Volunteers are a lifeline for homeless dogs.
As adoptions decline and owners struggle to balance pet care with other duties, animal shelters throughout the country are overflowing in many cities.
This is not a problem for Jonathan Meziere, an animal control officer at the Natchitoches Animal Control Shelter. Right now, I just have one dog in the shelter, he explained. Right now, my shelter is at an all-time low. Two Natchitoches animal care organizations that rely on volunteers are to blame for his lack of pups.
Nikky Strait led a group of volunteers to the Hope for Paws shelter on Feb. 25 to prepare canines for the Krewe of Wag-uns pet parade. The parade is one method local shelters raise attention to dogs in need of homes, but it was canceled this year due to weather, meaning their puppies will have one less chance to find a loving family.
While volunteers like Strait help Hope for Paws continue to run, many of those prepping for the march were NSU students who were only there for one day. Volunteers have two limitations: sometimes there aren't enough, and other times there are too many. Because so many people wanted to assist prepare the dogs for the parade, Hope for Paws took advantage of the situation by having them build a pet playground as well.
Meziere had mixed feelings regarding the Natchitoches-based NSU students. He describes it as both a blessing and a curse. He's seen NSU students adopt and volunteer in large numbers, but he's also seen them relinquish their dogs on a regular basis. A lot of our kids come from out of town... and they find out they can't have animals, he explained. He's becoming leery of pupils adopting dogs. How many students own homes in this area? I don't know many... I'd like to confirm with that landlord if you're authorized to keep pets. As some shelters report overcrowding, Meziere notices a pattern: "Our admission increases once the semester begins and also when it ends.
The Natchitoches Humane Society's Happy Tails shelter employs a novel way to maintain stable environments for its canines. It took up residence on the premises of the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Dogs are fed, groomed, and cared for by inmates until they are adopted by a family. Convicts' bonds with the animals enhance the correctional centers' rehabilitation mission, while volunteers supplement the inmates' efforts by bathing, transporting, and doing community outreach activities to help the dogs find adoptive families.
The head of the Natchitoches Humane Society, Juanita Murphy, emphasizes the importance of finding additional homes for their animals. We have a very small number of adoptions compared to the number of animals in need," she explained. "Last year's revenue was smaller than the previous year's. Natchitoches, she says, is too small for the quantity of pets available. "There are simply not enough adopters in the area to accommodate the number of homeless animals we have.
Murphy explained how her shelter is addressing the issue. "We're taking them up north to shelters that are in in need of them." Many rural shelters transport cats and dogs to other areas or place them in short-term pet fostering until they can find an adoptive family to care for the large number of pets they receive.
The human population, according to Rachel LeBlanc, president of Natchitoches Hope for Paws, is a factor. "You won't find as many stray dogs in a metropolis, but you might find more people looking for a dog." She said that they conduct research on the shelters to which their canines are sent. "We don't just send out a message. We give them to a rescue organization that will look for a home for them the same way we would.
Murphy explained how the practice of importing and exporting pets began. After Katrina, it was as though a window into what was going on in the south was opened. When the ASPCA arrived in New Orleans to assist them, there were over 300 animals in one building. When New Orleans began sending animals north, it opened the door to other communities in the area. "The folks of New Orleans didn't want any empty kennels moving up there," Murphy explained, so they provided us some locations.
Because Louisiana has a constant oversupply of pets, Meziere explained why shelters in other parts of the country need them. "Other jurisdictions have tougher spay and neuter legislation... (here), the responsibility is transferred to the owner." That law needs to be improved.
Murphy claims that there is a casual attitude regarding animal care. "Many of them are stray dogs. "There are people in our town who don't care about their dogs, don't care if they go out, and don't even go looking for them if they do," she said. "There are dogs on chains who occasionally die because no one feeds them and no one cares.
The laissez-faire attitude, according to Murphy, extends to parish government. The humane society is also shouldering the parish's burden. Animal services are not provided by the sheriff's office. They only take dogs that attack people or are involved in cruelty cases, so any other animals that are brought in, such as a lovely lab with a broken leg by the side of the road, are given the humane society's phone number, which they may call at any time of day or night," she explained.