Animal shelter supervisor shares pet tips

Michael Tortorich
Michael LeBlanc

Michael LeBlanc admitted animals are not the problem in Ascension Parish.

“We don’t have an animal problem in Ascension Parish. We have a people problem,” said the supervisor of the parish’s animal shelter located at 9894 Airline Hwy. in Sorrento.

He said the shelter gets some 4,000 animals a year.

“You wouldn’t believe how busy we are over there,” he said.

The shelter has two animal control officers, William “Billy” Dixon and Davin Miller, who respond to calls throughout Ascension. When a complaint comes in, they hit the road to look into it.

“We don’t turn a blind eye to anything,” he said.

LeBlanc spoke at the Ascension Parish Library in Gonzales Thursday night to share his knowledge of animals in recognition of Responsible Pet Owner Month.

He said animal problems stem from pet owners who may have made an impulse purchase and failed to follow through on their commitment. While cute and pretty pets may make cash registers ring, those looking to make such an addition should consider the temperament of the animal.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates 6-8 million dogs and cats receive care from shelters each year throughout the country. Of those some 3-4 million are euthanized, according to the HSUS.

While such figures may be astounding, the nation has actually seen a steep decline in the number of euthanized animals over the last forty years. The HSUS found 12-20 million dogs and cats were euthanized in the 1970s, at a time when there were far fewer pets in American homes. At the time, there were 67 million dogs and cats in homes, while today there are more than 135 million.

LeBlanc said prospective pet owners should “do some homework” before making an ultimate decision. He said the cost of maintaining a pet over a period of years should also be factored in to the decision. He said the shelter saw a spike in people bringing in animals as the economy worsened.

“A lot of thought needs to go into the pet you’re bringing into your home,” he said.

LeBlanc recommended setting boundaries with dogs and consistently sticking to the rules once established. The 58-year-old said he has had dogs all of his life. The two poodles he currently has both came from the shelter, and neither have any problems.

“Dogs think as a pack. They bond with you,” he said.

Dogs cannot rationalize where they are allowed and where is off limits, so once they are let into a certain area they consider it part of their territory.

LeBlanc said many dogs end up at shelters because they tear up houses or have trouble with house training.

“They can get confused,” he said. “But they can learn to go outside.”

Communicating with a dog is done through body language, he said, since “dogs don’t understand English.”

Dogs cannot understand speech, so they rely on the feeling they get from people.

“Dogs really get in tune with you. They know how you feel,” he said.

Biting can pose a threat also, especially to children. He said children should learn how to see the warning signs of a dangerous dog.

For more information on the parish shelter, see ascensionparish.net and click on “Animal Shelter” in the “Departments” section.