‘I do it for the animals and because it is my passion.’
In that short sentence, Norco resident and St. Charles Parish animal control officer Shawn Palmisano explains why she’s devoted to a job that a lot of people simply could not handle.
This tough and compassionate mother of three - a self-described transplant from Metairie - clearly remembers her freshman months as a shelter newcomer.
"When I first came to the shelter, I did everything from cleaning kennels and adoptions to feeding and medicating the animals," said Palmisano.
“Now I handle a lot of the animal cruelty cases.”
As tough - and heartbreaking - as the job can be, she says, there’s fun involved, too.
"I remember a co-worker and I were called out to pick up a stray that was running down a neighborhood street," Palmisano recalls with a chuckle.
"We must have chased that dog for hours, but we finally cornered it - just in time for the owner to pull into the driveway ."
Palmisano recollects another odd incident - the baby alligator she had to rescue from under a mobile home.
"We don't get too many calls that allow us to deal with unusual animals," said Palmisano. "Other than dogs and cats, the most we ever see come through the shelter are ferrets.
“I wish I could say otherwise, but we don't have the resources to accommodate a lot of exotic animals."
The shelter has 22 dog pens and the newly built room for cats.
“What this parish needs is a new shelter,” says Palmisano. “Right now that is what we are praying for.”
In order for that prayer to be answered, the shelter needs funding and donations.
“It would make my job even more rewarding to know that I would have space to put, say, sick dogs in separate isolation quarters,” explains Palmisano.
“There have been times when I have lost 10 puppies because one sick dog was brought in.”
The toughest part of her job is dealing with the pets that can’t be saved.
When asked to choose an animal to be pictured in the Herald-Guide, Palmisano chose China, an under weight pit-bull that the owner fought.
By looking at China, it’s hard to imagine her being aggressive toward anything - with ears laid back, licking Palmisano on the face.
Because the shelter does not adopt out former pit-bull fighters, she will be euthanized.
So how does Palmisano cope?
“You save the ones you can and know that the ones you can’t save are going to a better place,” she says.
|Photo: Heather Breaux|
|Animal Control Officer, Shawn Palmisano - pictured with China, was recently recognized by the parish with a plaque of recognition ordaining her a ‘true animal lover.’|