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December 14, 2010

New Animal Shelter Dedicated at Dixon Correctional Institute

The HSUS's work to help people and animals in the Gulf continues

  • Paul Hills plays with shelter dog Bear at Dixon Correctional Institute in Louisiana. Tim Mueller

  • Pets, offenders, and the local community benefit from the animal shelter program. Tim Mueller

  • James Ziegler pets shelter dog Penny at Dixon Correctional Institute. Tim Mueller

An innovative new animal shelter and emergency evacuation facility were dedicated today at the Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana. The facilities were built with a $600,000 grant from The Humane Society of the United States and with cooperation from the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.

Both the shelter and evacuation facility are part of The HSUS's long-term commitment to helping animals and communities in the Gulf State region, which is still grappling with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Everyone Benefits

“The animals, the community, and the offenders at Dixon Correctional Institute will all benefit from this new animal shelter program,” said Laura Maloney, chief of staff for The HSUS. “East Feliciana Parish now has a much-needed shelter to care for lost and homeless pets, and inmates are gaining useful skills and training while helping their community. The Humane Society of the United States is grateful to join with Dixon Correctional Institute and Louisiana State University to establish important resources for local companion animals.”

The shelter will house stray pets from East Feliciana Parish, which has no animal control department or animal shelter of its own. The public can visit the animal shelter to search for lost animals or to adopt a companion animal. The shelter includes a fully equipped surgical suite where an LSU veterinary spay/neuter training program will neuter pets prior to adoption.

A unique staff

Offenders at the facility will staff the shelter and the emergency facility, which can house up to 500 pets in the event of a disaster. Offenders also did most of the construction work for the structures as part of the prison’s vocational program. The six offenders who staff the shelter were carefully chosen, says warden Steve Rader. “We wanted to get guys that want to do right and want to give back, and we were able to find some good guys that fit the bill.”

"They just love animals"

Working in the shelter, notes Deb Parsons-Drake, senior director of animal care centers for The HSUS, provides a benefit for offenders: "When they do get released, they have had 10, 15 years of on-the-job training,” she says. Beyond that, they “have learned how much animal interaction provides comfort, and chills them out, and helps them deal with whatever the problems are that put them in prison in the first place.”

When Dixon was first used as an emergency animal shelter after Hurricane Katrina, offenders worked with volunteers to feed and provide water to the animals; they also cleaned cages, and spent time walking the dogs, many of whom were high-energy pit bulls. Some continued working with the dogs even after their shifts were over. “A lot of guys really enjoyed it. They said, ‘If you ever get dogs, I want to work with them again!’ They didn’t care how many hours they worked out there at that old barn; they just love animals,” recalls warden Steve Rader.

Background

  • The emergency structure at Dixon Correctional Institute was used when Hurricane Gustav struck the region in 2008. Pets were evacuated from the LaFourche Parish Animal Shelter in Thibodaux and transported to the new emergency shelter.
  • The collaboration between Dixon Correctional Institute and The HSUS began in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the temporary shelter for animals at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzalez, La., filled up with strays and pets rescued from the region. Dixon Correctional Institute offered to foster displaced animals, and within weeks, hundreds of dogs, cats, chicken, ducks, and geese rescued from the New Orleans area were being housed at a converted barn on prison property. Volunteers and inmates cared for the animals.
  • The HSUS also provided an $800,000 grant for the development of LSU’s shelter veterinary training program.
  • The HSUS has an ongoing commitment to help animals and build humane infrastructure in the Gulf Coast region. The HSUS’ Gulf Coast Spay/Neuter Campaign began in 2006 to reduce shelter euthanasia in Louisiana and Mississippi by increasing sterilization rates among owned pets. We’ve established high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinics in the region, along with a marketing campaign encouraging spaying and neutering. In January 2010, the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter celebrated the grand opening of its new facility, built with a $250,000 grant from The HSUS. When the oil spill economic crisis caused a heightened influx of animals, The HSUS coordinated the transfer of more than 100 shelter dogs from the region to shelters on the East Coast and co-hosted outreach events to help struggling families afford care for their pets.

Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching "HumaneTV" in the App Store. 

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