What: St. Charles Animal Shelter
Film By: Shelby Robinson
Editors Note: ViaNolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöp, pairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. Shelby Robinson, a film student at University of New Orleans, provides us with a documentary about St. Charles Animal Shelter in New Orleans.
Hi, I’m Dr. Jena Troxler, and I’m the St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter supervisor and veterinarian. The animal shelter in this particular building has been here for about nine years, and before that, we had an older building. This is a true upgrade. Our parish holds 53,000 residents, and we take in about 2,000 homeless pets per year: dogs, cats, exotics, and farm animals. We’re a government-run organization. We function on tax dollars, and we support public health and safety by bringing stray pets, lost pets, bite cases, and injured pets into the animal shelter — keeping them safe until they can reunite with their owners. If they don’t reunite, we do all we can to have them adopted. So, for us as an animal shelter, we are a public government-run organization. We have a high standard of care. We work with many surrounding parish shelters throughout the coast to not only give the best care possible, but to unite as a front [and] find homes for these pets across the nation so none of them have issues with space.
When I started the shelter in 2016, I did have to euthanize for space because there were not enough homes to reabsorb all these homeless pets in our parish. So, we wanted to have an option to not only get all these pets into homes, but when we have a crisis — like a hurricane and evacuation — [we want to] get every pet [in] the shelter into a home so they don’t have to evacuate and don’t have to go through all of that. So, we were very forward-thinking and united with an organization that helps us fly these pets on jets to homes across the nation – literally every couple of weeks.
The people of the parish are always grateful when you can help keep their pet in their home — whether it’s with veterinary advice, donated food or supplies, or behavioral help. With homeless pets, it’s very gratifying for our staff to see them through the process, to give them training, to give them medical care, and unite them with a family that will hopefully keep them forever. So, it’d be really super if we had a waiting list for pets, and as soon as a homeless pet came in [they’d] be matched. Our community does put in early applications, and that does help with that process, but the idea would be that we could reabsorb as many homeless pets in our community as we can adopt locally. Currently, that’s not the case. We have more people giving up pets and owners surrendering than we have homes for them. So, we have to work with national organizations to place these pets. Just spaying and neutering could solve those issues. We do offer programming for [spaying and neutering], for cats and dogs. Our Animal Shelter works in concert with the Louisiana SPCA. They’re in New Orleans. They have a beautiful community clinic, and they pick up in our parking lot once a month. Our residents call us at 985-783-5010 and schedule an appointment. Spaying and neutering can run between $75 and $120, depending on if someone is on government assistance or military – there are discounts for those. It’s a quite fair pricing, and that’s for dogs or cats.
But what we do for cats here is we do free spay and neuter. We notch a little part of the ear as a little V so you can see they are fixed. They are also microchipped and rabies vaccinated, and we can track their vaccine with that chip. So, we know they are current if we ever get them in. It is completely free. We try to schedule it on Wednesdays, but I do it Monday through Friday. And for that reason, if you see a cat outside or even your personal cat, we can take it in and do that spay-neuter so that you can be in compliance because it is actually a local ordinance that you have to have all that done if you have an outdoor cat.
Our volunteers are quite special to us. Our team has trained over 1,000 volunteers. Some of them are very consistent on a daily basis to come and walk pets. They get to see everything we do behind the scenes. We are very transparent, and they can share that with the community. They understand spay-neuter, why it’s important, they understand the process, and we have no age limit on volunteers. Even children and their parents can come to orientation and volunteer. We interact a lot with the schools to educate young people, and that means a whole lot to us in supporting the pets by keeping them entertained and happy on a daily basis. Truly this position that I hold and all of our employees hold serve the community on a daily basis. They deal with pets and people and offer all the services that we can so we have less overpopulation and can keep pets in the homes where they currently are.
Animal control is public safety and public health. Our animal control officers, we have four of them, go through a lot of training and credentialing to offer the best response to the community and support our sheriff’s office as well. They respond to things like bite cases, dogs that are loose at large, animal cruelty cases, and welfare checks. On a daily basis, they receive those calls and work in concert with our sheriff’s office to give the best response.