A recent article in People Magazine caught my attention as I sat in a doctor’s waiting room. I was thoroughly enjoying a story about the World’s Cutest Rescue Dog Contest when one sentence stopped me cold. “When the Labrador retriever mix was just a puppy he was surrendered to a kill shelter in Texas.”
“Kill Shelter” What horrific images does that oxymoron bring to the mind of the reader? Does she visualize a dim, fetid building stacked to the ceiling with cages of sick, howling animals? Does she imagine animals without hope, love, or a caring human touch? As a board member of the Louisiana SPCA and an owner of rescues, I take issue with the use of that term.
The Louisiana SPCA is an open-admissions shelter that is also the city contracted provider for animal control in Orleans Parish. It serves the approximately 350,000 residents of New Orleans, answering calls for animal control 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. (See Angels Among Us, October 2018.) Officers bring in lost pets and animals that have been dumped, neglected, or abused. The shelter also accepts pets that owners drop off because they don’t want them anymore. They receive litters of puppies and kittens from owners who think it’s unnatural to spay or neuter their pets. When the “no-kill” shelters are full, the Louisiana SPCA takes the animals they cannot accept.
I don’t minimize the work of the “no-kill” shelters or breed specific rescue groups. They play a vital role in the network of people serving the interests of homeless or unwanted animals. But until all pet owners act responsibly, until puppy mills are outlawed, and until local governments allocate sufficient funds for city animal shelters, we will, unfortunately, have shelters that some people choose to call “kill shelters.” It is a heartbreaking reality that these open-admissions shelters must sometimes humanely euthanize when all other solutions have been exhausted or it is in the animal’s best interest.
If you visit the Louisiana SPCA, you will discover that it is a facility filled with life. It is a bright, clean building with staff and volunteers who offer care, love, and a chance for every adoptable animal to find a forever home. It is the site of a first-class veterinary clinic not only for resident animals but also for companion animals in the community. Each shelter animal is spayed or neutered before adoption, and low-cost spay/neuter surgeries are offered to pet owners in the community.
Educational opportunities such as canine obedience classes, summer and holiday camps for children—even children’s birthday parties—encourage responsible pet ownership. Foster programs; transport programs; and onsite and offsite adoption events pro-actively seek homes for shelter animals. A feral-cat trap, neuter, return program reduces and controls the feral cat population. Visit the website to learn about all programs and events offered.
If you live in New Orleans, visit the shelter at 1700 Mardi Gras Boulevard on the Westbank. While you are there, look into becoming a volunteer or finding the pet that completes your home. I promise that you will leave with a better understanding of the mission of the Louisiana SPCA.