No Kill success in the heart of Louisiana

No Kill success in the heart of Louisiana

Another VICTORY for our No Kill Nation:

Caddo Parish is located just a little north of Shreveport, Louisiana.  They are smack dab in the region of the country that gained so much attention after Hurricaine Katrina. Animal welfare workers who travelled to Louisiana were heartbroken over the high numbers of stray and displaced animals endemic to the region. 

So when the topic of improving lifesaving results comes up in regions like the heart of Louisiana, the standard argument from those who oppose No Kill is that - these shelters have nothing to work with, therefore it can’t be done. Municipal service providers can’t do more because No Kill costs too much money. They’ve got tight budgets and they are doing the best that they can. Then the argument usually wraps up with - it is the height of arrogance for any of us to place this type of ethical burden on southern shelter operations.

Well here’s a community that didn’t listen to the claims that they couldn’t make changes, here’s a community that wasn’t satisfied with busines as usual - the community is Caddo Parish, Louisiana.

caddodoor

In 2006 Nathan Winograd was retained to do an evaluation of the Caddo Parish shelter, otherwise known as Caddo Parish Animal and Mosquito Control. What he found would not be considered unusual for a municipal animal control shelter in any part of the country.

caddocat

Despite killing nearly 9,000 dogs and cats in the first ten months of 2006, there was only one cat available for adoption and many empty dog and cat cages during my visit. (pictured above is the one cat)

The shelter was open during business hours that didn’t allow for working families to visit. There weren’t any weekend hours and the shelter was closed by 5PM during the week. If you have a job or your kids were in school, it wasn’t likely that you could even get into the shelter if you chose to adopt a pet!  Having business hours that are on par with “business” isn’t so good for the “retail” side of animal sheltering - the pet adoptions.

Empty cages at Caddo from three years ago

Empty cages at Caddo from three years ago

The cat adoption room had 17 cages, seven of which were filled with small dogs and puppies and the rest were empty. There was only one cat available for adoption, in the “cat play” room. 

At the time of his visit Caddo had killed 3,141 of the 3,442 cats they had received that year.

A lack of priority on saving lives is evidenced by:  

  • Lack of public access hours effectively eliminate working people and families with children from adopting 
  • The shelter’s location is next to junkyards and waste type industrial businesses in a remote part of the community away from where people work, live and play 
  • The shelter has not availed itself of lifesaving adoption opportunities at PetSmart and only minimally does offsite adoptions through the Humane Society a few days per month 
  • There is no signage off of the freeway or major streets indicating the location of the shelter

Its dual mission has historically and in many ways continues to be to kill mosquitoes and to kill dogs and cats.

Fast forward to 2009 and the recent coverage on KSLA News 12:

Adoptions are up so far this year, with more than 200 for the month of January, and a goal of 250 for February. As of Tuesday afternoon, they were already up to 76 and on track to meet that goal. They’ve already surpassed last year’s total of 68 for the entire month. 

One of the problems noted in Winograd’s evaluation was a general lack of accountability and discipline within the ranks of the organization. In a business, the bottom line is dollars and cents. In a shelter, the bottom line is dollars, cents and lives. Too often shelters either leave out the lives or decrease their lifesaving in a misguided effort to control the dollars. And then there’s the problem of basic incompetence and laziness:

[Director, Matthew] Pepper is also determined to improve staff morale and the shelter’s public image as well. The shelter’s director, veterinarian Dr. Michael Dale and two others were shown the door last summer amid accusations of mismanagement and policy violations. Not only were euthanizations up, but it was discovered some animals were put down in error, and others were left barely alive. “This organization historically has been so clouded with such a bad image that it’s nice for us to be part of something so positive.” KSLA

Rather than being satisfied with their recent successes, Caddo is now looking to improve their redemption rates. Redemption rates are the rates of stray animals who are reunited with their owners. 

This is a community where one cat sat alone in his playroom, emblematic of a tragic and systemic failure to save lives… And look where they are now:

While adoption rates are going up, the shelter’s euthanasia rate is down. Averaging 11 a day in January puts them on track for a major improvement over recent years where they were having to put down dozens every day. “Not only are our adoptions skyrocketing but our intake is coming down as well, so euthanasia rates are definitely decreasing dramatically - so much so for dogs that we have not euthanized a healthy adoptable dog yet this year. We hope to see that trend continue,” Pepper says. KSLA

And in an email from the current Director:

To give you an idea of our progress, in January of 2008 we adopted/rescued/reclaimed 99 dogs and cats, in January of 2009 we did 243. That’s a 245% increase in “positive outcomes”.  We have also targeted unregulated breeding and dealing of puppies in our community that has led to a decrease in that activity.

Now that’s success and the people of Caddo Parish should be proud. We certainly are!

 

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7 Responses to “No Kill success in the heart of Louisiana”

  1. Wow and double wow - this is great news.

    Louisiana has so many homeless pets and the shelters have such low adoption rates and high kill rates that improvements like the ones quoted in this article are grand indeed!

    Keep it up and lets spread this good news!

  2. Christy says:

    I’m curious as to how they increased their reclaim rate so drastically. Our local shelter has about a 7% reclaim rate.

  3. sue_cosby says:

    They actually haven’t been able to increase their reclaim/redemption rates yet and according to the director they are around 4-5% for dogs. But they recognize that this is one area where they have yet to make improvements. Knowing that they CAN improve those redemption rates is half the battle and they’ve already started offering microchips. It will be interesting to see what methods get them to success!

  4. Redemption rate increases are a challenge. I see that part of the issue is the public is very misinformed about what to do when they lose or find an animal. Most people are also very uninformed about animal behavior and how that affects the way lost cats and dogs behave. I learned alot by reading the information off the Missing Animal Response website, and we need to find ways to educate the public as well as let them know their course of action … putting ads in the papers for free, filing reports at shelters, checking shelters daily at first and then weekly for sometime thereafter, etc.
    I am working on a comprehensive animal resources guide for our county that lists any information a pet owner could ever need — in the back I’ve included a “What to do If …” section that will try to address some of these gaps in the public’s knowledge. Making it biligual for our area will also be a plus, as well as getting it widely distributed. When I have completed it, I will be happy to share it with anyone interested in creating one for their community; e-mail me at cheressemm@gmail.com, and I’ll send you a copy.

  5. Emma says:

    DO they microchip when an animal leaves the shelter?

  6. Patti M says:

    This is such great news! I would like to add one thing that’s missing from the article; the HEROIC efforts of folks like Rebecca Young, the rescue contact for the shelter. Night after night, she posts on lists pleas to help save dogs. She includes pictures, a bio, and other info to inspire folks to want to help save these dogs. She often pulls dogs from the shelter and fosters them, constantly striving to “get the word out” and get them to a rescue. She drives countless miles to transport them to safety. Rebecca is a true Rescue Angel, and there are many, many dogs that are alive today because of her. THANK YOU REBECCA!

  7. Fran says:

    What exactly did they change besides the director? Are they going to outside adoption events?

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