Bearden hired as new director of rabies and animal control
Melissa Bearden has worked around animals for the last 20 years, so it was only fitting she apply for the job of director of the parish’s Rabies and Animal Control Department.
Prior to getting the job, she worked with Abbeville veterinarian Clyde Prejean for four years. Before that, she also worked in Durel’s Pet Shop and for another veterinarian in New Iberia. So when the Police Jury position came open last month, there was no hesitation to apply.
“I have always been around pets,” said Bearden. “Hearing that this job was available, I thought that this job may have my name all over it.
“A person who deals with animals has to have a lot of patience. They have to have respect for animals. Some come in bad shape, while others come in good shape. You have to be caring and also have some iron will to handle 50 and 60 pound dogs.”
The Jeanerette Senior High graduate has been on her new job for only a week, and she’s loving it. The wardens who work for the department all have compassion and respect for the animals, she said.
One of her first projects as the new supervisor was taking inventory and cleaning the office of rabies and control which is located off of La. 14 between Nunez and Kaplan. She is also having to deal with the department being understaffed.
Despite those challenges, Bearden is enjoying her job because of her cliental - animals. She is not afraid to clean cages and handle 50 pound dogs.
“Poop does not bother me,” she said. “Being here is a unique situation. One example of that is what happened this week. The dog owners came in with their dog and the dog was 15 years old. I knew of the dog because of working at Prejean’s. They wanted to put her down because it was time. They had to make that difficult decision. As a public servant, we put her down. They took her home to bury her. It is situations like that make it tough.”
The rabies and animals control shelter is what Bearden decribed as a “kill” shelter. If an animal is picked up roaming the streets of the parish and brought to the shelter, the animal will remain alive in the shelter anywhere from four days to a week. The animal (either a cat or dog) is fed and cared for in that time period. If no one claims that animal, the animal is put down. They are placed in a gas chamber. Bearden said in the near future, the department will be using injections to put down animals instead of the gas chamber.
The first time she witnessed an animal being put down brought a small tear to her eyes.
“It is part of my job and I wanted to see it,” she said. “I had a tear not because what I had to do. I had a tear because of the situation that brought the animal here. The lack of responsibility on the pet owner.”
It is not uncommon for pet owners to get tired of their animal and bring it to the animal control office. If a pet is pregnant, a pet owner may get overwhelmed and drop off the dog or cat at the shelter. When that occurs, the pet has a date with the gas chamber in the next week.
That, she said, is what upsets her the most about putting animals down. Most people just get tired of their animals or the pet owner does not have time to care for the pet, so they bring it to the animal control department.
The control department can house up to 60 dogs. Dogs are brought to the control department either after the police or sheriff department pick up the animal because the owner broke a law dealing with the pet. A warden could also find a stray animal.
A pet is also brought to the department after it bites someone. The animal has to be tested for rabies and the tests are paid for by the pet owner.
The rabies and animal control department is not an adoption center, she said.