Meet Ethel, a two-year-old pitbull terrier mix who was recently dropped off at the recently renovated and spacious Louisiana SPCA located right over the Crescent City bridge on the Westbank. She is a frisky medium-sized dog with big brown eyes. Her first stop at LASPCA was Phase I, a safe shelter and health clinic for animals who are picked up, dropped off or rescued. “In Phase I,” said Dean Howard, Development Director of the non-profit LASPCA, “an animal is automatically spayed or neutered, given shots and behavior training.” Recognized as one of the oldest and most comprehensive animal welfare organizations, LASPCA is an open admission shelter for more than 20,000 homeless and companion animals annually.
After Phase I, the next step for Ethel is the Resource Center, where she works with LASPCA staff and volunteers learning basic commands and house training. Then she is prepared to settle in one of the “condos” for the dog adoption process. “These condos have a living room atmosphere,” said Howard, “with music pumped into the room, some furniture, a rug, a glass door to look out at the yard and a waterproof floor. There is also a playroom for groups of dogs to run and play, as well as a fetch room where the staff can throw balls for activity.”
While the initial focus for Ethel was the spay/neuter program, innovative adoption and foster programs have increased the opportunity of pet adoption, resulting in saved lives. Adoption counselors try to find the animal who will best fit with the adopting household. Great resources like the internet and social media have been instrumental in the adoption process. “Someone can sit on their laptop or phone, see the animal in any community and know what great animals are available,” noted Howard. “A multitude of animals have been adopted because their photos or wonderful stories are posted on social media and the web.”
Animals like Ethel can participate in the Sleepover program, which allows a qualified adoptive parent to “try out” a pet prior to an adoption. The adoptive family is granted 72 hours to introduce the pet to their household and then finalize adoption or return the animal. “The Sleepover program has been working out really well,” said Howard. “More people are willing to try the program if they’re still just considering adopting a certain animal. They don’t feel as guilty if the animal isn’t a match because they know a condo is waiting for the animal, and the program allows the adoption counselors to gain more information about the animal if it comes back to us.”
Although it may be temporary, animals like Ethel can be placed in the foster program, a rewarding volunteer experience. LASPCA provides the foster home with everything it needs in order to care for the animal, whether the animal is recovering from a medical treatment or needs assistance while waiting for a forever home. Transport fostering is considered the shortest foster commitment since foster care is only needed before the animal is transported to partner shelters for adoption.
After spending more than a month in a condo at the LASPCA, Ethel has moved into a foster home offsite to gain more exposure to people and enjoy a local household. Another option to consider for adoption involves transporting the animal to a partnering shelter where there is a larger demand for cats and dogs. Last year alone, LASPCA helped nearly 3000 animals settle in a family home, with approximately 1000 animals transported. Consequently, these precious lives were spared.
Through the Resource Center, the LASPCA offer training programs at a discounted rate for adoptive families, as well as first aid classes and community outreach programs. The youth humane education activities, such as LASPCA Camp, Birthday Pawties and Critter Cinema, have been very popular in enhancing students’ understanding of and compassion toward animals.
“Unfortunately, our Humane Law officers still deal with issues and cases where the individuals have a mindset that animals are an income resource through fighting and backyard breeding,” said Howard. “We have always been there for the animals and our mission has always included fostering the human–animal bond.”
LASPCA’s vision does embrace a unique program, called T-N-R (Trap-Neuter-Return), for the wild and homeless population of feral cats dwelling in and around the New Orleans area. “A feral cat,” said Loretta Lambert, Clinic Director at the LASPCA, “is a special animal that has not been socialized and is more aligned with wildlife. These cats need to be humanely trapped in special cages and brought to the clinic. Then they spend the night for spay/neuter, minor wound care, vaccinations and ear-tipping.”
Lambert explained that the simple removal of the tip of the cat’s ear distinguishes it when it returns to its neighborhood, because it indicates it has been vaccinated and sterilized. The feral cat is cared for overnight at the clinic for a nominal charge of $25. “It is like a bed-and-breakfast for the feral cat,” said Lambert. “Everything is provided for a healthier cat, including spay/neuter surgery, rabies vaccination, ear-tipping and sleepover.”
The recent expansion of the LASPCA allows a high volume of spay/neuter surgeries, but it also provides a wellness clinic for non-urgent, baseline services for pets and client education about vaccinations, diet, exercise and heartworm prevention for dogs and cats. “The added capacity of the clinic,” said Lambert, “helps the animals and the visitors to be more comfortable. Next year, we are launching an ancillary section involving dental health for cats and dogs. This will include preventive dental work and major cleaning to keep pets healthy.”
Since their renovated grand opening on August 28, 2015, LASPCA accepts almost any animal, although it is best equipped to handle traditional pets: dogs and cats. “We do help other animals,” said Howard, “like guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs and horses…except cows. But we hope to add and build a barn in a year.”
While Ethel spends time with a foster family, she, like many other animals, is ready to start a new life in a special forever home. For more than 125 years, LASPCA has been a strong animal advocate while providing care for our four-legged, furry friends. For Ethel and other animals awaiting adoption, there is N.O. place like home.