Community Impact Series - SPCA

New Orleans, LA – Community IMPACT Series: Louisiana SPCA, Sept. 7, 2010

The consequences of the BP oil disaster turn up everywhere from Louisiana marshes and fishing docks to restaurant kitchens and the unemployment office. But the disaster is also evident at local animal shelters. Tearful scenes unfold at these shelters daily as an increasing number of families surrender their pets, unable to properly care for them through the financial turmoil of recent months.

"That human-animal bond is incredible," says Ana Zorilla, CEO of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LASPCA). "So to make that decision and say, you know, I can no longer care for this member of my family' is absolutely devastating. So it's not a decision that families make easily."

The Louisiana SPCA works statewide as an advocate for animal welfare issues, and it also provides animal control services for the city of New Orleans. From its new headquarters on Mardi Gras Boulevard in Algiers, the Louisiana SPCA offers pet adoptions and also provides low-cost spay/neuter clinics, a key step to help reduce the overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats in the area.

"In Louisiana, 92,000 animals are euthanized, every year, and this happens at animal shelters across our state and it's incredibly difficult part of our work," says Zorilla. "We don't get into this work because we want to put animals down, however there's the reality that if our community is not spaying and neutering there are just far too many animals coming into these shelters each and every day."

Lately, the Louisiana SPCA says the number of animals brought to shelters has doubled in communities hardest hit by the oil disaster, including St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. In response, the group created the Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program. SPCA communications director Katherine LeBlanc explains that one part of the program transports animals to shelters in other parts of the country, like the northeast and a little closer to home in Florida and Texas. Shelter crowding is not as severe in these areas, and LeBlanc says the pets will have a better chance for adoption.

"The animals we're moving are highly-adoptable," she says. "As you can imagine some of these have already been family pets, so they're already house-trained, they're already ready to give love to the humans that are in their lives."

Each shelter animal adoption opens space for the next needy animal coming along. But another part of the Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program is helping more local residents keep their pets at home in the first place. The SPCA has been providing free pet food and veterinary services to residents struggling financially from the oil disaster. This eases the anguish of many who thought they'd have to give up a beloved animal, and Zorilla says the support has also helped some pet owners in other ways during these hard times.

"So I met a really amazing woman who was telling me that, you know, she's really not eating right now, because any food support that she gets she's using to feed her four dogs," says Zorilla. "So providing her with dog food is enabling her to have a meal every day until she's able to get back on her feet."

You can find adoptable animals, low-cost spay/neuter services and even tips for pet owners during hurricane season at the Louisiana SPCA's Web site,