Lafayette animal shelter reaches no-kill threshold for first time
For the first time ever, the Lafayette animal shelter reached the threshold of animals needed to earn no-kill status last month.
That achievement — which means 90 percent of animals in the shelter were not euthanized — puts a checkmark next to a longstanding campaign promise of Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, who campaigned on a no-kill shelter promise. Animal advocates at an event Tuesday night praised the efforts by officials and touted a holistic approach to animal welfare as the pathway for continued success in the region.
“We have a lot of ways to go, but we have made a lot of strides,” said Robert Benoit, assistant to the mayor and head of the initiative.
Benoit laid out several figures for the audience Tuesday that showed skyrocketing amounts of animals currently being saved or projected to be saved when compared to pre-Robideaux figures.
Here are some of the figures:
- Adoption numbers increased from 517 to 1,110.
- Rescues increased from 174 to 764.
- The number of animals euthanized decreased from 2,800 to 464.
- Live outcomes for dogs increased from 47 percent to 84 percent.
- Live outcomes for cats increased from 9 percent to 88 percent.
Success does come with a price, however. Benoit said positive steps forward can create the impression that it isn’t a big deal for some owners to just drop their pets off at the shelter. Surrenders increased from 346 to 891 since they began their initiative, he said, which strains the system.
Benoit credited lower adoption fees, a trap/neuter/release program, foster care grants and collaboration with animal advocates.
They have started to get creative in their efforts to put animals in homes. The shelter recently started the “Hire a working cat” program, where they tout the benefits of businesses adopting cats. A man recently adopted a cat, Benoit said, to combat the mice that eat the hay he grows.
The Tuesday meeting, held on National Adopt a Pet Day, brought together leaders and representatives from the Lafayette Animal Shelter & Care Center, Spay Nation for Dogs and Cats, Friends of the Lafayette Animal Shelter, Rebel Mini Farms, Acadiana Animal Aid and Paws and Paw Paws.
Each highlighted an important aspect of animal welfare, and they talked about the different ways they assist in the no-kill initiative.
Spay Nation, led by Cathy Damiano, works to get spay/neuter services to everyone in the region for a deeply discounted price. They also have grants for heartworm treatment and help to trap cats for the TNR program, she said.
“You don’t have to earn below a certain income to us. You don’t have to live in a certain area,” she said. “Our services are available to everybody.”
Acadiana Animal Aid, led by executive director Jeanine Foucher, handles a different aspect of animal care in the region. Although they do have a foster program to open space for more animals, their main work concerns taking animals out of shelters in the region, caring for their on their 10-acre property and sending them to different states with lower animal populations.
One skeptic of the city’s promises to makes changes with animal welfare was Patty Meehan with Friends of the Lafayette Animal Shelter. She had worked in the space for years, she said, and past administrations had always dragged their feet on making improvements.
So, she took it into her own hands in 2010, and started FLASh to try to stem the flow of animals into the shelters.
“I kept thinking that I wanted to get ahead of the 8-ball. A lot of these animals should not have been in the shelter in the first place,” Meehan said. “I wanted to do something upstream.”
Her initial skepticism has faded, and Meehan was effusive about the progress. Her group has shifted toward supporting different aspects of the other non-profit and advocacy groups work, while also providing emergency food or services to people at-risk of turning their pets over for financial reasons.
As the city-parish government continues to push toward keeping no-kill status, a new shelter is still in the works, Benoit said. They are seeking another $3 million for the shelter from the council, he said, and they hope to begin work before Robideaux leaves office.
Asked whether he felt Robideaux’s replacement would continue the work already done, Benoit said he was confident.
“I think anybody running for office, with the popularity that we have going on, would support it,” he said.