In December 2022, BISSELL Pet Foundation was called upon for assistance by St. Landry Parish in Opelousas, LA. After significant staffing changes, the parish aimed to transform its animal shelter. BPF took on the challenge because our mission is to help shelters that need us the most. We immediately tapped into our disaster and crisis fund to get BPF’s National Shelter Alliance on the ground. With nearly 300 pets in the shelter and not enough staff to care for them, the holiday season was looking bleak for this small, rural animal shelter. We set a goal to give them every opportunity to create a successful lifesaving program.
By utilizing BPF’s National Shelter Alliance, we can act quickly to provide immediate crisis and disaster response. This incredible group of shelters across the country shares our mission of lifting up shelters in need to save the lives of animals. Through a kind and compassionate approach, the Alliance meets shelters where they are to help them succeed. BPF funds their travel and time out of their own facility so they can be on the ground with shelters in need to dig into the issue at hand. The group also stands ready to help with disasters, deploying into the field as first responders.
Operation Kindness, an incredible organization from Texas, was the first partner on the ground to support St. Landry Parish. They arrived in December to assess the needs of the shelter and help us prepare pets for transport. I joined them on the ground with a team of Michigan shelter directors and vet techs to assist with vaccinations. Within two weeks, over 200 pets, including dogs, puppies, cats and kittens, were transported to our shelter and rescue partners throughout the country. The destination partners found space and opened their doors right before the holiday.
Our next step was to begin sending in experts to set the program up for success. Dr. Kim Sanders (PAWS of Anderson County of South Carolina) and BPF’s contracted care manager, Katelyn Gibbons, committed to several weeks in St. Landry Parish to lay the foundation for daily care protocols. St. Landry is an open-admission shelter, so the animals in the community continued to enter the shelter. BPF continued transporting pets out of the shelter, including 8 horses from a local neglect case.
Wayside Waifs of Missouri was the next partner to arrive. They worked with staff on handling and behavior and left in their big rig with 54 dogs. So, not only did St. Landry staff get the opportunity to work with one of the leading behavior teams in the country, but they also received additional breathing room at the shelter to continue learning from Dr. Sanders and Katelyn.
On Monday, January 30, teams from Arizona Humane Society and Pasco County Animal Services in Florida arrived for the next phase of support. The Pasco County Animal Services team is focusing on animal control and law enforcement training, while the Arizona Humane Society team is hard at work making changes to the facility to improve living conditions for the pets. New protocols are also being implemented to set staff up for success.
The next teams headed to support St. Landry include staff from Loudoun County Animal Services of Virginia, experts in disease management, and open adoption specialists from Broome County Humane Society. You can see the theme here! We are bringing the industry’s leading experts to St. Landry Parish. While this is an investment for BPF, the impact will go far beyond the pets currently in the shelter and the pets we have already transported. We are providing tools that create a safe environment for pets entering the shelter in the future. We will ensure that a disaster plan is in place for community pets and that resources are available to St. Landry Parish staff, who are working hard and creating change. BPF will also hold a free, large-scale vaccine and microchip clinic for the community this spring and fund spay/neuter to help manage the population entering the shelter.
Through collaboration and partnership, BPF’s support system allows us to address the shelters that feel left behind. Some organizations cannot receive resources from national funders because they do not meet “minimum standards.” These are the shelters that we need to focus on as an industry. Our hands-on program will lift shelters up for additional opportunities, and most importantly, it will save lives.
Watch for updates on St. Landry Parish and more exciting work to support the pets and the people caring for them. If you are interested in getting your resident experts involved in supporting shelters in need, please email Kim Alboum at Kim.Alboum@BISSELL.com.