St. Tammany Animal Services Makes Incredible Improvements
It’s said that every dog has his day, and thanks to the tireless, innovative efforts of Animal Services, St. Tammany Parish’s dogs, cats and other assorted critters are being rescued at record-breaking rates! The shelter achieved an incredible 97 percent Live Release Rate in 2021 – an exceptional and uplifting contrast to 2016’s rate of 42 percent. That translates to a decrease in euthanasia from 2,310 in 2016 to just 142 last year. Animal Services Director Rob Bremer says, “With the support of Parish President Cooper, we’ve made drastic improvements including partnering with national groups and by getting parish council approval to implement policy changes. Those and other new programs are saving many lives and changing the way we can operate.”
Best Friends Touchstone Award
Rob began as an animal control officer in 2014, was promoted to field supervisor in 2016, and in 2021, was appointed Director. His team has worked diligently towards a more progressive and compassionate course while maintaining public safety and community engagement. After completing Best Friends’ Executive Leadership Program and implementing lifesaving tactics they teach with the goal of creating no-kill facilities, Rob’s department was awarded the organization’s national Touchstone Award. “It’s a big deal,” says Rob. “The whole feel out here has turned from depressing to hopeful and rewarding. Even the landscape is welcoming with a new lighted sign, bright colors and upgraded play yards donated by Mardi Paws. We’re off the beaten path here in Lacombe but want the community to know we’re here for them and have made a fantastic turnaround.”
It’s important to offer resources to individuals needing options when faced with surrendering pets, explains Rob. “Sometimes, the situation is temporary. We encourage asking family for help, or we can assist in arranging a short-term foster. Here, we also have Huntley’s Pet Pantry, an on-site food donation bin created by a compassionate Girl Scout to assist those in need. We have great partners like Wings of Rescue, who provide air transport, and Brandywine Valley SPCA where animals are brought to areas where there are more willing adopters than available animals. After the storm last year, we drove to Kansas City’s municipal shelter with 38 cats which they gladly re-homed to waiting families.”
Mardi Paws and Community Cats
Rob’s team also operates the Community Cat Program which saves lives and reduces overpopulation by chipping, vaccinating and fixing unsocialized cats and releasing them back to their home territory. Rob says the cats live out their lives while keeping other unfixed felines away, reducing the number of new feral litters. “The numbers are down dramatically, but for those brought in, we have more space and resources to socialize and home them. We also have a dog and cat spay/neuter voucher program, and Mardi Paws raises funds for our animals with extensive medical needs. We serve the taxpayer, still doing animal control and investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty, so our yearly budget is spoken for quickly. And we always need the talents of volunteers, like veterinarians, handymen, photographers, and trainers, and have wish lists on our website and Facebook page. It all helps.”
New Success Makes it All Worthwhile
Changing their narrative has also made for a more fulfilled staff, Rob continues. “Now we’re the place that saves animals rather than kills them, adding new meaning and pride to our work. Caring for these animals isn’t easy, and some stay longer than we’d like, but we offer hope now. ‘Kelly’ was here almost a year. She wasn’t the prettiest or friendliest, but she was a good dog. A family from North Louisiana found her on Petfinder.com, and they drove all the way here — and just like that, she had a loving home. Another case was a big chunk named Browning – like the gun. He was very loyal, which could be misinterpreted as intimidating, so he was always passed over. Finally, a lady came in wanting only him, undeterred by his appearance and healthy bark. She worked with him, changed his name to Brownie, and now he’s part of the family. Those are the successes that make it all worthwhile.”
Animals Services and Mardi Paws are sponsoring a month-long series of events and promotions in December aimed at making life for pets in their shelter a little easier over the holidays. Visit unleashjoy.org for more information.
The St. Tammany Parish Department of Animal Services is located at 31078 Highway 36, in Lacombe. For more information, please call 985-809-0183, visit stpgov.org/pets or their Facebook page.