United States Humane Society visits Tangipahoa shelter

The Humane Society of the United States team concluded its inspection of the Tangipahoa Parish Animal Shelter last week after meeting privately last Thursday with Parish President Gordon Burgess and parish officials. Before returning to the Washington D.C. area, Humane Society members are scheduled to deliver a verbal report to Burgess on their findings concerning conditions at the shelter. The Humane Society team will compile its final report on its findings for at least 60 -90 days and will be submitted to the Parish Council.  

In a meeting last Tuesday, animal activists, rescuers, and former shelter volunteers told Humane Society members voiced their perception of a lack of transparency concerning shelter operations continuing to feed fears of abuse and mismanagement during an open meeting last Tuesday.

On August 4 of this year, a total of 182 shelter animals were euthanized with the exception of those kept in a separate room which caused an outcry by former shelter workers and volunteers and others throughout the area.

"We invited The Humane Society to review our operations," said Chip Fitz, Animal Control Director responding to their transparency concern. "I have given them access to the shelter and whatever they asked me to give them. My goal is to continue to work to improve this shelter."

Society member Corey Smith said during Tuesday's public input meeting held in the health unit in Hammond that the U.S. Humane Society was most struck by the "unbelievable" number of animals seen running free throughout the parish. "The problem is immense," she said.

"We plan to increase public awareness, to encourage responsible pet ownership which is to contain their pets and to spay and neuter their pets," said Jeff McKneely, parish public information officer and assistant director of finance for Tangipahoa Parish Government.

Tangipahoa Humane Society Director Randy Stegall stated that the U.S. Humane Society is investigating the Aug. 4 mass euthanasia of 182 animals, and the Parish Humane Society is just involved in the evaluation of the shelter.

"Both the U.S. and Tangipahoa Humane Societies' goal is to help the Tangipahoa Animal Shelter to improve. The meeting last Tuesday was open to the public in order for them to voice their concerns. Some people think the Tangipahoa Humane Society didn't do enough. We're not on anyone's side. We're all about working together with local rescuers and the new director to help make changes for the better," said Society Director Stegall. "We at the Tangipahoa Humane Society are not a law enforcement organization. We just investigate allegations of animal cruelty and abandonment. If we find evidence of unlawfulness, we turn to the proper authorities, and they handle it from there."

"We won't forget what happened on Aug. 4; we can't forget it. We want to be part of the solution which is to continue to improve so that it does not happen again. We want to go on from here moving forward to help the animals now and in the future," said Stegall. "Chip Fitz, the new Tangipahoa Parish Shelter Director, seems committed to the care of the animals. He's given me the impression that he's committed to change, and he shows compassion for the animals. I think he'll be one of the one of the better shelter directors. If given the chance, I believe he'll do a good job based on meetings I've had with him."

"Mr. Fitz is wanting to work hard with all of the rescue groups; everything can't be done overnight, and we can't dwell on the past. We, the Tangipahoa Humane Society and the parish shelter are all willing to go forward to continue to work toward reducing the number of animals euthanized. We at the Tangipahoa Humane Society are a No - Kill shelter because we are more of a private shelter, but in the case of a public shelter, they have to take every animal, and because of this, they have to control the number of animals they can handle. The capacity of our parish shelter is only about 52 dogs which is about the number that can be picked up in just one day that's why we pull animals from the parish shelter to help place more animals for adoption."

"Those not happy with the current circumstances should work with Mr. Fitz and me to get involved in helping us increase the number of adoptions and to be part of the solution."   

"The Tangipahoa Parish Animal Shelter's plans to continue to improve for the future are a public education program to foster responsible pet ownership including proper containment and spaying and neutering," said Director Chip Fitz. "Currently, there is a leash law which basically states that animals aren't supposed to roam at large, and we do respond to an aggressive dog situation."

Located just off Club Deluxe Road in Hammond right next to the Health Unit, the shelter is now open on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. in addition to their Monday through Friday hours from 12:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

"We want expanded our hours of operation to make visiting our shelter more convenient to those wanting to adopt a pet that's why we now open on Saturdays and have been for the past 3 weeks," Fitz continued. "People are amazed at the quality of the animals they can adopt; they have already been wormed and have had their shots."

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