are held Saturdays, primarily at PetSmart or Tractor Supply Company, assuming volunteer availability. Helm said additional volunteers are needed to assist in adoption events in the community and in Metairie or Baton Rouge, where a larger number of people may be looking for pets.

Certain adoption requirements ensure all animals go to safe and caring homes. For more information, call the shelter at 985-651-7387.

During a special meeting of the Animal Advisory Board last week, Parish President  Natalie Robottom said euthanasia is not a proposed solution to overcrowding and maintenance concerns.

The Animal Shelter strives to not euthanize healthy, adoptable animals and instead aims to implement partnerships with other organizations to have animals adopted or transferred, Robottom said.

She said euthanasia decisions are made based on aggression, significant behavioral issues, health issues such as contagious diseases and medical issues requiring extensive financial resources for treatment.

Biannually, intake numbers increase due to seasonal reproducing, creating a potential for euthanasia for space.

Last year, 269 dogs, 414 cats and six other animals were euthanized. Robottom said the annual 2017 intake was 1,410 animals, 42 of which were surrendered to the Shelter as bite cases or euthanasia requests.

Approximately 250 animals were sent to rescue or humane groups including PetSmart Charities, Tractor Supply and the ASPCA last year to reduce euthanasia numbers, according to Helm.

Foster opportunities are available to community members who want to help bottle feed puppies and kittens until they are old enough to eat solid food and be vaccinated.

Helm said fostering is also helpful for animals with medical problems requiring treatment beyond what the Shelter can provide, as well as very old dogs and cats who would benefit from a loving home to live out their final weeks or months.

“The foster home determines what length of time they can handle,” Helm said. “The Shelter is grateful for any opportunity to place animals, as it makes more space in the Shelter and increases the animal’s chances of being adopted.”

Additionally, the community can assist the Animal Shelter by donating treats, toys, blankets and towels, collars, leashes, carriers and wire crates.

Those who want to help can share information from Friends of the St. John Parish Animal Shelter on Facebook.