Pound pets begin trip to new shelter
The grand opening of the new Animal Shelter will take place on April 30.
Although the official grand opening for the St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter will not take place until April 30 the building’s residents are already on the move. Shelter workers began moving animals from the old shelter to the newly constructed facility located nearby off of Judge Edward Dufresne Parkway.
The idea of providing the parish with a new shelter was posed in 2009 and over the next few years local officials and shelter staff came together to move it from its inception to its current move-in-ready state.
Angie Robert has been with the shelter for the past nine years and has directed the unit through the transition as Animal Control director for the past four years. She said the move from the old shelter was long overdue.
"The old animal shelter was 28 years old," Robert said. "It grew out of itself. It’s a growing parish and now we have a beautiful building."
The new facility is around 8,500 square feet versus 2,500 square feet at the old facility. Robert said in addition to the parish’s population going up, the philosophy of public animal control has changed in the time since the building of the first shelter. Those changes in attitudes were taken into account in the planning of the new shelter.
"I think this place will be a shelter other shelters will model," Robert said. "When we went out to other shelters we didn’t ask, ‘What works for you?’ we asked, ‘What doesn’t work?’"
Increased attention is now being paid to the overall well-being of the animals, including their health.
"If you can keep the disease under control at an animal shelter adoptions go up 85%," said Robert.
The veterinarian’s quarters have been quadrupled and a new system has been put in place so disease will not move as freely about the facility.
The shelter features two wings – one devoted to cats and the other to dogs. In the back of each wing isolation and quarantine rooms are designated where the animals receive treatment based on how ready they are to be adopted. The rooms are designed to limit contact between those being treated for diseases and others that need to be more slowly acclimated to the shelter.
Once the cats and dogs overcome any other issues they will be moved into the adoption ready area in the front of each wing where potential owners can see into their cages through windows in the building’s lobby.
"When you come here you aren’t going to hear the sounds and smell the smells," Robert said. "You look at the animal through the window and then make the contact."
The last step of the animal’s stay is being brought into a contact room where the potential owner is encouraged to get to know the animal one-on-one. In the future Robert said an outdoor play area will eventually be added where potential dog owners can play with their future pets before taking them home. For now though most dog kennels have a rear access where dogs can experience the outside through large overhead doors that can be closed in the event of inclement weather.
In addition, the new shelter also boasts spaces for its employees the old facility did not offer. Animal control officers will now have their own bathroom and shower facilities and all shelter employees will be able to take a moment away during their shifts in an employee break room.
"Compassion fatigue is a real thing. You have to keep your workers happy to keep your animals happy," Robert said. "I am incredibly thankful for everybody. I have the best staff in the world and it is not an easy gig."
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