A typical day in the West Baton Rouge Parish Shelter and Animal Control center is anything but run-of-the-mill. Between feeding, cleaning, yard time, fostering, transporting, tours and animal photo shoots -- yes, photo shoots -- staff members must be prepared for any animal to come through the doors.
Jackie Fellows, the director of the shelter, has served in her role for one year, with another 5 years of previous experience in the animal field. It’s common knowledge that the animal shelter can stir up feelings of hopelessness in individuals. Couple that with a daunting workload, and it’s easy to see why animal professionals face such stressful working conditions. Yet, Fellows has learned to take it all in stride. “It can be challenging, but it’s also very rewarding. The lows are really low but the highs are really high,” she explains. “Seeing a one-eyed pit bull go home to a loving family just makes you feel warm and fuzzy.”
When it comes to animals most in need of homes at the shelter, pit bulls top the list, followed by hounds. Pit bulls tend to be known as a “mean” breed, which could not be farther from the truth, Fellows emphasizes. “Every dog is an individual, and it doesn’t matter their breed. Pit bulls aren’t inherently aggressive. It’s important to fight that stigma.”
A prime example is Blanche, who can be found snoozing -- and lightly snoring -- on a dog bed in Fellows’ office and greeting visitors with a wagging tail and wide smile. Blanche has had poor luck -- found scared and suffering from a tumor in the past, and having been returned from an adoptive home through no fault of her own. Blanche is Fellows’ personal foster animal who will continue to stay with her until a forever home is finally found.
The other animals that tend to have a longer stay in the shelter system are adult cats. Guests looking to adopt often gravitate towards young kittens while adult cats go unnoticed. The South also has a greater overpopulation problem, which can be remedied by spaying and neutering cats. There are local events, such as “Spay Day,” which offer this service at little or no cost to the owner/caretaker.
Fancypants, a nine-year-old, domestic short-haired cat with a “flame point” coat, can be found snuggled in a cozy area directly under Fellows’ desk. Sweet with visitors and friendly with dogs, Fancypants is one of the many adult cats awaiting a family of her own.
The shelter offers same-day adoptions pending application approval, making the process streamlined and efficient. A typical adoption begins with a screening interview to make sure each home would be a good fit for the animal, based on temperaments, preferences and other factors.
The adoption fees for dogs, cats and kittens are $100, $30 and $50, respectively, and go towards covering a portion of the costs associated with required vaccines, microchipping, and spaying and neutering. “The fees aren’t about profit” -- as they do not cover the total cost involved in caring for the animal -- “but putting value and showing respect to the animal,” affirms Fellows.
A brand-new building is set to be open at the beginning of next year offering 7 dog kennels, approximately 6-12 cat kennels, a breakroom and much-needed office space. There also may be the opportunity for an increase in staff members. The upgrade on the horizon is exciting in its own right, but Fellows sums up the bottom line. “We built more space to house more animals -- to save more animals.”
Saving homeless animals is certainly a team effort. When asked about community involvement, the steps are straightforward. “Adopt. If you can’t adopt, foster. Can’t foster? Volunteer. Can’t volunteer? Donate. And lastly, advocate.” Many adoptions are ultimately made by spreading the word, sharing photos and contributing in discussions through social media. Fellows mentions, “You never know who is looking for a pet. It’s a huge deal just sharing a photo on Facebook.”
For those who have a house full of furry friends already, helping out can be as simple as donating extra supplies to the shelter. In-demand items include: wet cat food, rawhide chips, dog toys, Purina ONE cat and kitten food, durable chew toys, Dawn dish soap, liquid laundry detergent, bleach, and Clorox wipes.
The West Baton Rouge Parish Shelter will be hosting a “Low Cost Rabies Vaccination Clinic” event on September 21, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in an effort to keep all pets up-to-date on their annual vaccines. The clinic will be held at their office location at 3183 Ted Denstel Road in Port Allen. Rabies vaccinations are required for all dogs, cats, and domesticated ferrets over four months old. The vaccine will be offered at $12.00 for the vaccine, itself, and microchips will be available for $15.00.
For more information regarding upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and animals currently up for adoption, check out the West Baton Rouge Parish Shelter’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/WestBatonRougeParishShelter or go follow them on Instagram at @wbrpanimalshelter.