Mouton's area is filled with crates, stacks of newspapers, food and cleaning supplies. She evacuated from Central City in New Orleans the Sunday before Hurricane Katrina hit and caravanned to Lafayette for 14 hours with other people bringing their pets. She stayed with a relative the first couple days, then moved to the Cajundome. "I have five animals. It's a little much to be at somebody's house," she says.
Mouton wakes at dawn each morning to walk over to Blackham to feed her pets and walk the dogs in the yard around the coliseum. The shelter opens at 6:30 a.m., and pet owners are required to care for their animals. "These are my children," says Mouton. "I would like to be here all day long, but I need to take care of business, too."
Blackham Coliseum opened as an animal shelter on Tuesday, Aug. 30. It was set up as part of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine's network of shelters around the state and is staffed by veterinarian RenÃ©e Poirrier's office. On Sept. 3, the American Humane Association was brought in to relieve Poirrier and her staff and manage the shelter.
Dick Green, director of the association's emergency services division, sleeps in a rig parked just inside the gates on Coliseum Boulevard, along with his team of nine rescue workers. "We respond to disasters on site where local authorities are overwhelmed," he says. He's cared for animals at more than 20 disaster sites, including the Sri Lanka tsunami and mudslides in Venezuela. "This certainly is one of the larger ones," he says.
Green says Lafayette's makeshift animal shelter is a model one. "This particular shelter setup is one of the best I've seen. Having people so close to their animals, it's made our job very easy," he says. The shelter is at about 50 percent capacity, with more than 200 animals, most of them dogs, but also cats and birds. In addition to owner involvement, Green says the shelter has worked so well because of its resources such as air conditioning, phones and Internet service, as well as its proximity to the Cajundome.
Over a 24-hour period, Green coordinated getting office furniture for the building and two laptop computers so the staff can begin cataloguing the animals. He's also arranged for security details at night; even though the shelter closes at 8 p.m., an animal was stolen the previous night.
Inside, two Animal Control officers are on site at all times. Volunteers and owners stream in and out, amid the sound of constant barking. Pets are arranged in cages and crates around the floor. Each animal receives an identification number, and a Polaroid photo is tacked up on the cinder block wall behind it. Animal families of brother and sister puppies and mothers and kittens are kept together, either in the same crate or right next to one another.
Because of Cecily Mouton's five animals, she was given her own space on the bleachers. A couple other animals are scattered around the stands. "I am so grateful they opened," she says. "Everyone has just been so gracious. I don't know that I'll be able to give back all that's been given. Right now, I'm homeless, but it's going to be OK."
Mouton brought pet supplies, like beds, bowls and food with her, but the shelter has no shortage of supplies. Paper towels are stacked inside the entrance, next to rows of Clorox bottles and other cleaning supplies. Outside, two rental trucks are overflowing with bags of dog food. "We get such an incredible response with food," says Green. "Water was a big issue but isn't anymore." Currently, the shelter is in need of extra large pens and crates. A poster board on the front door lists each day's needs, and volunteer sign-up sheets are taped to another door.
Green is focusing on taking the shelter to the next level now and preparing for the future. "We don't know how long this will go on," he says. "After Hurricane Floyd [in 1999], one of our shelters was open for six months." He doesn't think it will take that long but says they are preparing to stay open for 14 weeks. He's brought in a team from Nashville to take over, while he and his workers transfer to a shelter in Gonzales. He's also brought in a full-time vet from San Diego.
In addition to those stationed at the shelter, Green's team also includes people out in the waters in New Orleans rescuing animals. "There's going to be thousands of animals coming in from the field," he says, of which Blackham may have to absorb a few. The mandatory evacuations in New Orleans could also have a trickle-down effect on Lafayette, but Green says the shelter's structure won't change. "This shelter will always stay with that kind of setup," he says. "This shelter has a specific purpose to cohabitate owners in the dome and their dogs. I hope the rest of the country learns from them."
Friends and family will celebrate Spider's life in September.
Saints safety Jairus Byrd has rarely been so eager to hit and be hit, if only to reassure himself that his surgically repaired back is as healed as doctors believe.
Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, verbally sparred as they officially signed up on the opening day of qualifying for Louisiana's November election.
Superintendent tells crowd he'd just emerged from a four-hour meeting with the attorney hired to investigate him.
The start of the three-day qualifying period for November’s elections has so far yielded 10 official bids and one new announcement from candidates seeking a seat on the school board.
It’s been just over four months since attorney Barry Domingue committed suicide the morning before he was to stand trial for a second day in the federal Curious Goods case, leaving his fellow attorney/co-defendant Daniel Stanford with a temporary mistrial and awaiting his day in court.
Candidates for Louisiana's Nov. 4 election must officially sign up for the ballot this week.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's effort to derail Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards was halted Tuesday by a state judge who said the governor's actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram isn't letting a humbling start to his pro career lower his opinion of what he can still accomplish in the NFL.
Phoenix flooding stuns residents; Gaza truce talks collapse, NFL vets defy age label and more national and international news for Wednesday, August 20, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.
As tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and residents protesting the shooting death of a local teen by police, we’re reminded of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the in-custody death earlier this year of a New Iberia man.
A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards.
Drew Brees walked up to the line of scrimmage early Sunday, taking a snap during the New Orleans Saints' pre-practice walk-through.