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."
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.