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."
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.