'People don't care': St. Landry animal shelter is full, but citizens continue to leave pets

·4 min read

Continuing to operate a no-kill animal shelter in St. Landry Parish is proving to have its challenges and policies regarding housing animals could soon be reviewed.

Last week, parish government officials announced the shelter located at the St. Landry Parish airport was at capacity and is temporarily refusing to accept any new pet surrenders.

Members of the public attend a public hearing last week at the Delta Grand in Opelousas. The hearing is one of several in the next two weeks on a proposed animal control ordinance seeking to better regulate dog breeding in the parish, among other things.
Members of the public attend a public hearing last week at the Delta Grand in Opelousas. The hearing is one of several in the next two weeks on a proposed animal control ordinance seeking to better regulate dog breeding in the parish, among other things.

On Tuesday, animal shelter director Terri Courvelle said the shelter had 235 animals, a number that she says far exceeds capacity.

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That situation, Parish President Jessie Bellard admits, hasn’t changed during the past five days and is causing him and shelter animal control employees to rethink some of the policies in place.

“What we are looking at right now is possibly reducing the rates for adopting out dogs,” Bellard said on Tuesday morning. “Another thing that we are considering having soon is a pet adoption day sponsored by the shelter.”

Bellard said those wishing to adopt small animals are usually required to pay around $50, which normally covers the vaccination costs.

Bellard said the plan for continuing to operate a no-kill shelter remains in place.

An adoption day program hasn’t been established yet, but Bellard considers that event could help reduce the number of animals that are remaining at the shelter.

Courvelle said that she is cautious about adopting out animals that have been placed in the shelter.

St. Landry Animal Control officer Teri Courvelle discusses the proposed ordinance calling for tighter regulation of commercial breeding operations in the parish.
St. Landry Animal Control officer Teri Courvelle discusses the proposed ordinance calling for tighter regulation of commercial breeding operations in the parish.

“What I do is usually interview the person who wants to adopt,” said Courvelle.

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Transporting animals away from the parish

In previous years, the animal shelter had established a relationship with the Bissell Foundation, which at times landed jet cargo planes at the parish airport, where St. Landry animals were loaded and shipped elsewhere.

Bellard said the relationship between the parish government and Bissell Foundation representatives has been discontinued.

Now the parish relies on other rescue organizations to send transport vehicles to the parish animal shelter to collect animals and bring them to other locations, primarily in Michigan and Georgia.

Bellard said parish government also operates a rescue transport van that can hold about 20 dogs.

St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard speaks with those attending a public hearing last week on a proposed parish-wide animal control ordinance.
St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard speaks with those attending a public hearing last week on a proposed parish-wide animal control ordinance.

The animal transport vehicle is used to bring dogs to other areas of the United States. However, shelters in other states are experiencing the same problem as St. Landry at issues related to an expanding pet population, Bellard and Courvelle added.

“We’re waiting for five or six recuse agencies to come down and get some of our dogs, but they are filling up the shelters there too, just like we are,” Bellard added.

Courvelle said shelters in northern portions of the country filled up during the COVID pandemic, as animal breeders experienced their own difficulties with pet overpopulation..

The problem in St. Landry

Courvelle estimated that the St. Landry shelter under normal circumstances, receives 15 to 20 animals a day which are put up for adoption.

That average intake for animals daily, Courvelle said, produces a strain on a shelter with the cage capacity available in St. Landry.

Since the denial by shelter officials to accept any new pets, Courvelle said many people attempting to deposit unwanted dogs at the shelter have become irate.

“A lot of them wind up screaming at me,” Courvelle said. “They think because we are trying to run a no-kill shelter that they can just come and drop off their animals. We can’t remain a no-kill (shelter) if people don’t assume some of the responsibility.”

Bellard said that perhaps out of anger or frustration, people have been leaving dogs outside the shelter after parish officials decided to stop accepting more animals.

Courvelle said she has brought 23 dogs home with her, since the kennels at the shelter remain full.

“We also have a play yard (for the dogs) at the shelter, but you have to be careful that the dogs don’t become too aggressive there,” Courvelle said.

Bellard said many of the dogs housed now at the St. Landry shelter were collected throughout the parish because they were unleashed and running loose.

“People don’t care,” said Bellard. “Their dogs are roaming all over the place. If we are called out and there is a dog at large and we have to pick the animal up, then we do that, especially if the dog is making trouble for kids or the neighbors.”

This article originally appeared on Opelousas Daily World: St. Landry Animal Control shelter is overpopulated, needs adopted