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Parish President Addresses Animal Shelter Concerns

Photograph: Candace Roberts, parish administration, Jessie Bellard, parish president and Van Reed, emergency preparedness director. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Editor/Consulting Writer

Changes are coming to the St. Landry Parish Animal Shelter.

Until then and perhaps for sometime after any new policies are implemented, parish president Jessie Bellard said his administration will rely on team members from the Bissell Pet Foundation to assist in the daily operation of the shelter that is located adjacent to the parish airport in Opelousas.

Bellard addressed what he described as “community concerns” during a Monday morning press conference in which he updated efforts by the parish and Bissell team members to handle issues associated with investigations associated with animal control, shelter animal welfare and the attempt to restaff the shelter with a new set of personnel.

In December Bellard said the parish completed an agreement with the Bissell Foundation.

“(The Bissell Foundation) stepped up and came to our aid at the right time. (Bissell Foundation Founder) Cathy Bissell is providing to our shelter any type of aid that she can. With her help, we are going to restructure animal control, but in saying that, we are going to do that the right way or we are not going to do it at all,” Bellard added.

Bissell Foundation veterinarian Kim Sanders said she has been evaluating conditions at the shelter for the last two weeks.

What Sanders and other Bissell team members are scheduled to oversee, Sanders said, is helping members of the reorganized staff become trained and educated in running a shelter.

Recent published controversies and social media criticism surrounding the shelter Sanders added, have been detrimental to the functioning of the shelter.

Two animal control directors within the last three years have been fired and parish jail trustees are in charge now of cleaning areas where the animals are housed.

“There’s been a lot of drama, but all that takes away from the pets at the shelter being fed, watered and focusing on the animals. What we need right now in the form of assistance are foster homes or towels and blankets, cleaning supplies and bedding,’ Sanders said.

Bellard said many of the allegations about the operation of the shelter and an investigation involving the seizure in November of two dogs, are untrue.

“There has been a lot of controversy dealing with animal control. I am not commenting this time but I will at the right time and place in order not to mess up an investigation. We know what we know and what we are going to continue doing what is best for the animals,” said Bellard.

Sanders said on Monday that the shelter contained 114 dogs.

Bellard introduced animal control investigators Mark Kidder and Spencer Cornette.

Kidder said he and Cornette have investigated numerous cases recently in St. Landry, involving alleged neglect and abuse of animal cases. Two felony arrests were made in connection with the investigations, Kidder said.

The parish Bellard said, plans to continue partnering with the Bissell Foundation indefinitely.

Eventually Bellard said there will be an effort to construct a new animal shelter. The current location of the facility Bellard explained, is not sufficient for an animal shelter.

The current shelter for instance, is not constructed for horses, said Bellard.

At this point Bellard said there has been one applicant that has been interviewed for the animal control director position.

The individual who receives final approval for the position Bellard added, will be chosen with help and consent from the Bissell Foundation.